A product review of the Protos Integral Helmets with SENA SMH10 Headsets
By: Sylvia McNeill
Having used KASK arborist helmets for the past four years or so, David and I decided to try the Protos Integral helmets to, hopefully, improve comfort. These helmets have some unique features we found intriguing. The most enticing of which was the incorporation of eyeglasses integral to the helmet. We both have suffered the discomfort and pain caused by a day of working with safety glasses where the ear pieces become embedded into your head by the pressure from the earmuffs connected to the helmet. However, safety glasses are not optional in our opinion and, in my case, prescription glasses are also mandatory in order to see.
The Protos helmets offer safety-rated glasses in a variety of shades from clear to various tints that affix to the helmet harness by snapping in. I will interject here…it is NOT easy to snap them in! The first picture below shows the glasses attached in the helmet while the second picture shows a closeup of the adjustment bar which you can pull out or push in depending how close you want them to your face. I am assuming/hoping that with use, it will become a bit easier. Fortunately, it is not something you do multiple times a day as generally you know if it is going to stay cloudy or sunny.
What really sold me on trying this helmet was the optical insert whereby you can have your prescription lens installed. This is then attached via the nose guard to the safety-rated glasses integral to the helmet. The picture below shows the insert by itself. You can see how it attaches to the safety glasses in the top photo above.
While this combo eliminates the pain from the earpieces, I am finding it a bit difficult to adjust to the small field of vision offered in the insert. (I have astigmatism in one eye.) I haven’t compared notes with anyone else using this feature and so do not have a comparison or feedback on possible adjustment suggestions. Still working on it.
In addition to being adjustable for distance from your face, these glasses tilt as well. The plus side with a little further away from your face is they don’t fog up; however, this can allow small particles to invade that space. (You can actually see debris within the helmet in these photos.) We currently just have the mesh face guards and I am obsessive about using this feature while chipping and the vast majority of time while using a chainsaw. Getting slapped in the face by brush is no fun and drifting sawdust is more than a nuisance to your eyes. A clear, solid plastic shield is available and we may try that option.
The ear protectors are a huge improvement over our previous helmets. When not in use, they slide up inside the helmet for a tidy, sleek carriage while sitting comfortably against your head. (Below left) When in use, without eyeglass earpieces, they seat snugly to your ear providing the noise protection they are designed to give. (Below right)
David had no trouble adjusting his helmet to his satisfaction and finds the overall fit very comfortable. I am still working on fine-tuning the tension in the harness for optimum comfort. As the ground crew, I am bending over constantly throughout the day, so tight but not too tight, is a delicate balance. The harness does not have an infinite adjustment, as the KASK does, but rather little holes in the plastic connectors that are a pain to adjust. You have to take the helmet off and the snap-in holes are a bit stiff as is pulling out or pushing in of the harness. (See photo below)
The chin strap…I will admit, I am not thrilled with it. It is a little magnetic latch that I can’t feel through gloves. Not a big deal to take off the gloves, I realize that, but it is another step to go through. I also have to remind myself to study what the latch looks like before I put it on so my hands will recognize it when they encounter it. David really likes it. Maybe I am just more resistive to change… (See sequence below)
David and I have been using communication devices for years now. After trying sets designed specifically for tree work, that were outrageously priced in my humble opinion and underperformed shockingly, David looked into the SENA brand that actually is designed for motorcycle helmets. WHAT an improvement and at a fraction of the cost. We used the SENA SMH10R headsets on the KASK helmets. As we did not want to completely decommission those helmets with their headsets, we purchased the SENA SMH10 for the Protos. Again, another huge improvement. VERY pleased with their performance. Crystal clear communication, able to hear each other over the chipper, no static even with a building in between us (as in one of us in the front yard, the other in the back).
The battery and controls for these units are bigger and bulkier than the previous sets. We have them mounted on the back of the helmet and it is remarkably easy to bump them on branches which readily turns them off. But constantly running into branches does turn them back on again. The button to initially turn them on (and back off at the end of the day) is a little tiny button (you can barely see it in the photo below on the right side of the jog dial visible with yellow behind it) you push with your right hand (in our configuration) while pushing down on the middle of the big bulb. (Yes, I am still getting used to that; I have a slow learning curve.) The jog dial also controls the volume. Since it is big, it is nice and easy to adjust even with gloves on.
While you or your co-worker are careening through a brushy environment, you become aware of a magnified scraping sound. The first time I heard David’s close encounter, I quickly looked up to be sure nothing was amiss. You do get used to those sound effects pretty readily and I remain unconcerned if not accompanied by major swearing or yells.
Personally, I feel anyone in tree work not taking advantage of communication devices is missing out on a big safety factor. Hand signals presume everyone is staring at everyone else constantly, which is unrealistic to say the least. Yelling at each other also doesn’t cut it as most of us are wearing ear protection due to running chainsaws or chippers or being in close proximity to them.
I have heard comments made by people who don’t like the communication devices because they don’t want to listen to the crew jabbering all day. Hmmm, I will make a couple of comments about that. First, you are at work. Your main focus of attention should be on the job at hand. “Chit chat” should be relegated to lunch time and breaks. Second, while you are working you need to focus on safety and getting the job done well and efficiently. If you are the ground crew, you need to be aware of what is going on above you as well as being prepared to assist your climber, or other crew members, as needed. If you are the climber you need to be aware of what is going on under you as well as within the tree. In my humble opinion, excessive chatting, talking on your cell phone, listening to music instead of paying attention to the job at hand are not acceptable work practices. But again, that is only my opinion.
All-in-all, we are very pleased with the overall performance of the Protos Integral helmets with the SENA SMH10 headsets.
We purchased these helmets and the headsets from Treestuff.com. I am providing a link to their site. We do not receive any credit for this promotion. We simply are passing on information for obtaining these products from a company with which we have been very satisfied. https://www.treestuff.com/