Climbing Helmets Wear Out

Brian Shelton with Front Range Climbing Company climbs a chimney on Carson's Tower in the Fisher Towers in Utah.
The bright desert sun degrades the plastic in your helmet. Replace your old brain bucket with a new one every few years. (Stewart M. Green)

Climbing helmets, like all climbing equipment, have a limited life span and wear out simply from regular use. The plastic that helmets are made from, even those with UV inhibitors, degrades and weakens from exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet rays. So when should you replace your brain bucket with a new one?

When Should You Replace Your Helmet?

Petzl, a leading climbing gear manufacturer, recommends retiring your climbing helmet no later than 10 years after the date of manufacture. Some helmets have that date stamped on them. The more you climb the faster your helmet will wear out and should be replaced. If you climb several times a month, consider replacing your helmet every five years.

Always Replace Your Helmet After Impact

If your climbing helmet absorbs any kind of significant impact from a climbing fall or a rockfall, then your helmet should be retired immediately. If you say to yourself after a climbing incident, "Boy, I'm glad I was wearing my helmet because I would have been seriously screwed if I hadn't," then you should retire that helmet.

Check Your Helmet Regularly

Regularly check your climbing helmet both before and after climbing sessions. Look for dents, cracks, and other damage to the shell. Remember that damage is not always visible. To protect your helmet and your head, follow these helmet care tips:​

  • Make sure the chin strap and buckle is in good working order.
  • Check the webbing straps, especially near your ears, to make sure that they don't have frays and tears.
  • Check the foam casing inside the shell and make sure it is securely fastened in place.
  • Store your helmet inside a stuff sack to protect it from sunlight and to keep it from hitting hard surfaces that might damage, chip, or crack the shell.

Buy an Expert-Recommended Climbing Helmet

These are the best climbing helmets available: