By Rick Shandley
Protect your fragile eggshell mind with a Watts HARD HAT from Bern. Yes, yes, we get it. You are indestructible. That’s great. But for those who realize your skull is vulnerable to the effects of impacts to your head, you might look into the Bern Watts HARD HAT as an all season safety barrier that just might save you much grief.
Outdoor sports have always included a measure of risk of bodily injury. But your head is arguably one of the most sensitive to blows from hard objects like the ground. The HARD HAT is a piece of protective gear to absorb a blow and shield your brain from injury. This headgear is not to be used for motorized vehicle activities. And you must understand that it will not protect your spine or neck from direct compression injuries. It’s a “Use at your own Risk” product that will absorb moderate impacts should you take of tumble on your mountain bike, snowboard, or other relatively slow speed athletic activities.
We received our Bern Hard Hat when winter snows where still making their way into the Northern Rockies. With no intention of evaluating this product by purposely getting dropped on the head, or running into pine trees, we looked to the construction, quality, and components of this Bern Hard Hat to assess potential for safety. It was worn on icy trails with crampons on the boots and ice ax in hand with no events to report.
The outer shell of the Bern Watts HARD HAT is made of composite ABS material that creates a hard shield approximately 1/8-inch thick. On the interior, between the outer shell and liner webbing that pads and secures the HARD HAT onto your head, is a layer of multiple-impact soft Brock® foam approximately ½-inch in thickness.
You do have the option of ordering your Bern Watts HARD HAT with EPS hard foam rather than soft Brock® foam. EPS hard foam meets ASTM F 2040 and EN 1077B standards for snow and ski, CPSC and EN 1078 standard for biking and skating activities. So you can dial in your specific winter/summer activities and have the assurance that your HARD HAT meets industry standards. Although the use of the soft Brock® foam does not meet industry standards, it will offer good all-season protection for most non-motorized activities.
Construction of the Bern HARD HAT is definitely comprised of a component system that adds up to a well designed product. We can understand why all the legal disclaimers need to be stated on the product and in the written product information. However, it would be nice to see illustrations of how the Bern helmets are constructed as a protective system to include the measurements and qualities of the components used so the buyer can make an informed decision as to how they intend to use the HARD HAT.
That said, we like the Bern Watts HARD HAT. The fit and comfort in wearing the HARD HAT for several hours at a time is good. The padding around your ears, head and chin-strap webbing make the HARD HAT secure on your head as well as comfortable. Ventilation slots at the top and rear sides of the HARD HAT allow air to circulate through the HARD HAT and facilitate keeping your head cool in warm weather.
For winter use, an interior foam vent cover a few millimeters thick comes with each HARD HAT. This vent cover creates a removable seal between the six vent slots at the top of your head to keep snow and debris off your pate. A foam plug on the interior of the vent cover is supposed to anchor in the hole at the center of the six vent slots to keep the vent cover from drifting while you’re wearing it, but it could be designed to be more secure.
Just as you have the option of ordering your Bern HARD HAT with soft Brock® foam or EPS hard foam that meets industry standards, you can also order a winter-grade helmet liners or summer cool helmet liner. Because the Bern HARD HAT is all-season product, you might consider ordering both winter and summer helmet liners.
With an MSRP of about a $100, the Bern Watts HARD HAT is nice looking head gear that you can expect to serve you for about two years. Because it is protective gear, you don’t want to take the chance of continuing to wear it after you’ve taken a couple hard knocks with your head or risk the integrity of the foam padding to stay pliable after a couple years. Like any safety equipment, when time or incident cause you to question if the gear is still useable, it’s time to replace it.
Overall, we see the Bern Watts HARD HAT as a quality product that is designed to protect you and look great while you’re wearing it. The HARD HAT visor bill is not only a help to shield your eyes from the glare of the sun, but it is really nicely designed to the symmetry of the helmet itself. At a total weight of less than one pound (15.5oz), the HARD HAT was never cumbersome. In the winter, the HARD HAT fit perfect under the hood of down parkas, hard shell and soft-shell jackets. The Bern Watts Hard HAT fits its niche application very well, and Bern offers you some choices that allow you to choose the HARD HAT you need in a variety of colors that match your tastes. Our HARD HAT is flat black, and that’s the way we like it.