Last Updated on 27/08/2023
What is the Best Helmet for Caving?
After testing the best caving helmets and speaking with numerous caving experts and ex-miners, we found the six best caving helmets available today. In this guide, you will learn which reputable brands you can trust and what to look for in a specialized caving helmet.
Caving can be incredibly dangerous without the correct experience and equipment, which is why we are writing this guide in the first place. Some things you need to start caving are a caving helmet, climbing harness, static safety rope, caving headlamp, waterproof clothing, waterproof boots, gloves, and potentially some caving knee pads, amongst other things.
Here we are just looking for the best caving helmet with guides on how to decide for yourself. You may have questions about helmets for caving which we will hopefully answer below our recommendations and buyers guide.
5 Best Caving Helmets
PETZL BOREO Caving Helmet
- MATERIAL: ABS outer shell, expanded polypropylene (EPP) liner, expanded polystyrene (EPS) liner, polyester webbing
- WEIGHT: 295 g / 10.4 oz (M/L)
The PETZL BOREO Caving Helmet is the best caving helmet we have tested and is also one of our favorite climbing helmets too. Designed to be as lightweight as possible without sacrificing durability. The simple design is perfect for narrow cave systems and crawling through tunnels or tight gaps.
Featuring a tough ABS shell and low-density foam inner, much like you would see on a bike helmet, that will absorb any shocks and protect your skull from abrasions. So whether you are avoiding falling rocks or grazing your head on low ceilings, your head is protected from the front, back, sides, and crown.
Available in small/medium or medium/large, we suggest that most men will suit the M/L while female cavers will get a better fit from the S/M size (in general). Either way, the PETZL BOREO fit is incredibly adjustable to suit any head shape and features a padded headband and padding at the top for comfort. In addition, you can adjust the back of the helmet to sit higher on your head, fit a hat underneath, or even accommodate a ponytail.
VERDICT: The PETZL BOREO is the helmet we recommend to family and friends because it is high quality and has the most functional caving helmet. We all know how hot helmets can get in summer, but the ventilation on this caving helmet is as good as it gets. If you love PETZL products, one neat feature on this helmet is the front and back plates to hold either DUO S or DUO Z2 headlamps. In addition, there are small clips for any other caving headlamp that keep it in position without sliding off.VIEW ON REI
Black Diamond Equipment Half Dome Helmet
- MATERIAL: EPS impact foam and durable ABS shell
- WEIGHT: 350 g / 12.3 oz (M/L))
The Black Diamond Equipment Half Dome Helmet is designed for climbing but is perfect for caving and is our editor’s top choice. It costs nearly half the price of the Petzl helmets above but manages to stay in the same league. The Half Dome is well-designed, very reliable, and an easy choice for caving beginners and professionals.
The Half Dome is a well-known helmet among rock climbers; however, the updates made in 2019 have made cavers start to take notice. First, plenty of side ventilation is crucial for EPS foam helmets that can get hot and sweaty. A new suspension system and ratchet adjuster make the fit even more comfier and more secure.
With a reputation for being almost indestructible, this is the kind of helmet you can strap to your backpack, sit on while you are having lunch, and not worry about if you drop it on the floor. More durable headlamp clips on the front and back ensure you don’t lose your light source or have to stop it from slipping off your head constantly. The chin strap is basic, but it does the job.
VERDICT: The Black Diamond Half Dome is easily one of the best helmets for caving due to its low profile, reassuring safety features, value, and durability, among many other things. For what it is worth, and not that this matters, I think this is one of the best-looking caving helmets too. The point is, you really can’t go wrong if this is the only caving helmet you ever buy.VIEW ON REI
Petzl VERTEX VENT ANSI Helmet
- MATERIAL: ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), nylon, polycarbonate, high-strength polyester, polyethylene
- WEIGHT: 490 g / 17.3 oz (M/L)
The Petzl VERTEX VENT ANSI helmet is the third generation of this model and is a favorite among cavers for its hard shell and webbing suspension. Sitting slightly higher on your head, it feels a little more cumbersome than the Petzl Boreo but is much more breathable and arguably the most comfortable.
Unlike other caving helmets, there is no foam lining to absorb shocks, just a webbing suspension system that gives the same result. If you have been caving for a while, you may remember the Petzl Ecin Roc helmet – well, the Vertex Vent uses the same chin strap, which is a good thing. In addition, the vents on either side can be opened and closed with a simple flick of the vent, which is super handy.
Suitable for caving, climbing, and industrial use, there are several molded slots for modular accessories like visors and headlamps that cavers don’t need. But the simpleness of the classic 6-point webbing design still works as well today as it ever did.
VERDICT: If you want one of the best caving helmets with a webbing suspension fit, then this is for you. The rugged and durable shell is reliable and very hard-wearing, and it is hard to beat the comfort of this style of helmet. We highly recommend this helmet for caving and for most other outdoor sports too.VIEW ON MOOSEJAW
EDELRID Ultralight Hardshell Helmet
- MATERIAL: EPS impact foam and durable ABS shell
- WEIGHT: 435 g / 15.3 oz
The EDELRID Ultralight Hardshell Helmet is a well-known caving helmet that has been around since the 1980s building up a solid reputation of trust and quality. There is a new, updated version of this helmet, but the old design is still available. One thing we like from the original is the 26 ventilation holes which can be used to attach headlamps and thread wires through.
Like the Petzl Vertex, this helmet has a webbing suspension system that allows for better air circulation and, therefore, is more comfortable in warm temperatures. In addition, the shape and design are just right to sit far enough off your head for impact protection and so that it doesn’t get in the way when caving in narrow spaces.
VERDICT: The EDELRID Ultralight Hardshell Helmet is used by outdoor activity centers worldwide because it is almost indestructible and has excellent value for money. You can use and abuse this without worrying about damage – scratches are inevitable when caving, so you might as well embrace them. This helmet allows you to do that.VIEW ON BACKCOUNTRY
Team Wendy SAR Tactical Helmet
- MATERIAL: Lexan polycarbonate copolymer outer shell, Expanded polystyrene (EPS) impact liner
- WEIGHT: 660 g / 23.3 oz (L)
The Team Wendy SAR Tactical Helmet is the best caving helmet for search and rescue teams due to its adaptability to any situation. As well as caving, it can be used for climbing, mountaineering, and underwater missions and is also compatible with things like camera mounts, headlamp mounts, night-vision goggles, or a clear plastic visor.
The rugged outer shell features vents with detachable vent covers for year-round use and is tough enough to handle all significant knocks and impacts. I think it is rated for just about every kind of search and rescue environment out there. Inside, the expanded Polystyrene provides serious protection from falling rocks or climbing falls.
Getting a good fit with the headband couldn’t be easier with a turn adjustment rachet that tightens from 3 angles with a single twist. The comfort padding on the inside covers every pressure point to feel more like a hat. Speaking of hats, you can fit both beanies and camps underneath the Team Wendy SAR helmet.
VERDICT: It is hard to ignore the many features that other helmets don’t have for caving instructors and professionals in the caving or search and rescue industry. For the caving hobbyist, this might be a little bit overkill, but if you want to treat yourself to some rock-hard head protection, then the Team Wendy SAR Tactical Helmet is worth looking at. The big downside, though, is its weight; it’s more than double the weight of other options and three times the price.
What Makes a Caving Helmet the Best?
Deciding which caving helmet to buy can be a difficult decision as you are likely to use your helmet for many years to come. Here are some of the features we look for to help make buying a helmet for caving easier:
Strength and Saftey Rating
Caving helmets are designed to protect your head from falling objects, abrasions, and impact. Hard ABS plastics are used for the outer shell because they are durable and aren’t weakened by repetitive knocks against cave walls and ceilings.
The safety ratings you should look for are the EN 12492 and UIAA 106 standards used for all types of rope activity safety, including caving. Most caving helmet manufacturers will proudly display this rating to ensure they are safe and appropriate for the intended use.
While EPS-lined caving helmets have comfortable padding around the inside and headband, you just can’t beat a fabric strap suspension system. After wearing a hard hat style helmet with strap suspension, EPS helmets seem to exaggerate minor knocks much more. For this reason, I prefer a helmet like the EDELRID Ultralight Hardshell Helmet or Black Diamond Half Dome (both listed above).
Getting a good fit is essential, and many helmets come in 2 or 3 different sizes and are adjustable. Measure your head before buying to make sure you get the right size. Ideally, it would be best to look for a snug fit that allows the helmet to stay securely in position, even without a chin strap. The ability to adjust the fit is a priority with caving helmets, as they need to be secure.
The inner dimensions of your caving helmet are essential to get a good fit, as mentioned above, but the size of the helmet overall is another consideration. Caving involves squeezing through tight gas and tunnels, which means you don’t want a big, cumbersome helmet holding you back. Instead, a low-profile helmet that doesn’t feel too big on your head is what you should be aiming for.
Old miner’s helmets have a very distinct shape with a bit of a brim is something you don’t see very often in modern caving helmets, but why? Miners’ helmets were mainly designed to protect your head from falling rocks and were not great at fitting through tight gaps. However, as climbing helmets evolved to become more compact and lightweight, so did caving helmets. So now you will see some very slick-looking helmets with just a subtle brim on the front and back.
Ventilation is critical with caving helmets, especially when lined with shock-absorbing foam, which can quickly get hot. Vent holes are often used to allow hot air to escape; however, nothing beats the air circulation a hard hat with webbing suspensions provides. In addition, the space between your head and the outer shell stops sweat from building up and dripping into your eyes.
Climbing helmet weight is a serious issue when you are wearing it for hours on end with the added weight of your headtorch. Lightweight caving helmets are best, and the only downside is they, more often than not, cost more. Anything around 300 grams is outstanding, and 450 grams is average for a high-end caving helmet.
Straps, Clips & Adjustability
These can significantly impact the user experience, as there is nothing more frustrating than a strap that comes loose or a clip that is hard to open. Caving helmets are designed to be super easy to adjust with one hand so that you can use them even in challenging situations underground.
Adjustability is vital with such a rigid item as a helmet, and so many established caving helmet brands have made it as simple and effective as possible. Now you can adjust multiple points of the helmet suspension with the twist of a dial or sliding of a notch, so don’t settle for anything less.
You may want to attach a GoPro camera or headlamp to your caving helmet, which isn’t a problem, but some make it easier than others. If having the attachment points to add modular accessories is important to you, then make sure the cavers helmet you buy is compatible with or supports your gear. Rarely a cave explorer will ever have to use a visor or night vision goggles, so you can ignore these features.
Insulation and Padding
Some caving helmets have superior padding and insulation, while others focus on ventilation. First, decide what type of caving temperatures you will most likely be exploring and match a helmet to that. If comfort and warmth are a priority for you, I would recommend an EPS-lined helmet, which has natural insulation properties and often features padding.
What is a Caving Helmet?
A caving helmet is an essential piece of safety equipment that will protect you from falling rocks, banging your head, and from an impact like a fall. The outer shell is made from extremely tough plastics, which are very hard to damage. On the inside, there may be some expanded polystyrene (EPS) impact foam or a webbing suspension system depending on the type of hard hat you choose. A suspension system will keep the helmet in position, while adjustable straps will ensure you get a good fit.
What is the Difference Between a Caving Helmet Vs. Climbing Helmet?
Climbing and caving helmets have very little difference and can be used interchangeably. However, caving helmets typically feature a headlamp attachment or clips because they are used in the dark, whereas climbing helmets are more likely to have a GoPro attachment. In addition, most climbing helmets will feature EPS impact foam lining, whereas caving helmets have historically used a webbing suspension system.
How Long Does a Caving Helmet Last?
Most caving helmets will have a manufacturer guideline of 5 – 10 years of service time before you retire your helmet. Petzl recommends ten years, while some cheaper brands suggest 5-year guarantees. Much like a bike helmet, heavy impacts on a helmet will add up and create weak spots, so it is often better to replace a helmet based on how hard it has been hit.
Do Caving Helmets Expire?
Caving helmets don’t have an expiration date, but that doesn’t mean they last forever, remember, the helmet is there to save your life, so don’t push your luck too far. As mentioned above, most caving helmet brands recommend you replace your caving helmet every 5 – 10 years. Even if your climbing helmet doesn’t see much use in those ten years, plastic generally doesn’t age well and can become brittle over many, many years.
What Color Caving Helmet is Best?
When it comes to caving helmets, color isn’t so important. White is the most visible and could be considered the best, but bright colors also work well. If you want to stand out, get a white, orange, red, or yellow. If you would instead get something more neutral, black looks pretty slick, or navy blue will work.
We hope you learned what you came here for in this guide to the best caving helmet for exploring underground cave networks.