The Explore1 ski helmet from LinkPro Sports is designed to do more than just protect you from hard knocks. With the inclusion of radio communications, Bluetooth smartphone connection, and RECCO avalanche protection, this high-tech helmet brings an impressive tech suite to deep powder and high elevations.
LinkPro founder Stephen Catterson set out to create a stylish helmet with the latest safety and communications technology, and at first look, it seems like he's succeeded, with the Explore1 helmet boasting a solid combination of high-end features and trademarked technologies. You might say theForcite Alpineis more high-tech overall, but that helmet's tech is devoted primarily to ancillary functions, while the Explore1 uses its technologyfor protecting the skier's head, as well as for bonus features.
The Explore1's design starts with the basics, protecting the head with theMulti-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), a newer Swedish helmet technology designed to improve performance during angled impacts. We looked at MIPS in greater detail a few years ago, and LinkPro joins a number of other helmet manufacturers in using it inside a snow sport helmet.
Beyond basic head protection, LinkPro also protects skiers and riders with an integrated RECCO reflector chip meant for aiding in avalanche search and rescue. We looked at RECCO's traditional avalanche rescue in an article about its newerhelicopter search-and-rescue system, and while it's not a guarantee or a replacement for backcountry gear like an avalanche beacon, it does add a safety layer that you won't get with every helmet.
MIPS and RECCO are nice inclusions, but other helmets also offer both features. Where LinkPro really steps up its tech game is in its communications hardware, which starts with two microphones with noise canceling, and integrated speakers. That audio system works not only for Bluetooth music playback and phone calls, but also with the integrated radio, which provides direct communications with other LinkPro helmet radios within a 1.86-mile (3-km) line-of-sight radius.
Cell phone coverage can be spotty in the mountains, and direct radio communications can offer a more reliable way to stay in contact with ski buddies. As such, radio communications are a good method for emergencies – say if you're lost and need help from a friend – so the Explore1 gives incoming radio communications priority, cutting in over the Bluetooth audio when necessary.
The Explore1 has large, glove-friendly controls on its sides. To connect via radio with your group, you simply press the single "communications" button, while a separate button provides phone answering and call ending and serves as the play/pause button for music listening. There are also volume up and down buttons.
All those active electronic systems are powered by a thermally regulated 1,000 mAh lithium battery designed to last the ski day. The accompanying iOS/Android app lets you view remaining battery life and control settings like radio channel and music, while also including social media integration.
While the Explore1 helmet can work with any ski goggles, LinkPro has designed its own polarized goggles that form a seamless match. It also offers interchangeable goggle, peak and vent clips so that owners can personalize the look of their helmets with thousands of color combinations. The helmet secures around the chin with a glove-friendly Fidlock magnetic buckle.
The Explore1 seems like a thoughtfully designed helmet through and through, but it's not quite ready for market. The design has been finalized, but LinkPro still has to set up tooling and finish testing and certification. It's launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding and is offering the helmet starting at the £199 (US$284) pledge level. The goggles are available alone at the £70 ($100) pledge level and packaged with the helmet at £260 ($371). If all goes as planned, deliveries will begin in December 2016.