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Old 08-18-2005   #21
Electric-Mayhem's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 436
A bit of clarification as I have experienced as a shop employee over the years.

In my experience, there are things one has to weigh when buying a helmet. Impact strength, impact absorbtion and dissipation, abrasion, number of impacts before failure, fit, comfort and style are all things that come into play. In general, plastic helmets have less impact strength (the shell breaks more), more impact absorbtion (the plastic distributes the load better), higher number of small hits before breaking, fit about the same these days and they tend to be less cool looking.

Composites, whether Carbon, Fiberglass, or Kevlar, tend to have higher impact strength, less absorbtion, fit depends on brand, and they are much glitzier. The main difference I have found is that from a safety standpoint, the Plastic helmet will hold up to many small shots better, and that composite helmets will take one massive hit to the head better.

Now, one big stipulation is how the helmet is fixed to your head. For most companies, whether its plastic or composites, the shell is lined with a foam of some kind, usually MiniCell or the like (sometimes minicell covered in a felt like material, as seen in Shred Ready helmets). This foam works but there are better ways to absorb an impact.

Now unless it actually fits you and is gonna stay in place, its pretty worthless all around, so fit is key. I think the one great thing the WRSI helmet has going for it is that it will be able to easily fit out of the box. It also looks like it has a much superior suspension system to conventional helmets.

It has a system that is more akin to a climbing or construction helmet, where there is webbing and neoprene that holds your head away from the shell of the helmet. This allows the helmet to do the absorbing without transfering the shock to your head. One thing I have noticed with conventional kayak helmets is that they may protect the outside of your head, but there is much to be desired in transferance of force. I've met several people who had their bell rung really bad. They both were wearing a snazy composite helmet when it happened and both blacked out and nearly drowned. This is because when you get hit, the shell protects your head from damage such as bruises and cuts, but it still sends the impact force through to your skull and rattles your brain around alot, hence causing you to black out. Seperating the shell from the head with webbing and such, allows for much less transferance of force. FYI, Minicell was never designed as an impact absorbtion foam. Its for packaging purposes. If you want an excellent example of a great webbing suspension system, check out the Petzl Ecrin climbing helmets. They are one of a few outdoor sports helmets that are rated for construction use (the one without the holes at least).

One last thing. It should be said that the reason the guys son died was not because the helmet didn't take an impact. It was because the helmet was not fit properly, and slid off the back of the guys head, thus exposing his temples and forhead to impact. So what happened was the helmet, a Protec full cut job, slid off and the kids exposed head hit a rock and knocked him out. So in this case, it was improper fit that caused the incident. I have not heard, though I imagine there are cases where its true, of properly fit plastic helmets being any worse then your sparkly kevlar helmet. I also can't think of any situation on the river that would correlate to having it be cool that the helmet can withstand a truck driving on it. I can however, think of a situation where taking a direct and sudden impact to the head. Maybe the helmet companies shoudl think about that. I'd love to see a comparison of how much force a given helmet transfers to the head of its wearer.

I personally wear a Gath helmet with a retractable visor. It provides a bit less padding then some, but I use it for several reasons. It doesn't move at all and stays exactly where its supposed to. It protects my temples, ocipital lobe, and side of my head well. Its low profile so you don't feel like you have a huge head. The Gath people have said that they experimented with composites, but found it to be too fragile for everyday use. The retractable lexan visor is nice for both protection from impact and sun. Its prett spendy at ~$180, but its lasted me 4 years and then some and doesn't seem to be much worse the wear for it. I trust my helmet and think it would protect me better then most of the ones I have seen on market.

I think this WRSI helmet is going to be good and is the msot intriguing thing to come about with helmets in a long time. The cool thing about them is, you get a superior helmet that looks cool and fits well for $50 bucks (thats the stated price in Paddler, it might have gone up though). So far I have met more people who have had nasty head injuries with composite helmets that fit then I have with plastic ones that fit. You want to protect your Brain as much or more then you want to protect your skull, thing about that. END OF RAMBLING.


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Old 08-19-2005   #22
WhiteLightning's Avatar
Eagle County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 928
I believe someone mentioned the cheapo plastic protec helmet before. My understanding is that this is the helmet that inspired the new WRSI helmet, by (alledgedly) causing the death of the boater. The suspension system is said to have failed, and the helmet was turned around backwards around the head in a hydraulic (not good).

I have a couple of these helmets that I mostly use as loaners when I take people rafting. I guess they are for the fact that I consider crappy helmet worse than no helmet. Here is the beta on the helmet and a photos (most of you guys who have been around for a while know this one):

I had a conversation with Mike Mather once (he is basiclly the whitewater Yoda of rescue and safety, and was my SRT instructor) about helmets. He likes ones that are bell shaped to protect blows from the side, (WRSI seems to kind of have this shape) and ear protection (coming soon?) so long as you can hear. I paddle with a Sweet Strutter, and he suggested that the "bill" doesn't help that much with deflecting rocks, it can get grabbed by current in hydraulics, but it is really good for boat pins when it can create an air pocket over your face so you can breathe. (And it looks bitchin)

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Old 08-19-2005   #23
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 8
I whole heartedly agree that the fit of a helmet is key. All my theory I talked about before doesn’t work unless the helmet fits correct. Larger motorcycle helmets have a much easer time getting a good fit to the persons head. Just the large volume of the motorcycle helmet gives the ability to put in a thick soft inner-liner that makes them easy to fit. Low profile helmets as we all know are tough to get a good fit and that’s where the helmet design becomes non-trival. Sure we could all be safer in terms of a head impact by wearing a motocross helmet, but the comfort in the water would suck and the larger size could cause other potential unwanted problems.

I boat with a Sweet Strutter and it’s a plastic helmet, the shell material is very good the fit is so-so. The helmet looks good and the chicks dig it. Sweet uses a fiber reinforced plastic which I think is super cool. Most fiber composite materials in the past have used a thermoset for carbon, kevler or e-glass fibers. Thermosets for the most part are stiff and brittle and the most part really poor at impacts. One of my first engineering projects was looking at impact inner-laminar strength of carbon fiber composites. A company that made plane engines started using carbon fiber blades rather then steel for large commercial plane engines. The problem came when birds flew into the engine hitting the blades and causing cracks in the carbon-composite blades. The impacts caused inner-laminar failures in the composites that was undetectable by normal inspecting. Having something break on impact is not necessarily bad, not knowing that failed on impact is as bad as it gets. The upside for thermosets used in helmets is that when an impact hits a lot of energy can be dissipated by the inner-laminar fractures. Surfboards use a thermoset matrix and surfboards fall apart during any sort of impact. I am just as careful handing my surfboards as I do million dollar space flight-hardware. My kayak I drop off the roof of my car for fun only because I can the plastic can take it.

Fiber reinforced thermoplastics get me really excited, they are going huge in the future as the processing and technology gets better. They are super tough like plastics and then have a much greater tensile strength than plastics. Right now you buy flat sheets of this stuff with some options on how the fibers are oriented to best suit your application. Because the plastic can reform at higher temperatures it can be then molded into say a helmet, then cooled off and retain its desired shape. Cool stuff. It doest have optimal fiber placement like a thermoset set up would, but its better then nothing. Very tough to get inner-laminar fractures with fiber reinforced thermoplastics.

So is the Sweet fiber reinforced thermo plastic better then the WRSI Surlyn plastic for use in helmets? Honestly I have no idea. I have seen the Sweet helmet crack on a lower water run in Boulder Creek. At first I was disappointed to see the crack, but then thought wow it really dissipated some energy through the helmet by cracking the plastic and tearing the fibers. My buddy was a little rattled from the hit but was able to swim safely to the shore which is huge....HUGE! So he had to get a new helmet, no big deal when the thing most likely saved his life.
Without actual good data I really cant tell if using a fiber reinforced thermo plastic vs Surlyn plastic which is better. I like the idea of fibers for strength but the plastic used is so-so. Surlyn on the other hand is an amazing plastic, this stuff is not your typical polyethylene plastic used on your kayak or your mothers cutting board. Surlyn is not your typical plastic IT IS GOOD STUFF, really good and a great application for whitewater helmets.

So bottom line is that the WRSI helmet are less then half the cost of comparable helmets on the market. I do have an idea in my head that I have being working on for several years that would make the near perfect fitting helmet (Not to be discussed here ). But the damn thing will cost a solid $400-$500 maybe more for it to be done right.

What the Turners and WRSI have done here is really something special. It honestly brings a warm fuzzy feeling to my heart because now little Jimmy and his high school buddies can afford a no-compromise type of helmet. The little Jimmy’s of the world don’t have a lot of extra money, they are young boaters who eat, sleep and boat for the pure love of the sport. Now when their cheep ass parents want to buy them a helmet they can buy a great quality helmet for the price of a shitty one. It really doesn’t get much better then that.

Better get my butt back to work!
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Old 08-19-2005   #24
riojedi's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 191
When you are talking about suspension in the helmet is this like the Romer and Prijon helmets you can't get in the U.S. anymore (last I knew please correct me) that are more of a Hardhat style, or is suspension refering to how it is held on your head? From the pictures it just looks like your talking about how it is held in place. The reason I ask is I've only used the Romer & Prijon syles and don't care for the Pro-Tec or composite style helmets as the impact absorbtion sucks in comparison, so I'd be very psyched to have this style available again.

If anyone knows where to get the Romer or Prijon helmet please let me know.
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Old 08-19-2005   #25
WhiteLightning's Avatar
Eagle County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 928
I don't really know what I'm talking about. I believe the death situation was from a protec helmet rotating 180 degrees so that the open area of the helmet was leaving the head exposed instead of the face. So helmet moved around so it was on backwards, then boater nailed a rock. This has to do with the straps and the stuff on the inside.

I don't think those construction style "suspension" or whatever is very comfortable. I do use them for loaners because they are super adjustable.
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Old 08-19-2005   #26
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Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 191
I'm not talking those cheap ones the oufitters use, they blow ass and are very uncomfortable. The Prijon has a padded head band and the air flow is great, no bakin' your skull on hot low water days (no bakin' by the sun anyway).

I bet some of you can test the helmets in Gore this weekend :P
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Old 08-19-2005   #27
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 168
OK. So they come in random colors and they don't ship 'til October. I think I'm still going to get a box of 10 and keep ya'lls PM and contact you then. If you don't like the color or already bought one that's cool. I'm sure I can sell them at that price.
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Old 08-20-2005   #28
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 45
Bingo Wrote:

------"Last winter I was in the market for a new helmet and emailed "White Water Research and Safety Institute" many times and never got a single response. Not impressed with their customer service. I ended up buying a J3 helmet, and their customer service was even worse."--------

Last winter WRSI did not have anything more then a design they were working on. The first prototype that came from the factory arrived a few weeks ago. When the helmet got here it was not near completion. Even the displays at OR last weekend are not the final product. Gill left for China this week to finalize everything and production will be starting soon.

If you have any questions about the helmets I encourage you to email or call them and they will be happy to give you any information you need. They are a great product that will keep you well protected.

As for the fit of the helmet it is super comfortable and will come with all sizes of foam so it is a one size fits all. We should have a few of them to test in a few days so I will put a post on the buzz after I have tried it out.

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Old 08-20-2005   #29
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Summit, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 2,085
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Okay, I have a Grateful Heads and just have a couple of comments. First, I have noticed that although it feel very unforgiving, and the actual material is, the rocks hit/puncture/scratch through the outer coating. Here the coating serves as an elastic resin to decrease impulse and impact. The downside to the crushable materials is that, at least in ski helmets, the companies cannot guarantee the effectivity once there has been one major impact. I don't know about you guys, but I tend to average three major impacts a season, both skiing and kayaking. Also the rep I talked to from Grateful Heads said I could send in my helmet to have another coat or two of resin layered on (either for extra safety or as a maintanence measure). The "safer" helmets with fuller frames and ear protectors I have tried have not fit the shape of my head well either. Just to keep it straight, I do not know if I am more for one type or another but these are just a few pros and cons I have noticed with the different helmets I have used.

"The world would be a better place if everyone kayaked."-Brad Ludden (Valhalla)
"You only get one chance to run a drop blind."-DD
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Old 08-21-2005   #30
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 159
As far as motocross helmets go they are made to take a high speed hit unlike the impacts most kayakers take but, all of the motorcycle helmet makers will tell you to replace the helmet after an impact weather high or low speed.

To all the composite helmet users out there if your lid has taken a bell ringer hit you might want to have it x-rayed to see just how bad the layers have shattered and if it would still take another hit and be as safe.

As for liner materiel the mini cell foam in most helmets works as we dont take high speed hits like a motorcycle does so the foam liners don't need to be as thick, that being said a thicker liner would be better in any case.

Now my ?????? why doesn't any composite maker do a helmet like the Predtors or Wildwasser lids? you know over the ears and low on the back of the head?

"I just stood there and watched the whole thing happen!!!"
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