I always say better safe than sorry. That is why I recommend wearing a helmet and a PFD (personal flotation device) no matter what type of paddling you are doing.
If you wear a good helmet it can be the difference between a serious hit and being injured or just a small bash on the head that wakes you up but nothing more. That is why a quality kayaking helmet needs to be a top priority on your kayaking safety equipment list.
Luckily we have a vast amount of kayak helmets on the market for all kinds of head sizes and designed for different activities.
However, the sheer number of options to choose from can make it quite hard to make a decision which one to get. How to decide which one is the best helmet for you?
We have compiled a list of the 10 best kayak helmets and a buying guide to help you make the right decision.
Top 10 Kayaking Helmets
1. Sweet Protection Wanderer Paddle Helmet
The Wanderer is specifically designed for kayaking and a top pick with outstanding security. This helmet for all-round river use will reliably protect you from multiple weaker bashes on the head region.
It comes with a multitude of awesome features like double-duty vents that drain out the water and allow air circulation. The EPP Lining inside helps to absorb shocks and has a memory effect that offers superior comfort.
The outer shell consists of thermoplastic carbon fiber. For improved security and a good fit, the Wanderer is equipped with the Occigrip-Retention-System.
- high comfort
- comes with Occigrip system
- Air circulation vents
- shock absorbing EPP Foam
- not suited for the most advanced whitewater kayaking environments
For everyday kayaking tours, you will be very happy with this helmet because of its comfort and the quality of protection it offers. If you are searching for a water helmet that performs well in the most common kayaking environments besides extreme whitewater kayaking then the Wanderer is a fantastic choice.
2. Tripple Eight Water Halo Kayak Helmet
This helmet was designed to look like a skateboard helmet but with the addition of being made for water use as well.
It comes as a half-cut design that offers protection in all kinds of watersports like kayaking, wakeboarding or waterskiing.
For quick water drainage, there are ventilation holes at the top, the front and the back of the helmet.
The durable and robust outer shell is made of high-density ABS. The lining inside consists of 3 layers of foam which are wrapped in comfy plush fabric.
To make it easy to wash the Velcro lining it is fully removable. As an addon, you can get ear protection that is fully removable as well for extra safety.
- Highest comfort
- Very stylish
- Removable Velcro lining
- Runs smaller than the sizing chart indicates
If a comfortable and good fit is the most important aspect for you then the Water Halo is probably the best choice for you. You can choose between different sizes and colors to match your personal style. On top of that, it comes with a safety certificate.
3. NP Surf Watersports Kayak Helmet
If you are looking for an ultra-light water helmet with outstanding quality then the NP Surf Watersports Helmet might be for you.
The outer shell is composed of strong ABS plastic. The inside is lined with water-resistant EVA foam which provides comfort and security.
Chin straps with good adjustability in combination with a twist-tightening-system provide excellent adaptability.
Already included in the price are the closed-ear protectors on the side of the helmet. They come with foam lining and can be removed in case you need more freedom around your ears.
- Padded earpads to protect your ears
- Very low weight
- Safety certificate
- Pads are not adjustable
- Comes without Coolmax lining
The NP Surf Helmet is an allrounder for the whole range of watersports. The removable ear protector and the easy to adjust chin straps and closure system make it highly adaptable.
Everybody who is searching for a solid beginner helmet that offers good comfort and protection will be happy with this model.
4. Bern Unlimited Watts EPS Kayak Helmet
The Watts is a half-cut helmet with a baseball-hat-inspired hard visor. The popular all-purpose helmet with the classic Bern styling provides reliable protection.
The shell on the outside is composed of ABS thermoplastic in combination with EPS hard foam on the inside which makes the helmet incredibly strong and comfortable at the same time.
The ventilation system consists of air channels at the front and the back of the helmet.
- Multi-purpose helmet
- Very stylish
- Good price
- Small visor
- No ear protection
The baseball hat inspired design of the helmet gives it a stylish look. Besides looks, Bern’s Watts comes with highly relevant features that make this a great kayaking helmet in addition to its broad range of use.
The Watts comes in many different colors and sizes and offers hobby kayakers reliable protection.
5. Sweet Protection Rocker Paddle Helmet
If you are after a top-notch whitewater kayaking helmet that is even widely popular with kayaking professionals then the Sweet Protection Rocker might be for you. It was designed to withstand the toughest rapids and offers first-class durability and protection.
The TLC outer shell combines thermoplastic with carbon fiber. For eye protection, it has a shatter-resistant visor.
The inner lining is made from EPP foam which is ideal for kayak helmets. The integrated Coolmax system provides the necessary cooling and hygienic features.
The Occigrip retention system will make secure a comfortable fit and good adjustability of the helmet.
- First-class protection
- Low weight
- Higher price
The Sweet Protection Rocker comes with a multitude of features and materials to deliver adjustability, comfort, ventilation, and top-notch protection. That is why you will have to pay a little more for it than for other models. However, if you are searching for a first-class whitewater kayaking helmet than the Rocker might be ideal for you.
6. NRS Chaos Side Cut Helmet
If you are looking for a versatile helmet with good protection the NRS Chaos Side Cut might be for you.
The strong outer shell is made from ABS thermoplastic. The lining of the helmet is made from dual-density EVA foam which offers good comfort and additional protection.
You can choose between different sizes and colors of a wide range.
- Quick water drainage
- Good ventilation
- Extra thick inner lining
- some find it not that comfortable
The Chaos Side Cut is a versatile water helmet that can be used for all kinds of watersports like kayaking, paddle boarding, rafting or canoeing. It offers reliable and strong protection, so it can also be used by whitewater kayakers. The wide range of colors and available sizes make this a popular helmet for many watersports enthusiasts.
7. NRS WRSI Current Helmet
WRSI stands for Whitewater Research and Safety Institute who do a lot of testing. That means with this new helmet from NRS you can rest assured that your head will be protected next time you embark on a rougher kayaking tour.
The durable and strong outer shell is composed of ABS plastic in combination with polyurethane. The EVA lining inside further dissipates impacts on the helmet. It is made of nine different EVA pads (Interconnect-Retention-System) of various thickness which allows you to custom fit the helmet for different head shapes and provides superior comfort.
On top of that, you can choose between six different colors and three sizes.
- Interconnect Retention System
- Very good value for this price
- First-class protection
- No Coolmax lining
- Ventilation is not the best
The WRSI Current from NRS offers superior shock absorption. The WRSI do a lot of testing to make sure that their whitewater helmets provide ultimate safety. If you are looking for a very affordable whitewater kayaking helmet, the NRS WRSI Current is a good choice.
8. NRS Havoc Livery Helmet
The Havoc Livery is a basic kayaking helmet in the lower price range. The outer shell is made from ABS plastic and the inner lining consists of closed-cell EVA impact foam.
Six holes provide sufficient ventilation and water drainage. The chin straps offer good adjustability with the ratchet-adjust DialFit system that allows you to quickly adjust the fit of the helmet by simply twisting a knob.
The Havoc Livery comes only in one size, but due to its high adjustability, it is suited for people with head circumferences of 20.86-24.4 inches.
- Low weight
- Good price
- Some do not find it comfortable
If you are looking for an affordable helmet with good adjustability to custom fit most people, the Havoc Livery from NRS might be for you. It offers good protection for whitewater kayaking and you can select between 5 different colors.
9. Sweet Protection Rocker Fullface Kayak Helmet
Are you looking for a whitewater helmet that can endure the toughest rapids by providing high-performance unparalleled protection? Then look no further.
The Sweet Protection Rocker Fullface is equipped with an incredibly impact-resistant ABS thermoplastic lower shell that is carbon fiber reinforced. For further protection of the face, it comes with a jaw guard and a shutter-resistant visor.
The inner lining is made from EPP foam that absorbs outer shocks. The integrated Coolmax lining will keep you comfortable in all weather conditions. Double-duty vents provide sufficient ventilation and water drainage.
The Occigrip retention system secures quick and easy adjustability for the right fit and comfort.
- Best protection
- Occigrip mechanism
- High-quality materials
- Higher price
The Sweet Protection Rocker Fullface is a full-coverage helmet offering the most extensive protection available in any whitewater helmet on the market. It comes with high-quality construction materials and richness of features. If you are looking for a certified kayaking helmet that provides strong protection in the roughest rapids out there then the full-face Rocker is the right helmet for you.
10. NRS WRSI Trident Composite Kayak Helmet
The last helmet on our list is the WRSI Trident from NRS. This helmet combines the high security that comes with the WRSI which was founded to advance whitewater safety awareness and technology and the sleek design of an NRS.
The robust carbon composite shell in combination with a polyurethane sub-shell and EVA impact foam makes sure to effectively dissipate shocks and impacts from outside.
The integrated Interconnect-Retention-System utilizes nine EVA pads with different thicknesses to provide a nice comfortable fit and to make sure that the helmet always stays in place.
A small visor offers additional protection for the face region.
- Comfortable fit
- Low weight
- Only one size available
- Limited ventilation and water drainage
The WRSI Trident is a super lightweight helmet with very good comfort. If you are looking for a tested and safe helmet that combines a sleek design with strong protection the Trident might be exactly what you are looking for.
How To Choose A Kayak Helmet – Buying Guide
You need to consider the Different Helmet Types
These types of helmets provide the most complete protection by covering the entire head as well as the jaw. You use full-face helmets when you are about to expose yourself to rapids and whitewater since there is a big risk of getting a bash on the head. That is why these helmets prioritize safety and durability over comfort or ventilation.
Half-cuts or also known as bowls, are typical in lighter whitewater, touring or sea kayaking. They do not cover the ears but provide good protection for the upper head and good ventilation and water drainage.
The full-cut helmet covers everything that a half-cuts do, but also the ears and a larger region of the back of your head. A nice side effect to the additional safety that comes with the coverage of the ears is the fact that full-cut helmets keep them also warm in case you are paddling in lower temperatures.
What Are The Conditions You’re Kayaking In?
Where you want to go kayaking and which conditions you want to paddle under determine which helmet is suited best. Whitewater kayaking, for example, would require a strong helmet that covers large areas of your skull so you are protected in case you hit on a rock in the water. In this case, you would want to go with a full-cut or full-coverage helmet.
If you are a recreational kayaker on the other hand and you are kayaking in a bigger group you’ll probably be happy to have some air around your ears. But you also want to have a helmet the has a comfortable lining inside that effectively dissipates shocks like an accidental bash from another fellow kayaker. In such a case a half-cut model would do the trick.
What Materials Are Being Used?
The most common materials helmets are built off are composites like Kevlar or thermoplastics which are injection-molded.
The advantage of composites is their stiffness and low weight. Usually, high-end helmets are made of those.
Midlevel and helmets in the lower price range are often made of thermoplastics. The material is heavier and more flexible but offers comparable durability and strength of protection.
Does The Helmet Fit Your Head?
It is very important that your helmet snugly fits your head. Otherwise, it might not be able to protect you in an emergency situation which would make it useless.
Make sure that your helmet reaches down to the end of your skull and that it shelters the entire region of your head. It is advisable that it covers your ears as well and a visor can protect your eyes and nose.
The helmet should not be too small or exert pressure on your head. Your head should touch all parts of the lining but it should not be too tight in a way that it is uncomfortable.
It can be quite helpful to know the circumference of your head before you buy one. To find out about the size of your head and a suited helmet you can just check with a tape measure.
What Kind Of Retention System Is Integrated?
For a helmet to provide comfort and security, it needs to have a good retention system.
The straps shouldn’t be too tight when you buy a helmet. However, you do not want to have a helmet that sits too lose either.
That is why you need to make sure to get one with a retention system that has enough contact points and provides good adjustability and stability.