The Best Go-Kart Protective Gear For Kids: A Parent’s Guide

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Having the right protective gear when go-karting is always important, but it’s even more important for kids. The key part is using the right protective gear. Some people use the wrong protective gear for karting and not only is this dangerous, but you won’t be allowed to race with it.

The 7 best items of protective gear that kids need for karting are:

  1. Fire-Resistant Underwear
  2. Boots
  3. Overalls
  4. Rib Protector
  5. Gloves
  6. Neck Brace
  7. Helmet

I will go into some more detail on each one of these below. I have raced karts for many years (up to National Championship level), and so I will use my own experience to provide recommendations for the best gear in each category.

How To Determine The Safety Rating Of Karting Gear

Firstly, let’s discuss how you can know if the safety gear you are planning on buying has a good safety rating. I have two rules that I generally go by when it comes to looking for safety gear, but there are a lot of elements to look at.

Where Is It Used?

The first is how common the brand is within the world of motorsport. Where do you see this brand used? If you are seeing it in Formula 1 and IndyCar, then it’s a pretty safe bet. These top-flight motorsports leagues put a huge focus on safety, and if a brand can pass Formula 1 homologation, it’s likely one of the best.

With that said, if a brand isn’t found in Formula 1, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. If you can still see the brand being used in lower leagues like the Karting World Championships or the Super Nats, or even Formula 4, it is still good.

Is It Kart-Specific?

My next rule asks whether the brand produces kart-specific safety gear, or if it’s produced for car racing or motorsport in general. I have seen lots of people who go out in their kart with a motorcycle helmet on. It is still a helmet, but it does not serve exactly the same purpose as a car helmet does (and it’s often not allowed in race series). It is important to get the right equipment that is built for the job.

You should also take a look at the homologation of the gear. You are looking for CIK/FIA certification (CIK for karting, FIA for cars). This is essentially the governing body of karting putting their stamp of approval on the gear in question.

You also want to look at the date of the certification. You might find a race suit that was certified by the FIA in 2005, but regulations and technology have come a long way since then, and ideally you want the latest certification, and no older than around 5-10 years (there may be specific rules regarding this in your chosen race series).

The 7 Best Items Of Protective Gear That Kids Need For Karting

1. Fire Resistant Underwear

These are not essential when it comes to karting, but it is certainly more comfortable for the driver and it definitely makes you look more professional. Racing underwear includes long pants and a long sleeve shirt made of thin material. You can order summer or winter type, which will be either more breathable or warmer depending on which you choose.

Balaclavas and socks are essential items though. Socks will be different to the ones that you wear every day. They will keep your feet from getting blisters caused by karting boots and the constant movement required. Balaclavas add a fire-resistant element to the helmet, and they help to keep sweat out of the driver’s eyes.

I can highly recommend Sparco and Alpinestars as brands to check out for these items of karting safety gear. They both have a wide variety when it comes to karting underwear and they are of really high quality. These can also be found in racing leagues all around the world even in Formula 1. OMP is another honorable mention.

2. Boots

Karting boots are quite special. They are extremely light and they have a very thin sole. This means that the driver is able to really feel the pedals under their feet. They offer a lot of protection when it comes to karting since your feet are mostly exposed when you’re driving a kart.

You can also find something called overshoes. These are rubber layers that goes over your shoes and you primarily use these if you’re karting in the rain. Karting shoes can become drenched on the inside if it’s wet, so they can be useful to have if you know that the weather can be unpredictable.

I can highly recommend Alpinestars here too, although they are one of the most expensive brands available when it comes to karting. OMP and Sparco may be cheaper, but all of the brands have different kinds of boots all ranging at different prices. Any boots from these brands will be good, so just find a design that your child likes that fits your budget.

3. Overalls

Your overalls or race suit is probably the most important (aside from your helmet) piece of racewear that we are going to discuss. Your kid’s race suit will be checked by scrutineering before every race, and they’ll be looking for two things. The first is whether it is still in good condition and can withstand both fire and general damage.

The second factor they will be looking for is the homologation and the certification date. Each racing league will be different, but generally if your race suit is in good condition you might be able to get away with a suit that is up to 10 years old. You can find your homologation specifications on the back of the neck collar of your race suit.

Key Point: Most professional racing leagues won’t accept a race suit that hasn’t been homologated by the CIK/FIA.

You Can Get Creative Here

Due to the open nature of a karting cockpit, drivers can get creative with their race suits, putting their names on their leg, or their sponsors or racing numbers on their back. The beauty of this is that it is your race suit (or your child’s) and you can customize it anyway that you like.

There are a lot of different brands out there for karting overalls, and some are much better than others. Once again, the best options to choose from are Alpinestars, Sparco and OMP, and most of their race suits are within roughly the same price range.

The key thing to look out for here is the CIK/FIA certification. As long as your kid’s race suit has that you will be good to go.

4. Rib Protector

A rib protector is not an essential item in karting. However, I do highly recommend using one, not only from a safety aspect, but also from a comfort aspect. If you get into a Rotax kart, the first thing you will notice (especially in fast corners) is the lack of comfortable seating.

It’s not uncommon to walk away from a day of karting with some bruised and sore ribs even if you haven’t been in an accident. Rib protectors were designed for karting drivers because there is no comfort or padding in the seating. This is especially true for younger drivers who may be a bit looser in their seat.

Making Things More Comfortable

In this case, the rib protector will not only protect the driver, but also help you to fill out that gap in the seat a little bit. In terms of how tight your seating should be, you should be able to fit a thumb’s width in between the seat and the driver.

I can’t stress enough how crucial a rib protector can be in karting. However, in this case you don’t necessarily need the most expensive one on the market. Since they are not essential safety items, you have a bit of leeway when it comes to choosing rib protectors.

I would highly recommend Tillett rib protectors. They are really comfortable and Tillett is the best brand when it comes to this type of equipment. The usual karting brands such as OMP, Sparco, and Alpinestars also make rib protectors, and they are all good quality and will help your kid’s comfort levels in the kart.

5. Gloves

Gloves are an important part of your child’s race gear too. They take the strain off your hands while you’re driving, and they also provide padding and protection in case of an accident. With karts being open, the first point of contact with anything else is usually your hands since you will be using those to try and protect yourself. This is why it is important to get good quality gloves.

Gloves can also add an extra splash of color to your racing outfit. We see this often in sports like Formula 1 where drivers use their gloves to differentiate from their teammates.

Gloves will keep your hands safe, but they’ll also keep them comfortable and help you keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. Karts do not have any kind of power steering, and so a few karting sessions can be tough on the hands.

I would highly recommend Alpinestars gloves, but they are often the most expensive. Sparco and OMP are more affordable and still very good quality. You can find some interesting designs and colors and try to match them to your race suit, or go with something completely different or customized!

6. Neck Brace

There is some controversy that comes with them, but I felt that I had to include neck braces since they are required in some karting leagues, especially those with younger drivers.

I recommend avoiding the foam donut type neck braces that you commonly see. They are much cheaper, but in some cases they can do more harm than good due to their design.

I instead suggest you go for anything that resembles more of a HANS device, used in motorsports like NASCAR, as these are based on the highly successfully and FIA tested safety device. They also keep the neck and spine more in place and prevent severe whiplash.

For neck braces I would recommend the EVS Sports R4 or the Valhalla Racing 360 plus. Both are a bit pricey, but they are great quality and highly recommended worldwide. The difference between the two is that the Valhalla allows for more range of motion and better visibility, but the EVS is perhaps the safer device because of the structure that protects the back of the neck.

7. Helmet

Helmets are the expression of a racing driver’s personality. Throughout a driver’s career, this is the one item of racing gear that they have the most control over. There are a lot of ways you can personalise it, from the shape to the colors and the designs.

But it is important to get the right helmet for karting. Motorcycle helmets aren’t always strong enough for karting, and they serve a different purpose. Generally, the brands that provide helmets for series like F1 and IndyCar are also the best brands to go to for karting helmets.

Always make sure you get the right brand of helmet, and not a rip-off version. Scrutineering will most likely also check your helmet to see if it is CIK/FIA homologated, and you can find this on the inside of the helmet under the padding.

Getting The Right Fit

Always make sure that the helmet is the right fit. It does need to be quite a tight fit on your head, and generally it will push your cheeks in slightly at first, but it’s like new shoes and the padding will shape around your child’s facial structure with more use.

Your helmet will most likely be a white shell when you buy it, although some of them do come with a generic design and color variations available. From there you can either create your own design or get a graphic designer to create a design for you. Then you take it into a paint workshop or a helmet artist and get them to paint it for you.

The two main brands that I would recommend when it comes to helmets are Arai and Bell. These helmets are often found even in the highest levels of motorsport. Arai creates the SK-6, which is designed specifically for karting. If you are looking for a helmet to stay with your kid throughout their career, the GP-7 is an Arai helmet that can be used both in cars and in karts.

Other helmets you can use for karting are from brands like Stilo, Sparco, OMP, and Simpson. However, I would highly recommend looking at Arai and Bell over these, as they are more popular and have much better-quality helmets.

How To Get Kids Excited About Safety In Motorsport

Kids might not enjoy wearing all of the safety gear required for racing. So, the difficult part is trying to get them excited about it. I think the key here is allowing them to be involved in choosing the kit that they are going to wear.

Let them choose the designs and the colors that they want on their kit. They might have a specific preference when it comes to the color, or they might want something on the plain side. It is important to make them feel like it is something that they chose to allow them to express themselves as a driver.

Emulate Their Heroes

Furthermore, you can also use your child’s favorite driver as inspiration for their race gear. For example, Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull-days was my favorite driver, and my kit and helmet designs were always based on his. If you try to imitate their favorite driver in terms of design choices, it might help them to become more excited about their safety gear.

When I used to wear my Alpinestars race suit and Vettel-inspired helmet, it got me excited to get into my kart because it made me feel like a Formula 1 driver. Encourage your kids and tell them how cool their gear looks when they are in the kart and make them feel comfortable in it!

If a kid hears that they look like a Formula 1 driver, then they will get excited about wearing their safety gear and they’ll take it more seriously, even if they don’t realize it.

Final Thoughts

Safety gear is obviously an important aspect of karting, but it can be overwhelming since there is so much gear choose from. However, if you’re able to get your kid excited about choosing protective gear, it becomes much easier to keep them safe when they’re out on track.