The best kayaking helmets 2018: protect your head when you're out on the water

From recreational kayaking to whitewater adventures, each of these kayak helmets are designed to protect your face and head on the water

TODO alt text

As you may know, there are different types of kayaking, including whitewater, flat water, sea kayaking and recreational. Investing in one of the best kayak helmets for your preferred style will protect your head while you're having fun on the water. 

A few years ago all of them looked pretty much the same, but modern kayaking helmets come in a variety of styles, so there'll almost certainly be something to suit you and your budget.

A kayak helmet is as important a purchase as the kayak itself, which is why we've created this guide to help you track down the ideal one.

We have included helmets from the best kayaking brands out there, WRSI and Sweet Protection, as well as some beginner friendly options from the likes of Osprey and NP Surf Watersports.

How to find the best kayaking helmet for you

When buying a kayaking helmet, make sure it covers your head down to the base of your skull. It should also cover and protect the entirety of your forehead. You also need to ensure it protrudes enough to protect your nose in the event of a face-on impact. 

The best kayak helmets marry ABS and Polypropylene in the outer shell with an EVA foam or coolmax inner. As such, the WRSI Current Watersports Helmet tops our list, as it combines a highly protective design and top-performing materials with a decent price. 

But if you’re a grade four or five kayaker, check out Sweet Protection. These helmets can be more expensive, but, like those from WRSI, they're technically advanced and deliver supreme protection during more extreme forms of kayaking. 

The best kayaking helmets to buy right now

The best kayaking helmets: WRSI Helmet in Green

1. WRSI Current Watersports Helmet

A great all-rounder for a variety of kayaking pursuits

Specifications
Sizes: S/M,M/L,L/XL
Shell material: ABS Plastic, Polyurethane
Liner material: EVA Foam
Reasons to buy
+Three-layer impact absorption+O-brace harness for a comfortable fit+Flow-through visor to protect from harsh rain
Reasons to avoid
-Matt finish prone to scratches

If you’re looking for a kayak helmet that combines superior protection with a reasonable price, this one from WRSI (Whitewater Research and Safety Institute) is just the ticket. 

The Current Watersports Helmet tops our best kayaking helmets buyer's guide because it delivers three-layer impact absorption, via a lightweight yet high-impact carbon composite shell. Married with an EVA foam liner, it's more than enough to protect your head when kayaking. 

Interconnected straps work to hold the helmet securely in place when you're being punished by whitewater. The O-Brace harness is also a winner, helping you to position the helmet comfortably and safely.

We're also fans of the helmet's removable ear protection (tough plastic meets exterior EVA foam padding), which protects from rushing water and splash, and the flow-through visor that guards your eyes from harsh sun and rain.

The best kayaking helmets: Sweet Protection Wanderer

2. Sweet Protection Wanderer Helmet

The best kayaking helmet for whitewater adventures

Specifications
Sizes: S/M, M/L, L/XL
Shell material: ABS Plastic, Polypropylene
Liner material: Coolmax
Reasons to buy
+Neck-hugging back+Coolmax foam inner keeps your head cool
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive compared to some

Sweet Protection are one of the best kayaking helmets brands for whitewater adventures, and the Wanderer is a true classic, having first been released in 2008 to rave reviews. It has been updated several times since.

The Wanderer Helmet features a small beak that provides protection from harsh rain and sun, as well as an extra layer of safeguarding for your nose if you hit the water face-on. 

A direct ventilation design ensures water drains quickly from the helmet, and amps breathability. A moisture wicking Coolmax Liner also keeps sweat and clamminess at bay during warm weather kayaking.

EPP Shock Absorption tech is another reason why the Wanderer sits near the top of our best kayaking helmets round-up. It'll keep your head safe from multiple low-energy blows in the water, with twin CRP reinforcements around the helmet's crown further increasing protection and rigidity.

The best kayaking helmets: NP Surf Watersports Helmet

3. NP Surf Watersports C3 Kayak Helmet

A beginner- and budget-friendly option for flat water kayaking

Specifications
Sizes: XS, S, M, L
Shell material: ABS Plastic
Liner material: EVA foam
Reasons to buy
+CE approved+EVA absorption tech
Reasons to avoid
-Long loop on chin strap

If you’re taking your first few turbulent turns on the rapids, this ultra lightweight watersports helmet will keep your head safe. It's a great all-rounder, and not just for kayaking: it's suitable for kitesurfing, windsurfing and other high-velocity watersports.

CE approved, the NP Surf Watersports Helmet features an impact-resistant ABS shell for better protection. A non-water absorbing EVA inner enhances comfort and helps keep sweat and water at bay. 

Air vents keep you cool during warm weather kayaking, and the adjustable chin straps and removable ear pads deliver a more custom fit.

The best kayaking helmets: Sweet Protection Rocker Helmet

4. Sweet Protection Rocker Helmet

The best kayaking helmet for extreme whitewater runs

Specifications
Sizes: M/L, L/XL
Shell material: ABS Plastic, TLC, Polypropylene
Liner material: Coolmax
Reasons to buy
+High-performance for rough conditions+Shatter-resistant visor+EPP shock absorption tech
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Sweet Protection's Rocker Helmet is designed for really rough conditions, such as the grade 4 and 5 rivers that only hardcore kayakers dare to attempt. 

The TLC shell comprises of injection-moulded thermoplastic with carbon fibre, creating a helmet that offers serious levels of protection for different areas of the head.

It also makes our best kayaking helmets buyer's guide because of the Occigrip construction, which delivers a firm fit so that the helmet doesn't slip or rotate on your head when you're in the rapids.

The best kayaking helmets: Osprey Watersports Helmet

5. Osprey Watersports Helmet

Ideal for recreational kayaking and leisurely touring holidays

Specifications
Sizes: S, M, L
Shell material: ABS
Liner material: EVA and EPS
Reasons to buy
+Ventilated design keeps you cool+Adjustable fitting design
Reasons to avoid
-Not suitable for whitewater

Osprey's affordable and colourful offering is ideal for those who prefer a leisurely kayak. Therefore we recommend this helmet for beginner's and anyone looking for easy-to-wear head protection during a gentle kayaking tour.

A multitude of air vents enable heat to escape, keeping you cool, and water to drain vertically should you get a face full of the stuff. A snug headlock and chin pad, plus an adjustable strap, works to keep the helmet in place.