13 riding hats that are worth your attention

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  • A helmet is an essential piece of kit when you’re riding – whatever your level or discipline. Choosing from the best riding hats to suit your needs will not only help you avoid head injuries, but it will allow you to perform at your best, whatever your chosen discipline.

    It can be tricky to know which is the best riding hat for you as there are so many stylish options, from the best adjustable riding helmets to the best riding hats for children, that include a vast amount of technology across very different price points.

    How to choose the best riding hat for you

    The first thing to consider when choosing the best helmet for you is the type – if you compete, each discipline has its own rules for what helmets can be worn, which includes minimum hat standards for competition requirements, and sometimes style (for example, for cross-country you’ll need a hat without a fixed peak) and colour.

    Then you need to think about how much protection each helmet gives you – different safety standards test for different types of accidents – it’s best to choose a helmet with as many safety standards as possible.

    It’s also wise to consider what features each helmet has that enhance the comfort or look – these could include removable headbands, ventilation systems, wide peaks, MIPS technology or being vegan friendly. The style and finish of a helmet can allow you to show your personality. These days you can find everything from the most traditional velvet to fully customised sparkle.

    When considering budget, always buy the best you can afford, and bear in mind that the most expensive might not be the best. In the UK, helmets made to fit 55cm and below (usually child sizes) are VAT free. If you’re on a tight budget, we’ve rounded up the best riding hats under £100.

    Finally, it’s really important to be sure that your helmet is a good fit. Horse & Hound strongly advises that you get your hat fitted by a BETA-trained professional before making a purchase – the same advice goes for the best body protectors, too. Find out if your local tack shop can provide this service here.

    Best riding hats: H&H’s quick guide

    Best overall jockey skull: Charles Owen 4Star

    Best overall peaked riding hat: Charles Owen EQx Kylo

    Best value riding hat: Shires Valentina

    Best adjustable riding hat: Champion Air-Tech Deluxe

    Best budget riding hat: Rhinegold Pro

    Best velvet riding hat: Gatehouse Jeunesse

    Charles Owen 4Star

    Charles Owen 4Star

    Colours: Silver, black or navy
    Sizes: 54–62cm
    Standards: ASTM F1163, PAS 015 (with Kitemark), SNELL E2016, VG1 (with Kitemark)
    RRP: £240

    Reasons to buy: Meets four safety standards, good ventilation, can be worn for cross-country
    Reasons to avoid: None

    This skull is certified to four top international safety standards and is described as a “technically superior helmet”. It has 10 ventilation slots and the option of a heat-reflective silver finish. It also comes with a ventilated silk.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk, naylors.com or ebay.co.uk

    Charles Owen EQx Kylo riding hat

    Charles Owen EQx Kylo

    Colours: Black gloss, black matte, navy gloss or navy matte
    Sizes: S–L
    Standards: ASTM F1163, PAS 015 (with Kitemark), VG1 (with Kitemark)
    RRP: From £88

    Reasons to buy: Meets three safety standards, lots of choice, good value
    Reasons to avoid: None

    This helmet gives your lots of options – not only can you choose between a matte and gloss finish, but you can also opt for a standard or wide peak and choose to add MIPS protection, too.

    It has an adjustable dial for a precise fit, extensive ventilation, a fully adjustable leather-look harness and a removable, washable headband.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk or gsequestrian.co.uk

    Shires Karben Valentina riding hat

    Shires Karben Valentina

    Colours: Coal, black/rose gold, navy/rose gold, silver or navy
    Sizes: S–L
    Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark)
    RRP: £107.99

    Reasons to buy: Glamorous look – but not just a looker
    Reasons to avoid: Only meets one standard (if that’s important to you)

    This helmet is a real looker with high shine accents that frame a central glitter panel, but it also has practical thermoregulating linings and air vents to keep your head cool and sweaty hair to a minimum.

    It has an adjustable dial for a precision fit, a fully adjustable four-point harness with leather look side panels and removable, washable inner linings.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk, equus.co.uk, viovet.co.uk, gsequestrian.co.uk or naylors.com 

    Champion Air-Tech Deluxe riding hat

    Champion Air-Tech Deluxe

    Colours: Black metallic, navy metallic, oyster metallic, ruby metallic or black silk
    Sizes: S, M or L (52–61cm)
    Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark), ASTM F1163, VG1 (with Kitemark)
    RRP: £239

    Reasons to buy: Good colour choices
    Reasons to avoid: Harness not as padded as others

    This low-profile helmet is made with a lightweight injection-moulded ABS shell, which makes it comfortable without compromising on safety. It features triple-mesh venting for superior airflow, a removable crown-comfort padded, wicking lining. It uses a dial-fit system for full sizing adjustability and is available with metallic or silk paint finishes.

    In the UK? View now at viovet.co.uk or gsequestrian.co.uk 

    Rhinegold Reflective Pro best riding hats

    Rhinegold Reflective Pro Riding Hat

    Colours: Black or navy
    Sizes: 6⅜–7¼
    Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark)
    RRP: From £69.95

    Reasons to buy: Cheap, ideal for riding schools
    Reasons to avoid: Not the most modern look

    This traditionally styled ventilated hat features a removable, washable liner with a soft Coolmax-lined harness. The Dayglo reflective piping offers a small amount of increased visibility. It is one of the cheapest riding hats in this guide, yet meets the standard for use in riding schools and competition, making it great value for money.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk

    Gatehouse Jeunesse Riding Hat

    Gatehouse Jeunesse Riding Hat

    Colours: Black or navy
    Sizes: 52–61cm
    Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark), VG1 (with Kitemark)
    RRP: From £114.99

    Reasons to buy: Traditional style that meets two standards
    Reasons to avoid: Other less common colours

    Designed with a lightweight, low profile, this hat is slimline and elegant with a flesh coloured harness. It comes with a quick-drying, padded liner that can be removed for washing, and it comes in a padded storage bag.

    In the UK? View now at gsequestrian.co.uk or equus.co.uk

    Champion Revolve Vent-Air MIPS Jockey best riding hats

    Champion Revolve Vent-Air MIPS Jockey Skull

    Colours: Black
    Sizes: 6¼–7¾
    Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark), ASTM F1163, VG1
    RRP: £239.99

    Reasons to buy: MIPS, good ventilation
    Reasons to avoid: Pricey – but can you put a price on safety?

    An upgrade to the Champion Revolve Vent-Air skull, this modern, lightweight helmet incorporates MIPS, which is the brain protection system that offers added protection against angular impact and damaging rotational forces. This helmet offers good ventilation and comfort thanks to the central ventilation strip and removable crown comfort padding in breathable microfibre. It has a durable painted acrylic and sand finish that helps to prevent you silk slipping. It also features a four-point soft leather harness with rear lacing adjustment.

    In the UK? View now at gsequestrian.co.uk

    Charles Owen Luna best riding hats

    Charles Owen Luna

    Colours: Black gloss, black matte or midnight
    Sizes: 52–61cm with round fit options
    Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark), ASTM F1163, VG1 (with Kitemark)
    RRP: From £240

    Reasons to buy: Cheaper than the Halo with similar look
    Reasons to avoid: Can’t wear for cross-country

    The Luna is technically very similar to the much more expensive Halo. It has a ventilation system under the ring in addition to a washable headband. There is also the option to have a wide peak that helps improve vision in any weather.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk or ebay.co.uk
    In the US? View now at amazon.com

    Gatehouse HS1-V helmet

    Gatehouse HS1-V

    Colours: Anthracite grey or matt black
    Sizes: 52–62cm
    Standards: ASTM F1163, SNELL E2016
    RRP: From £187.99

    Reasons to buy: Hat bag included, meets SNELL E2016
    Reasons to avoid: Competitors have more colour choice

    This is an update to the popular HS1 jockey skull with the addition of vents to give you the benefit of air circulation, which helps to keep your head cool. It features a soft four-point padded harness with an antibacterial lining. This hat comes with a smart padded storage bag.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk or gsequestrian.co.uk

    Charles Owen ProII Plus best riding hats

    Charles Owen Pro II Plus

    Colours: Black, navy, silver or rose gold
    Sizes: 52–65cm standard or 56–59cm round
    Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark), ASTM F1163, VG1 (with Kitemark)
    RRP: From £195

    Reasons to buy: Standard and round fit, hat silk included
    Reasons to avoid: Spend a bit more and get the 4Star

    This helmet is the only triple-standard skull cap with a removable cup headband. It features front and rear ventilation, a sized liner for a close, customised fit, and a soft technical harness.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk, equus.co.uk or naylors.com
    In the US? View now at amazon.com

    Gatehouse Conquest MKII riding hat

    Gatehouse Conquest MKII

    Colours: Black/rose gold, navy/rose gold, matt black or matt navy
    Sizes: 54–62cm
    Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark), VG1 (with Kitemark)
    RRP: From £147.99

    Reasons to buy: Smart look, hat bag included
    Reasons to avoid: Chin strap not as padded as others

    This stylish and lightweight helmet has a flexible peak and is well ventilated with a quick-drying, wicking, padded and removable liner. It comes in a padded storage bag and you can buy replacement liners.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk, equus.co.uk, gsequestrian.co.uk or ebay.co.uk

    Uvex Exxential MIPS best riding hat

    Uvex Exxential II MIPS

    Colours: Black
    Sizes: XS–XL
    Standards: VG1 (no Kitemark)
    RRP: £149.95

    Reasons to buy: Lightweight (only 430g)
    Reasons to avoid: No harness padding, no Kitemark

    This helmet combines sportiness, climate control and safety. It brings an update to the Uvex Exxential II with the introduction of MIPS technology, which is designed to further protect the brain against rotational movements in the event of an accident.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk
    In the US? View now at amazon.com

    Whitaker VX2 Riding Helmet

    Whitaker VX2 Helmet

    Colours: Black or navy
    Sizes: S, M or L
    Standards: ASTM F1163, VG1 (no Kitemark)
    RRP: From £120

    Reasons to buy: Adjustable, fairly low cost
    Reasons to avoid: No Kitemark

    The ever popular Dial-to-Fit system returns in the VX2 helmet. For the customer this means a better fitting helmet, that will not slacken over time and for a stockist it means less stock variations for you to store.

    There are three vents to the front of the helmet, ensuring a steady ventilation across the head. The lining of the VX2 has been treated with Coolmax, which wicks moisture away from the head, and can easily be removed and machine washed.

    This VX2 helmet still ensures all the safety measures needed to achieve the VG1 and ASTM standard is achieved, whilst still weighing in at only 444g.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk, viovet.co.uk or gsequestrian.co.uk 

    When should I replace my riding hat?

    Your hat should always be replaced if it has suffered any sort of impact. Although it may appear fine from the outside, its the inside that’s important. For this reason, buying hats second hand is not recommended. Your hat also needs replacing if it’s more than two to three old because the protective liner and inner padding will have begun to deteriorate with exposure to heat and repeated use.

    To help your hat last as long as possible, store it in a cool environment – avoid leaving it in the car. Keeping it in a protective hat bag is an ideal way to keep it cushioned and away from strong sunlight.

    If you compete, you’ll also need to keep an eye on the hat standards that are accepted by your governing body – if these change, then you may need to invest in a new, rule-compliant hat.

    What are the current riding hat safety standards?

    There are five main safety standards that are recognised across the world. All riding hats and jockey skulls should conform to one of these standards and bear the CE mark. When determining helmet safety, each of the individual standards have their own criteria and tests that place different emphasis on various types of injury. For example, they will examine how much of the head a helmet covers, how a rider falls and onto what type of surface, how a helmet moves, and how severe an injury riders can expect to receive from that fall, but all in a slightly different way and to different extents.

    • VG1 01.040 (2014-12) – This was introduced as an interim specification when the EN 1384 was withdrawn. It demands the helmet passes three impact tests.
    • PAS 015 (1998 or 2011) – PAS stands for product approval specifications, which are developed by the BSI. The 2011 standard is more demanding than the 1998, which will probably be phased out of discipline rules in the next couple of years. It includes four different impact tests.
    • ASTM F1163 (2004a or 04a onwards) – This American standard is similar to PAS 015:1998 – it includes two impact tests, but does not have a crushing or penetration test.
    • SNELL E2016 – This standard was developed in the US and is the most rigorous with five different tests. It includes all aspects of ASTM and PAS 015 but is tested with a sharper horseshoe anvil (to replicate a kick or impact with a sharp surface), higher impacts and an additional hemispherical anvil (to represent an uneven but not sharp surface, such as a tree, fence or cobbled surface).
    • AS/NZS 3838 (2006 onwards) – This Australasian standard is similar to the EN 1384, although also includes the hazard anvil test from the PAS 015.

    What is the difference between hat standards and quality marks?

    Quality marks, such as the British Kitemark, show that the requirements of certification have been met and the manufacturer has complied with regulations. If your hat also bears one of these marks it tells that the manufacturer is continuously and independently monitored to ensure that they continue to make hats to a high standard. Quality symbols include…

    • Kitemark – This is the registered trademark of the British Standards Institute. It indicates that a company complies with a rigorous system of regulation and testing, including regular testing of random samples. For example, one of every 200 helmets from a batch is checked before they will issue an approval label. If the helmets do not pass the standard, then the entire batch must be destroyed. It can be applied to PAS 015 and VG1-compliant helmets.
    • IC mark – This quality mark is operated by Inspec and applied to PAS 015 and VG1-compliant helmets.
    • SEI mark – The Safety Equipment Institute is the American equivalent of the Kitemark for ASTM standard hats.
    • SAI Global – This Australian quality assurance scheme is also similar to the British Kitemark.

    The CE mark is neither a quality mark or a standard, but a mandatory declaration under EU law that shows a manufacturer complies with essential requirements.

    How should a riding hat fit?

    At Horse & Hound we strongly advise that you get your hat fitted by a BETA-trained professional before making a purchase. Find out if your local tack shop can provide this service here.

    A well-fitting hat should sit firmly on your head – just above your eyebrows and ears. It should fit snuggly all the way around your head, with no pressure points at the temples. If you feel pressure in your temples when you flex your jaw, this indicates that the helmet is too tight. When fastening your helmet, it’s important not to forget the part of the harness that fits around the back of your neck. This strap helps to prevent your hat tipping forwards on to your nose. Some harnesses, particularly those with lots of leather and lacing, are harder to fasten, but a trained fitter at your local tack shop will be able to help you if you take your hat in.

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