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 best 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
Charles Owen Luna
Colours: Black or midnight | Sizes: 52–61cm | Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark), ASTM F1163, VG1 (with Kitemark) | RRP: From £185 |
The Luna features a ventilation system under the ring in addition to a washable headband. There is also the option to have a wide peak that helps improve vision in any weather.
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 (with Kitemark), ASTM F1163, VG1 (with Kitemark) | 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.
Gatehouse Conquest MKII
Colours: Black/rose gold, navy/rose gold, matt black or matt navy | Sizes: 54–62cm | Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark), VG1 (with Kitemark) | RRP: From £166.66 |
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.
Shires Karben Avena
Colours: Black, navy or grey | Sizes: 53–61cm | Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark) | RRP: £94.99 |
This helmet has smooth outer with attractive shiny accents and smart trims. It has a micro-adjustable dial system, front and rear air vents, a thermoregulating mesh liner and wicking headband.
OneK Defender Air Glitter
Colours: Black or navy | Sizes: 51–61cm | Standards: ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: £275 |
This riding hat features genuine Swarovski crystals and glitter detail to help you stand out from the crowd. It can be adjusted with an air pump system – the three hidden air pockets in the liner are inflated by depressing its concealed air pump until you get the fit you want. It also features a quick-dry, anti-microbial liner, multiple air vents and a matte polycarbonate outer shell.
Whitaker New Rider Generation
Colours: Black or navy | Sizes: XS–L | Standards: ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: From £95 |
This adjustable helmet has a smooth, matte effect outer and two front vents. It also has a breathable Coolmax lining, which is removable and machine washable.
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.
Uvex Exxential II MIPS
Colours: Black | Sizes: XS–XL | Standards: VG1 | RRP: £170 |
This helmet combines sportiness, climate control and safety. It brings an update to the Uvex Exxential II with the introduction of MIPS technology, which is designed to further protect the brain against rotational movements in the event of an accident.
Rhinegold Reflective Pro
Colours: Black or navy | Sizes: 6⅜–7¼ | Standards: PAS015:2011 | RRP: £88.95 |
This traditionally styled ventilated hat features a removable, washable liner with a soft Coolmax-lined harness. The Dayglo reflective piping offers a small amount of increased visibility.
View now at amazon.co.uk
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.
View now at amazon.co.uk
Colours: Black, blue or brown | Sizes: S–L | Standards: ASTM F1163 | RRP: From £213
This helmet 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.
View now at ebay.co.uk
JS Italia Cap Classic Helmet
Colours: Black, black/tan, black/green or blue/tan | Sizes: 52–62cm | Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark), ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: £480 |
This lightweight, well-ventilated and uniquely styled helmet has an interchangeable and washable interior. The exterior is made of fibreglass and Kevlar, which offer great protection and resistance.
Best riding hats – jockey skulls
Charles Owen 4Star
Colours: Silver, black or navy | Sizes: 54–62cm | Standards: ASTM F1163, PAS 015 (with Kitemark), SNELL E2016, VG1 (with Kitemark) | RRP: £230 |
This skull is certified to four top international safety standards. It has 10 ventilation slots and the option of a heat-reflective silver finish. It also comes with a ventilated silk.
Colours: Anthracite grey or matt black | Sizes: 52–62cm | Standards: ASTM F1163, SNELL E2016 | RRP: From £208.33
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.
Champion Revolve Vent-Air MIPS Jockey Skull
Colours: Black | Sizes: 6¼–7¾ | Standards: PAS015:2011 (with Kitemark), ASTM F1163, VG1 | RRP: From £175 |
An upgrade to the Champion Revolve Vent-Air skull, 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.
View now at ebay.co.uk
Uvex Perfexxion II XC
Colours: Black | Sizes: XS/S, S/M, M/L or L/XL | Standards: VG1 (with Kitemark) | RRP: From £216 |
This adjustable skull has a slim, lightweight and ergonomic design, while the outer shell is extended over the neck for additional protection and the ponytail cut-out is a convenient feature. The design includes dynamic ventilation for optimal climate management as well as washable liner pads.
Shires Karben Junior Skull Cap
Colours: Black or grey | Sizes: 53–62cm | Standards: PAS 015 (with Kitemark) | RRP: £59.99 |
This hat has 16 ventilation holes and mesh sections in the padded lining for enhanced climate control. The four-point adjustable harness is made from hard-wearing, soft webbing with a soft cover on the chin strap.
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, including the specialised ventilation and fit systems, but without the peak. It stands out with a smooth matt-look frame.
View now at ebay.co.uk
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.
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 can be 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.
You might also like:
If you’re looking for a new body protector for the upcoming eventing season, check out your options here
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.