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 that include a vast amount of technology across very different price points.
Here’s a selection of the best peaked helmets and jockey skulls on the market that are suitable for competition and everyday riding to give you some ideas. But if you feel like you need a bit more guidance on what to look for or what safety standards mean, then jump ahead to our advice on how to choose the right hat for you.
Horse & Hound strongly advises that you get your hat fitted by a BETA-trained professional before making a purchase – the same advice goes for body protectors, too. Find out if your local tack shop can provide this service here.
Best riding hats – peaked helmets
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, ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: From £148
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.
Charles Owen My Ayr8
Colours: Black, navy, grey, brown or bottle green | Sizes: 6⅜–8 | Standards: PAS015:2011, ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: From £280
This low-profile helmet is fully customisable – you can choose piping colours and styles as well as panel and mesh colours from a really wide range. You can also choose between leather-look and microsuede coverings, and even add Swarovski crystals. It has a washable headband, antimicrobial lining and 12 ventilation holes. Some sizes are available in round fit.
For more info, stockists or to buy, visit charlesowen.com
Dublin Silver Pro Diamante
Colours: Navy or black | Sizes: 52–61cm | Standards: PAS015:2011 | RRP: From £84.99
This riding hat has a microfibre suede outer shell, diamante detailing and front vents. It features a four-point padded harness and chin strap with quick-release buckle. It also has a Coolmax removeable liner.
Colours: Black | Sizes: 52–59cm | Standards: PAS015:2011 | RRP: £24.99
This helmet is a great option for a beginner or someone who’s just testing riding out as a potential hobby. It meets a robust standard but is the cheapest in this guide, making it great value. The velvet covering offers a traditional look and the adjustable harness provides a secure fit.
For more info, stockists or to buy, visit decathlon.co.uk
Gatehouse Conquest MKII
Colours: Black/rose gold, navy/rose gold, matt black or matt navy | Sizes: 53–63cm | Standards: PAS015:2011, VG1 | RRP: £139.98
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.
Kask Kooki Lady
Colours: Black or navy, in a matt or shine finish | Sizes: 53–63cm | Standards: ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: £306
This helmet is described as perfect for the show ring and schooling – an everyday helmet that will match every outfit. It consists of two shells and has a breathable and antibacterial inner padding. It also features front and rear ventilation and a soft chin strap.
KEP Cromo Textile Vesna with Swarovski
Colours: Black or navy, with a variety of customisation options | Sizes: 51–62cm | Standards: ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: £1,041
If you’ve got a big budget, this customisable hat will ensure you don’t go unnoticed. It features a Coolmax lining, air control system and five-point attachment harness.
Knightsbridge VIM 3
Colours: Black or navy | Sizes: S (6⅜–7) or M (6¾–7¼) | Standards: VG1 | RRP: From £59.90
This lightweight, sporty helmet has six air inlets at the front and five outlets at the back to aid circulation. It features a size adjustment wheel to give you the optimal fit. The removable inner lining is machine washable, and the helmet has a soft chin and neck strap, and a removable, shatterproof brim.
For more info or to buy, visit kramer.co.uk
Colours: Black, blue or brown | Sizes: S–L | Standards: ASTM F1163 | RRP: From £213
This helemt is covered with anti-scratch paint. It features an internal comfort foam, “shape memory” liner, that clips in and out for washing. This hat can be customised in many ways, including different leathers, embossed names, trim colours, harness shapes and added Swarovski crystals – there is something for everyone.
Uvex Perfexxion II
Colours: Black, blue or anthracite matt | Sizes: XXS–XL | Standards: VG1 | RRP: £199.95
This helmet combines sportiness, climate control and safety. It is a more advanced version of the Uvex Perfexxion – it has a new pentagonal honeycomb structure of the enlarged ventilation channels and the outer shell has been extended at the back of the head.
Colours: Black or navy | Sizes: S, M or L | Standards: ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: From £85
This lightweight helmet features vents at the front of the helmet, ensuring a steady ventilation across the head, while the removable, washable lining has been treated with Coolmax, which wicks moisture away from the head. It uses a dial system to provide a good fit and is available in sparkle or solid colour styles.
Best riding hats – jockey skulls
Champion Revolve Vent-Air MIPS Jockey Sport
Colours: Platinum, purple or teal | Sizes: 6¼–7¾ | Standards: PAS015:2011, ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: From £202
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 microfiber. 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.
Charles Owen 4Star
Colours: Black, navy or silver | Sizes: 0.5–4.5 | Standards: PAS015:2011, ASTM F1163, SNELL E2016, VG1 | RRP: £202
This helmet has been developed as a result of years of advanced computer analysis and uses the most technically advanced materials. It is tested to four international safety standards with high resistance to crush impacts, making it one of the best riding hats on the market when it comes to safety. In addition to the 10 ventilation slots, it has a ventilation system that allows for increased airflow across the forehead by combining a frontal air channel with a Coolmax mesh to increase cooling and evaporation of sweat. It features a quick-release buckle that fastens the patented harness system to provide the ultimate stability.
Colours: Anthracite grey or matt black | Sizes: 00–4.5 | Standards: ASTM F1163, SNELL E2016 | RRP: From £164.98
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.
Kask Dogma XC
Colours: Black or black/silver | Sizes: 50–63cm | Standards: ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: £453
This helmet includes all the technical and design features that are in the Dogma Pure Shine Chrome mentioned above, including the specialised ventilation and fit systems, but without the peak. It stands out with a smooth matt-look frame.
KEP E-Light Naked Matt
Colours: Black | Sizes: 51–62cm | Standards: ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: £770
This helmet is really lightweight and is designed to ensure optimal ventilation. It also has an eco-leather harness with five attachment point, and the Coolmax lining is machine washable.
For more info and stockists, visit kepitalia.com
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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 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. Finally, it’s really important to be sure that your helmet is a good fit. You can do this by getting it fitted by a BETA-trained fitter – find out which of your nearest tack shops provide this service here.
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 E2001 or 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 is 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.
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 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 MIPS helmets?
MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System and it is a techonology used in some helmets. When you fall and hit your head, it’s most common to fall at an angle, which creates rotational motion – science has shown that our brains are very sensitive to rotational forces. MIPS can reduce the risk of brain damage by allowing your head to move inside the helmet. This reduces the harmful rotational motion that would otherwise be transferred to your brain.
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