Sweet Protection Igniter Alpiniste 2 Helmet — Next Level?

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 19, 2018      

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Sweet Protection Igniter Alpiniste 2 sporting  a selection from my  exorbitant headlamp quiver.

Sweet Protection Igniter Alpiniste 2 sporting a selection from my exorbitant headlamp quiver.

Next level? The Sweet Protection Igniter Alpiniste 2 is indeed dual certified as both a snowsports and climbing hardhat. In our view that’s the minimum level you want for a ski touring helmet, as none of the typical human-powered sports helmets in present retail offer much protection. They’re more along the lines of something psychological — so you might as well sport the most “certified” you can. Which unless you abuse your neck muscles sporting a motorsports hat, is a dual certified snowsports/mountaineering option. (Dual certification is easy to ascertain. It’s usually stated in the product specifications, as well as a tag attached to the inside of the helmet.)

Thus, in regards to actual protection of your noggin, I’d call the Igniter as good as one can expect, but nothing that obviously exceeds other brands with dual certifications. Where the “next level” comes in is the overall detail and design. Beautiful. More on that later, first, my usual rant.

When I searched the Igniter specs for anything that indicated it might exceed protection standards, the words “optimized impact distribution” were used. In my opinion, just about any helmet you can get does an adequate job of “impact distribution.” In fact, the bugbear of “impact distribution” is what constantly confuses the normal helmet-consuming shopping public. Normal being defined as most of us, including myself. What you want in a helmet is impact or shock *absorption* along with attenuated deceleration of your head during an impact. Let me repeat: Disabuse yourself of the “distribution” concept. Any helmet does plenty of “distribution.” A thick bouffant head of hair mixed with an entire can of hairspray provides “distribution.” A helmet needs to “absorb” and “soften.”

Don’t get me wrong here, Sweet Protection Igniter clearly fits the “best” category in terms of ski helmet protection. It’s just that we’d like to see helmets that significantly exceed “best.”

Moving along, Sweet Protection does do an exceptional job with their feature set… Let me count the ways.

1. As I alluded to above, the shell molding on this guy is right up there with any award-winning industrial design you can find.

2. Commodious ventilation comprises a set of vents at the rear, numerous openings on top, and operable brow/goggle vents at the front. The crown vents are not operable, thus requiring a helmet compatible jacket hood if you’re sporting under rain or wet snowfall.

3. One of the few dual certified helmets available with a front headlamp mount. Consisting of a triangular bungee, I found this to be useful but not entirely effective for ski touring, depending on the model and shape of the headlamp. B+ for effort.

4. Easily removable ear flaps convert the hat to warm weather “summer” mode. Best! of any helmet I’ve tried.

5. Audio ready — fill those ear flaps with speakers so you can’t hear those pesky avalanches.

6. Turn dial fit at rear is state-of-art, excellent integration with liner.

Removable ear flaps, well designed,  quickly change helmet to warm weather mode.

Removable ear flaps, well designed, quickly change helmet to warm weather mode.

Front headlamp mounting bungee.

Front headlamp mounting bungee. Effectiveness depends on shape of headlamp. I ended up combining with a bit of hook-loop.

Rear goggle and headlamp retainer.

Rear goggle and headlamp retainer.

Weight: 620 grams, size medium with ear flaps. That’s significantly heavier (6 ounces!) than a dual certified competitor clocking at 442 grams. My guess is that Sweet Protection ABS shell adds the weight, hard to know for certain without irreversible dissection. I have to question if that ~28% increase in helmet mass results in a 28% increase in energy absorption or 28% slowing of impact deceleration. Highly doubtful. (Deconstruction could happen, stay tuned.) Further, one might contend a beefier shell could help the helmet remain viable through days and weeks of repeated impacts. Not so. My understanding is one should consider binning a helmet after one, repeat one severe impact — visible damage or not.

Conclusions: Sweet Protection positions themselves at a premium helmet maker. The Igniter we have in our studio is indeed a stunning example of manufacturing excellence. From the injection molding details of the ABS shell, to liner hook/loop that actually remains attached where intended (instead of pulling out when you remove the liner), I’m delighted by this stunning statement of industrial design. The lack of MIPS could be a concern, though bear in mind that MIPS can be a costly and weight increasing “feature” offering perhaps a minimal increase in protection (wearing a hat under your helmet might actually have the same effect). With an obvious weight penalty, this helm probably offers as much protection as any other brand’s dual certified models, only with the best features and finish we’ve yet seen in a ski touring hardhat.

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17 Responses to “Sweet Protection Igniter Alpiniste 2 Helmet — Next Level?”

  1. George September 19th, 2018 1:36 pm

    Hmm… 620 g for a touring helmet?! No thanks! And it still does not look like it will provide ventilation on par with climbing helmets. Been using Smith Maze for years, and at ~330 g I still debate whether to take it on some tours. Seriously, what’s wrong with Maze? Not a sarcastic question.
    One more observation, Lou. I come to this site to get your qualified, objective and independent opinion on all things wild snow, and this phrase jumps at me: “…a dual certified competitor clocking…”. Does not pass a smell test for independent. I’d like to know what that competitor is!

  2. Lou Dawson 2 September 19th, 2018 1:53 pm

    Sorry if I smell, I simply don’t like calling out other brands within reviews, for a lot of reasons, if it’s not a comparison review. That’s my way. Not always that way… but often is…

    Agree I’m getting up against what would be practical for “real” ski touring. Maze looks like it might be ok, I’ve not evaluated it.

    Overall, the issue is that helmets with super light weight and commodious ventilation are often suspect, in my view, as being expensive headlamp holders. For example, it’s a helmet, for the skull, so what’s with the idea of not covering the back of the skull? And so on.

    Regarding Maize specifically, I’d like to see the testing data for a helmet that light, I’d be curious if it exceeded the standards to any significant degree, or just danced on the edge. What is necessary, in my opinion, is to exceed the standards somewhat. Doing so results in more weight. Not necessarily the weight of the Alpiniste, but nonetheless more.

    What concerns me about the Alpiniste is that the added weight might all be in the thick ABS shell, while where you want added weight is in thicker liner foam, and so on. A shell that crushes more easily can actually make the helmet safer, as it _absorbs_ rather than _distributes_ force. Think steel WW2 military helmet vs a nice crush-able bicycle helmet.


  3. bruno schull September 20th, 2018 2:32 am

    I think that the discussion of what helmets do or do not do, and how the various certifications actually translate into more/less head protection, is important and interesting.

    Here is a link which shows some potentially interesting new technology.


    Scroll down to the picture of the cut-away helmet with a co-molded dual density foam liner that, “dissipates energy more efficiently and in a smaller volume than any other material on the market.”

    I don’t know if that technology is unique, but I like that they seem to be addressing how helmets could or should potentially work.

  4. Kevin Ristau September 20th, 2018 11:57 am

    Sweet Protection does make MIPS helmets, including the Ignitor which is the single certified version that the Alpiniste is based upon. It would be nice to see a dual certified MIPS helmet.

    I have found that helmet comfort is far more important than weight. I use a dual certified Sweet Protection Alpiniste(version 1) for touring, and a dual certified Team Wendy for SAR and swift water use. Both of these helmets are so comfortable that I routinely choose them over lighter alternatives that are less comfortable, and am happy to wear them all day. Cliche, but the best helmet really is the one that you will wear.

  5. Lou Dawson 2 September 20th, 2018 12:23 pm

    Kevin, indeed, I didn’t mean to imply that Sweet Protection doesn’t do MIPS, only that it’s not included in this model helmet.

    That said, I’m not convinced MIPS is worth the price or weight. Though I give it the benefit of the doubt.


  6. Tim September 20th, 2018 8:36 pm

    Hey Kevin, I just saw an ad for Team Wendy in Backcountry Magazine and then you mentioned it for SAR and swift water….you think that helmet would be good to go for touring use?

  7. Lou Dawson 2 September 21st, 2018 7:41 am

    We checked out Team Wendy at this summer’s OR show. Looked good, especially for SAR as they have dedicated headlamp mounting (I’m getting tired of fooling around with headlamps and velcro). Since you guys are interested, I’ll pursue for possible reviews.

  8. Kevin Ristau September 22nd, 2018 6:44 am

    Love my Team Wendy helmet, but would not want to carry it very far. Quite heavy ( .63kg) and also somewhat bulkier than most lids. Very comfortable, dual certified mountaineering and swiftwater but not ski certified. Lots of mounting options for headlamps, GoPro, hearing protection/comms, visors, etc.

  9. etto September 24th, 2018 9:02 am

    I really appreciate the reviews Wild Snow do, however this one is not up to your standards I think. Lou’s thoughts on helmet safety seem to be founded on.. Lou’s thoughts. Without some hard facts about the actual safety of the helmet, apart from its certifications, the review is reduced mostly to looks and nice to have features.

    The Swedish insurance company Folksam performs extensive testing of safety gear, including ski helmets. Their most recent test of ski helmets is unfortunately from back in 2014, and available only in Swedish: https://www.folksam.se/tester-och-goda-rad/vara-tester/skidhjalmar An important takeaway from their testing is that MIPS does work. The Alpiniste 1’s cousin, which is basically the same as the Alpiniste, + MIPS – the rock fall protection carbon inlay, is the safest helmet in the test.

    I’m sure there are more tests out there, I take results from well designed tests ahead of somebody’s thougths anyday 🙂

    (I do have the Alpiniste 1, but seldom use it anymore, due to its weight and volume in my pack when not wearing it. And I agree that the headlamp mount is not very good.)

  10. Lou Dawson 2 September 24th, 2018 10:07 am

    Thanks for the feedback Etto, I’l try to do better. That said, this is a blog and mostly opinion writing… such should indeed be backed up by at least a modicum of facts, so I’ll work on doing more of that with helmets.

    As for well designed tests, sure, they’re good to see. But you can’t avoid somebody’s thoughts to interpret the tests, even if they’re your own (smile).

    As for MIPS, fine, but if helmets were so great, it wouldn’t be necessary… and I’m pretty sure a hat worn under the helmet can have the same effect. That would be fun to test.


  11. Lou Dawson 2 September 24th, 2018 10:09 am

    Google Translate works well for the Swedish helmet site. They say out of all their tested helmets only three stand out! Yeah, 2014, but that’s rather disconcerting, in my opinion. Lou

  12. Lou Dawson 2 September 24th, 2018 10:16 am
  13. etto September 26th, 2018 6:31 am

    As you say Lou, only three stood out, but all of them were certified ski helmets… There’s so many opinions about the effectiveness of helmets that there’s a great need for independent testing.

    I see from your previous article that you have addressed a lot of the concerns regading standards etc, given these concerns independent testing is even more important 🙂

  14. Eric February 14th, 2019 10:42 am

    Folksam made a new 2019 list, now in english. MIPS helmets leading the test results.

  15. Lou Dawson 2 February 14th, 2019 10:50 am

    Hi Eric, where is the English version? Glad to see MIPS looking good in testing, but I’d like to see it compared to wearing a hat under the helmet, perhaps several different types of hats. More, let’s all remember that testing is not real life. Lou

  16. Lou Dawson 2 February 14th, 2019 11:18 am

    After I right-click translated, it seemed to default to English, or else Google Translate was working well. In any case, wonderful and interesting test! Lou

  17. eric February 14th, 2019 12:17 pm

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