Helmets for snowmobiles and motorcycles resemble each other. Both helmet styles cover your whole head and offer some protection if you have an accident, and their shapes are similar, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same.
There are fundamental differences that can affect your ride and safety. How do snowmobile helmets differ from motorcycle helmets?
The most significant difference between a standard motorcycle helmet and a snowmobile helmet is how it handles fogging. Snowmobile helmets have vents that open and close to prevent fogging because it’s unavoidable in winter temperatures. The visor, breath box, heating features, and vents keep your vision clear, however most motorcycle helmets lack cold weather features.
Table of Contents
Is There A Difference Between Motorcycle And Snowmobile Helmets
There is a difference between motorcycle and snowmobile helmets. You can spot many motorcycle helmets easily once you know what you’re looking for because they lack external features like vents.
Below I’ll go into detail about all the crucial distinctions separating the two styles, but it helps to keep in mind that on a fundamental level, these helmets are made to do the same job (protect your head) in different ways.
1 – Vents
Snowmobile helmets have vents in them. This essential feature is one of the easiest ways to fight fogged faceplates.
Letting out the warm air collected around your head will help minimize condensation, which opens up your field of view.
Motorcycle riders spend more time in warm weather in general. While some vents to help cool your head might be nice, they aren’t necessary to prevent moisture buildup from blinding you.
You can get upgraded motorcycle helmets with more features like vents, but most motorcycle helmets are an unbroken shell to provide the best brain protection possible.
2 – Anti-Fogging or Heating System
Unlike most motorcycle helmets, snowmobile helmets often come with additional warming features.
Anti-fog systems like wires run around the inside of your visor material like the defrosters on a car window, and other warming options are common.
Some run on battery packs, while others plug directly into the snowmobile. Motorcycle helmets do not plug into motorcycles.
3 – Double-Pane Visor
Motorcycles always have a single pane visor, or in some cases, no visor. On the other hand, a snowmobile helmet may have two panes.
Separating the glass or plastic that touches the outdoor air from the one that warms up from the heat of your head is another way to minimize fogging.
There are several styles of visors used on snowmobiles. If you want to learn more about these styles, I recommend checking out this video from Canada’s Motorcycle.
In the video, they detail the three main types and show you why the differences matter.
4 – Looks
Snowmobile helmets tend to be textured and have vents and other shapes. Most motorcycle helmets are relatively smooth on the outside.
Stock models tend to be rounded, whether they only cover the top of your head or enclose you fully.
5 – Insulation (Heat and Noise)
Although they typically have little insulation, some motorcycle helmets have upgraded features.
Snowmobile helmets, by comparison, need to help significantly reduce the cold and outside noise for you to ride safely. You’ll be warmer even in an inexpensive stock snowmobile helmet.
Motorcycle helmets don’t intentionally dampen sound because you may need to hear sirens and other traffic noises as you ride.
Riding trails or other areas, you won’t need to move over to let an ambulance pass.
6 – DOT Ratings
Both motorcycle and snowmobile helmets should be approved by the DOT (Department of Transportation).
Snowmobile helmets should always meet the minimum DOT approval to help keep your head safe. Even if your area doesn’t insist, please don’t buy novelty or untested helmets for sledding.
According to Onenhtsa.gov, “(Motorcycle) Helmets that meet FMVSS 218 must have a sticker on the outside back of the helmet with the letters “DOT,” which certifies that the helmet meets or exceeds FMVSS 218. It is important to note that some novelty helmet sellers provide DOT stickers separately for motorcyclists to place on non-complying helmets.”
7 – Foam Floatation
Helmets for motorcycles rely on their rugged, dense outer cover and an inner insulating layer to stop impacts.
Though snowmobile helmets also help prevent crashes, they contain more foam. The foam can even help keep your head afloat if you fall in freezing water.
Since motorcycles are built for on-road activities, or at most off-roading on dirt, their helmets are tough, durable, and made solely to keep your head from absorbing impacts if you fall.
A sled can still crash and throw you into the road or a tree, but snowmobiles also ride on ice.
The ability to float, even a little, can save your life if the ice below you is too thin and you fall through the ice.
8 – Breath Box
A breath box is also known as a breath deflector. As the name implies, a breath box deflects your exhalations and pushes that warm air out of your helmet.
You can get this feature on either style of helmet, but they’re more common on snowmobile helmets because breath fogging is more common and therefore causes more accidents.
Can You Use A Motorcycle Helmet For Snowmobiling
Although you can use a motorcycle helmet for snowmobiling, you shouldn’t. Helmets are legally interchangeable unless state law says otherwise.
However, the problem with this idea is that motorcycle helmets are not made to handle the cold.
A standard snowmobile helmet will offer better insulation, sound dampening, and venting than most helmets meant for motorcycles.
Alternatively, using a nice warm snowmobile helmet on the road could get you a ticket if your state requires you to wear a helmet.
Always assume you should wear a helmet dedicated to the type of vehicle you are riding.
Helpful Tips To Know About The Differences Between Snowmobile Helmets And Motorcycle Helmets
Warmth is something you may not think about when buying a helmet, but you should.
While motorcycle helmets exist almost purely to protect the brain in case of an accident, snowmobile helmets have to contend with the challenges of freezing weather daily.
Here are a few more helpful tips to know about the differences between snowmobile helmets and motorcycle helmets.
- Unfortunately, motorcycle riders almost always land on hard asphalt when they wreck, while snowmobilers may land on a soft bed of new snow. The differences in how you are most likely to land help determine what materials your helmet is made from and what features the designers prioritize.
- Check the helmet laws regarding your snowmobile or motorcycle every year. Policies change, and you are responsible for keeping yourself up to date on local laws.
- Requirements on the type of helmet you need and who has to wear one vary widely in the US, and crossing state lines can mean a different set of safety standards. Some states only require minors under 18 to have helmets. Likewise, riders of vehicles traveling on public roads typically have additional legal obligations, which can include a helmet and other changes like headlights, license plates, and more.
Although there are multiple styles of motorcycle and snowmobile helmets, the differences between them are relatively similar.
Most motorcycle helmets have little to no way to vent or prevent fogging unless they come with a breath box.
Snowmobile helmets, by comparison, must have some way to vent heat or otherwise defog the visor due to the cold.
Additionally, motorcycle helmets are created with pavement impacts in mind, while snowmobile helmets more often land in the snow, so they aren’t held to the same durability standard.
Finally, a snowmobile helmet may float or plug into your snowmobile, but motorcycle helmets lack these valuable features.