Author Topic: Caving Helmets  (Read 3217 times)

Offline phizz4

  • player
  • **
  • Posts: 77
Caving Helmets
« on: October 09, 2019, 07:30:28 pm »
One for the Scout Cave Leaders please. Our County (Staffordshire) caving helmets are mostly Petzl Ecrin Roc. They are 10 years old. If we follow Scout advice on retiring equipment, we should follow the manufacturers recommendations, which for Petzl helmets is 10 years. So, should we do the right thing and junk them all (14 of them) and buy new Petzl Boreo (the closest to Ecrins for robustness I believe). There's nothing wrong with the Ecrins (a bit sweaty smelly) but.....? Thoughts please.

I've also attached a useful document listing manufacturers equipment lifespan which may be useful to some of you.

Offline christopher

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 24
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2019, 07:50:05 pm »
Don't scrap them, old school Petzl Ecrin helmets go for a bomb on flea bay, jut have a look, RAT's seem to find them very desirable,   If you sold them you could probably cover the cost of the new helmets
Now be thankful for good things below

Offline aricooperdavis

  • obsessive maniac
  • ***
  • Posts: 427
  • Exeter | The Lakes
    • Cooper-Davis.net
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2019, 08:00:47 pm »
Or keep using them? The manufacturers recommendations are for climbing, and for the most part cavers helmets are to protect you when you knock your head on the ceiling. Granted, you may occasionally find yourself taking a big fall onto your head, or fending off falling debris from above, but it's not often! I think that the use case is different enough to invalidate the manufacturers recommended replacement age.

Since you're in a position of responsibility for other people's welfare I guess you can't take a risk, but many others would simply keep on using them.

Offline rhychydwr1

  • forum hero
  • *****
  • Posts: 3282
  • The Mayor of Cwm Parc
    • http://www.showcaves.com
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2019, 08:22:39 pm »
My helmet is 60 years old and still going strong.  I did painted when new.  Something I am sure is not recommended today.

Offline Ian P

  • addict
  • **
  • Posts: 121
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2019, 09:53:20 pm »
If we follow Scout advice on retiring equipment, we should follow the manufacturers recommendations, which for Petzl helmets is 10 years. So,


As well as the Scout Association advice to follow manufacturers recommendations, I would expect any other “official” advice (from a technical advisor etc) to be the same. (That would be my “official” advice)

However “Fit for purpose” is a common term in a-lot of circumstances. ??

If you decide to change the helmets, a lot of centres are using Petzl Pangas. One size fits all. (The Boreos are sized)

Offline Pete K

  • Pete Knight
  • forum hero
  • *****
  • Posts: 1504
  • DCMC, DCA, PICA, TSG, DCRO
    • Peak Instruction
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2019, 10:18:26 pm »
Go with Petzl Panga, they are ace and cheaper than Boreo. Bin the Ecrins, they are out of date and you'd be loosing your house if one of them led to an injury. A prosecution lawyer would have a field day.
I am a tech advisor for caving. Don't risk the out of date gear if you are in a position of responsibility and a leader, volunteer or paid. If you're in or near the Peak, I'll happily let you have a look at a Panga from my store.

Offline PaulW

  • obsessive maniac
  • ***
  • Posts: 336
  • WSCC, WCC
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2019, 12:42:34 am »
Panga's would likely be my way forward, also depending on what lights you use , you cant run cables internally on a boreo (you can but not for group use)

pm sent aswell

Offline phizz4

  • player
  • **
  • Posts: 77
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2019, 08:09:10 am »
Thanks guys, very useful advice. Confirmed my take on the situation. I'll have a look at the Panga, thanks. Anyone want a load of Ecrin Rocs? i'll probably put them on ebay unless anyone has a better suggestion.

Offline PaulW

  • obsessive maniac
  • ***
  • Posts: 336
  • WSCC, WCC
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2019, 08:35:22 am »
your ecrins are worth money. as someone said you could almost cover the cost of replacements selling them

Offline Greg Jones

  • forum star
  • ****
  • Posts: 683
  • GSS
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2019, 12:20:24 pm »
Don't put all the Ecrins on Ebay in one go; drip feed them on over a few months. You'll get a much better price that way.
Renegade!

Offline badger

  • forum star
  • ****
  • Posts: 682
  • WSCC. WCC
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2019, 12:10:35 pm »
Our county had a similar situation a few years ago. Then petzl had the ecrins. Which we did not like. We tried 2 or 3 others until we decided on a make and model. So  I would recommend try several before buying.

Offline GT

  • menacing presence
  • **
  • Posts: 179
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2019, 07:08:21 pm »
As Pete's said, given your situation you need to replace them, although there's a growing argument for keeping some textiles beyond the normal 10yr retirement age plastics don't fair so well.

We've been using both the Boreo and Panga as well as having a few of the Elios kicking about.

The Elios is rubbish! Although they're robust there's just to many fiddly bits for group use so you spend ages fitting the things, and then a buckle pops open, pain in the....

The Boreo's are great in that they've multi-direction impact (i.e. foam all the way around the inside). You can get them as either Club or normal version. The Club version comes with glued in vinyl "sweat pads" so a lot better for group use, where as the alternative version comes with a removable (velcro) fabric forehead and top pads. The Boreo also comes in 2 sizes. The downside with the foam is, although it's more robust than many other foam fillings of helmets, it's still prone to damage, after which technically it should be retired.

Although the Boreo is marketed by Petzl as a Caving Helmet (for which technically there is no standard; most people go with the climbing helmet standard) if I was buying helmets for predominantly group caving I'd go with the Panga. They fit a huge range of head sizes (although there's a lot of helmet poking out the back on a very small head), super easy to adjust and fit, and internal components can be replaced. You're not going to get the same level of protection if you fall and bang your head on the side as you would with the Boreo, but they'll last a lot longer.


Offline idriswilliams

  • regular
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2019, 04:58:10 pm »
One for the Scout Cave Leaders please. Our County (Staffordshire) caving helmets are mostly Petzl Ecrin Roc. They are 10 years old. If we follow Scout advice on retiring equipment, we should follow the manufacturers recommendations, which for Petzl helmets is 10 years. So, should we do the right thing and junk them all (14 of them) and buy new Petzl Boreo (the closest to Ecrins for robustness I believe). There's nothing wrong with the Ecrins (a bit sweaty smelly) but.....? Thoughts please.

I've also attached a useful document listing manufacturers equipment lifespan which may be useful to some of you.

Hi, Climbing helmets main use is  intended to protect the head in a fall, I take the view that if in a cave where no falls are possible (other than just falling over) and objects are unlikely to fall from height then a bump cap would suffice. I assume that an "out of date" helmet is satisfactory for this and my Risk Assessment for that site only asks for bump cap protection.

Online JoshW

  • stalker
  • ***
  • Posts: 271
  • WSCC, YSS
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2019, 05:30:24 pm »

One for the Scout Cave Leaders please. Our County (Staffordshire) caving helmets are mostly Petzl Ecrin Roc. They are 10 years old. If we follow Scout advice on retiring equipment, we should follow the manufacturers recommendations, which for Petzl helmets is 10 years. So, should we do the right thing and junk them all (14 of them) and buy new Petzl Boreo (the closest to Ecrins for robustness I believe). There's nothing wrong with the Ecrins (a bit sweaty smelly) but.....? Thoughts please.

I've also attached a useful document listing manufacturers equipment lifespan which may be useful to some of you.

Hi, Climbing helmets main use is  intended to protect the head in a fall, I take the view that if in a cave where no falls are possible (other than just falling over) and objects are unlikely to fall from height then a bump cap would suffice. I assume that an "out of date" helmet is satisfactory for this and my Risk Assessment for that site only asks for bump cap protection.

So scout advice is replace after ten years, technical advisors advice is replace after ten years, common sense for most says at that point in event of something going wrong you’ve not a leg to stand on, yet you still do it... fucks sake

Reiterate the points that those ecrin rocs are worth some cash, just suitably cover your arse when selling them on that they are past their ten year use by date and used at new owners risk.

Have used the panga’s pretty extensively, good protection from side and rear (better than the ecrin rocs). Simple to adjust - not as simple as the ecrin rocs IMO, but less chance of long hair getting caught in a mechanism.

They are foam internals so can be a bit stinky if used in hot sweaty climates - doubt the uk will be a problem.

EDIT: also Petzl’s maximum rating is 10 years, the fact you’re flagrantly going against all this, hacks me off no end. Does no good for the image of scout caving, and another reason i dislike being known as ‘one of the scout cavers’. Maybe have a quick review of the material provided for scouting tickets as well as LCMLA L2 material if available (I think you have your L2 so should easily be able to get hold of training materials).
« Last Edit: December 20, 2019, 05:39:27 pm by JoshW »

Offline badger

  • forum star
  • ****
  • Posts: 682
  • WSCC. WCC
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2019, 06:59:00 pm »
Josh without checking I think there is nothing on the scouts information about a lifespan of  helmets other than manufacturers recommendations, whilst Petzl may give 10 years, other manufacturers may give less/longer.
I would also agree using any kit outside of the manufacturers recommendations is not advisable

Offline phizz4

  • player
  • **
  • Posts: 77
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2019, 08:31:34 pm »
Thanks for the useful, and interesting, responses. We are about to order new Pangas, as recommended on here (and elsewhere). Also a Petzl Rig as I can no longer use my Petzl Stop to lifeline with (thanks to my Update workshop session). We are going to stick with Petzl Pixa headlamps even though we have had three with failed switches as they do the job quite cheaply and we can use re-chargeable AA batteries with them. i would have gone for the Alpkit Manta as a good replacement but they don't seem to do that version any more. As for the age/lifespan of helmets we, in Staffordshire, used to follow the now outdated Scout Association recommendation of 5 years for fabric/textile equipment and 10 years for metalwork, 5 years for plastic helmets and 10 years for fibreglass/composite helmets. We now apply the manufacturers recommendations whether it applies to climbing kit or otherwise. I know that caving kit often doesn't have a specific lifespan but the amount of knocks that our caving helmets experience is probably far more than the average climbing helmet (certainly more so with my experience of my climbing helmets) so retiring them earlier rather than later would be our policy. I'm sure the Ecrin Rocs are OK, I've seen several experienced, and highly qualified, cavers still using ones that are more than 10 years old BUT.......! We are in a position of responsibility when taking young people on these activities and we feel that meeting that responsibility should not be swayed by financial considerations. And i'm sorry Idris but rock falls, stumbles, bumps on the roof etc are not uncommon caving and the helmet MUST be reliable at doing it's best to protect the head inside it.

Online JoshW

  • stalker
  • ***
  • Posts: 271
  • WSCC, YSS
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2019, 10:20:24 pm »
Thanks for the useful, and interesting, responses. We are about to order new Pangas, as recommended on here (and elsewhere). Also a Petzl Rig as I can no longer use my Petzl Stop to lifeline with (thanks to my Update workshop session). We are going to stick with Petzl Pixa headlamps even though we have had three with failed switches as they do the job quite cheaply and we can use re-chargeable AA batteries with them. i would have gone for the Alpkit Manta as a good replacement but they don't seem to do that version any more. As for the age/lifespan of helmets we, in Staffordshire, used to follow the now outdated Scout Association recommendation of 5 years for fabric/textile equipment and 10 years for metalwork, 5 years for plastic helmets and 10 years for fibreglass/composite helmets. We now apply the manufacturers recommendations whether it applies to climbing kit or otherwise. I know that caving kit often doesn't have a specific lifespan but the amount of knocks that our caving helmets experience is probably far more than the average climbing helmet (certainly more so with my experience of my climbing helmets) so retiring them earlier rather than later would be our policy. I'm sure the Ecrin Rocs are OK, I've seen several experienced, and highly qualified, cavers still using ones that are more than 10 years old BUT.......! We are in a position of responsibility when taking young people on these activities and we feel that meeting that responsibility should not be swayed by financial considerations. And i'm sorry Idris but rock falls, stumbles, bumps on the roof etc are not uncommon caving and the helmet MUST be reliable at doing it's best to protect the head inside it.

So the question is... how much for an ecrin roc?

Offline topcat

  • obsessive maniac
  • ***
  • Posts: 389
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #17 on: December 21, 2019, 10:52:41 am »
Ecrins go for between 15 & 160 £ depending on condition, and it seems, crucially , colour.

The £160 is not a typo !

Offline GT

  • menacing presence
  • **
  • Posts: 179
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2019, 11:22:39 am »
Going to throw this into the mix....

Recent AALS recommendations (i.e. Adventure Activities Licensing Service part of HSE) for helmets is that the lifespan could be extended beyond 10yrs provided they've passed a thorough visual and function test. It is also recommended the worst looking helmet from a batch is then tested to destruction (e.g. hit with a hammer) to check if the plastic is not brittle then (obviously) retired. The same process should be conducted each year to confirm performance.

Now I'm not saying we should all keep our helmets for 10yrs+, plastics clearly degrade, especially following UV exposure and through use (flexing etc). It's also entirely conceivable that a helmet may need to be retired after its first use. However my understanding of AALS position is that a function and visual inspection is far more important than checking the dates etc of equipment. Whats going to wear out first, the competent of a helmet or the plastic degrading?

I'll be perfectly honest I'm still processing this one! People are clearly going to have conflicting opinions on this, but opinions are just that unless there's evidence to back them up. So if anyone got evidence to the contrary I'd love to hear it.

Offline PaulW

  • obsessive maniac
  • ***
  • Posts: 336
  • WSCC, WCC
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2019, 11:33:12 am »
quite glad scouting doesn't operate under AALS

in any case

I for one wouldn't fancy standing up in court if something had gone wrong, justifying why I was using equipment that was not within the manufacturers specification.

Offline mikem

  • forum hero
  • *****
  • Posts: 2782
  • Mendip Caving Group
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2019, 12:55:05 pm »
Early plastic helmets were massively affected by UV (you can usually check this by comparing colour of interior to exterior), hence the original 5 year recommendation. Modern helmets use much better stabilisers & are better designed, so 10 years has become the average, but this is solely based on what the manufacturer is prepared to take liability for & what the opposition are offering (to make more sales).

Of course UV isn't as much of an issue for caving as it is for climbing (unless you leave it outside to dry). If you don't dry it properly then the straps will degrade. So, how the helmets are looked after is much more important than any shelf life - stuffing it in the bottom of your tub with heavy / wet kit on top will shorten it's period of usefulness!

We've destroyed numerous helmets with a sledge hammer over the years & no matter what age or state they were in (short of already being cracked), they all took more force to destroy than your head would if inside them.

As long as you have a sensible inspection & retirement system, that is being followed and keep a record of each individual helmet, you don't need to worry about one failing in use. However, if you have multiple groups using them, so can't be quite sure that all take as much care as yourselves, then I would definitely stick to recommended life.

(Of course, there are now "single use" designs available, that are designed to break & absorb the impact - these aren't really suitable for caving or mountaineering use, as you're not likely to be carrying a spare).
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 01:05:17 pm by mikem »

Offline mikem

  • forum hero
  • *****
  • Posts: 2782
  • Mendip Caving Group
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2019, 04:30:11 pm »



Offline phizz4

  • player
  • **
  • Posts: 77
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2019, 06:04:42 pm »
quite glad scouting doesn't operate under AALS

We would welcome any advice re AALA regulations that would help us to improve the safe operation of our activities. What are you suggesting?

Online JoshW

  • stalker
  • ***
  • Posts: 271
  • WSCC, YSS
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #23 on: December 21, 2019, 09:38:02 pm »
I think I’ll always stick with the ‘helmets are cheap, lawsuits aren’t’ mantra. Can always flog on helmets to others reducing the actual expenditures..

Offline mikem

  • forum hero
  • *****
  • Posts: 2782
  • Mendip Caving Group
Re: Caving Helmets
« Reply #24 on: December 21, 2019, 10:29:26 pm »
You're probably opening yourself up to more risk of lawsuits by selling the helmets on!

Remember risk assessment is about not only the level of danger, but also the probability...