I have decided to lump together pretty much your most important piece of gear with your least important optional accessory. Despite that difference, they both go on your head so why not put them together. Helmets are a must have piece of safety equipment for, hopefully, obvious reasons. Helmet cameras are a purely fun accessory. You certainly don’t need a camera to ride your ATV, but they can be a lot of fun to capture your point of view as you fly through some rough terrain. It can be fun to go back and watch the footage where you can see everything going on that you missed while your attention was completely focused on not killing yourself.
In picking out a helmet, there are hundreds of good choices. I personally don’t feel comfortable putting my head (which has suffered multiple concussions) in a cheap no-name helmet, so I have opted for this really slick helmet from O’Neal because it is reasonably priced, checks all the safety boxes and looks great. When it comes to a helmet camera, I have three very good options I discuss below.
More about Helmets
As I said above, there are a ton of helmet choices on the market, but there are some things you want to make sure you look at before buying a helmet. You can get different types of helmets that cover different amounts of your head. I prefer going with a good off-road helmet that covers your whole face. While the main purpose of a helmet is to protect your head in the event you crash, helmets also protect your face from sticks and other debris that could cause serious damage to your neck or face if they are not protected. I was once riding a UTV without a helmet at about 70 mph down a clear, paved road when I felt a sharp pain on my neck. I was surprised because there was nothing around me, but as I grabbed my neck, I pulled a now-dead hornet off that had stung me. Point of the story is that you never know what is going to get your neck and face face while riding. It could be a hornet, a stick, the ground after a crash, or even a rock flipped up in the air. I just don’t see the point in getting a helmet that doesn’t cover your face.
Some other things that are important to me, all of which come on the O’Neal helmet I recommend, include the following:
- A helmet that is constructed of high-quality material such as durable polycarbonate.
- Sufficient padding to make sure the helmet is comfortable to wear.
- Padded liner that is designed to wick away sweat and keep you cool.
- Exhaust vents that add air circulation to keep your face and head cool.
- Replaceable parts that can be switched out so you don’t have to buy a new helmet if something gets damaged.
The 3 Best Helmet Cameras
My top choice used to be the Yi 4K+ Action Camera. This was my budget option. That isn’t to say it is a cheap camera as it still has a pretty decent price tag and belongs in the discussion of top quality cameras as opposed to the cheap junk you can find anywhere. It’s made by a Chinese company so it’s cheaper, but the quality is almost identical to the more expensive GoPro. There is a newer model out now that comes with an even cheaper price tag.
The most popular camera out there is going to be the GoPro, and they make a fantastic helmet camera if you prefer to get the name brand gear that pretty much dominates the field. The current top model is the GoPro Hero 9 Black Edition . GoPro is the brand name and won’t disappoint in terms of quality. If you aren’t comfortable with Chinese products or just want the top of the line brand name camera, this is the one you will want. The GoPro Hero 8 is the model I use and it works great!
Finally, probably the best quality helmet camera is actually the Sony Action Camera. The price for the Sony is comparable to the GoPro, but the quality is actually better. The two biggest things the Sony does better than GoPro is image stabilization, which is important for bumpy off-road riding, and low-light performance, which is great for morning or evening rides. One other cool thing about the Sony Action Camera is that it can mount on the side of your helmet, given its slim profile, which makes it a little less weird looking.
If you are looking at a different option for a helmet camera, these are the things I would consider:
- An Action camera needs to be tough. Make sure it is both the camera and mounts are water proof and shock proof camera. Think of how much jolting and craziness a camera sitting on your ATV would get during a rough ride. A normal camera simply won’t make it.
- A remote control. This is great so you don’t have to try and fiddle with something on top of your head while you are riding.
- Long lasting battery life. You don’t want the battery to die half way through your ride right before you hit the big jump do you?
- Image stablization. While most action cameras will offer image stabilization, you want to make sure it is good image stabilization given the bumpiness of your ride. Image stabilzation is rated in stops. The more stops the better. For example, a camera that offers 3 stops of image stabilization means the shutter speed can be 3 stops slower and still capture smooth video.
- Fast-acting exposure sensors are important since you will be riding in and out of shadows and changing light conditions. If the camera cannot quickly adjust the exposure, your footage will be full of really bright and really dark sections that ruin the video.
- Sound is also important, so make sure it has a quality microphone system with wind noise reduction. Otherwise, you will hear nothing but loud wind like someone blowing into a phone.
- An anti fog lens is great for riding in wet or cold conditions.
- Cheaper cameras often come with lower resolution. 1080 is an absolute must, but I would recommend going 4K because it won’t be long before 1080 is outdated and you don’t want your footage looking like garbage on every screen that comes out 5 years from now with advancements being made in resolution.
- Look for a camera with multiple mounting possibilities. You won’t always want to wear the camera on your helmet, so make sure it can also be mounted to the frame, handlebars and other surfaces.
DON’T BE THIS GUY!