There has been quite the gammit of editorials on not only helmets themselves, but what attaches to the outside of them to make the people who wear them jobs exorbitantly easier with little mention of the padding, and what keeps the helmet in place. We have made a point to highlight the goods and the bads of past and present helmets but have not gone too far into the woods of the end use that make up the comfort of a helmet. Let us be honest with ourselves…an uncomfortable helmet down right sucks so we are line iteming what to stay away from…this is from our experiences. What we are covering is merely what has worked for us, if you are new to the helmet market, it is a place to start. As always, we are not saying that we are the “end all be all” regarding the biggest and best, we do have an opinion and would like to think that most people value it!
Caught in webs
Prior to the days of memory foam, or high-density padding, we had to strap a standard issue kpot to our melons suspended only by nylon webbing equipped with a nasty sweat band that no doubt absorbed someone else’s head funk from days to years past. Contrary to popular belief, everyone who joins the military does not get the luxury of each being issued brand new gear…99% of the time it is recycled with minimal quality control standards.
The PASGT helmet was the common helmet of warfighters at the beginning of this war era. Inside, one would find nylon webbing that was intended to be form fitting and keep the helmet suspended off the end user’s skull. Truth be told, this webbing would endure one maybe two (if you’re lucky) field ops before it stunk to high heaven, and became stretched out past the point of readjustments.
As typical infantry people do, they train like they are going to fight. Trying to get into an effective prone shooting position with this helmet is nearly impossible because of how large they were and the obnoxious nape protection that it offered, without breaking one of these dry (or) wet rotted web suspension systems quickly turning your helmet into a free-floating turtle shell. The oversized brim would most likely get shoved down and smash the bridge of your nose as you ran, or moved your head with any amount of haste…basically, rendering the helmet completely useless.
We must come back to the sweat band. The 2x4 inch strip of “leather” coupled with some foam attached was designed to absorb sweat, supposedly offering comfort to the end user up front. Whoever designed this, clearly had all of our comfort in mind right?….riiiiight! Though this sweat band worked for about an hour, before it became saturated, it quickly turned into sand paper used to exfoliate about 4 layers of skin off your forehead which became a lab dish for bacteria, and other nastiness that breeds in porous mediums. After the foam wears thin, you now have Frankenstein bolts digging into your skull, yet another perk brought to us by Uncle Sam!
Last, comes the chinstrap. If we were lucky we would draw a helmet with a plastic cup that is attached to the nylon web strap. Our luck never really panned out the way we would have liked, it so we seemed to always draw a helmet with the straps made from the same material as the webbing absent the chin cup. Having your chin and neck rubbed completely raw due to this ½ inch nylon is not only distracting but completely ineffective.
New and Improved
Through the years, we have seen the combat helmet evolve. You can check out past articles that depict just this…The evolution of the combat helmet. Those who study war, and the lasting physical and mental effects it has on the human body quickly identified that with new and improved head protection came fewer cases of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and fatal head injuries on the battle field.
The days of nylon webbing and half assed retention systems in combat helmets are over. In fact, in ALL helmets. Military issued non-ballistic helmets come with the same technology and padding as the ones designed and implemented to stop bullets and frag from bombs. Today we see a plethora of companies such as HHV, Team Wendy and OpsCore on the leading edge of hyper safety with equally adequate comfort.
There have seemed to be a standard that formed within the industry driven by many of the pitfalls that we have mentioned here. Companies who have brought proven gear to market have all come with their own branded padding and suspension systems. All of which include the following
- Velcro attachments for end user modularity
- Moisture wicking material covering the padding to reduce the peetrie dish of bacteria of older models
- Form fitting padding that fits the human head, versus the old block pads seemingly made for someone with a SpongeBob square pants shaped skull
- Exceeding the ACH blunt impact requirements (AR/PD 10-02)
- Exceeding the backface deformation requirements of less than 14mm
Each respective industry leader has their own proprietary name for the padding they sell, rest assured they are all interoperable and all have one common goal in mind, SAFETY, and comfort!
Putting a Lid on it
As time progresses there is no doubt that companies will continue to churn out some of the best gear through technology ever seen. In just over a decade we have seen the ballistic helmet game turn on a dime and head in a direction that seems so rudimentary but important beyond measure.
Having experienced everything from the PASGT to present day over the ear helmets, we could not be more pleased with the outcome of the products. If you still wear a MICH because it is what works for you, look at replacing the retention lining with an OCC dial or a camfit retention system. If you are still rocking the MSA block foam…consider replacing it with Zorbium Action Pad (ZAP) system, or a Comfort Plus system from HHV. Both of which come with the appropriate tabs of Velcro to make your existing helmet more comfortable than it has ever been, and increase the blunt force impact resistance. With each day, companies like HHV continuously look for ways to improve their products. Keep an eye out for new pads, straps, and liners!