I have been a long term user of pretty much the full range of Petzl climbing helmets. For several years I have favoured the Elios for winter use as I rate its comfort, ease of adjustability, durability and value for money. For all other climbing situations I love the Meteor and, since it was introduced, I have worked my way through every model change Petzl have released. The Meteor is, in my opinion, the perfect helmet. It looks good, fits well and is so light you hardly notice it is on your head.
I also choose Petzl because I am very comfortable with how well they perform in an accident. I know this partly from personally testing their impact absorbing skills a few times (!) and I have also been involved in some workshop drop tests which showed how well they absorb impact.
There is one Petzl helmet I haven’t previously used, despite it being an intriguing and innovative design, and that is the Sirocco. You may have seen the Sirocco, and it would be hard to miss, because it is reminiscent of a big tangerine! For this model Petzl took away the common plastic outer shell and created a super light lid made from expanded polypropylene. The original model weighed a ridiculous 175 grams which made it, I would guess, the lightest climbing helmet on the market.
I tried the Sirocco on some time ago and was tempted to get one, but could never get over its bright colour and it’s rather bulbous shape. It certainly didn’t tempt me away from my Meteor. Like all things, however, if you bide your time long enough then a new model will be along soon enough.
I was keen to test the new Sirocco and luckily managed to grab one of the first batch. I have only had it about a month and so, although it has seen a lot of use during that time, I certainly don’t claim this is in any way a long term test. I am only offering very much a first impressions review, but I was keen to get some info out there because I imagine it is a product plenty of people are looking at……
The original Sirocco was made entirely of expanded foam but the new model is a hybrid made mainly from expanded polypropylene but with a crown constructed from expanded polystyrene and overlaid with a polycarbonate outer layer. It is a very stylish looking helmet.
The other major change is that, while the original only came in the bright tangerine orange, the new combination of materials has allowed Petzl to combine colours with a black/orange or orange/white combo available. The one I have been testing is black and orange and I really like the look of it.
The new choice of shell materials have also allowed Petzl to reduce the shell thickness and play around with the shape. I could have overlooked the tangerine colour of the original if it had fitted me brilliantly, but whenever I put one on it felt like it sat far too high on my head. I didn’t like how it looked and wondered how well it would sit under a jacket hood. The new model sits lower on the head and is trimmer at the sides – very similar in shape to a Meteor. It is a great improvement in every way.
The interior helmet harness is very minimal. A simple tape cradle can be adjusted at the front with one of Petzl’s magnetic quick release clips and at the back the adjustment is a simple slide buckle. There are large ventilation channels along each side and foam pads provide some cushioning at the forehead and on the crown. Beyond that, the only other features are front and rear headtorch attachments and, if you choose, the Sirocco can be used with the Petzl Vizion face shield when ice climbing.
All this simplicity is, of course, designed in large part to reduce weight. The original Sirocco weighed an incredible 175 grams (for the larger size) and this weighs about the same. Petzl deliberately didn’t focus on lightening the new model and rather aimed to offer an improved fit and improved side and rear protection. I think this was a great move.
I pulled on the Sirocco and the fit and comfort levels feel almost identical to the Meteor. I say this as a good thing, of course, because I’ve always found the Meteor to be a great fit. Having said that, you also immediately feel the difference in weight between the two models. It is rather a cliche to say you don’t notice you are wearing it, but the Sirocco really is light and comfortable enough to live up to that tag line! I can’t overemphasise how comfortable I find it.
So far I have used it in changeable weather in the mountains of Spain and the early summer heatwave we’ve enjoyed in the Peak District and it has felt comfortable in all the weathers experienced to date. The big vents help in hot weather although if used in winter you might find the wind whistling through. When it got chilly in Spain though I just pulled a hood over and that will probably be the best trick for winter too. It also fits comfortably over a thin hat or hooded jacket such as my beloved Patagonia R1 Hoodies.
I was a bit worried about durability but so far that hasn’t been a problem. I packed it in hand luggage for Spain and I’m careful to store it in the top of a loaded pack, but it seems like it will cope with wear and tear just fine. I also haven’t banged my head against the rock with it on yet but I will have to see how it copes with minor bumps and scrapes. Petzl supply a lightweight storage bag which is a nice touch.
The harness system is minimalist but does its job perfectly. It can be adjusted easily, stays in position on your head and feels comfortable. The chin strap buckle is the same magnetic clip Petzl use to good effect on the Meteor and I’ve had no problem using that with gloves on. The smaller slide buckle may prove more fiddly in gloves, but it certainly isn’t a problem in general gloveless use.
The head torch attachment system works fine. It is a little fiddly to get the elastic headband tucked under the low profile front clips but, once secured, they feel secure. At the rear is a elasticated clip which is simple to use. I only use torches without an over the head strap nowadays but one friend pointed out it may be harder to attach ones with a rear battery pack or overhead strap. I think that is definitely a good point but I am sure it can be overcome and I didn’t have any torches of this style available to test that out.
You’ve probably guessed it – I really like everything about the new Sirocco. Petzl have continued to evolve their innovative product range and with this new version I really can’t think what I would change to make it any better – I’m afraid my Meteor will be largely resigned to the gear cupboard from now on.
In reviewing a product like this I have no way to say how well it would cope in an impact, but it has obviously been tested to meet all relevant standards and I am confident it will perform as well as others tested to the same standards.
The Sirocco comes in two sizes (s/m weighing 160 gms and m/l weighing 170 gms) and retails for £85. Further details are available on the Petzl website here.
Posted by Paul