Contrary to what any TV rating might suggest, paintball is a sport that has been growing in popularity over time. Players here shoot balls filled with non–toxic paint at each other while trying to hide and not get hit by the same. A high-adrenaline game, the competitiveness here is unmatched by many. Naturally, there has been a growing focus on the intricacies of the game and its safety concerns. This article specifically focuses on the headgear, arguably the most crucial part of the safety gear.
What is paintball?
Before moving on to the tips for buying the correct paintball helmet, it’s important to note a few general characteristics of the game and its variations.
When involved in the paintball game, one needs special tools and protective gear to safeguard oneself from getting hurt in even minor or major ways. Performing tactical maneuvers would sometimes involve rolling on the ground and often getting through thickets, which could include taking injuries.
Why buy a paintball helmet?
People might think about what danger could be there in the harmless game of paintball, but truth be told, the uncertainties are everywhere, and they are always there; hence it is always suggested to wear a helmet while being involved in the game of paintball. Apart from that, it also gives a feeling of being a part of something serious and legit.
The need for protective gear in the form of a quality helmet is the need of the hour for the paintball game players; as the games are getting more realistic, so are the machines used and, thereby, the chances of getting hit in the sensitive areas of the face such as eyes, nose, and ears are increasing significantly. Therefore, the need to get a face-protecting helmet is essential owing to its rudimentary functions of offering protection.
Characteristics and variations
Paintball, a highly competitive game with the constant pressure of getting eliminated after getting hit, comes with its variations, which in turn have their level of safety. Woodsball, a type primarily played for recreation, is pretty relaxed with rules and regulations. One can wear camouflage suits, build as large a team as desired, and play anywhere. Comparatively low on competitiveness, it is much lesser prone to unwanted injuries. Speedball is the exact opposite of woodsball. The fields played are minor, games are shorter, and combat is short-range. Hence, it is much more competitive.
Importance of safety in paintball
Having had an overview of the game’s characteristics, it is now essential to understand the importance of safety here. The speed with which one can get hit with paintballs can be high, significantly injuring someone with improper safety gear. Players shoot these paintballs using a paintball gun (also called a marker). These markers use propellants like Co2 or compressed air to propel the paintballs at around 280-300 fps (approx.).
One might also develop sprained ankles or back injuries from inadequate protection. The game demands high physical activity; thus, one is always recommended to warm up before entering the field. The game rules mandate that one should not shoot another player within 6 meters of range, with Queensland law classifying the markers as weapons.
The cruciality of headgear
It is arguably the most crucial part of the full safety gear. In paintball, the most common injuries occur to the eyes and ears due to careless handling of the headgear. Comprised of soft tissue, the chances of injury in those areas are comparatively higher. Head gears come rated – they need to be capable enough of withstanding the impact of a paintball hit and simultaneously protect the eyes from the dye. The goggles must preferably be fog-proof to prevent fogging during heavy breathing. It is also recommended not to remove the face gear during active play, as that can be extremely dangerous.
Considerations while deciding on a paintball helmet
Having understood why safety precautions are essential in paintball and why headgear takes center stage in it, the considerations one needs to make while buying a paintball helmet should be taken into account.
Paintball helmets of good quality offer both protection and comfort. Contrary to what many might believe, perfectly sized helmets are pretty comfortable. They also provide a certain sense of safety, elevating performance on the field. So, it’s necessary to consider the quality of the headgear before buying – by which we generally denote its durability and whether the materials used for building it are resilient to external pressures and wear and tear. Importance should be given to the flexibility and comfort of the gear, besides sturdiness. The weight of the headgear also holds significance, as heavier ones pull down the performance on the field.
As already stated, vision is essential to the game and must be as transparent as possible. This is where the lens of the headgear comes in. The best lens provides non-distortionary peripheral vision with a wide angle of 260-270 degrees. An added advantage would be if it were anti-fog too. If possible, one can go for a lens with UV coating and chromatic features to prevent glare from the sun.
Headgears with good venting are especially desirable, as they help the player breathe effortlessly and communicate with his teammates, helping him maintain the flow of the game and his performance, in addition to keeping him cool under the helmet (in both ways :)).
The ears are one of the parts of the body that can get especially exposed to this sport while playing. If a paintball hits the ear, the impact can be damaging in itself, not withholding the fact that the paint can seep into the ears, which can be harmful. So, headgear with ear padding should be preferred.
Perhaps the most concerning point is this one. The significant points of consideration while buying headgear have been listed above, but taking them all into account may tug at one’s pockets. Instead, keeping in mind their budget, the buyer can scrutinize the requirements of the helmet and its usage (the type of paintball it shall be used to play, etc.) and decide on one accordingly.
How does the helmet perform its job?
A helmet is built in a way that the padding enforced on the inside of the helmet covers and absorbs the impacts and trie its best to nullify the chances of injuries by providing all-around protection.
The helmet needs to be placed on the head appropriately with the help of straps that can be tightened and fastened on the chin or behind the head. At the same time, there are also cases when the helmets combine both the chin and behind the head for a more secure fit that would prevent any unneeded movement of the helmet from too much activity like jumping, running, crawling, etc.
Important features that determine a buyable helmet:
Any helmet can be up to the mark only if they are fulfilling on the following mentioned essential features that could help the buyer in deciding on which helmet they need to stick to in order to get the best out of it;
- The range of vision – Paintball is a game where sneaking up on someone is very common; there are tactics involved in plays, and for anyone to decode or decipher those tactics, they need to have a clear field of vision on the helmet without any blockage. One must not have to turn all the way around so as to look peripherally. A helmet with a transparent eye cover is a must; if they are not there, then an alternative helmet with space for fitting goggles must be present.
- Breathable protective cover – The paintball must not enter the mouth of the playing game; subsequently, a proper mouth protective cover is installed on the mouth section of the helmet. Another important feature kept in mind while installing this cover is that the cover not being too impermeable, meaning that the players must be able to inhale and exhale properly without any suffocation.
- Heat dissipation – Paintball is an outdoor game requiring extensive physical movements, which is tiring. Then when environmental factors such as heat and humidity are added, it can be really hard to play for too long, given the heat that can be trapped inside the helmet. This is where the breathable fabrics come into play; the fabric could cover the mouth and go over the ears, enabling air circulation on the interior parts of the helmet, thereby allowing optimum heat dissipation. There are also alternatives to the fabric, and they are installed in metal structure helmets as metallic mesh covers, which the mouth and ear at the same time allow airflow on the interior of the helmet.
- Interior cushion padding – The helmets can vary in weight, and if worn for a long period, they can cause discomfort to the players and hinder their performance level in the game in a major way. The inner padding needs to be made out of cushion material which can absorb the sweat as well as the hit by transferring energy from the point of impact to the different parts of the helmet to normalize the pressure of impact or hit. This padding can be removed, meaning it can be cleaned and put back in just as new, or if worn out, it can be replaced with a new one.
- Adjustable straps – As mentioned earlier, the straps present on the lower part of the helmet around the chin area are very important because they make the helmet stay put on the head, and this leads to an increase in the performance of the individual, also the adjustable straps help multiple users as different people will have different sizes of head.
- Detachable parts – There are many times when donning the full headgear can be a very demanding job, so players might prefer to have a lighter version of the helmet when one is just practicing; for those individuals, there comes a line of helmets that have a detachable mouth and ear parts. The parts can be attached when going on full combat mode and be detached otherwise as deemed necessary by the user.
- Accessory attachment ports – There is n number of compatible accessories that can be handy or are used in the game of paintball by several players. Some of the commonly used accessories include torchlights, digital cameras, precision lenses, and goggles. With a helmet with attachment ports, these accessories can be used alongside the helmet conveniently.
Getting these features checked will ensure that the helmet bought meets the expectation of the players on the front, as well as their safety. Once these features are checked thoroughly, only one should move to additional features.
Features and variations of paintball helmets
Poof! That was a lot of information. Since the discussion of the essentiality of paintball helmets and their desirable features is over for now, the widely available features and variations must be considered. It will help filter down the pick for the reader (a choice paralysis must be avoided at all costs!).
Full facial masks
These headgears cover the entire face, including the chin. Generally sturdier than the others due to their tougher build, they are a universal fit for all head sizes. They might contain goggles that are not removable, making them less flexible.
Headgears of this type contain a locking feature that enables the user to tighten or loosen the helmet when required, with removable goggles. They can be made to fit all head sizes. The only issue is becoming used to the locking system, which can become frustrating on the field if not smooth.
These headgears come with a flexible and adjustable chin ribbon, which allows the user to decide the tightness of the same. They usually come without the goggles, which the user might have to make up accordingly. An added advantage of this type of headgear is that it is easy to clean since it does not cover the whole face and therefore does not get dirtier after use.
This type brings with it a foldable mesh mask besides full-face protection. These helmets provide all the features of flexibility and the required tightening as per the user. They also sometimes come with an adjustable chin ribbon and removable goggles.
Secondary features to be looked at:
There are several things that could lead to deciding on the helmet, but they are the most personalized features as they cater to the size and choices of each individual. Following are some of those features;
- Fitting the helmet’s size as per the players’ head size.
- The weight of the helmet should be on the lighter side.
- Easy donning and removal of the helmet is something that is sought out.
- The helmet should have a surface that is open to sketching and graffiti-making.
- The design of the helmet can vary, and the hue/color is preferred to be camouflage influenced so that it is easy to hide and sneak attack.
Which one to choose, then?
This article properly lists down the nitty-gritties of the game and the procedure one must follow before deciding on a helmet for the same. The details and characteristics of each product, which can have far-reaching consequences on its usage, should be considered. Every user might and probably will have different needs and means to buy a paintball helmet. Considering that, this article will hopefully cater to the needs of each one looking for an ultimate guide to paintball helmets. Paintball can be a game of many mixed experiences, and one must not leave a stone unturned in ensuring its fun!
When going for a paintballing session, it is important to check the helmet’s exterior for cracks and holes so that they can perform to the best of their ability when being donned on the field. It is paramount to make sure of the protection of the eyes, nose, and ears on the field of the game; otherwise, the game is fairly safe and sans any dangers.