Looking like the love child of the Meteor and the original SIROCCO – Petzl have made what is arguably the best Alpine lid on the market and a genuinely brilliant all-round helmet with the New SIROCCO
Petzl started the lightweight helmet revolution with their introduction of the METEOR expanded polystyrene (EPS) helmet back in 1996/7. It was the amazing lightness and ‘forget you’re wearing it’ comfort that started to turn more climbers on to wearing a lid, not just for winter or alpine routes. The introduction of the second-generation METEOR actually made helmets stylish, well almost 😉 The problem with these expanded polystyrene (EPS) helmets tended to be a lack of robustness. The protection they offered was equal or better (certainly in terms of energy dissipation) to traditional hardshell helmets, but a bad strike could crack the helmet meaning further protection was compromised – not a problem on short routes, but if you still had hours (or perhaps a day or more) to reach safety it was not ideal. That’s leaving aside those incidents where climbers have sat on their sac forgetting the helmet was inside and cracked it before the start of the route. (I’m still owed a beer for not revealing the name of that culprit).
The first-generation SIROCCO solved many of these issues through the innovative use of EPP (expanded polypropylene). This material provided even lighter protection, but crucially a certain amount of flexible resilience that made the helmet more robust. The SIROCCO was an instant hit with the fast and light Alpine brigade, but it has to be said aesthetically it was somewhat of an acquired taste: ‘striking’ and ‘distinctive’ were two of the more gentle descriptions! Nevertheless, the ‘any colour you like as long as it’s bright orange’ SIROCCO was soon to be seen everywhere from the Ben to the Himalayas. It was even lighter than the METEOR, tougher, super comfortable with a thin, foldaway harness that fastened with a magnetic clasp (which was easy to use with gloves) – a total winner of a helmet. On the downside it was a somewhat high-volume helmet that could tax the ability of some hoods to comfortably accommodate it and, as one of my more witty partners noted: ‘you look like you’re wearing an orange Douglas Hurd wig’.
Enter the New SIROCCO. Still made predominately of EPP, but utilising a hybrid EPS and rigid polycarbonate construction on the crown.
The new SIROCCO has gained a minuscule amount of weight but also a whole lot of style. It is now has a much lower profile avoiding that mushroom head look, but critically making it far more comfortable under a wider variety of jacket hoods – good news for Scottish winter aficionados as you won’t be tempted to push your hood off only to get a neck full of spindrift. I’m assuming the hybrid EPS and polycarbonate construction in the crown has provided greater shock absorption with less depth allowing the helmet to sit closer to the head while meeting the required safety standards. The profile of the new SIROCCO is much more akin to the METEOR and it protects the back of the head more than the original. Ventilation has also been improved and, though I had no complaints with the original, the new SIROCCO is a very cool helmet, something that was thoroughly tested with a spring trip to Chamonix and temperatures in the mid to high twenties! The harness appears to remain the same with the excellent magnetic buckle though it does now seem possible to eliminate more helmet to harness wobble, which I found a minor issue with its predecessor. The headlamp retainers consist of two low profile clips at the front and a more refined shock-cord hook and loop arrangement at the rear – very simple and effective. Far better than the all low profile clip arrangement on the METEOR or ELIOS in my opinion, especially when you’re trying to connect a headlamp on a hanging stance – just hook the strap into the shock cord (your headlamp can’t be dropped now) and fiddle on the two front clips. No chance of the headlamp pinging off into the gloom 😉
The New SIROCCO has proven to be pretty much the perfect helmet for me. Still super lightweight and comfy it is better vented and the white colour helps reflect a bit more heat too. The lower profile looks so much better (don’t underestimate the vanity of climbers when choosing a helmet!), but also means it works under virtually any hood – certainly under all the jackets in my embarrassingly large wardrobe of hard and soft shells. Simply put, I cannot fault it. Ultimately it will not be as durable as a polycarbonate helmet and there may be applications where something like the ELIOS may be more suitable, but apart from budgetary considerations or group work I dread to think what they may be!
- Low Profile
- Lightweight (170g)
- Well vented
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit. Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!