The Mammut El Cap climbing helmet comes in an enticing array of colours and has a small peak to keep the sun out of your eyes. Great for a beach holiday but how does it stand up to rock fall? Robin Jeffery, a Mountaineering Instructor based in Scotland, takes a look into it in this Mammut El Cap climbing helmet review.
Old photos of climbers pioneering new routes on Ben Nevis generally feature windswept climbers with equally windswept bare heads. Thankfully those days have given way to a greater awareness of the causes and prevention of head injuries. One of the first helmets and still beloved of outdoor centres is the hard plastic helmet with a ‘cradle’ inside that keeps the head away from the plastic. This design excels at protecting the head from a falling rock striking the top of your head, a likely occurrence while climbing the North Face of the Eiger or the East Face of Tryan but the modern rock climber is just as likely to fall off of a grit stone test piece as to climb a mountain route.
Enter the expanded polystyrene helmet. Closer to a bicycle helmet it protects the head from a fall and a clatter against the rock face, protecting the front, sides and back of the head. The Mammut El Cap climbing helmet is a hybrid helmet that sits between the two poles of the durable hard plastic and the light weight expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam helmet – being a hybrid helmet bridges the gap by borrowing from both worlds; foam next to the head to cushion against a head impact and a durable plastic shell to protect the foam and head from falling rock.
Another hybrid helmet on the market would offer nothing new but the Mammut El Cap climbing helmet offers a safety twist in the form of Cone Head technology. Cone head technology was created by Don Morgan, a physicist in Australia and is used in many contemporary motorcycle and bicycle helmet designs. His design employs two different density foams; a lower density next to the skull and a higher density foam on top, next to the plastic shell. This creates a ‘crumple zone’ which helps to get rid of the energy of an impact. When an impact occurs the cones of the lower density foam interlock with the higher density foam and help to spread the energy sideways as they compress, away from your brain.
Added safety is always a bonus but like steel toe caps, it comes at the expense of weight and the Mammut El Cap climbing helmet weighs in at a substantial 340g. This is lighter than the Petzl Ecrin Rock (445g) but heavier than the light weight expanded polystyrene climbing helmets on the market like the Petzl Meteor (220g) or the previously reviewed, exceedingly light Black Diamond Vapour review (199g).
It also sits high on the head and there is definitively a passing resemblance to the cone heads of Dan Ackyrod’s 1993 film. But it is comfortable to wear and it passes the test of all good climbing helmets, you forget that you are wearing it. For me holes in the helmet mean that it is a summer helmet as I like the option to keep out the spindrift in Winter and it may not be the choice for the weight conscious, but as a high safety and comfortable helmet at an affordable price look no further.
Oh and that peak. Despite my scepticism I could see my climbing partner while belaying and it did keep the sun out of eyes, it might look a bit odd on the beach though…
For more information on helmet types and their usage check out the BMCs excellent helmet guide.
The Mammut El Cap helmet is available from GoOutdoors for £54.00