How to Choose Your Whitewater Helmet

Whitewater helmets come in all shapes and sizes. They’re an essential part of your river safety kit, and the range of choices can be difficult to navigate. Here is our advice to help you choose the right whitewater helmet.

Sweet Protection Kayak Helmet
To start, helmets are all about preference and fit. A whitewater helmet should fit snugly on your head with no forward or backward movement. When the chinstrap is secured properly, it should not lift off your head. 

When buying your first helmet, consider the sport you are choosing it for – as all helmets have their advantages and disadvantages. The protection offered by a super-burly helmet for kayaking will be a bit overkill for most other river sports, and probably won’t be the most comfortable thing to wear on a raft all day.

I’ve found that folks who have narrower head profiles tend to fit into the Sweet Protection helmets very well. The Sweet Protection Wanderer is a great helmet for intermediate kayakers, as well as Ducky Paddlers and SUP Boarders.

The Sweet Protection Strutter is very popular as well, especially among rafting enthusiasts because of its long brim. Advanced Kayakers enjoy the additional protection offered from the Sweet Protection Rocker Half Cut and Rocker Full Face Helmets. Aggressive style and industry-leading design sets Sweet apart from the competition.

Wanderer
Strutter

For paddlers with rounder domes, go for Shred Ready. If you liked the Sweet Wanderer but it didn’t fit your head, the Shred Ready Standard Halfcut is a great choice instead. Rafters like the Shred Ready Zeta, as it is fairly minimal and wears like a baseball cap. Shred Ready’s range of included foam inserts, as well as the HOG (“Hand of God”) Retention System allows for fine-tuning of fit.

 
Standard Halfcut
Zeta

Another brand worth checking out is WRSI. I find them to be the most comfortable whitewater helmets we offer, and they fit a wide range of head shapes. WRSI stands for “Whitewater Research and Safety Institute," and their proprietary retention system forces the chin strap to tighten if the helmet brim gets pushed upwards, keeping your forehead protected.

Blue raft helmets saftey whitewater
The WRSI Current Helmet and the WRSI Trident Helmet are both very popular helmets across a wide variety of paddling activities. They breathe much better than many other choices out there and are comfortable to wear all day in the hot sun.
WRSI Current Helmet
WRSI Trident Helmet
As you browse your options, brims are one thing you will notice that sets a lot of helmet designs apart from one another. While it ultimately comes down to preference, many paddlers would agree that most helmets with long brims are going to feel awkward if you end up upside down in a kayak and the brim starts interacting with water currents while you are trying to roll. Brims that aren’t solid and allow for water to flow through like the Sweet Rocker series may not have this issue as much as solid-brim helmets like the Zeta or Strutter would.

Shop Whitewater Helmets

Conversely, helmets that have no brim at all will offer no sun protection. While this seems like a non-issue since sun protection isn’t your first concern when thinking about protecting your skull, a helmet is often something that’s awkward to take off and store somewhere if you are a small crafter and want to throw a hat on when you’re not in the rapids.

Therefore, you’ll see a lot of choices out there that are a low-profile brim design to strike a balance between sun protection and immersion safety. These are the best helmets to consider if you find yourself on a variety of different crafts.

11 comments

Theodore Tarver

Theodore Tarver

First piece of equipment is PFD, second is helmet. No matter how good your skill level, upside down going through a rapid you will really appreciate the helmet taking the blows as your head scrapes along the rocks before you complete your roll.

Jon Theophilus

Jon Theophilus

I currently have a sweet strutter but am looking into a wrsi full face for kayaking.

Dejan Smaic

Dejan Smaic

Thanks for the helmet beta. I’ve been trying to figure out the best fitting helmet for my son as he has a rounded head and Sweet Protection is hit or miss with him.

Kevin McKelvy

Kevin McKelvy

The WRSI Current Pro has been my first helmet. Love the sun brim, and the removable ear pads are great on colder days!

Carla Lodders

Carla Lodders

Great information! Thanks for the info.

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith

Thanks for the info!!

Sandra Hart

Sandra Hart

I’m told by friends that you helmets are the best!

Logan Steed

Logan Steed

I have a rounder head and I definitely agree that sweet protection Helmets are narrow fitting. I like shred ready for my round dome.

jeffrey freeman

jeffrey freeman

i like how recommendations are given by activity and ability not just features

Matt McKinney

Matt McKinney

Great information for various head shapes. Thank you CKS!

Logan Steed

Logan Steed

👍

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