“Hey, cool helmet!” a guy arriving to the crag called out from behind me.
I said, “Thanks, I’m reviewing it. It’s a women’s specific helmet.”
“Oh, I could guess that because of the things around it,” he circled his finger around this head. He meant the vine and leaf like design on the helmet. A shallow ridge on the helmet made up the vine and the leaves were air holes and head lamp clips. I hadn’t really noticed that design detail up till then. Upon receiving the complimentary helmet from the good folks at Pemba Serves, I had been most interested in the unique fit system of the Elia. “Do you like it?” the climber asked.
And here, dear reader, is the short version of this review. I answered, “Yeah!”
I’ve worn a variety of climbing helmets over the years and currently own one closed cell foam helmet (Petzl Meteor III) and one hard shell (Black Diamond Half Dome) that I have been meaning to replace because it’s over 10 years old and has taken some knocks to show for it. The opportunity to review the Petzl Elia came at a good time. Since receiving it I’ve worn it to a local crag and just came back from a 3 day weekend in Joshua Tree National Park.
Here’s my video review of the helmet:
- Specifically sized for women (52-58 cm headband)
- Patented OMEGA system adapts to pony-tails
- Headband can be adjusted with two lateral buttons to obtain precise and comfortable positioning of the OMEGA system
- Side openings for ventilation
- Injection molded ABS shell is both lightweight and durable
- Expanded polystyrene liner absorbs impacts
- Adjustable chinstrap, nape height and headband for an extremely comfortable fit.
- Chin strap position adjusts forward or backward and redesigned side-release chin strap buckle is positioned off to the side for comfort
- Narrow polyester webbing straps offer improved comfort.
- Headband adjustment folds into the shell for compact storage and ease of transportation.
- Headlamp attachment with 4 optimally placed clips.
- Foam is removable and washable
The fit. I was quite taken by the OMEGA system. I had heard about the “ponytail fitting” feature of the helmet before but what I didn’t realize is that this meant a complete overhaul of how the helmet was adjusted as well. I found the system to be the best fitting system I have yet worn. The helmet felt snug and secure but still comfortable (with one caveat, see Cons below). I was impressed with the sliders on the outside of the helmet which let me loosen or tighten the system easily by pressing in and moving them with my thumbs while the helmet was on my head. While climbing I felt the helmet moved with me and I found I didn’t have to readjust it between climbs.
The ponytail feature. This performed as advertised, I didn’t have to pull my ponytail through some small space in between webbing. I just put the helmet on my head, fast and easy. Now I have the option to wear pig tails or a ponytail again!
Build of the helmet. It felt solid without feeling too heavy.
Price. The Elias is priced at the lower end of the Petzl line of helmets and I think is a great buy if you’re looking for a good all around helmet that will last you well into your climbing career.
Sizing. Petzl says one of the ways this helmet was specifically designed for women is that it fits a smaller range of heads. Well, I guess I have a big head. I pretty much had to use the sliders at the largest end of their range. The helmet is quite comfortable for wearing straight on my head but I don’t think I’ll be able to wear a fleece hat under the helmet. Fortunately I have a Buff and the non-fleece Buff fits fine under the helmet so I’ll be covered for warm to cool climbing situations. Please note that I let another female climber use the helmet for a few climbs and it fit her fine with room to spare. Also, I’ve read a few other Elia reviews online and none of the other women have mentioned the sizing being snug. In case you’re wondering, I also can’t fit into the smaller CAMP brand helmet, and that’s without a hat or a Buff under it. So if that size works for you then the Elia will definitely fit you.
Jealous girl friends? Sorry, I’m just trying to think of another con to justify the pluralization of the word “Con” in the heading of this section. Of note, this past weekend I went on a 3 day Joshua Tree Trip. One of my friends arrived at the base of Double Cross while I was at the top. We shouted, “Hellos” to each other and then she added, “I like your helmet!”
As I mentioned in the Pros section, I think the Elia is a great buy for a female climber looking for a good all around helmet, just check your head diameter with a fleece hat on. Personally I’ve decided it’s time for me to finally retire my old knocked about Half Dome helmet and let the Elia fill its role.
You can read more about the Petzl Elia helmet and find a list of retailers at Petzl’s site.
One of those retailers is Nomad Ventures, right outside of Joshua Tree National Park. How do I know? Another friend of mine who I was climbing with this past weekend liked the helmet so much that at our stop at Nomad’s on the way out she bought one for herself. I didn’t know she was going to do this so I asked her what swayed her, she said, “That ponytail thing is amazing!”
Eileen Ringwald is a graphic designer and photographer based in Ventura, California. She grew up in a town in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains where she first learned to love the outdoors. In the early 90’s she took up climbing partly to face a fear of heights and eventually became an avid climber. In 2002, Eileen, by then a professional graphic designer, launched the climbing and outdoor community website, Rockgrrl.com complete with its own t-shirt and gift shop featuring her designs. Aside from participating in a variety of outdoor sports, Eileen was also captain of her university’s fencing team and a video game reviewer, she loves technology and doesn’t mind being called a geek.