Best Kayak Helmet Top 7 Kayaking, Whitewater Guide

Kayaking is a terrific way to enjoy the outdoors by getting outside, exercising, and breathing the fresh air. However, preparation is critical for a safe and enjoyable experience. The right kayak is essential, but proper personal protective equipment is also crucial. Along with a good life jacket, you should consider having the best kayak helmet you can afford to protect your head should something go wrong, and you end up in the water. 

best kayak helmet
best kayak helmet

Kayak Helmet Basics

Helmets are typically used for whitewater rafting and kayaking. However, it’s completely acceptable and recommended to wear one every time you go out on the water, even if you’re just touring. Safety is never something to be scoffed at. In fact, its a good idea to review the safety standards before your next kayak trip.

If you’re looking for a kayak helmet, there are a few things to consider when it comes to types of helmets.

Types of Kayak Helmets

You’ll find kayak helmets in several styles, including:

  • Half-Cut Helmets
  • Full-Cut Helmets
  • Full-Face Helmets

Half-Cut Helmet

These are like a bowl, sit atop the ears, and are often used for sea kayaking, light whitewater, water sports, and touring, designed to protect the skull.

Full-Cut Helmet

These are similar to half-cut but extend over the ears, offering additional protection to the sides of the head and extra warmth.

Full-Face Helmet

These offer more face protection and are most often used for Class III whitewater and above. However, they are bulkier, don’t drain as well, and are not as comfortable; therefore, they are best used when extra protection is necessary. The best white water helmet options will often be full-face.

Helmet Materials

Kayak helmets often come in several materials, from composites like carbon-fiber to injection-molded thermoplastics. Typically the more expensive helmets are made of composite material and are the most lightweight. Low to mid-range helmets will often be made of thermoplastics, which also tend to weigh a bit more.

Kayak Helmet Features

Kayak helmets come with various features. Remember, the best kayak helmet will have features that best meet your individual needs.

Vents

Many helmets have vents that allow plenty of drainage should you end up in the water. These can also help keep you cool in hot weather.

Ear Covers

These can be built-in or removable but are typically designed to keep your ears warm in cooler temperatures while still allowing you to hear what is happening around you.

Adjustment System

This includes the chin strap and the internal structure to ensure a helmet fits your head correctly. A snug fit isn’t just good for comfort; it’s critical for keeping your helmet on when you need it most.

Kayak Visors

Visors are designed for eye protection from the sun.They are typically worn in front, but some helmets are designed to where they can also be worn in back.

Best Carbon Fiber Kayak Helmet

If you’re looking for a kayak helmet for some hardcore whitewater kayaking, we recommend the WRSI Trident Composite Kayak Helmet. WRSI stands for Whitewater Research and Safety Institute, a company dedicated to creating the safest helmets using the best helmet technology available.

This full-cut kayak helmet with visor protects your eyes from the sun and comes in sizes medium through extra-large, so you’re sure to find one that fits properly. It comes in several colors and has a removable liner for washing or replacing.

This helmet has a rugged carbon composite outer shell and a polyurethane mid-shell, with an EVA liner for ultimate protection. The adjustable retention system ensures it fits your head perfectly to keep it in place and allows for the most comfort. The best use of this carbon fiber kayak helmet is for kayaking in the roughest waters. It is also comfortable enough that people paddling in milder waters may also want to consider it.

While it’s on the more expensive end, protecting your head is worth it.

Sweet Protection Strutter

The Sweet Protection Strutter and Sweet Protection Rocker are both carbon reinforced helmets. Offering high quality, durable protection for paddlesports.

High-Tech Carbon Fiber Reinforced Sweet Protection Rocker

Best Full Face Whitewater Helmet

If you’re planning on doing Class IV or V whitewater kayaking, you’ll want to consider a full-face kayak helmet. A kayak helmet with face guard protects your head and face, ensuring the most protection. We recommend another Whitewater Research and Safety Institute product, the WRSI Moment Full-Face Kayak Helmet.

This helmet has an Interconnect Retention System to properly hold the helmet on your head. It also features a multi-impact shell and an EVA foam liner for ultimate protection. The full wrap-around face mask protects the ears, cheeks, and chin. A soft, breathable, removable liner design for maximum all-day comfort.

This is also a kayak helmet with peak, which is a visor to offer some protection from the sun. Other features include plenty of strategically placed vents to allow for drainage should you end up in the water. The vents over the ears also will enable you to hear.

Overall, users love the comfort and design of this helmet despite it being a bulkier, heavier full-face helmet.

Best Whitewater Kayak Helmet Half-Cut

Look no further than the NRS Chaos Side-Cut Kayak Helmet for the best whitewater helmet in a half-cut style. It comes in multiple colors, bright colors, and different sizes, from extra-small to extra-large. We also think the sizing makes this a great womens kayak helmet and youth kayak helmet since it will fit smaller heads. A good choice for whitewater kayakers.

The helmet material is ABS plastic and has eight vents to allow for adequate drainage if you take a swim. Provided you buy the right size helmet for your head, the adjustable tightening system and chin strap allow for a secure fit, and a comfortable fit.

This helmet also comes with optional ear covers to keep ears warm yet have holes in them so you can still hear. Reviewers that have had to put their helmet to use say it kept them conscious when their head hit rocks. 

Best Budget Whitewater Kayak Helmet

While we recommend buying the best kayak helmet you can afford, there are certainly quality options that don’t break the bank. This includes the NRS Havoc Livery Helmet.

This helmet is one-size-fits-most and comes with an adjustable ratchet system to fit it to most size heads. It comes with an adjustable chin strap allowing for a snug fit and pads for cushioning.

There are six ventilation holes or ventilation ports for letting water out and air in. An ABS shell (plastic shell) and an Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate EVA foam liner offer plenty of impact protection in a lightweight package. It comes in several colors to suit your tastes.

Because it is a one-size-fits-most, you may not be able to get the “custom” size that comes with different-sized helmets or ones with more extensive adjustment systems. However, if you’re looking for a helmet that won’t break the bank, NRS makes good helmet products, and this one is undoubtedly affordable!

Pro-Tec Ace Water Helmet

Another budget friendly kayak helmet is the Pro-Tec Ace Water Helmet. This helmet construction is high density injection molded ABS shell. Also the inner lining is a waterproof EVA liner of dual-density EVA foam.

The helmet is an excellent choice in helping prevent head injuries when the unexpected happens while kayaking. It also has mount straps for eye goggles, head lamp, or camera. This helmet also has 15 open vents for airflow and ventilation.

Final Thoughts For The Best Kayak Helmet

Finding a good kayak helmet is partially a matter of preference. Several features make them more comfortable and practical. We recommend buying the best kayak helmet you can afford, but that doesn’t mean you have to go broke doing it. Fortunately, we’ve given you several excellent options for your kayaking adventures.

Keep in mind how you’ll be using a kayak helmet. If you’re simply touring, you won’t need the extensive coverage offered by full face helmets. However, suppose you’re doing class IV and V whitewater. In that case, you’ll definitely want to spend the money on something more rugged that offers more protection.

Consider whether you want vents, ear covers, visors, and what kind of adjustment system will be easiest for you. These things all add to the comfort of your helmet, so it may not hurt to go try some on in-store first.

Whichever helmet you determine is the best helmet for you, rest assured that buying a helmet is a good decision. It will keep your head protected from rocks and other sharp objects if you end up in the water. Combined with a good kayak life jacket, this will ensure you make it to see another day of incredible outdoor adventures!  

Review these safety tips from REI.