Snowmobile helmets and motorcycle helmets share the same basic designs, but some key differences are essential for cold weather riding. In some cases, manufacturers offer add-ons for existing motorcycle and off road helmets that can be attached to quickly convert a warm weather helmet into a winter-ready snowmobile helmet.
The main difference between a motorcycle helmet and a snowmobile helmet is the addition of a double pane lens (heated or non-heated), and a breath deflector to direct the flow of condensation away from the face shield or goggles.
Basic construction and design of the helmet shell, EPS foam, head restraint, and even the padding are universal for both motorcycle helmets and snowmobile helmets.Helmet safety ratings are used for both styles of helmet. North American riders should be familiar with DOT, Snell, and even ECE, which is a European safety standard. If you plan on riding on public trails and roads you will want to be sure that your helmet meets the minimum safety requirement for your area.
Examples of minimum safety ratings:
- USA, Canada: DOT
- Europe / international: ECE
What Makes a Snowmobile Helmet Different?
If you’re planning on riding in temperatures below freezing you can expect to deal with fog on your face shield, or goggle lens if they aren’t meant for cold temperatures. Full face snowmobile helmets, including modular, and dual sport styles, should include at least a double pane lens.
A double pane lens simply has an insulating layer of air that can drastically reduce fog from building up on the interior of your lens. Another lens choice is a double pane heated shield. These work just like the rear window defrost of your car by using a heating element.
Electric heated shields are the absolute best defense against fog and frost from obstructing your vision when riding in cold temperatures.
Read more: How to Prevent Snowmobile Helmet Fog
The second main difference between a motorcycle helmet and a snowmobile helmet is the addition of a breath deflector, or breath box. A breath box works by forming a seal across your cheek bones, and over the bridge of your nose.
A breath box simply directs your warm humid breath through the bottom of your helmet instead of circulating inside the helmet and condensing on your face shield.
Using a Motorcycle Helmet For Snowmobiling
You can use a standard motorcycle helmet for snowmobiling, but the standard single pane face shield found most motorcycle helmets will fog pretty severely at low speeds. One exception is the Pinlock shield inserts. The Pinlock system is available for some motorcycle shields as an anti-fog upgrade that can be attached to certain “Pinlock ready” shields.
If you don’t have a breath deflector for your motorcycle helmet you will need to ride with the shield slightly open at just about every speed. Since humidity isn’t forced to exit through the bottom of the helmet, it will tend to circulate and condense - even with the lower chin vents open.
Lower chin vents are vents that direct air into the eyeport area of a helmet. This air circulation can reduce fog, but in order to circulate air you have to be moving fast enough to force air through the vents. Coming to a stop or slowing for turns will reduce airflow, which will fog up a single pane motorcycle helmet face shield very quickly when temperatures are below freezing.
Using a Snowmobile Helmet for Motorcycle Riding
As long as your helmet meets the minimum safety requirements to ride on public roads or trail systems you could wear a snowmobile helmet for motorcycling. You might want to remove the breath box, heated shield, or even double pane shield if the temperatures allow for it though. The added anti-fog protection isn’t really necessary in warm temperatures, so it might feel like overkill.