If you’ve had your climbing helmet for a little while, you might be wondering if it’s time to retire it and get a new one.
Do helmets have expiration dates?
The answer is: yes!
We often buy food at the supermarket, and it always has an expiration date, but some products, like tools, don’t have an expiration date. So, why do helmets have a shelf life?
First of all, the components of our helmet are divided into three parts:
Shell - It is relatively hard and made of high-strength ABS plastic or fiber high-strength polymer. Its main role is to resist wear and tear and prevent foreign bodies from puncturing it.
EPS buffer layer - This is a key part of helmet life protection, and it is also something we tend to ignore. The general material is polystyrene, which is similar to the common buffer foam. Its main function is to buffer and absorb energy, reduce the acceleration during a collision, and slow down the impact on the head. In addition, it can be made into a gully design on the EPS for ventilation.
These three important components will deteriorate with use. The helmet shell will be damaged by bumps and impacts in daily use, or slow aging will occur after long-term exposure to various types of weather. The EPS layer also is reduced by 2% each year, and the helmet can be deformed and damaged when impacted by an external force. A particularly powerful impact will cause the EPS depression to rupture. The lining will become damaged or unusable after wearing it frequently. Maintenance, or lack thereof, can prolong or reduce the service life of the lining.
The three important parts of the helmet will gradually age with use, time, and other external factors, which also shows that when a helmet is used enough, it will slowly lose and reduce its lifetime. Therefore, the helmet has a certain shelf life.
When Should your Climbing Helmet be Retired?
Big brands in the helmet industry can provide 3-year warranties and after-sales services for their products, which goes to show that the recommended warranty period for helmet use by general manufacturers is 3 years.
So when should we retire our climbing helmets then? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
To accurately answer this question, there are two key points: frequency of use and date of manufacture.
Generally, helmets that come from the factory to the hands of primary, secondary, and tertiary dealers may go through a period of time unused, especially those produced in foreign countries, which may take six months to one year. This time will also be affected by helmet brand, helmet sales volume, and helmet style, which are determined by market factors. If this kind of helmet stays shelved for 2-3 years, I don't think it will necessarily reduce the service life of the helmet, but if the inventory time is too long, as in more than 5 years, it will certainly have a certain impact.
To judge the shelf life of a helmet, a combination of its type and frequency of use should be taken into account.
In daily use, it is better to use the number of months or years to judge. With everyday use, it is recommended to replace it after 3 years of use, according to most helmets’ maintenance/warranty recommendations.
If you wear it occasionally, some manufacturers suggest that it should be replaced within 5 years from the date of production.
In addition, you need to check your helmet for any dents or cracks. Scratches and dings are fine. That’s just gonna happen over time, but if you have any large dents on the top of the helmet or cracks in the shell, then it’s probably time to retire it. You’ll also need to check the inside to make sure that all of the webbing is still intact, and that the foam doesn’t have any major damage to it.
A good rule of thumb is that if you were wearing your helmet and it took a hit from a rock or anything else, and you thought to yourself: “I’m really glad I was wearing a helmet,” it’s probably time to retire it and get a new one.
In essence, you should be able to use the tips and situations provided above to know when to replace your helmet.
I hope this guide was helpful for you.