With the Sirocco, Petzl has taken the trend of lightweight gear almost to absurdity. After eliminating as much as possible, what is left is brilliant.
I began climbing in earnest in my thirties. Yes, I had spent time in an ROTC program in the Mountain West, where we abseiled from towers (using a figure-eight backed up with a fireman’s belay!) and practiced moving across class III terrain. But it wasn’t until years later that I bought my first shoes, chalk bag and harness. One of the decidedly few advantages to beginning a sport like climbing in middle age was that I never thought twice about wearing a helmet for sport or trad routes. Long past the need to “look cool” (now a woefully unattainable goal in any case–just ask my kids), and conscious enough of my own mortality to want as safe a climb as possible, a helmet proved–forgive me–a no brainer.
I didn’t play contact sports in school, and I grew up long enough ago that nobody wore helmets when riding their bicycle, so between ROTC and a few other brushes I’ve had with the military, my idea of a good helmet was something heavy and, well, heavy. Think one of the old Joe Brown helmets. But as I began researching helmets, and as I handled them in the local outdoor equipment store, I realized that my days of heavy headgear were behind me. And with the Sirocco, French climbing gear manufacturer Petzl has taken the trend of lightweight gear almost to absurdity. After eliminating as much as possible, what is left is brilliant.
Weighing in at 5.75 ounces (163 grams) for the larger of two sizes, It was the feather weight that first grabbed my attention. Well, sort of. You see, produced in only a single color, the Sirocco comes in an unnatural, if not unattractive, orange hue. I’m a fan, but judging by some online reviews, it is not everyone’s cup of tea. But the weight. This helmet is so light, the only time I know I’m wearing it is when I knock my head into something. Unnoticeable strapped to a pack for the approach, it’s important to remember it’s there–so you don’t drop your pack onto it during a rest break. Not that the Sirocco is particularly fragile; Petzl’s product video shows how the qualities of expanded polypropylene (EPP)–elasticity and resiliency–make for a helmet that can take hits and keep on going. Examining mine, even after probably a dozen decent bumps and hits, the helmet appears practically new, and that is looking at the bare EPP surface; no need for the outer plastic protective shell required on other lightweight foam climbing helmets.
All that said, a little careful handling goes a long way with the Sirocco. Even the strong and elastic EPP has its limit, so it seems best to avoid sitting or stepping on the Sirocco, or forcing it too vigorously into a pack.
As to be expected with such a lightweight piece of equipment, the Sirocco is stripped down to the essentials, and even those have been simplified and lightened.
The harness system attaches the helmet to the wearer’s head through a structure of thin webbing held in place with light plastic attachments and guides. It took some time for me to adjust these strips to the point where they held the Sirocco firmly but comfortably on my noggin. Conveniently, I have found zero need to readjust the harness, even when a thin toque is added underneath for warmth. The chin strap clip integrates small magnets to pull the two sides of the clip together, assisting with the connection.
This feature is fine, but not necessary. The headlamp attachment, too, is minimalist. Two small clips at the temples do a good job of fixing the headlamp in place, while an interesting elastic-and-toggle apparatus connects at the back.
Befitting its name, the Sirocco’s styling evokes wind-swept sand and rock, vents tucked into organic folds. The vents do their job well, allowing for plenty of air circulation around the inside of the helmet, bare but for two removable, washable pads for comfort. There is no mechanism for reducing airflow on cold or windy days–this is a pared-down lid. Smaller holes on each side allow the Sirocco to take Petzl’s VISION visor for when you’re knocking off more ice than you’re sticking on your way up your next WI4.
As long as the Sirocco continues to prove durable, I can’t see myself trading it for another climbing helmet. The combination of comfort and light weight makes for a truly forgettable experience–just what I want from a helmet when I’m in a situation where it’s needed.
|Measured weight (Size 2)||5.75 oz.|
|Materials||Expanded polypropylene, nylon|