Explore1 ski helmet wraps the head in safety and communication tech
The Explore1 ski helmet from LinkPro Sports is designedto do more than just protect you from hard knocks. With the inclusionof radio communications,Bluetooth smartphone connection, and RECCO avalanche protection, this high-techhelmet brings an impressive tech suite to deep powder and high elevations.
LinkPro founder Stephen Catterson set out tocreate a stylish helmet with the latest safety and communications technology,and at first look, it seems like he's succeeded, with the Explore1 helmetboasting a solid combination of high-end features and trademarked technologies.You might say theForcite Alpineismore high-tech overall, but that helmet's tech is devoted primarily toancillary functions, while the Explore1 uses its technologyfor protecting the skier's head, aswell as for bonus features.
The Explore1's design starts with the basics,protecting the head with theMulti-directionalImpact Protection System (MIPS), a newer Swedish helmet technology designed toimprove performance during angled impacts. We looked at MIPS in greater detail a few years ago, andLinkPro joins a number of other helmet manufacturers in using it inside a snowsport helmet.
Beyond basic head protection, LinkPro also protects skiers andriders with an integrated RECCO reflector chip meant for aiding in avalanchesearch and rescue. We looked at RECCO's traditional avalanche rescue in anarticle about its newerhelicoptersearch-and-rescue system, and while it's not a guarantee or areplacement for backcountry gear like an avalanche beacon, it does add a safetylayer that you won't get with every helmet.
MIPS and RECCO are nice inclusions, but other helmets also offerboth features. Where LinkPro really steps up its tech game is in itscommunications hardware, which starts with two microphones with noisecanceling, and integratedspeakers. That audio system works not only for Bluetooth music playback and phone calls, but also with theintegrated radio, which provides direct communications with other LinkProhelmet radios within a 1.86-mile (3-km) line-of-sight radius.
Cell phone coverage can be spotty in the mountains, and directradio communications can offer a more reliable way to stay in contact with skibuddies. As such, radio communications are a good method for emergencies– say if you're lost and need help from a friend – so the Explore1 givesincoming radio communications priority, cutting in over the Bluetooth audiowhen necessary.
The Explore1 has large, glove-friendly controls on its sides. Toconnect via radio with your group, you simply press the single"communications" button, while a separate button provides phoneanswering and call ending and serves as the play/pause button for musiclistening. There are also volume up and down buttons.
All those active electronic systems are powered by a thermallyregulated 1,000 mAh lithium battery designed to last the ski day. Theaccompanying iOS/Android app lets you view remaining battery life and controlsettings like radio channel and music, while also including socialmedia integration.
While the Explore1 helmet can work with any ski goggles, LinkProhas designed its own polarized goggles that form a seamless match. It alsooffers interchangeable goggle, peak and vent clips so that owners canpersonalize the look of their helmets with thousands of color combinations. Thehelmet secures around the chin with a glove-friendly Fidlock magnetic buckle.
The Explore1 seems like a thoughtfully designed helmet throughand through, but it's not quite ready for market. The design has beenfinalized, but LinkPro still has to set up tooling and finish testing andcertification. It's launched a Kickstarter campaign toraise funding and is offering the helmet starting at the £199 (US$284) pledgelevel. The goggles are available alone at the £70 ($100) pledge level andpackaged with the helmet at £260 ($371). If all goes as planned, deliverieswill begin in December 2016.