Whether you are a professional snowboarder or just a beginner, safety gear should be a mandatory part of your rides. One of the most important parts of that gear is undoubtedly going to be your helmet. Not only will it provide protection for your head but it will also keep you warm much better compared to just wearing a winter hat. Going through some of the best snowboard helmets nowadays won’t be an easy task, though. There are numerous models and to the untrained eye, they might all seem really similar in terms of their functionality and features.
Below, we will rank some of the top models for this year and compare their most notable features. After that, we will dive into the various aspects of a snowboarding helmet that you should be looking at when buying one.
Snowboard Helmets Comparison
|Giro Ledge Snow Helmet||Half-Shell||No||No|
|POC Obex SPIN||Full-Shell||No||Yes|
|Smith Optics Mission||Half-Shell||Yes||Yes|
|Giro Nine MIPS||Half-Shell||Yes||Yes|
SMITH Holt Snow Helmet
If you’re new to the snowboard helmets market, you will quickly realise that there are a few brands dominating the field. Smith is one of those brands and their Holt snow helmet is one of their best price-to-value deals currently. It is well-priced and has all the features an avid snowboarder would need.
With its bombshell construction, the Holt helmet provides enough support for both beginners and advanced snowboarders. While it is a half-shell helmet, it does has comfortable and soft earmuffs which will keep you warm and well-protected. The helmet also comes with Smith’s patented Koroyd system which features an internal lining made out of co-polymer extruded tubes. These tubes allow for breathability and protection at the same time and are extremely efficient when it comes to impact absorption. While there isn’t a MIPS system here, the outer ABS shell is durable enough to withstand multiple light to medium impacts. Upon harder impacts, however, the helmet will have to be replaced, especially if the inner or outer shells are damaged.
In terms of the helmet’s breathability, there is fixed ventilation consisting of 14 vents that allow an all-season use. The AirEvac ventilation works well with all goggle types by venting the warm and moist air away from the goggles while allowing cool air to glide around the helmet. Unfortunately, the Holt only comes with the passive air-through type of ventilation, while the more expensive Smith models such as the Maze, Allure, and Code, have the AirEvac in place. Some other models like the Mission and Mirage have adjustable ventilation that allows you to regulate the airflow inside the helmet.
The fit is good here, however, and is further supplemented by the self-adjusting lifestyle fit system which is present on all Smith’s helmets. The helmet comes in 4 available sizes and comes in 13 different color options. As a whole, the Holt is the entry-level helmet which is suitable for anyone and is at a price that hardly has any competitors.
- Very well-priced
- Decent ventilation
- Patented shock-absorbing technology
- Great self-adjusting fit
- Good for all-year-round usage
- Easy to use buckle closure
- Premium materials
- Doesn’t feature Smith’s AirEvac system
- Ventilation isn’t adjustable
Giro Ledge Snow Helmet
Giro helmets are one of the main competitors to brands like Smith, although they occupy a slightly cheaper price bracket. They are also geared towards multi-sport use and the perfect option for anyone on a budget. The Giro Ledge Snow helmet is a half-shell helmet which comes with soft removable earpads, making it highly flexible if you plan on using it for other sports.
The hard shell of this helmet is made out of ABS high-impact plastic which is molded and attached with the helmet’s inner EPS foam liner. While that will provide a decent amount of protection it lacks a multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) which is a downside for some snowboarders.
The helmet comes in 4 sizes and has a decent fit. The auto-loc 2 fit system is a self-adjusting one that consists of a fit band which merges with fixed-position straps around the helmet’s interior. All that creates an easy-to-fit helmet which adjusts accordingly without you touching anything. When it comes to styling, Giro’s helmets are pretty unique and recognizable on the slopes with their Matte colors. There are 9 colors options here including my favorite Matte Turquoise which comes with Grey earmuffs.
In terms of additional features, the Giro Ledge is compatible with Giro’s audio systems for integrating music into your snowboarding sessions. It also features seamless compatibility with Giro’s goggles, which are also a good budget option if you’re looking at other parts of your gear as well. There is also a goggle retained at the back of the helmet which can be removed at any time.
- Excellent budget helmet
- Good ventilation
- Compatible with Giro’s audio systems and goggles
- Has a removable goggles retainer
- Deals with goggles fogging up nicely
- Doesn’t have MIPS
POC Obex SPIN Snowboard Helmet
The POC Obex SPIN Snowboard helmet takes durability and functionality a step further. Unfortunately, it also bulks up the price tag a little bit too. Still, there are a lot of features that make up for the steep price here.
First of all, this is one of the few full-shell helmets on this list. This means that its earmuffs are also made out of a hard shell and a softer inner lining. The full-shell structure will provide more rigidity and will ultimately handle impacts better. On the flip side, it isn’t as good at temperature control, even if the ventilation is proper good here. Speaking of that, the thing I love the most about this helmet is the adjustable ventilation system. It features multiple sliding vents which let you control the airflow depending on your needs.
Unlike other helmets, the fit here can be adjusted with an interior adjustment system and a chin strap. Unfortunately, the chin strap isn’t as padded as it is on some other models which can be a huge downside for some people.
The helmet is compatible with POC Aid communication system which is one of the better snowboard audio systems out there. It also integrates well with POC’s goggles and other accessories from the company.The thing I don’t like here is the lack of MIPS. However, POC has tried to come up with their own system called SPIN which works in a similar way. It includes a silicone pad between the inner and outer shells which will protect you from angled impacts but that is just in theory. In reality, MIPS certified helmets are still believed to be better at handling those types of impacts.
- Extremely durable
- Integrates perfectly with other POC accessories
- Premium full-shell structure
- Adjustable ventilation
- Has a patented SPIN technology
- A bit expensive
- No MIPS
- Chin strap isn’t padded
Oakley Mod5 Factory Pilot Snow Helmet
When it comes to premium-built helmets, Oakley is one of the best brands out there. Their Mod5 Factory Pilot Snow Helmet features a durable hybrid construction which borders between half-shell and full-shell. The reason for that is because the earmuffs are semi-hard but at the same time are removable. The liner inside is also removable which allows you to easily adjust the fit and comfort and also makes the helmet really easy to wash without them. When you remove the inner linter you can also use the helmet in the summer, effectively making it a highly-versatile model.
The ventilation here is adjustable and allows you to fully close it off, trapping the heat inside your helmet if the conditions demand it. The fitting is also adjustable with Oakley’s patented BOA 270 Fit system.
The helmet comes with a travel bag which is something that often gets overlooked by people and not many companies offer travel bags or cases. It comes in three sizes and 5 color schemes. The thing that will always come with Oakley’s products, however, is their price since the yare far above the average price point for a good snowboard helmet. Still, if you want a premium product that has all the functionality and is good for any season, this is the way to go.
- Premium build quality
- Integrated goggle ventilation
- Adjustable vents
- Removable earpads and liner
- Suitable for all-year-round usage
- Very expensive
Smith Optics Mission MIPS Snowboarding Helmet
There is no surprise that Smith makes this list for the second time with their more premium model – the Mission Helmet. It is an even more flexible and capable helmet from the Holt but is also far more expensive. The main difference that the Mission has over the Holt is that air ventilation is adjustable here through a single regulator on the helmet. You can close off the vents if the weather gets bad and you don’t want too much heat leaving the helmet. Conversely, you can keep everything open and use the helmet in warmer conditions for other extreme sports.
The earpads are removable here, making this a half-shell helmet that is good for mountain biking, skating, and other sports. Just as with other Smith products it features their Koroyd system that is one of the market leaders when it comes to impact protection. Unlike the Holt, however, the Mission Snowboarding Helmet has the MIPS technology in place taking protection a step further.
In terms of fit, there are 4 size options combined with an adjustable dial fit system. While the strap helps with the fit, it isn’t padded which is odd to see on a semi-premium helmet. The Mission also comes in the 7 typical Smith color schemes.
- Good for all-year-round use
- Removable earpads
- Durable construction
- Has MIPS
- Adjustable ventilation
- Adjustable fit
- Not as good of a value compared to cheaper Smith helmets
Giro Nine MIPS Snow Helmet
Last but definitely not least on this list is the Giro Nine MIPS Snow Helmet. As the name suggests it has the MIPS system in place here, making it one of the more secure helmets on this list, especially for snowboarders that like to push things a step further.
The helmet features a half-shell construction with removable earpads which is good if you want to use it in warmer weather. The chinstrap is well padded and it supplements the Form-Fit System well. Speaking of that system, it allows you to use a dial to come up with the perfect fit configuration for your head. The dial sits at the base of the helmet and is really tactile even with gloves on. It will provide up to 6 cm in vertical adjustment. That helps with goggle integration at the front of the helmet. Another thing that helps with goggles not fogging up is the stack vent up front which takes the hot air from them and takes it to the back of the helmet where it goes up and away.
Apart from adjustable fitment, you also get adjustable venting here. You can close the vents entirely in a cold day or open them up all the way on a warmer summer day. The system uses a slider which is also fairly tactile when you’re with gloves on.
The helmet comes in 4 size options and 11 really cool color schemes such as the Matte Vermillion.
- Adjustable ventilation
- Adjustable fitment
- Durable construction
- Fit for all-season use
- Has cool color options
- Earpads can be uncomfortable
- MIPS system isn’t of good quality
Snowboard Helmets Buyer’s Guide
Having the proper gear for snowboarding typically boils down to what style you prefer to have and how comfortable you want to be. With helmets, however, style, comfort, and practicality don’t always go hand in hand. In fact, some of the most well-protected helmets are usually the least comfortable ones and the dullest looking. To find the right model, you will have to balance the features we will go through in a moment.
Before we get to the individual features that a snowboard helmet can excel at, let’s first discuss the different types of helmets and see the pros and cons for each one…
Types of snowboard helmets
There are three main types of helmets that you should know about:
- Half-Shell Helmets – Those are the majority of the snowboard helmets and are the most convenient in almost any aspect. Their design features a hard top shell connected with a softer part around the ears (ear flaps). They provide a good and easy fit and don’t get in the way of your hearing too much. While they are comfortable and often warm enough, they don’t offer the same amount of protection as the full-shell ones.
- Full-Shell Helmets – The main difference that full shell helmets present over the half-shell ones is the fact that their hard shell extends over the ears as well. They provide a ton of all-around protection for your head although they substantially lower your ability to hear surrounding sounds. Still, they are widely compatible with aftermarket audio systems due to their design. They are also warmer than half-shell ones depending on their lining.
- Full-Face Helmets – Full-face helmets are the rarest type of winter sports helmets and are primarily used in more extreme conditions. They are the warmest out of the bunch and provide the highest level of protection but at the same time severely limit your peripheral vision and hearing compared to the other two types. Still, if full-face protection and a chin guard is what you feel that you need, then this is the type of helmet for you.
In their core, however, all helmets are made equal. They consist of an outer shell and an inner liner. The shell is rigid and typically made out of ABS plastic that is high-impact treated. That sort of plastic will protect against hard and sharp objects and abrasions. It also does a great job of spreading the impact force. The inner liner is made out of EPS foam which is there to further help the helmet absorb the impact force.
While there are some other helmet variations, these types are the ones that you will typically see on the slopes. To sum it up, if you are a casual snowboarder that just wants a decent amount of protection and a well-ventilated but warm fit, go for a full-shell helmet. For the most extreme of you out there, full-face helmets are a must. Now, let’s focus on the features that define a good helmet.
Snowboard Helmets Features
While at first glance there might not be many features to compare between different models, that isn’t quite correct. Most helmets are unique in terms of their structure, design, type, materials, and other additional features. Either way, let’s sum up all the features that can play a role in your decision and then go through them all one by one…
- Fit & Adjustability
- Shape & Design
- Impact protection & Certification
- Visors and brims
- Material Quality
- Additional Features
Fit & Adjustability
The topic of fitment is quite vast and usually hard to sum up in a few sentences. The main reason for this is because manufacturers tend to have different interpretations of their sizes. For instance, one company’s Large size can be wildly different from the same size from another company. On top of that, helmet shapes also differ heavily from one another. If your head is wider front to back then it might not fit as well in a helmet designed for longer heads. This is one of the mains reasons helmets should be tried and tested before you narrow down your choices.
Still, as more and more people are shopping online, companies have come up with a ton of adjustability options for their helmets that pretty much eliminate the need for a specific size and shape. They do that with internal adjusters that can tighter the helmet around your head if it is loose in its fit. There are two main types of adjustable systems:
- Foam pads – This is the most basic type of helmet adjustability. It consists of various foam pads on the inside of the helmet which can be removed and swapped in order to get to the perfect fit. These foam pads are distributed across all of the helmets surfaces both to provide comfort and to allow you to remove pieces from the top part and the sides.
- BOA system – The BOA dial-ratchet system is the most advanced adjustability system out there and is also the most expensive one. It consists of a turn-wheel which allows you to adjust the fit of the helmet on-the-go.
There is also a third adjusting system which consists of sliders. It is almost as primitive as the foam pads one but it gets the job done by allowing you to adjust a band that is running along the inside of the helmet.
Shape & Design
As I already mentioned, the helmet’s shape is crucial to its fit and is often overlooked by beginners. The shape also has a lot to do with the type of the helmet. Full-shell helmets are typically a bit more tricky since they cover most of your head and adjusting them won’t be as easy as the half-shell ones. While the design also plays a minor role in fitment, it is primarily an aesthetic feature. If you’re set to color-match your gear, I suggest looking for helmets that have a lot of color options.
Most helmets won’t need to provide much heat insulation to your head as, in fact, you would want the heat to go out and away from there. As you ride, you’d typically sweat and heat up a lot. This means that all of your gear should be geared towards breathability as well as a decent amount of heat retention. The helmet, however, should be built primarily for breathability and should take the warm air out from its inside space when you’re riding.
When riding, the helmet should allow the cool air in from the front and let and warm air out of the back. The helmet’s channels are going to be the decisive feature when it comes to breathability and ventilation. Typically the more vents the better but some brands rely on 2 or 3 larger vents with big openings at the front. If you want your goggles to fog up less you should get a helmet with its openings aligned with the top part of the goggles.
Impact protection & Certification
The impact protection of a snowboard helmet defines its core value as a protective piece of equipment. While all helmets can withstand a light hit without the need for replacements, harder hits that cause damage to either the outer or inner shells require a substitution. Luckily, nowadays every helmet out there is being rigorously tested before being put into production. When these tests are passed it results in a certain type of certification. This is why knowing what the different types of certifications mean is crucial to knowing how good a helmet really is. Most models on our guide have received various certifications. In other words, the more tested a helmet is, the more valuable it will be when it comes to protecting you. Here is a list of the most common certificates out there.
- Snell N-94 – This certification is a US standard for all sports that aren’t motorized. This includes rollerskating, skateboard, and others.
- Snell S-98 – This is the typical certification a helmet receives when it will be used primarily for winter sports.
- Snell B-90A/90/90TT/95TT – All these B-type Snell certificates are given when a helmet passes its tests for cycling protection.
- EN 1077 – This is one of the leading European certificates for protection. It is divided into two classes – A and B. Class A is meant for helmets that protect all of your head’s parts except the face, while Class B is meant for helmets that only protect the top and rear of your head.
- EN 1078 – The helmets that receive this type of certification are made from a hard outer shell made out of ABS or PVS. Their inner lining is made out of ABS in most cases. They are certified for skating, rollerskating, and biking use.
- ASTM 2040 – This is the standard testing certification for all non-motorized winter sports.
- CPSC – This certificate is given to helmets meant for any extreme sport and can withstand more than one impact.
It is also important to mention MIPS. MIPS stands for Multi-directional impact protection system. Helmets with this type of system are meant to reduce the damage to the brain done from angled impacts. They do that by having a low-friction layer between the hard outer shell and the inner lining. This allows the helmet to absorb a little bit of the energy during an angled impact and not transfer it all to the head. If you’re into a more extreme type of snowboarding, this feature is a must, however, it will surely bulk up the price.
Visors aren’t a mandatory feature of a winter sports helmet, although they are extremely helpful in sunny weather. If your glasses don’t have the necessary amount of UV protection and darkening features, having a visor on top would really improve your sight in bright days. Some helmets even go as far as having detachable visors which is a cool additional feature.
While it is hard to base a helmet off of its material quality, it is still an important feature to take into consideration. Premium helmets will have the well-known combination of high-impact ABS plastic for the outer shell combined with an EPS foam on the inside. Still, some brands will occasionally have budget options that won’t feature materials of such high-quality. If you can’t find any information on that, the best way to judge the materials used in a helmet is to see its certification. The fewer certificates it has, the less of a premium quality it has. If no certificates are on display, I suggest avoiding that specific model.
Weight isn’t always an important factor for adult snowboarders. It is, however, important if you’re buying a helmet for your kids. Heavy helmets will make their bodies top-heavy and affect their balance when learning how to go down the slopes. They also increase the risk of neck trauma and neck fatigue after a long day. The weight of the helmet is also important if you’re travelling a lot and are mindful of the overall weight of your whole gear.
There are a number of additional features and accessories that can make a helmet much more desirable. Some of those are:
- Camera Mounts
- Audio compatibility
- Premium detachable liners
- Cases and travel bags
- Extra venting
Camera mount slots are important if you want to attach a GoPro with a GoPro-mount or a gimbal. If there aren’t any on your helmet, don’t worry as there are camera mounts that aren’t dependant on a specific helmet slot.
In terms of audio, some helmets will come with the additional feature of having speakers on both sides. That will allow you to listen to music while snowboarding. While not all helmets have that, most are designed with headphones in mind, leaving you with a little extra space around the ears.
Last but not least, consider the goggle compatibility of the helmet that you’ve chosen. Most helmets have a direct-attachment option for your goggles but there are also a few other ways for you to do that depending on the brand. Make sure you pay attention to this feature when choosing a helmet that will be a good match for your goggles.
Benefits of wearing a helmet when snowboarding
There are a number of benefits which come with wearing a helmet during any sport. Snowboarding, in particular, has a higher risk of falling and hitting your head than other sports, especially if you’re a beginner. In other words, the learning curve is steeper and you will fall a lot. Here are the main advantages you get by having a helmet on your next snowboarding trip:
- These helmets often provide multi-directional impact protection that is certified by both USA and European safety agencies.
- Having a helmet eliminates the need for a hat since modern helmets provide enough warmth for your head.
- While helmets keep your head warm, they also keep it well-ventilated, eliminating most sweating issues while snowboarding.
- Some models have Bluetooth speakers or MP3 player integration into their earmuffs.
- Snowboard helmets have a clip-on for your goggles and will make for a better fit without letting your goggles fall off or fog up.
Now, let’s answer some common questions when it comes to snowboarding helmets and brands…
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Anon helmets good?
Most Anon helmets are multi-season certified making them a good universal choice if you’re doing extreme sports all-year-round. There are other brands, however, which offer a similar amount of features and protection at a lower price. Smith is one of those brands.
Should you wear a hat under a snowboard helmet?
Modern helmets provide all the necessary warmth and ventilation, leaving no space for a hat, both figuratively and literally. A helmet should provide a snug fit. Putting a hat underneath won’t allow it to fit your head well and might risk lowering the protection it will provide in case of an impact.
Is there a difference between ski and snowboard helmets?
The difference between ski and snowboard helmets is purely in the marketing departments of different companies. While most helmets are geared towards a certain audience, there is practically no difference between ski and snowboard helmets.
Should you throw away a helmet after a heavy impact?
As bad as it will be for your budget – yes, you should throw away any helmet that has gone through a heavy impact. The EPS foam on the inside has been likely compressed and is no longer fully capable of softening another blow. If the ABS plastic outer shell is cracked, that is even more of a reason to dispose of the helmet.
When choosing from some of the best snowboard helmets you need to pay special attention to a few major features and a few secondary ones as well. First and foremost, make sure that the impact protection is the best you can possibly afford with good materials being used both for the shell of the helmet as well as its padding. Secondly, you can look for additional features such as the helmet’s design, glasses compatibility, and even audio systems that can further enhance your ride.