By Matt Foot
With an easing of UK lockdown and a renewed emphasis on keeping yourself safe we have a look at one of the most progressive helmets on the market.
The Mammut wall rider MIPS is an update on the Mammut’s popular Wall Rider helmet; boasting a lightweight hard-shell design with award innovation. This was the first helmet in the climbing market that used the MIPS protection system, which has already been readily adopted in such sports as mountain biking, snow sports and equestrianism.
While Black Diamond have followed suit and now also offer a MIPS helmet, the options as far as climbing helmets are still limited and as with all progressive design comes with a hefty price tag. I'll get into what MIPS is and why it might be worth investing in but first let’s look at the Wall Rider in the context of every other helmet.
On first appearance the Wall Rider is a really smart helmet, with a simple yet appealing styling. A helmets primary objective is obviously to protect your noggin but it helps if it doesn’t make you look like a Super Mario mushroom. The lines are all pretty sleek with a three tiered side profile. A high cut brim across the brow gives plenty of space for goggles on the face without messing up where the helmet wants to sit, it then drops slightly to give more protection around the temple but keeps plenty of clearance above the ear and finally drops down behind the ear and wraps around the back of the head giving what feels like pretty comprehensive protection on the rear of the skull.
The construction of the helmet itself is a two-part build with the bulk of the helmet being made from an EPP (expanded Polypropylene) core and then sporting a hard shell over the main impact zone. For me this seems like a great compromise to the old lightness over durability tussle. There are lighter helmet on the market but the hard shell on the Wall Rider can take a beating, I’ve always held back from buying super lightweight kit because I’m hard on gear and I want something I’m comfortable using on mountain trad as well as winter climbing and dry tooling, so the old school hard plastic top is very appealing.
Lastly, the Wall Rider is very well ventilated with all of the EPP core sporting vents down the side and around the back - this certainly isn’t a helmet you’re going to over heat in.
Straight from the off its really comfortable,, well balanced with no hot spots in the cradle system. It comes out of the box with two sets of padding and a stuff sack so once those pads are all sweaty and old you’ve got something fresh to chuck in. Helmets this light have no excuse and really shouldn’t feel uncomfortable and clunky on the head, so it’s no surprise that this is a very comfortable design. One concern I had at the beginning was whether I would like the adjustment system on the back. It seems that when you step up to the very lightweight tier of helmet design, they all do away with the nice easy adjust, plastic rachet systems that I had become so used to.
The Wall Rider uses a two-buckle quick release adjust system across the back of the head. It's light, simple and easy to use unless you’re wearing big winter gloves. It’s perfectly usable when you're gloved up but is a little fiddly. That really is the only downside I can see with the usability.
A few other noteworthy features include the headtorch clips, the mini peak and the goggle strap at the back. These little additions are well thought out and the goggle strap in particular is something I really like. I’ve had a couple of helmets that when your flicking goggles on and off in winter just don’t hold the tensioned strap well and it ends up dropping onto your neck or the goggles ping off the top of the helmet or back onto your face, this helmet remedies that really well with a bungee strap retainer at the back always keeping the strap captive and the mini peak at the front helps seat the goggles if you flick them up. Equally the head torch clips on the front are neat and tight so once your torch is in place it’s not going anywhere. These are small things really but can be a big deal in horrible weather.
So if all of that sounds really appealing to you then maybe the basic Mammut Wall Rider is the helmet for you, but if you want some added protection then the MIPSversion of the Wall Rider might be more appealing.
SO what is the MIPS safety system?
In the simplest terms the MIPS safety system Is a low friction layer that sits in between the EPP core and the helmets padding. Its functions a bit like a floating membrane so that when an object strikes the helmet the helmet will slide slightly on the head allowing it to absorb/ deflect a greater percentage of the impact without passing it onto the skull it is protecting.
The good people at MIPS say our brains are very sensitive to rotational forces and -
“when you have suffered a concussion or even more serious damage to the brain, rotational motion to the brain is the most likely cause.” Therefore MIPS “allows the head to move inside the helmet which can reduce the harmful rotational motion otherwise transferred to the brain. When a rotational force is redirected, the risk of strain to the brain tissue is reduced.”
There is no doubt that the MIPS system can have massive influence on the effect of an impact however it’s important to note that it only adds protection to certain types of impact. For example, if you were to take a direct impact to the top of the helmet plum centre from above it is unlikely that the helmet would perform any better than the next comparable helmet. The system comes into its own when you take a lateral, glancing or off-centre strike that the system can effectively deflect.
I recently experienced a scenario where this helmet would have produced a better outcome so it’s easy for me to see how important this addition could be and thus help justify the added price tag:
Last winter I was climbing some amazing ice on the Ben with a friend, belaying his lead up the crux pitch. He was cruising and I couldn’t see him so fortunately was just gazing forward at the belay. I was struck on the back of the head by what was probably (never saw it) a pretty decent sized lump of ice. The impact instantly sat me deep into my harness and it took a little while to think about what had happened. No bother I was alright, but my helmet was written off. It's therefore pretty easy for me to see that if I had been wearing a MIPS helmet the effect of the impact would have been significantly reduced.
I’ve been really impressed with this helmet. At 225g, its very light , it sits effortlessly on your head and causes no visual obstruction. Easy to adjust and perfect throughout the seasons with the addition of a great goggle retention system. Most of all it’s a step ahead of the majority of other climbing helmets on the market due to the innovative MIPS system.
The only catch seems to be that the added safety, but in balance its probably worth it. A brilliant product and a very easy one to recommend.