Kayaking is one of the most enthralling and exciting water sports out there. That said, kayaking in whitewater rivers and extreme rapids can be dangerous. That’s because these places feature a lot of physical and sharp obstacles such as rocks where you can accidentally hit yourself and sustain injuries. This is why kayak helmets, both with and without visor are so important for kayaking, more so if you’re heading out in whitewater. The best kayak helmets keep your head protected at all times. Moreover, they help you experience the thrill sans sacrificing the safety element. Their rugged and durable construction can withstand impacts from rocks and hard objects. Plus, their specialized design ensures a snug fit while feeling comfortable at the same time.
Thus, good kayaking helmets can turn what could be a potentially fatal blow to the head into nothing more than a bruised ego. Which is why we’ve come up with a handy guide to buying them, besides listing the 13 best whitewater kayak helmets on the market, including those with and without visors.
How To Choose The Best Kayak Helmets?
Helmets, whether they are the Best Helmets for Horseback Riding, the Best Under-$100 Ski Helmets, or the best whitewater kayak helmets have the same goal – offering head protection. Which is why buying a helmet for an outdoor activity is so important in the first place. That said, you cannot buy just anything that’s available on the market. Your topmost priority should be to avoid getting cheaply made helmets that’ll end up cracking along with your head on a rock during whitewater kayaking. That’s why it’s important to know what all to look for before buying kayaking helmets.
Usually, there are three kinds of kayak helmets – full-face helmets, full-cut helmets, and half-cut helmets. Finally, what you choose depends largely on the kind of activity you’re indulging in. For instance, half-cut kayak helmets for perfect for basic kayaking such as light whitewater kayaking, recreational kayaking, and sea kayaking. It’s designed so that it sits just over the ears, thus offering optimal protection to the skull. Full-cut helmets offer similar protection as half-cut ones. The only difference is that they cover more of the back and sides of the skull and extend over the ears, making them ideal for kayaking in winters. Finally, full-face helmets completely cover the head including the lower jaw, offering the highest levels of protection. If you’re heading down Class III or more whitewater rapids, then go for full-face helmets. Also, all these kayak helmets come both with and without visors.
Just like it’s with Best Shoes For Kayaking or the Best Kayaking Drysuits, the fit of the kayaking helmet is an important attribute. Since kayaking helmets come in a range of different sizes, you need to go for one that ensures a snug fit. Basically, it shouldn’t be too loose, and neither should it squeeze your head too tight. In addition, it should cover your head completely, right down to the skull’s base. However, the most important point of them all is that it should extend beyond your ears and cover your complete forehead. Above all, it should have adjustable straps that’ll help assure the best fit around your head.
Considering the overall build of the helmet is important if you want it to last you a long time. Firstly, you need to consider the material of the shell, which is better if the shell is stiffer. Composite materials such as Kevlar and carbon fiber are generally the stiffest and are extremely lightweight too, but pricier as well. Other equally good helmet materials are those that are made from injection-molded thermoplastic. These not only offer protection but are relatively affordable too. That said, they aren’t as stiff and are slightly heavier too.
Drainage and ventilation
In no way can kayak helmets avoid contact with water, which means that they need to have a good drainage system. Basically, this ensures that all the water that gets in can flow out easily as well, leaving your head dry. What’s more, the helmet should also be well-ventilated for additional comfort. Hence, go for helmets with sufficient vents and air channels for excellent ventilation in a wide range of temperatures and environments.
Last but not least, we come to the retention system of a kayak helmet. Good-fitting kayak helmets should have very comfortable retention straps that can easily be adjusted on both sides. However, more importantly, the straps should be padded well for optimal comfort and the helmet’s buckle should be secure to prevent it from slipping off your head.
Do you need a kayaking helmet?
While not all kayaking adventures require a helmet, whitewater kayaking is definitely safer if you’re wearing one. Whitewater rivers and rough rapids can be harmful since there are jagged rocks and rough terrain everywhere, and if you bump your head anywhere, then it can be potentially dangerous. In fact, a helmet on your head is the only way to keep you safe when out whitewater kayaking.
Bern Unlimited Watts EPS Summer Helmet
One of the best kayak helmets is the Bern Unlimited Watts EPS Summer Helmet. The original helmet from the brand, the Watts is excellent kayak helmet with a visor. In fact, a version of this is also amongst the Best Ski Helmets For Glasses Wearers! The versatile helmet is perfect for standard touring kayaking adventures thanks to its decent rigidity. What’s more, it’s lightweight too, which is a great choice for kayaking and other water-based adventures as it is. The exterior shell of the helmet is made from polycarbonate, thus the thin shell.
Going further, there’s EPS foam padding beneath the shell that keeps your head cushioned, especially in case of impacts. It employs the Crank Fit dial-adjustable fit system to provide ample amounts of breathing space to ensure that your head stays dry and comfortable all through. If that wasn’t enough, it even has in-built Bluetooth speakers for music lovers! Straightforward to use with a host of features, this is one kayaking helmet to watch out for.
- Feels comfortable and snug.
- Inner EVA foam padding makes it breathable and lightweight.
- Ergonomic adjustment system.
- Not ideal for Class III or more whitewater rapids.
Sweet Protection Strutter Paddle Helmet
Another excellent whitewater kayak helmet with visor is the Sweet Protection Strutter Paddle Helmet, which comes with a shatter-resistant visor. Designed specifically to fight the fierce rapids, the helmet boasts a rugged injection-molded thermoplastic and carbon fiber construction. A shatter-resistant build aside, the helmet is also rigid and elastic, improving its impact resistance too. Moreover, the Occigrip mechanism ensures a better and snugger fit, making sure that your head is protected at all costs. Above all, the helmet provides the utmost levels of comfort to whoever wears it.
This is evident by the soft, padded EPP foam liner on the inner portion of the helmet. Aside from lending comfort and convenience, the foam is also an additional shock-absorbing layer that can handle high-energy crashes and harsh blows without damaging your head. Moreover, the vents help in draining any water that enters the helmet quickly. So, if you’re sailing in rough whitewater, then this is the helmet for you.
- Vents keep the water out.
- Comes with a shatter-resistant visor.
- Rugged build.
- Features Occigrip mechanism for a better fit
- None, really.
NRS Chaos Side-Cut Kayak Helmet
One of the best affordable choices for a kayak helmet on this list is the NRS Chaos Side-Cut Helmet. NRS has a wonderful reputation as a top-notch manufacturer of outdoor gear, and the NRS Chaos is one of its best creations. The lightweight and comfortable-on-the-head helmet can still negate impact and shock effectively. This is thanks to its durable and rugged ABS plastic shell, complete with a dual-density EVA foam inner lining for optimal comfort. What’s more, the well-designed Boa adjustable chin strap system ensures a snug, comfortable fit.
The helmet offers increased breathability too what with the eight well-placed openings or vents on its top surface. So, you can use this helmet even if you’re kayaking in absolutely tropical conditions when the weather is hot and the sun is beating down on you. Rounding up the features are the multiple sizes available and the removable ear pads that can be kept or removed depending on your comfort.
- Rugged and durable construction
- Effectively mitigates the force of impact
- Lightweight design makes it easier to wear
- Locks tightly in your head
- Doesn’t block your vision and head mobility.
- Some users mentioned that it doesn’t fit larger heads that easily.
WRSI Trident Composite Helmet
A really great durable whitewater kayak helmet is the WRSI Trident Composite Helmet. No matter how demanding whitewater rapids you head out in, this helmet will never break on you. This is thanks to the carbon composite exterior shell coupled with a polyurethane sub-shell. It’s this sub-shell that can take on the impacts of bumps and knocks. However, that’s not all. The build even features a padded and cushy EVA foam liner that adds to the comfort of wearing this helmet on long, multi-day kayaking trips. The best part? The padded liner is removable, especially if you’re kayaking in tropical conditions.
Aside from the above, the helmet has a proprietary Interconnect Retention System from the brand that makes sure that the helmet stays on your head no matter how strong the water is. Moreover, this system is even self-adjusting, working differently for differing forces of water hitting the helmet. Plus, it comes in a variety of sizes and colors too.
- Safe and secure locking mechanism.
- Very, very comfortable.
- Sturdy and durable.
- Different sizes.
- The fit takes time to get right.
Gath Gedi Helmet with Peak
Another excellent kayak helmet with visor is the Gath Gedi Helmet with Peak, which is everything extra – extra durable, extra rugged, and extra tough. The “Peak” refers to the visor in front of the helmet, which protects your face and your eyes against the damaging effects of bright sunlight. Made from high-quality flexible plastic, this helmet boasts a low profile fit for preventing drag when you hit the water at high speeds. What’s more, it even has a thickly padded and impact-resistant liner that absorbs the shocks on impacts and bumps. Additionally, the helmet also has removable ear protection for tropical environments and completely covers your head.
Besides coming in seven sizes ranging from Small to 3XL, the helmet has a small and round fully convertible design and shape that prevents snagging or “bucketing.” Finally, it has no “peaks” or hard “lips” that could possibly scoop water or “grab” reefs or rocks.
- Low profile and lightweight.
- Comfort strip-fitting system.
- Impressive defence against strong collisions and impacts.
- Practically none.
NRS Havoc Livery Helmet
If you’re looking for a whitewater kayak helmet that comes in a ton of bright colors, then look no further than the NRS Havoc Livery Helmet. Unlike most other whitewater helmets that cost a bomb, this one is priced at less than $50! So, not only is this helmet safe enough and doesn’t sacrifice safety, but it’s affordable too. The construction features a rugged and durable ABS plastic exterior shell. That coupled with a thickly padded and plush EVA foam liner offers heightened protection against impacts and crashes. If you think you’ve heard all this before, then you should know that it comes with a CE EN 1385 certification to prove its safety.
This kayak helmet might not have a visor, but it sure has a whole host of other positive features. For one, it’s lightweight and doesn’t feel painful on the head and shoulders. Secondly, the DialFit dial along with a comfortable chin strap allows you to adjust nicely to get the best fit on your head. Rounding up the features are the fit pads that ensure extra fitting comfort.
- Adjustable fit.
- Has all essential features such as DialFit and chin strap for adjustment and fit.
- Doesn’t have extra features such as visor and ear protection.
Predator Shiznit Kayak Helmet
If you’re a fan of medium-sized visors, then go for the Predator Shiznit Kayak Helmet. The medium-sized visor is big enough t protect your eyes and face from the sunlight, and yet not so big that it distracts you from paddling. Its visor is what makes this model unique, but that’s not all that’s great about this helmet. To begin with, it is made from Ralvek thermoplastic instead of the usual ABS build that you see in kayaking helmets. According to the brand, the high-impact Ralvek thermoplastic enhances the stiffness as well as the protection levels offered by the gear.
In addition to the above tough exterior, the helmet also features a thick, plush EVA liner that serves as an excellent shock absorber in case of bumps and impacts. Finally, the Shiznit boasts a Croc-Lok adjustor on the webbing, buckles, and the back, ensuring head support all the time.
- Medium-sized visor.
- Features a PD1 dial adjuster.
- Multi-layer impact protection.
- Some kayakers with smaller heads said that it shifted in very rough rapids.
Vihir Adult Watersports Helmet
If you’re looking for a kayak helmet not just for whitewater kayaking but other water adventures too, then check out the Vihir Adult Watersports Helmet. This helmet features a durable build, what with a well-designed and rugged ABS shell. That combined with a thickly padded EVA lining absorbs bumps, impacts, and shocks much better, leaving your head undamaged. What’s more, the helmet even comes in a whole range of different sizes, suiting everyone from small kids to adults with larger heads. The fact that it comes with an EN 1385 safety standard along with a 100 percent money-back guarantee only helps its case.
What you’ll really like about this helmet is that it’s much lighter as compared to other models in this article. Thus, this helmet allows you to maintain proper posture since it puts no undue pressure on your neck. Finally, the 11 vents ventile well in the tropical weather and provide an excellent drainage system to any water that enters the helmet.
- Features two-way adjustable straps.
- Comes with waterproof ear protection.
- Limited color selection.
Pro-Tec Ace Water Helmet
If you’re into a variety of water sport activities and not just kayaking, then the Pro-Tec Ace Water Helmet is the best kayak helmet for you. There are many reasons for this, starting with the fact that the helmet has a whopping 15 vents and holes for ventilation and drainage. While most other models feature less than 10 holes, this one with its 15 vents keeps you dry and cool in the tropical climate and warm in colder climates. Despite having so many holes, the helmet is very durable due to its ABS shell construction.
Going further, it features a plush and soft EVA foam liner that softens the impact and shock when your head bumps into a hard surface. This is very important for your safety out on whitewater. What’s more, this model comes in different sizes and even has webbed nylon straps for making sure that it fits snugly. Finally, the CE EN 1385 water sports safety standard certification stamp ensures your head’s safety.
- Drainage holes.
- Ear protectors.
- Comes with an adjustable head dial.
- Some users said that finding the right fit takes time.
WRSI Current Kayaking Helmet
Are you surprised to see another WRSI product? Because we sure aren’t! Behold the WRSI Current Kayaking Helmet, an excellent whitewater kayak helmet that’s also very, very affordable. There’s a lot to like about this kayaking helmet, starting with its rugged, tough, and durable ABS injection-molded shell. Sitting right next to it is a well-designed polyurethane subshell which offers further protection. Finally, there comes the plush and thick EVA foam liner. Together, this multi-layer protection of shells is what makes this helmet so safe and secure.
This kayak helmet might not have a visor or ear pads, but it sure has an Interconnect Retention System. This is what firmly secures the helmet on your head even in the most active and harshest of moving conditions. Apart from three drain holes for ventilation and drainage, the helmet also comes with an O-Brace Harness that provides additional support keeping your head in place.
- Multiple layers of impact protection.
- No removable ear pads.
- No visor.
Sweet Protection Rocker Helmet
If you want a simpler version of full-head overage, then go for the Sweet Protection Rocker Helmet, one of the best simplest kayak helmets around. This durable helmet boasts a long-lasting build and construction thanks to the TLC (thermoplastic laminated carbon fiber) structure. It blends the rigidity and elasticity of carbon fiber and thermoplastic, making for one tough helmet. Apart from that, the Rocker Helmet also uses polycarbonate shells and an EPS liner to make for a lightweight helmet and lessen the bump impact.
Besides durability, this Sweet Protection helmet also offers comfort. Just like it’s full-face brethren, this helmet boasts an Occigrip feature allowing you to adjust your gear into a comfortable fit. Furthermore, you’ll also find comfort pads for a more customized fit. Finally, everything can be tucked away neatly into a helmet bag.
- Removable ear protection.
- Made from durable, high material with triple protection.
- Ensures excellent fit because of the Occigrip feature.
WRSI Current Pro Hemet
Yet another excellent WRSI whitewater kayak helmet with a visor is the WRSI Current Pro Helmet. WRSI is one of the foremost proponents for enhancing whitewater safety, so you know you’re getting a great quality helmet. To begin with, the helmet has a visor that protects your eyes from the rain and the sun. This helmet features multiple layers of protection that eliminate all impacts and shocks of bumps. It boasts an ABS injection-molded plastic exterior, combined with a polyurethane subshell and a plush EVA liner. Together, it’s the combination fo these three features that offer superior levels of protection for your head.
Furthermore, the WRSI helmet employs an O-Brace Harness allowing you to adjust your helmet for ensuring a snug fit onto your head. Moreover, the Interconnect Retention system keeps your helmet firmly secured to your head even under the most challenging and harshest of water conditions. Rounding up the features are the removable earpads, which provide ample warmth in the cold weather.
- Comes with removable earpads and a visor.
- Multiple layers of impact shock absorbers.
- Practically none.
Sweet Protection Rocker Full Face Paddle Helmet
Coming to the top of the list of best kayak helmets, we have the Sweet Protection Rocker Full Face Paddle Helmet. Despite being expensive, this model is extremely popular with kayakers for more than one reason. First off, it has a rugged, durable, and tough ABS thermoplastic build which is resistant to impacts. Secondly, the helmet is well-designed with a crack-resistant feature thanks to the plush EVA foam liner that serves as a shock absorber.
However, the biggest feature of this helmet is that it completely covers your face too, apart from your skull. Plus, it comes with an Occigrip Turn Dial, allowing you to customize the helmet’s fit to your head. If that wasn’t enough, the helmet even comes with fit pads and a CoolMax Liner that wicks sweat and provide a comfortable fit.
- Protects the head completely.
- Customizable fit.
- Shell is rigid, elastic, strong, and durable.
- CoolMax liner wicks moisture.