For indoor climbing? No.
There’s no reason to wear a helmet for indoor climbing, which is why basically nobody does.
Even for indoor lead climbing, the only risk you could have for hitting your head would be if you were climbing with the rope under your leg rather than over it like it’s meant to be. Simply following standard safety practice is enough to make it pretty much impossible for the rope to flip you upside down if you fall.
However, for outdoor climbing of any kind, you should always be wearing a helmet. …And that goes double for belayers.
No, I don’t mean that belayers should wear two helmets at once. I mean that the chance of rockfall causing a head injury when you’re belaying is significantly greater when you’re belaying than when you’re climbing or sitting back from the wall, resting.
You see, rockfall is the main reason why you should be wearing a helmet for any kind of outdoor climbing other than bouldering.
You’d be truly surprised how much damage a falling rock can do. Even a pebble falling from a great height can really hurt.
What About Bouldering?
With outdoor bouldering, wearing a helmet isn’t really necessary unless the boulders you’re climbing are right under a tall rock wall. There’s also no ropes in bouldering. You can’t get flipped upside down by a rope that isn’t there.
In addition to this, you have bouldering mats in bouldering, so hitting your head on a groundfall isn’t an issue, because groundfalls are an ordinary part of bouldering. They’re already made safe by bouldering mats and having good spotters to guide you to the mat when you fall.
Falling rocks aren’t the only danger that you need to protect your head against. If you’re trad climbing, there’s always the chance of gear being dropped – especially things like nuts. These are just as dangerous to get hit in the head with as small rocks are.
Also, trad climbing is inherently more dangerous than any other form of climbing, with the exception of ice climbing. That’s because temporary placed protection isn’t as reliable as permanent bolts are. Because of the increased risk of uncontrolled falls, it’s extremely important to wear a helmet when trad climbing or ice climbing.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Wear a Helmet Outdoors?
You want the truth?
It’s because people think that wearing a helmet makes you look like a newbie.
Now, there’s a huge problem with that. You see, the more advanced you are at climbing, the more you need a helmet, because you’ll be doing harder routes on bigger walls, which means more chance of rockfall.
Even pros are no exception to this. The more you climb, the more chance you have of taking a bad fall.
“So, considering that pros aren’t going to be self-conscious about looking like newbies, why is it that most of them don’t wear helmets?”
The answer to that is that most people feel that wearing a helmet detracts from the climbing experience. However, this makes no sense when you consider really good ultra-light helmets like the Black Diamond Vector, seen below.
The Vector is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Anyone who’s tried this helmet would agree that it’s so light and well-ventilated that you don’t even notice you’re wearing it. If that’s the case, then how could wearing a helmet detract from your climbing experience?
I say, protect your noggin. Forget about “being too cool for safety gear” – you’re climbing!
The cost of a helmet is far cheaper than the brains underneath them anyway.