Smith Variant Brim Helmet

Product: Smith Variant Brim Helmet 

Specs:

I’ve worn the Variant Brim for a little over a season now, and for the most part, I’ve been very happy with the product.

I picked one up after destroying my Giro G10 MX helmet on my knee (I’d worn the G10 MX for the prior two seasons), and the first thing that struck me about the Variant Brim was it’s weight. While it may not be as light as a hard shell park helmet, for a helmet with continuous interior padding and a vented design with airflow adjustment, the Variant Brim seems to be on the lighter end of the spectrum. What’s more, the helmet seems less cumbersome and bulky than similar models on the market.

Smith’s major selling point for this helmet is the efficiency of its venting, and rightfully so. The Variant Brim is the first helmet I’ve owned in which opening and closing the vents has had a truly noticeable effect on the temperature of my skull. Leaving the vents closed on storm days and open on when it’s sunny keeps things comfortable.

As for the venting mechanism itself, I suppose there are some very minor shortcomings. First, the tabs that open and close the vents on either side of the helmet are a bit hard to find and manipulate with gloves on, much less mittens. Maybe I’m being hyper-critical here, but if we’re going for perfection, a slider with slightly more surface area and some sort of rubberized coating would make the vents easier to use on the lift.

Second, vents on each side of the helmet are moved by two different tabs. Having one tab to do the work would make things that much simpler.

I would also like to see an aftermarket audio system that involved fully replacing the Brim’s ear pads, rather than just shoving the speaker units into the existing ones. I loved the TuneUps available for Giro helmets, but was disappointed that Smith’s setup was seriously uncomfortable. (Don’t take my word for it through, you might have more compatible ears)

As far as I can tell, the brim on the Variant Brim is mostly cosmetic. I can’t say it does much for blocking the sun, but two slats in the brim seem designed to direct airflow toward the vents.

Minor griping aside, the venting on the Variant Brim works really well, the helmet is light, the liner chin strap are very comfortable, and it’s offered with a range of cool color styles and graphics. The centerline of the helmet is left unobstructed by vents or styled ridges, so sticking on a mount for a helmet cam is easy.

WB, Go Pro-ready, Las Leñas.

All in all, no huge disappointments in the functionality of this helmet, and Smith seems to have addressed the (small) issues with the venting mechanism on their newer Vantage helmet, but that update is going to cost you. (We’ll be posting a review of the Vantage soon.)

As for the fashion department, I’ll leave the real style-police duties up to you, the buyer, when you try it on at your local shop.

 

2 thoughts on “Smith Variant Brim Helmet

  1. I used the Variant Brim for most of last season, and really liked it. Fit well, looked good, and I found it warm when it needed to be and cool-enough when it was warm out. Then I gently set my pack down in the snow with it strapped to the back and the brim cracked. Smith said nothing could be done (it appears to be an easily-replaced piece of plastic, if only it were available) and offered me a “discount” which would’ve been more than it cost me new. I got a Giro to replace it and probably won’t buy any Smith products in the future.

  2. I’ve had my Variant brim for two seasons now and look forward to using it again for a third. I will agree with all of Will’s review including the idea to have larger, rubber tabs to slide the vents open and closed. I don’t mind having two tabs although now that Will mentions it it is kind of strange in that one side of my head does not usually get colder or hotter than the other. However I think that having one plastic piece may not slide as well as two individual ones but I haven’t seen an exploded view of the inside to judge. The venting does work very well and I’ve never had a problem being too hot or too cold from -15F to 40F+ and I always wear a balaclava.

    I’ve set mine down strapped to my pack countless times on various density surfaces, not always gently, and haven’t broke my brim yet. I’m not saying Mike did anything wrong just offering another experience point. After reading his post I took a close look at mine to see if it would be easy to change the brim were it available. It appears to be part of the main shell which is either glued or snapped in to place (mine is fine, I don’t feel like possibly breaking it just for curiosity’s sake ha) so I can see why it’s not offered as a user replaceable piece. Mike, did you happen to try to remove it to see if it really was replaceable like you thought since you were maybe trashing it anyway? I’m sure this could be addressed with a bit of re-engineering if it is not.

    The Giros that I’ve seen have the brim molded with the main shell as one piece. Did you contact them before-hand to find out what they would offer should the same damage occur since it’s not user replaceable? Maybe I’ll do that just to compare as well as Smith since it’s been a few years and see what they offer as a solution.

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