POC Fornix Backcountry Ski Helmet — Review


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 14, 2014      

Enjoying Colorado powder last winter with the POC Fornix MIPS. Enjoying Colorado powder last winter with the POC Fornix MIPS.

Opinions vary on using helmets for backcountry skiing. In a sport where weight and bulk are high priorities, a lightweight hat seems to often be the headwear of choice. Also, there’s controversy over whether helmets really provide that much protection (more about helmets). I’m a fan of helmets, and bring one on almost every ski trip. But I also pay attention to the reality of how much or how little protection “ski” helmets offer, so when one comes along that claims maximum protection, I tend to use it.

I’ve had a POC Synapsis helmet for the past few years (previous review here), which has easily seen 50+ days of use every season. The ultra-light helmet held up surprisingly well, but after four years, it was obviously time to retire it.

On spring and summer ski trips I often ski with a light climbing helmet (Petzl Sirocco is my current favorite), instead of a full-on ski helmet, especially if I’m in for some sort of suffer-fest where a light pack is the only thing keeping me from dropping to all fours at the end of the day. A climbing helmet is of course lighter, and has much better ventilation, so it can be used on the climb, not only the descent–omething that is necessary during the spring, when rockfall is often a concern. However, climbing helmets don’t provide the same protection as ski helmets; they don’t protect the sides and back of your head — the areas most likely to hit in a fall. Accordingly, if it’s cold enough out, and I’m not going for a mega-day, I’ll bring a ski helmet.

POC helmets have been at the top of the personal protection game for several years, combining high-tec materials with impeccable Swedish design (and an equally high Swedish price tag). Although they still make the Synapsis that I’ve had for a few years, I decided to try out a new dome this time around, and went with the Fornix Backcountry.

Like the Synapsis, the Fornix Backcountry is a POC helmet aimed at backcountry skiers. The helmet is mainly attractive due to the low weight, but it also has several features that offer more safety than many helmets. The helmet is fairly similar to my old helmet, with a few extra safety features, as well as better adjustability. Compared to the Synapsis, the extra safety and features cost a tiny bit more weight (440 vs. 428 g).

The Fornix Backcountry MIPS, from POC

The Fornix Backcountry MIPS, from POC

The Fornix features a small Boa-like adjustment dial at the rear of the helmet.

The Fornix features a small Boa-like adjustment dial at the rear of the helmet.

The Fornix has POCs MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System). The MIPS is basically a layer in the helmet that allows the shell to rotate in relation to the rest of the helmet, reducing an impact that doesn’t strike the helmet directly more about that technology here. Another safety feature is POC’s incorporation of Aramid fibers into the shell, which simply allows them to make a strong helmet with less weight and more ventilation holes.

The Fornix also has a more substantial ventilation system than the Synapsis, with six large adjustable vents on top, and two more in the front and rear. However, when it comes to skinning, most ski helmet ventilation systems are a bit of a joke, and the Fornix system is only slightly better. For warmer days, the earflaps and some of the padding in the Fornix can be removed, making the helmet actually cool enough to wear.

The side flaps can be removed from the Fornix. This reduces the weight from 440 to 370 g, and also makes the helmet much cooler.

The side flaps can be removed from the Fornix. This reduces the weight from 440 to 370 g, and also makes the helmet much cooler.

The substantial ventilation system in the Fornix

The substantial ventilation system in the Fornix.

Beyond the possibility of added safety, an advantage of the Fornix is its exceptionally low weight. That becomes even more impressive since the design doesn’t skimp on features that improve the safety and usability of the helmet. A major way POC reduces mass is to make the helmet with an in-molded EPS shell (like many helmets), as opposed to a heavier molded plastic shell. Unfortunately that makes the helmet much less durable and prone to dents. I’m pretty careful with the helmet; ironically I often make sure it’s wrapped in something protective, especially when I’m traveling.

I’ve used the Fornix all last winter and spring skiing in the Cascades, as well as this summer in South America. It survived branch-bashing tight pillow lines around Baker (with only a few dings), and several trips on planes, buses, and subways in SA. It’s held up well, with only a few dents in the shell (expected of an in-molded EPS helmet). For the trip down south, I took the ear flaps out and left them at home to reduce a little weight. This allowed me to comfortably keep the helmet on while booting couloirs and other rock-fall prone areas. When I needed warmth, I wore a thin wool hat under the helmet.

The POC Fornix is an excellent choice for backcountry skiing. The minimal weight and high-tec protection, combined with the ability to change into “cool down mode” for spring days make it an ideal combo.

Shop here for POC Fornix.



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Comments

12 Responses to “POC Fornix Backcountry Ski Helmet — Review”

  1. Jeremy October 14th, 2014 1:12 pm

    Hi Louie,

    How did you find the sizing of the Fornix MIPS, did it run true to size? I have have a large head (around 62cm), and have been looking for a MIPS helmet.

    I tried the Sweet Protection MIPS helmets, but found that the MIPS layer had been inserted inside the standard helmet, so you lost around half an inch (1cm) of the circumference, but the size was quoted as the non-MIPS size. The POC Receptor Backcountry MIPS XL only goes to 60cm, so that is too small as well.

  2. Louie III October 14th, 2014 1:33 pm

    Jeremy,

    The Fornix MIPS comes in three sizes (XS-S, M-L, XL-XXL), I have the M-L, and it fits well. My head size is about 56-57 cm, which is right in the middle of the M-L size range of 55-58 cm, so I’d say it fits pretty true to size. However, the MIPS system is on the inside of the helmet, so it’s possible it takes up some room compared to the normal Fornix helmet, not sure.

    The XL-XXL size of the Fornix MIPS goes up to 62 cm, so it might fit, but I’d of course try it on first.

  3. Mike October 14th, 2014 2:06 pm

    Lately I have been thinking that it would make the most sense to just use a bike helmet for backcountry skiing. They have lots of ventilation, are designed to protect similar types of falls to skiing, are light weight, and are generally a lot cheaper. Without any real science behind these helmets it seems nobody can say one will protect you more than the other. The number of helmets that are coming out that are rated for both skiing and biking makes me think that this is a reasonable idea.

  4. Jim October 15th, 2014 12:46 am

    Branches tend to poke into the ski helmets which can be very dangerous.

  5. Midnight Grizzly October 15th, 2014 1:00 pm

    I think the Route Helmet, by K2, caters more to the backcountry skier. Check it out.
    http://k2skis.com/helmets/route?swatch=green

  6. Louie III October 15th, 2014 9:26 pm

    Griz – the K2 helmet does look pretty awesome, I’ve been curious about trying one of those as well.

  7. Jonathan Moceri October 16th, 2014 7:14 pm

    Louie,

    Thanks for the review. I just saw this new folding helmet, the Morpher.

    http://www.morpherhelmet.com

    Their website says that while it’s being marketed to cyclists, they have plans to market it for other sports, including skiing. It folds flat and fits in a rucksack. Might make a good backpack frame or sitting pad. Couldn’t find any mention of what it weighs, but any design innovation is good.

  8. Peter October 23rd, 2014 11:08 am

    I’ve been barking up lots of trees trying to find a K2 Route helmet. They’re not available anywhere that I can find. let us know if you get a hold on one Louie

  9. Peter January 6th, 2015 6:23 am

    I see that K2’s Route helmet finally hit the market. I really hope Wildsnow ‘Guinea-pigs’ it before I buy one.

  10. Lou Dawson 2 January 6th, 2015 9:41 am

    Don’t get your hopes up, we will hopefully never really test a ski helmet. On the other hand, I’m still working on building my own laboratory helmet test. I want to show how some bubble wrap and cardboard can easily be made to equal the protection of most ski helmets. Lou

  11. Aaron January 6th, 2015 12:46 pm

    I use the Petzl meteor for ski mountaineering. Light, well ventilated, harness back and chin adjustments one handed with gloves and accommodates bare head to balaclava/touque easily. Rated for climbing, biking and paddling: slightly more side and back protection than most climbing helmets.

    So light and ventilated I don’t notice it on.

  12. Alessandro Vicinelli February 14th, 2015 3:50 am

    Does anyone have tested K2 Route Ski Helmet and/or the Giro Mountain for skimountanering ?

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