Bern Unlimited is doing something that all other helmet manufactures should be emulating because, frankly, the six helmets in my gear closet are taking up too much room. The Massachusetts-based company has designed an all-season helmet line that allows you to use the same lid whether you’re skiing, biking, skateboarding or kayaking. Their EPS models meet the certifications put in place for snow, bike and skate sports, and more importantly, they look good for whatever head-banging hobby you’re into. OK, seriously, the best part is they’ll save your life when you bail hard on your noggin, but they do look good.
Last winter I was given Bern’s original design to review, the Baker, which was serendipitous because I had met its namesake, Jonathan Baker, a few years ago on a ski tour. Considering he engineered and designed the helmet from scratch, I called him up to find out more about the technology. “Helmets were originally designed to prevent death,” he says. “But now we also want to lower G-force impact to such a degree that they prevent concussions too.” That’s where EPS foam comes in. Expanded polystyrene is a synthetic polymer made from a liquid petrochemical that is used in everything from packing “peanuts” to take-out food containers. It’s light but in a dense form used in helmets it provides protection by evenly distributing force upon impact. Basically it gives its life to save yours.
Bern also makes “Hard Hat” versions of some of their helmets but these do not contain EPS and, therefore, do not pass certification. Think of this analogy: a Hard Hat is an egg shell around your head; an EPS model is the egg shell and the hard-boiled egg whites around your head. Needless to say, as a biker or skier who cares about concussions, you’ll want an EPS model. The challenge Jonathan had with the Baker was to make the helmet safe but not have it look like a “robot’s dome or a super speedy bike helmet,” he says. He was watching the X-games one day and noticed an athlete wearing a ball cap with a brim under his helmet and that provided the inspiration – five hours later the Baker was born.
Today the Baker is available in seven different colours with optional summer headband, winter knit liner, and an audio liner with embedded ear pads.
- EPS hard foam that meets ASTM F 2040 and EN 1077B standards for snow/ski, CPSC and EN 1078 standards for bike and skate
- Ultra-thin ABS shell is lightweight and low profile
- Goggle clip in back holds your eyewear in place
- Sink fit provides a deep fit for full coverage and a low profile
- Knit liner and summer liner are removable for washing
When I first received the Baker I was immediately surprised by the fact it didn’t have any air vents (the Watts version of this helmet incorporates these) but when I put it on I was definitely impressed with its weight (a scant 20 ounces). A big difference from my full face. This past summer I took the Baker for a spin around town a number of times and felt a bit like a grommit fresh from the dirt jumps (the helmet’s low profile and visor fit in at any skate park). I found the summer liner too hot, though, so just went with the shell and, while effective, it wasn’t the most comfortable helmet I’ve worn while on a bike. The molded EPS felt hard on my head and, without air vents, my scalp was sweating by the time I got to the top of the hill on my way home. And because I spend most of my time on my downhill bike, the Baker wasn’t the perfect summer-time solution for me – instead I regularly donned a full face.
Where the Bern Baker helmet really shines is in the winter. This helmet is light, making it an easy decision to throw in your pack when you’re skinning into the backcountry, and the winter liner is comfortable, warm and covers my ears perfectly. Also, the lack of vents in the shell is a good thing in terms of keeping out the wind and snow. The back “fish hook” clip is a huge improvement on other helmet’s finicky button-strap systems as it’s just a matter of sliding your goggle strap into place and knowing it’ll stay put. That said, the small buckle on the chin strap is a pain to do up when you have gloves on. Ultimately, though, all that pales in comparison to how cool the helmet looks. This is the original that broke the mold and took us away from fat domes and flashy racer styles. It first appeared on the world stage during the Torino Olympics when US Olympic Gold medalist Seth Wescott wore it on the podium. The next two days, no less than 5,500 of the helmets sold across the United States. The grommits knew something cool when they saw it.
Overall, my verdict on the Bern Baker is that it’s a perfect winter helmet and a good summer one if you spend a lot of time in the bike or skate park or cruising around town on your fixie. More importantly, however, the Baker is a multi-sport, all-season helmet that is going to save you money and make room in your closet. Oh yeah – and it’ll save your life too.
- Overall 8.5/10
- Innovation 2/2
- Function 2/2
- Aesthetics 2/2
- Features 1/2
- Quality / Price 1.5/2
The Baker is a multi-sport and all season helmet. It looks good but also meets ASTM, EN and CPSC standards. It’s super light making it an easy decision to throw in your pack every tour. The winter liner is comfortable and warm and the goggle clip is well designed and easy to use.
Without air vents it’s hot during the summer months. The small buckle on the chin strap is difficult to use with gloves on.
- Price: $99
- Colours: Matte blue, matte white, black, matte neon yellow, red on black
- Sizes: S/M, M/L, L/XL
- Weight: 20 oz.
- Materials: EPS foam core, ABS shell, removable knit liner