In motorsports, the most important piece of safety equipment is the helmet you wear, and in go-karting this is no different. But if you’re new to karting, or if you’re just looking for a new lid, you might not know how to go about choosing the right go-kart helmet.
The go-kart helmet I would recommend is the Bell K1 Pro Circuit Brus Karting Helmet for its lightweight composition and premium-grade materials. It combines maximum safety with high-quality racing innovation, making it the perfect piece of safety equipment for beginners and more experienced racers.
My choice is determined by my history as a competitive go-kart racer for over a decade, but you may choose a different helmet based on your own experience. So below, I’ll go into more detail about what to look for when buying a go-kart helmet so that you can make the right choice.
3 Go-Kart Helmet Requirements
The 3 main go-kart helmet requirements are:
- Always buy new
- SNELL certification
- Only buy full-face helmets
What To Look For In A Karting Helmet
As with any bit of safety gear for go-karting, you should never be choosing something for its looks and appearance alone. The primary purpose of a helmet is to protect your head from trauma should the worst happen in a collision, and as such, there’s a collection of things you need to look for above all else.
Always Buy New
While you can afford to get second-hand race suits and boots, you should never buy a second-hand kart helmet. This is for a variety of reasons, but first and foremost, you can never guarantee the integrity of the helmet material if it’s pre-owned. It’s also rather unhygienic, as if the worry about material integrity wasn’t enough!
When purchasing a helmet, always look for a sticker that will be located somewhere on the side or the rear of the headpiece. The sticker will have a section of it that reads ‘SNELL Memorial Foundation.’ This confirms that the helmet meets SNELL regulations of safety for karting and without that sticker, you usually won’t be able to race.
Every SNELL sticker meets a different year of regulations and will have expiry dates. That’s right, you won’t be able to always buy a helmet that’ll last for years upon years at a time! My biggest and most important tip is to check the letter followed by the year on the SNELL approved sticker.
For example, if you find a helmet with a sticker that reads K2010, it will remain legal and viable for 11 years from that printed date, meaning it will expire in 2021. That helmet might have been cheap in 2018, but the helmet would only have lasted for 3 years if you bought it then. Always try to get a helmet with a long time until its expiry as you’ll get more value for money.
Only Buy Full-Face Helmets
You should also always look for full-face helmets. Some clubs might allow the cut-away varieties for club meets and such, but for racing, these will be a huge no-no. Full-face helmets are the only ones that will receive SNELL approval anyway, so always remember to look for that sticker first and foremost.
Best Go-Kart Helmet Brands to Consider
The best go-kart helmet brands are:
All of these brands not only offer great safety standards in all of their products, but they also have a great range of products for all budgets and price-points.
Bell has been a mainstay brand for years in the karting sector specifically, while the other brands offer go-kart helmets as an option while making others for motorcycles and other motorized vehicles. They’re also a good example of a brand that offers good safety gear for people with all budgets, without compromising on safety and features.
Of the bunch, RaceQuip is often considered to be a budget kart brand due to the affordable prices at which they sell a lot of their products. In spite of the cheap prices, there’s nothing cheap about the quality! Their helmets are solid picks and they’ll all meet SNELL regulations.
As long as you select these well-known, tried and tested helmet brands when purchasing your next karting helmet, you won’t be disappointed!
KEY POINTS• You should never buy a used karting helmet
• Always look for a full-face, SNELL-certified option
• The best kart helmet brands include Bell and RaceQuip
Safety Standards For Go-Kart Helmets
I might sound like a broken record by now, but go-kart helmets must meet SNELL regulations for them to be authorized to race. These rules and regulations are designed to protect the wearer from collision damage and trauma above all else. Unlike normal motor racing, there isn’t a high fire risk in karting, and as such more of the helmet can be dedicated to protecting against trauma.
SNELL release new helmet safety revisions and certifications every 5 years, and those helmets are then valid for 11 years. The latest certifications are from 2020. They revise the materials used and the standard for kart helmets to keep safety the top priority.
The Standards To Look For
They use different classifications for race-ready helmets and these are represented by letters. The two standards that will always be accepted for kart racing, provided it’s within the validity, are SA and K. These are recognized by the IKF (International Kart Federation) as being race-ready and a must for all race series.
Another accepted classification is the M helmet, which are basically full-face motorcycle helmets. These are mostly accepted and recognized on a club level, but race authorities such as TaG or Rotax likely won’t allow the helmets to be used in their races. If you’re just attending club karting races, an M helmet will be more affordable and accessible.
Anything above that level will come with higher scrutiny, so make sure to do your research and check what SNELL classifications are accepted in the race series you want to enter.
Note: All models of Snell 2000 and 2005 Helmets are no longer legal
Recent Improvements To Go-Kart Helmet Technology
The typical blueprint for designing and making a go-kart helmet has been set in stone for some time now, since the introduction of the IKF requiring a specific set of regulations to be met in the helmets of its racers. Along came SNELL, and ever since, helmets have been subjected to tests in order to ensure these same standards are met.
Of all the recent innovations, I’ve found a few which are really compelling and have revolutionized the materials used, testing methods, or other features you can find in a helmet.
Carbon Fiber Shell
Pretty much every new helmet over a certain price point will feature carbon fiber. It’s a lightweight and remarkably tough material. It’s fantastic for competitive racers out there who want to keep the weight of their gear low, without compromising on safety.
Intake & Extraction Channels
When I first started racing, helmets just had typical air vents to stop the visor fogging and that was about it. If you were concerned about visibility, you’d have to keep the bottom of your visor open and it wasn’t very practical.
Now, most helmets you can buy from the past couple of years will feature various intake and extraction channels to direct air in multiple ways. It’ll stop visor fogging and maximize airflow within the helmet.
One of my biggest gripes with helmet shopping was, first and foremost, the fit. Different manufacturers will have varied sizes available and it becomes tricky to find the best fit without trying every helmet on, and even then, there might be too much space or not enough.
Now, helmets have in-built removable cheek pads and different density foams that can be switched out for maximum comfort and the best possible fit.
Fitting & Maintenance Of Go-Kart Helmets
Getting The Right Size
When buying a karting helmet, always try to first visit a store that stocks them so you can try them on with a balaclava (for hygiene reasons). Helmet sizes vary slightly by manufacturer, so fitting a Bell size M helmet doesn’t mean it’s the same as a Conquer branded one. Even if you try on helmets to find your size and then order online, it’s really important to get that time trying on first.
As for how it should feel, you need the helmet to fit snugly on your head. You shouldn’t be able to twist or turn it much, but at the same time, it shouldn’t be uncomfortably tight on your face or head. There are face padding inserts that can be removed if you’re between helmet sizes.
Go-Kart Helmet Maintenance
In terms of maintaining your helmet, there are a few absolute musts if you want it to last longer than a couple of years and keep its protective integrity. First and foremost, don’t ever drop your helmet! Even small bumps can weaken the inner shell, so aside from general accidents, don’t go showing off how strong your helmet is by dropping it!
Secondly, keep it clean and store/carry it properly. Most helmets will come with helmet bags designed to protect and transport them, and you can easily buy one online if yours doesn’t. Even if you’re at home, leaving it on top of a workbench or other such surface can result in it being knocked off, so put it on a stable shelf inside its bag just in case.
And lastly, always keep a spare visor lens. This is important for a few reasons, chief among them being that you need to have a replacement if your visor cracks. It’s also handy to have a slightly shaded visor for sunny conditions, and it’s just nice to have a choice between different lenses.
It goes without saying that helmets are the most important bit of safety gear you’ll be buying as a kart owner. Always remember that safety is more important than aesthetics, and that you should always buy new. Check for an up to date SNELL sticker, and you’ll be good to go!
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