There are a lot of rules, regulations, and safety equipment in skydiving. And while these rules are in place to keep you safe, you may wonder if all of them are necessary. You may have worn a helmet during your first dive but noticed others not wearing one. So, do you need a helmet to skydive?

It’s not a simple answer as there are times when you should wear a helmet, times when you shouldn’t wear one, and times when it’s optional.

Let’s help clear up the confusion and look at when and where you need to wear a helmet to skydive. We will also look at the benefits of wearing a helmet and the different skydiving helmets available.

Do you have to wear a helmet to skydive?

man with skydiving helmet
Helmet with go pro mounted

If you’re new to the sport and undertaking your first solo skydives, then a helmet is an essential piece of equipment. Poor landings are the number one cause of injury during a skydive, and as a learner, you are more prone to make mistakes.

The laws can vary from country to country, state to state. But while wearing a helmet to skydive might not always be law, no good skydiving school would let new students dive without appropriate head protection.

When it comes to tandem skydiving the there are laws on this. The USPA doesn’t permit tandem skydiving students to wear hard helmets. Wearing a hard helmet while on a tandem skydive could result in a dangerous clash of heads during freefall. There are some soft helmet options, but these aren’t mandatory for a tandem skydive: the instructor will be in complete control, and you will likely perform a soft landing on your bum.

Why do you need a helmet to skydive?

As we already mentioned, most accidents occur on landing. While an open parachute reduces your speed by about 90%, you will still be traveling close to 20 MPH, and if you mess up your landing or go a little, of course, that’s still enough speed to do severe damage if you bang your head.

Many professional skydivers with 100+ jumps to their name will still wear some head protection. As well as keeping you safe on landing, it also protects you should another skydiver crash into you or you accidentally bump your head when exiting the plane.

What are the benefits of wearing a helmet to skydive?

helmet
What are the benefits of wearing a helmet to skydive?

As well as giving you protection from any unwanted knocks to the head, there are other benefits to wearing a helmet when skydiving. For one, when you are in freefall, the air is rushing past you at an incredible speed. While this rush of air isn’t going to hurt you, wearing a helmet can make it a lot more comfortable. As well as dampening the sound, it also keeps your hair in place and the wind from flapping your cheeks. It’s also worth noting how warm it keeps your ears during those chilly moments.

Another benefit to wearing a helmet when skydiving is the camera mount on the top. Helmet cameras are quickly growing in popularity, and most modern skydiving helmets will have a camera mount. It’s optional, but there aren’t many better ways of recording your memorable moment than using a go pro to capture and relive it. 

What type of skydive helmet should I buy?

If you’re buying a helmet for safety, the crucial thing to look for is a Department of Transport DOT rating. Meeting the DOT safety standards should be a minimum requirement when buying a helmet, and we recommend avoiding helmets without them.

Beyond that, the type of skydive helmet you buy is down to your preference. There are many different kinds of skydive helmets, but for safety reasons, we are only considering hard helmets, which typically come in full-face or open-face.

During your skydiving training course, you will most likely use an open-face helmet. These are a bit like children’s cycling helmets. They add extra safety as they cover the side of your face. While a full-face helmet would be safer, having to clean a foggy visor or open it up after deploying your parachute can be distracting. 

Is a full-face helmet good for skydiving?

skydiving max height
Photo by Filipe Dos Santos Mendes on Unsplash

If you are jumping in cold weather, then a full-face helmet will be a great option. Skydiving can be a chilly adventure. Even on a hot day of 70F+, the temperatures at altitude can be in the 30s. So when it’s a cold winter’s day, 32F on the ground can be below 0 at 15,000 feet. A full-face helmet does a great job at keeping icy cold air off your face and ears.

On the flip side of that, a full-face helmet might not be ideal in hot and humid temperatures. While it can still be cool and chilly at altitude, the breeze shouldn’t bother you too much. While a lot of modern helmets have anti-fog visors, they can still fog up. And when you deploy your chute and want to get the full benefit of the views, you will then be scrambling to lift your visor up.

The most significant selling point of a full-face helmet is safety. A full-face helmet gives you complete protection of your head, protecting your chin and the front of your face, not just the crown of your head. With a full-face helmet, you can also go without goggles, as the visor protects your eyes.

How about an open-face skydiving helmet?

freefalling
The benefits of open-face skydiving helmets

Open-face helmets are the more popular choice among skydivers. While the full-face helmet does a great job at protecting you from the wind, a lot of skydivers want that feeling. For many, that sensation of the air blasting against your face is what it’s all about. Having an open-face helmet also gives you a much larger field of view to let you see all the wonder around you.

The downside of an open-face helmet is that you’re not getting the same protection as with a full-face helmet. There’s nothing to protect you should you get hit in the face or fall on your chin.

There are also other pros to having an open-face helmet. They are generally much cheaper and easier to maintain. They tend to feel more comfortable, and there are no issues with lifting or cleaning a visor. It’s also nice to see the face of other skydivers and make it easier and more pleasurable to communicate.

So there is no fundamental right or wrong choice over which helmet you get. It comes down to your priorities and preferences. The main piece of advice is that you wear one, even if it isn’t required by law.