Review: Camp Speed (2011)

CAMP Speed

In answer to the eternal how-low-can-you-go question, Camp's new Speed climbing helmet weighs in at a remarkably-low 7.7 ounces.

Low weight is obviously the primary asset of the Speed, which as its name implies, is designed to meet the needs of ski mountaineers, adventure racers, and fast-and-light alpinists and climbers. The Speed is EN and U.I.A.A. certified, though for regular, rough and tumble rock climbing, you'll probably want to find a more substantial helmet.

Camp Speed Helmet

Climbing Whitney's East Face

The one-size-fits-all Speed is adequately if not extraordinarily ventilated, and adjustable (in the 2011 version) via the now-standard size dial found on most climbing helmets. Wearing the Speed, the low weight is noticeable and much appreciated, but it must be said that the Speed does not offer a particularly comfortable fit.

The interior of the Speed has a platform-like feature at the top, presumably to increase the thickness of protective material directly above your skull. This unfortunately makes the Speed sit high and flat, making it feel a bit tipsy, much like the feeling of having a textbook balanced atop your head.

Add to that a stiff, pinchy chin strap, and comfort can become a real challenge as the hours wear on. To be sure, if you're interested in helmets like the Camp Speed, comfort is probably not atop your priority list. The Speed's ultralight weight will certainly pay off on those long approaches when the helmet sits as dead weight strapped to your backpack.

Still, given the relatively meager perk of saving a half ounce versus Petzl's Meteor III, for example, one wonders if the Speed's awkward fit and flattish feel is worth it. Compare the Speed to a truly comfortable helmet, like the modestly-heavier Kong Scarab (which seems to vanish when you put it on), and the difference is glaringly obvious.

The Camp Speed is probably best reserved for specialty applications (adventure racing in particular) demanding the absolute minimum in weight. For everything else, despite the Speed's appealingly low weight, you'll probably want to look elsewhere.

Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow