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We are looking at buying new helmets under a PPE grant. What are some of the positives and negatives regarding the major traditional style helmet manufacturers? Cairns, Ben Franklin, Paul Conway, Bullard, Phenix? Who makes the best helmet?

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You gotto go with the times, for safety sake
Composites offer lighter weight, better comfort, and we SHOULD be looking at replacing every 5 years anyway!
I'm in the UK, we use Euro style helmets, you had one called the Fire Knight (MSA Gallet F1 here), all round protection, 2 eye shields built in, light weight, fits well with SCBA & hood, plus you just don't get snagged in tight spaces or vehicle extrication. Just how many times at a traffic accident do you see helmets everywhere except on the guys heads? I'm surprised these helmets havn't taken off in the US. There's more to firefighting than looking cool in a New Yorker of Ben helmet.

All the helmets are good enough to meet NFPA 1971, I have worn a Ben Franklin for almost 10 years and I think it is too heavy and sits too tall on my head. It also does not have a true impact liner it has a suspension system much like a hard hat.

I perfer something lighter and smaller we are also looking at switching helmets this year and most of us perfer the Cairns 880, it is a traditional helmet that is smaller and lighter than any other helmet on the market that I know of....I still perfer a small modern type helmet, they are well balanced and have a lower overall profile.
I don't understand why guys like the leather helmets. I think that for the most part they are heavy and sit high on your head which makes it feel top heavy. As for see how guys have had multiple leather helmets. I work on a very large city fire department and have had the same helmet for 12 years. Leather helmets require maintenance, composits do not. There are some bvad composit helmets. We were issued the Ben Franklin but I think it sits high on you head, which is uncomfortable. I wear a Cairns's pretty good but would prefer somethingf that sat even alittle lower and was alittle lighter. There are many helmets out there. I recommend trying them all. They need to be comfortable, for long term wear, and durable. A helmet should last atleast ten years if not longer....the shell should last a career, just change the guts. As for styles....the traditional is just that...tradition. It is Ok but can be heavier then the other styles. The european style is nice...comfortable, offers very good protection but very non traditional. The othetr non-traditional styles (we call them d*** head helmets) offer lighter weight, better range of motion (especialy when looking up with an SCBA on) and good protection but again...non-traditional. As much as I like some advances in the fire services I would prefer keeping my traditional (composit) helmet....each his own.
I have worn a Cairns 1010 helmet for about 10yrs and have never had one issue with the helmet and will never wear anything but a Cairns. Some of the newer guys in our department got Ben II just over a year ago and have already replaced them: one with a Cairns 1044 and one with a N5A Leather. The reason for the replacement is that the Morning Pride helmets fell apart.

Some have stated that the 1044 is lighter than a 1010. I don't see how this is when they are both the same helmet. The only diference is that the 1044 is not painted and only come in four colors: white, black, red and yellow. The new 880's are nice and are much lighter and smaller in size (if you have a big head they don't fit well with your SCBA).

The one and only things to look for in your helmet choice is safety. How is your helmet going to protect your head. My 1010 does a couple of things. The helmet has a full impact in it that helps insulate from heat, will reduce any impact from the top, the Leather front shield holder (Eagle) is designed to collapse if it is hit and will break away from the shell if it gets hung up. They come with many primary NFPA eye protection choices (choices that do not requirer a secondary eye protection). I am a hugh fan of the ESS Goggles, but I have to say I really like the new Defender Google system that Cairns offers. Someone said that they hurt there nose........ ajust them so that they don't hurt. I would stay away from the 4" face shields. They are heavy on the front of the helmet and hurt your neck after a short time.

Yes I am bias to the Cairns Helmets and can say that you will not be disappointed with any helmet they offer. You may pay a little more for a Cairns but they will last much longer.

Hope this helps.....
In my humble opinion....Cairns is the best. N5A New Yorker or N6A Sam Houston. I'm sure that others may differ in their opinions. Leather forever! Stay Safe....Walter
I've been in emergency services long enough to see us evolve from traditional helmets to modern ones and back to traditional ones again. The main difference is that "traditional helmets" of today are much heavier than ones of the 60s and 70s. I loved my old leather "New Yorker". My first modern helmet was a Cairns 360 or "Philadelphian". Like contemporary modern helmets it was light, well balanced and a good helmet for the wide range of activities performed in emergency services.
Since 9/11 it seems like the fire service has "run" back to traditional helmets because it is a symbol of the American firefighter and our proud tradition.

The major concern I have with the contemporary traditional helmet is that of weight. In every other human performance endeavor coaches, trainers and physiologists have concluded long ago that weight matters. Objects that add weight ( be they heavier than necessary turnouts or helmets) impede athletic performance. Try doing some pull-ups and than add 5-10 lbs of extra weight and see what happens. As it pertains to helmets, ask a orthopedist or physical therapist about continual "loading" of the spine and disks. Some of the "trad" helmets are very heavy and some weigh in excess of 5 lbs. I cannot believe the human spine was "designed" to have a 5 lb object on it all the time! Anecdotally, I know quite a few firefighters who have had problems with their cervical vertabrae and pinched nerves.

I think it's time to start studying the weight of our PPE and helmets in particular. Modern helmets may not look as cool but they are much lighter and probably much healthier for your spine. In nearly everything else, "light is right". Maybe it's time to start looking at that same principle as it pertains to the fire service and our PPE. Let's make the manufacturers prominently publish the weights of all the PPE so we can make some comparisons. We have had a push on for firefighters to lose weight and get in shape. That is a positive thing, but shouldn't we put our gear on a "diet" too? It makes no sense to tell our people to lose 10 lbs and then put a helmet on their head that does an "axial load" of their spine and turnout gear that is so heavy that it's like putting a "fat suit" on.

Anyway, that's my 50 cents
The brands are really immaterial, it's more about the style. While I personally like the design of the Traditional I also know that one of the biggest problems is getting entrapped by fallen debris, such as wiring, wire mesh, etc. The Traditional helmets are heavier, sometimes much more so, than the modern style. We already carry 50 to 60 pounds of equipment and PPE, other than the helmet which adds another 5 or 10 pounds (correct me if I'm wrong about the weight of the helmet). The US Army has finally understood why so many of us have so many injuries, the average infantryman can end up carrying as much as 100 pounds, some more than that.

We've had quite a few articles in this magazine (as well as other fire service related magazines) about carrying only the tools really needed for the job. We must start working smarter and that includes finding lighter weight but still as strong tools and PPE.
I have a Cairns N6A that is in major need of a new paint job. I have been going back and forth with deciding if I should repaint it myself. I think I should have a Professional Do it. I was recently passed a website that Repaints Leather Helmets and found that it is no longer in operation. Can anyone recommend a website? Thanks!
Dave, I might be able to help you out heres my website.

Dave Block said:
I have a Cairns N6A that is in major need of a new paint job. I have been going back and forth with deciding if I should repaint it myself. I think I should have a Professional Do it. I was recently passed a website that Repaints Leather Helmets and found that it is no longer in operation. Can anyone recommend a website? Thanks!
On the weight factor, I just weighed our Euro style helmets, that have complete ear protection (but allow perfect hearing), include protected internal visors, and are comfortable.
Both the MSA / Gallet F1 & the more popular Cromwell F600 weigh in at less than 3 pounds!
I don't know how to get photo's put on here otherwise could show you a little better.
We had been using Morning Pride modern style helmets. We just bought Cairns 1044s with the defender visor and bourkes. The Cairns fit better, and when we weighed the two the Cairns is only 5oz heavier than the Morning Pride. I have had a Cairns 1044 at my other job (LT with Glacier Park International Airport Fire) for over a year and love it.
We got some traditional last year. They are heavier than the bullard. We bought Cairns with the safety glasses that go up inside the helmet when your not using them. We like them very well. The only negative I have about the traditional is that they are a bit heavier. Other than that I think there an ok helmet.
Good Luck

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