Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Sweet Protection Igniter Alpiniste Helmet

Some pieces of gear do just one thing really well. Others try to do just too many things at once. The Sweet Protection Igniter Alpiniste is an example of the latter--it's a helmet that's dual-rated for both skiing and climbing, but it has just a few too many bells and whistles to be easy to use.

At first I had high hopes for the Alpiniste helmet since it solves an important problem: protecting your noggin for two activities--skiing and climbing--that inherently go together in the world of ski mountaineering. Since skiing and climbing put you at risk for different types of impact, helmets for each have distinct design and certification requirements. There are only a handful of dual-rated helmets on the market: the Camp Pulse, the Camp Speed 2.0, and the Mammut Alpine Rider are good examples of what's already out there.

The Alpiniste has several features that do make it well-suited to backcountry skiing and alpine climbing--the attachment point for ski goggles also works well for a headlamp, and its easy open-close vents help you adjust to varying levels of activity. The padding is decently comfortable.

The two big issues I had with the helmet, however, were adjustability and weight. There are just too many points of adjustment for the chin strap, with multiple buckles up by the ears and one under your chin that you all have to adjust to try and get it to fit right. Freezing my butt off in a whiteout on the top of Trimmer Peak a few weeks ago, I was less than thrilled with this issue.

The other problem is how heavy it is--it's listed on the Sweet Protection website for a M/L as 680g, or 20oz. That's almost twice as heavy as the Camp Pulse, which weighs 12.2oz for the large. For climbers and ski mountaineers the mantra of light is right prevails, and the Igniter Alpiniste just isn't light.

Sweet Protection is new to the U.S. market and it's products do show promise, it just still has some kinks to work out--including with the Igniter Alpiniste.

--Shebly Carpenter, Instructor and Guide

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