Helmets are an essential safety item for anyone who does off-road racing or is at risk of a head injury while climbing those big off-road trails. Yet just like suspension parts, steel bumpers, and rugged tires, helmets are only as good as their construction. For the best protection, it is important to understand how they are made and how to identify a quality helmet from one that offers you little protection.
How Are Helmets Made?
Off-road sporting helmets are made from a number of materials including fiberglass, carbon fiber, Kevlar, and other composites that are exceptionally strong and durable yet also lightweight. Using various compression molding technique, the outer helmet shells are shaped to designs developed to protect against various types of off-roading impact.
The shells are then fit with liners made of different types of impact-resistant foam to fit the head and provide added impact protection. The helmets are then fitted with straps and visors as determined by the design, finishing off a hard, crush-proof head covering that, when properly fit, can withstand its rated degree and type of impact.
What Design Features Affect Helmet Safety?
The most important features considered in the design of helmets used with off-road trucks include the impact resistance of the inner and outer materials as well as how they work together to prevent head injuries. Each material used has varying degrees of impact resistance, causing them to behave differently depending on the type of impact.
In all designs, the goal is to reduce any crushing effect on the outer shell while reducing the G-force on the wearer’s head at the time of impact. How well or how poorly a helmet can achieve this depends on the specific materials used, the thickness of the shell and foam liner, the shape of the shell and how the liner molds to the head, and the resilience of the different materials.
Safety Compliance Rating
Helmet safety and ability to withstand specific impacts is determined by a number of safety compliance rating systems. The Federacion Internacionale de l’Automobile (FIA) is one of the main international bodies that rates helmets according to an exhaustive list of sanctions. Similar U.S. organizations that also rate helmets include the NHRA, SCCA, NASA, and others. These organizations develop test and compliance standards with groups like Snell and SFI that actually do the safety testing. Helmets are then rated according to the results gathered from these tests.
Although different racing organizations may have different helmet rating requirements, participants who drive off-road trucks should always make sure they purchase a helmet that is safety rated by an approved safety rating organization.
Helmets used during extreme off-roading can cost from $25 to more than $10,000 depending on the material used, complexity of the design, and level of offered protection. Generally speaking, the less expensive a helmet, the lower its ability to protect which is not that much different than the safety provided by steel bumpers versus regular bumpers. Some inexpensive helmets may have some general safety ratings; however, only the best helmets have the highest safety compliance ratings.
Helmets made from plastic with inexpensive foam lining crack easily and offer little crush or impact protection. Carbon fiber and Kevlar helmets offer the most durability and resistance. Fiberglass helmets fall in a rage between the two. When purchasing a helmet for off-road racing, it is important to research various safety ratings to understand the levels of protection they offer. From impact and crush resistance to chemical and fire protection, different helmets have different qualities.
Generally speaking, when it comes to off-road trucking helmets, you get what you pay for. This is no different than when you purchase upgrades for your off-roader such as wheels, tires and custom bumpers with winches. Buy the most durable, well-designed model to protect your noggin against the types of injuries you are most likely to experience when you're off-roading!