When you tour thin snow on mountain passes in the fall, ski hard at the resorts all winter, and cap off your season with a lineup of ski mountaineering objectives in the spring, it’s a good idea to get some solid protection for your noggin. While a collection of helmets for each season’s activities and temperatures will certainly suffice, a quiver-of-one option that excels in all scenarios may be preferable. Enter the Carbon X from Pret Helmets, an up-and-coming Park City, Utah based company known for making versatile, high quality head protection. New for the 2015/16 season, the Carbon X is Pret’s highest spec’d helmet to date, combining multiple technologies into a single, fully ventilated and impressively lightweight package that will keep your head protected and comfortable from October to June. I opted for a size medium, which fit snugly to my head and sat seamlessly on top of my large, frameless goggles (if you’re ordering online, be sure to take a look at Pret’s sizing chart before you make your decision, as I assumed I would be a size large and didn’t realize I needed a medium until I measured my head). I was able to fine-tune the fit of the Carbon X thanks to its RCS (Ripcord) System that can be tightened, loosened, and released via a knob on the back of the helmet.
Removable ear covers in addition to eleven separate vents that can be opened, closed, or left halfway in between, lend to a temperature versatility that will keep your dome comfortable from the sub-zero blizzards of winter to the balmy convection ovens of spring. On a recent spring ski tour, the Carbon X vented heat off my head remarkably well, most notably when I was climbing a short couloir and elected to keep my helmet and goggles on for the ascent. I didn’t get any fogging and felt comfortable, which would not have been the case with my old helmet.
Another noticeable attribute of the Carbon X is its impressive weight. Composed entirely of a carbon composite shell and polycarbonate side and top plates, the Carbon X weighs in around 480 grams (just over 1 lb). Weight savings may not seem important, but on an all-day ski mountaineering objective I know I’ll be appreciative of the efforts made to keep this helmet’s weight down, especially when it’s strapped to my pack.
Last but not least, the Carbon X features Pret’s Fidlock SNAP magnetic buckle which is actually one of my favorite features of this helmet. With traditional chin strap buckles I often find myself having to remove my glove to secure the buckle together. This is not the case with the Carbon X as the two magnetic ends of the buckle snap together with ease. And I was even able to buckle my chin strap with one hand, glove on, as advertised. Because no review is 100% complete without mentioning an area for potential improvement, I will say that where this helmet is able to excel in weight savings may also leave it slightly more vulnerable to minor scratches and dings than its beefier brothers and sisters. I noticed this when my partner’s ski edge banged off the side of my helmet and the lightweight carbon composite shell was left with a small, yet defined scratch. I realize it’s tough to have it both ways though (light AND durable), so this isn’t really a criticism of the helmet as much as it is an observation.
All in all I’m excited about Pret’s lineup, particularly the Carbon X. I’d go so far as to say this helmet has inspired me to wear a helmet again. For those in the market for some new head protection, or for those who are just looking to add a lightweight option to their arsenal, I’d recommending giving Pret and the Carbon X a hard look. For a list of vendors, click here. P.s. Because the most important aspect of any helmet is its ability to protect your head in the event of a collision or trauma, I should mention that all of Pret’s helmets are ATSM F2040 and CE EN1077 certified (I’ll leave it to the reader to look up what that means 🙂 ).