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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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I know that Cairnes makes a good helmet and Bullard, I like them both. As for the others I have never tried them so I cant give you an honest opinion. However I would like to caution you in buying traditional helmets and please take this with a grain of salt this is merely my opinion. I received a Cairnes traditional helmet aprox 4 years ago to upgrade my modern style Bullard. It looked nice, thats about all I can say about it. It was heavier so more neck fatigue on drawn out incidents, it was bulkier so I found it getting caught up on stuff in searches and just plan ol getting in the way. If you were to get caught up in a confined space scenario at a structure fire, I have seen in training where the guys have had to remove the helmet just to get through the debris.. Kinda makes the helmet pointless. I do know alot of guys who love their traditional helmets, for me its on my mantle as decoration and is a prime example of why our tools and safety equipment evolve with time.
Stay safe
I currently wear a cairns N6A where I work and absolutely love it. It tends to get heavy when you have it on for a long period of time however I'm more than willing to put up with that for the comfort factor. My old helmet was a Morning Pride Ben II plus, it took a beating and only got retired because of the new leather. The Ben II by far fits better, has a better padding ring, and levels out on your head very nice, more than any helmet I’ve tried. At my volunteer station I currently wear a Cairns 1044 and would rather have a brick on my head instead of that thing. Very tight on the temples and the weight doesn't level out very well. Over all I’d say for grant purposes go for morning pride helmets, but keep doing research and ask your guys and see what you come up with.
I have been lucky enought to play with a few helmets a equipment rep friend lets me try out plus what I have used for work or my Fire Dept.

If your going traditional the 1010 with the full face shield kills my neck. I actually use that in my dept. I have a 1010 with flip downs for my investigations and found that to be much better. The new hide inside eye shield puts alot of pressure on the bridge of your nose and is still heavy. I personally feel if you have the hide away eye protection down and take a hit on the helmet your nose is in trouble. The 1044 is lighter and sits ok, I would go with flip downs and removable eye protection.

I did not like the Ben II at all. It sat on my head funny and felt like it rode to low and seemed to always hit the air pack and tip forward. (Just me) I had issues with the Bullards. Both the traditional and Metro style did not hold up well in training burns and drops. I did use these in a past Dept and one fall and they were out. I did not like that. They are light and that is a plus.

I still am a huge fan of leather and no better then Cairnes. But I do agree the new safety standards make most if not all new helmets in the the traditional style a bit uncomfortable.

If you can get a sales rep to let you demo all the possible helmets your looking at. Give it to your people in the field and in training. Make sure it goes to those who will actually use the hell out of it not keep it in the trunk of the city car until a training class or to be the logistics officer on a scene. Give it to the busy working companies and recruit instructors who have to do what the recruits do over and over. This way the helmets will get a good work out. Then have the test subjects do evals on the helmets in every incident they go into or train in. Come up with a number system to rate the helmet for comfort, weight, durability, heat ect. Total up the numbers in what ever you chose to rate and point that out to every one. If you can make it a blind test (thats tuff) remove the logo and decals from the helmet to try to keep it a fair test and the test subjects might not favor a brand they like. Then get all the subjects who used the test helmets together go over the evals, costs and listen to the debate and pick the best equipment for your Dept.

Good Luck

Don Huneke
I cannot offer an opinion regarding any other helmet than Cairns....I have worn Cairns New Yorker and Sam Houston for about 30 years. The Sam Houston is heavier than the New Yorker. I cannot think of an negatives for the Cairns New Yorker helmet....I will never wear anything else and I feel safe. Cairns has also been in business the longest of any manufacturer and in my humble opinion....the Cairns leather helmets are the best on the market. Take Care and Stay Safe!! Walter
I have had three Cairns Sam Houston helmets in my fire service career, and for whatever reason I have never been issued anything other than a Cairns brand helmet my entire time in the fire service. The first I foolishly wore as a fire instructor under live fire training conditions and destroyed it - expensive mistake on my part. The second I had was on my first career job and the only reason I don't wear it now is it's the wrong color. The current one I wear is the most comfortable one of the three, it has a nice bend to the brim in the rear and doesn't come in contact with my air cylinder when I look up. All three of these helmets are different in one way or another - they are handmade and impossible to duplicate exactly each time. I will agree with Chief Pettaway that it seems that the newer models are sitting very high and I believe one reason is an additional pad that has been added to the suspension inside the helmet. When I first put mine on I was very disappointed, but I cut that pad out and it's a 100% better fit. Again, to back up what Chief Pettaway spoke of earlier, I have also tried the Morning Pride Ben II and it is a very comfortable helmet.

Rick, since you have grant money, the manufacturers should be working with you and "selling" their brands - they are permitted to provide you with demo equipment - take advantage of it and try as much and as many brands as you can!
It's the debate over Leather and composite for helmets but that's beside the point.

In my career the composites are cheaper and over time wear out. Leathers are solid, handle the abuse and last longer and usually people treat them better because it's a pride thing and it's tradition. With the proper care, any helmet will last a good long time if washed and cared for by following the manufactures guidlines. So then the issue is comfort and safety and remember, this is taxpayer money whether it comes from the Feds our from the local government. You should go with the helmet that will last your department and get the best bang for your buck with safety and comfort coming in first. In this economy you don't want to be buying new helmets because they are the latest and greatest but be buying for value and safety because taxpayers are tired of seeing their money thrown away.

No one else but you and the other department members can make your final decision for you. We are just helping you with some input on our opinions and experience.

Good Luck and stay safe

KTF
My volunteer department uses the Cairns 1010 with the 4" shields. With my four years of experience with these helmets, I was not impressed. I went through three shields not counting the one that is cracked on it now. I melted one and broke the other two. I am rough on my helmets but when you are one of the ones that do alot of the work I guess tha will happen. It hurt my neck also on the long calls. It just doesn't seem to be balanced right. I went out and bought my own helmet about two years ago and am now using the Bullard UST6 with the bourke flip downs and the ess goggles and I LOVE IT! I can wear it all day and my neck doesn't get sore nor does my head where the helmet rests on it.

However I am now looking at buying a Cairns New Yorker helmet for my paid job. They use the same exact helmets(other than color) as my volunteer dpeartment uses. Never used a leather helmet so if smeone can give me a little advise it would be greatly appreciated.

-Jon
I myself have a NY'er and love it probably because it was my first and only leather so far. It handles the cold very well and has lasted and will last a long time with proper care, as any helmet should. New yorkers are on the heavy side as are most leathers but if you can get your neck muscles to strengthen up you will be okay. I have heard some complaints about how high they sit on your head as well. Leathers are great for durability but keep them out of training fires because the heat over the duration during training fires will dry out the leather and it may crack in spots especially around the brim. DO NOT try to put a bend in them after the training fire because it WILL CRACK. I know everyone wants to put the bend in them after a fire but it damages the leather. You can put a bend in them by other measures that are not as damaging to the leather. Keep them clean and be aware of any cracking that develops over time. You can also check out the Leatherheads group I posted a pdf on there from Cairns about maintenance and refurbishing them. The 1010's are on the heavier side for composites as well as I wear one at work but since I no longer use my leather in my volunteer, I may bring it to work and use it until I decide to paint it the right color.



Jon Laird said:
My volunteer department uses the Cairns 1010 with the 4" shields. With my four years of experience with these helmets, I was not impressed. I went through three shields not counting the one that is cracked on it now. I melted one and broke the other two. I am rough on my helmets but when you are one of the ones that do alot of the work I guess tha will happen. It hurt my neck also on the long calls. It just doesn't seem to be balanced right. I went out and bought my own helmet about two years ago and am now using the Bullard UST6 with the bourke flip downs and the ess goggles and I LOVE IT! I can wear it all day and my neck doesn't get sore nor does my head where the helmet rests on it.

However I am now looking at buying a Cairns New Yorker helmet for my paid job. They use the same exact helmets(other than color) as my volunteer dpeartment uses. Never used a leather helmet so if smeone can give me a little advise it would be greatly appreciated.

-Jon
Our dept. issues Cairns 880s. There is a HUGE difference between the 880 model and the 1010, more than most think. Besides the low-profile characteristic, it is lighter and fits better than the other Cairns traditionals. We did have Ben IIs, Paul Conway's, Bullard's, and others. When we looked at purchasing new helmets, we looked at basically four important factors:

1. Durability: Can this helmet last for the period of time and the amount of work we do, for the price we pay?

2. HEAT: How long, and what is the thermal protection rating of the helmet?

3. Confined Space: Will personnel have to remove their helmet to breach a wall to egress?

4. Comfort: Comfort and weight are very important. Now many will argue this is unimportant, and I still cannot understand why. Would you respond to a call in your gear and boots in just your underwear and socks? Of course not. Being comfortable in gear that fits correctly, and worn correctly, is not only a wise choice but reduces fatigue on the scene. How many have had neck fatigue from the Cairns N5A helmets?


Do your research before purchasing anything, not just helmets. When it comes to your gear, make sure it fits, and feels comfortable, and doesn't "wrap around your body". If that was the case we would all be wearing the old thermal blankets. Also make sure it withstands the conditions that it was tested for. We placed 5 brands of helmets in the "Burn Box" to see if the helmet could do what the manufacturer said. The five helmets were:

1. Cairns 1010

2. Cairns 880

3. Morning Pride Ben II Plus

4. Paul Conway

5. Bullard Traditional


Of the 5 that were worn by the members, and then out to the the "Burn Box" test, at 900-1000 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 mins. at the 5-foot mark, Cairns made the grade, followed by Morning Pride. The Bullard and Paul Conway didn't just melt the shields and the stickers, it WARPED THE HELMET.


In closing, don't buy the helmet for looks. Buy the best equipment tp protect you and bring you back home. Do your homework.

-Nick
I think the Cairns 880 is a great helmet, it has the "traditional" look and feel but in my opnion is far more comfortable than the other composites, I like the leather helmets but seem more bulky than the composites.
Having been in the fire service for over 20 years now, and having worn a various assortment of helmets through the years; starting with the Cairns metro 660, Cairns 1010, Sam Houston leather and finally I purchased a Paul Conway Heritage leather. I tell everyone the Paul Conway is the most comfortable, well fitting helmet I have ever worn. I would put it up against any of the others. It does not weigh as much as the Cairns, and fits MUCH better. Just my 2 cents.
In my 25 year career, I have been in 4 Different Departments in 3 different states. When I started in NY I was issued a "dishwasher safe" plastic salad bowl style and HATED IT. After a couple of years I was issued a Leather New Yorker and wore that until I move to Florida. In each of my two departments in Florida they issued 1010s. When I arrived here in NC I was again issued a 1010. I dislkie the fit and feel of the 1010 so much i saved the $500 for an N5A and bought it (personal funds) and feel like a normal firefighter again...as soon as you remove the ratchet strat crap that they ship as standard these days. As for weight...as long as you dont watch too many movies and start loading it down with "crap" you get used to the weight and once the earflaps mould themselves as the liner for you, there is no more comfortable helmet out there. This is the helmet I will retire with.

Long story short, there is NO comparison to a Cairnes Leather helmet.

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