EQ3 helmets and MIPS Technology

Unless you live under a social media rock, you’ve probably heard something in the last few weeks about the new MIPS technology Trauma Void™ EQ3™ helmets that Back on Track® has started distributing. It should be of no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I was all over this thing like white on rice. Safety technology as it relates to horse sports? Right up my nerd alley. MIPS technology isn’t totally new to me, being a cyclist as well, but I wasn’t as familiar with all of the specifics as I wanted to be, as a consumer. So first I had to learn more about what exactly MIPS technology IS, and what it isn’t. This video is relating to cycling helmets, but I think it does an excellent job at explaining what MIPS is and how it works:

First thing to note: MIPS has nothing to do with standard impact protection – ie what all that padding in the helmet does. Your regular impact protection comes from that good ol’ EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) foam layer that is in all helmets. The EQ3 helmet still has that, just like any other helmet. What the EQ3 helmet also has, that no other equestrian helmets currently available in the US have, is a MIPS layer, which is designed to reduce the rotational forces caused by angled impacts. Traditional helmet testing mainly uses straight-force impacts, but as anyone who has fallen off enough times knows, the majority of our actual blows to the head come from angled impacts.

MIPS1
dunno about y’all but I’ve never fallen off like the dummy on the left

Okay, so what’s the difference in these impacts as far as how they relate to head injuries? Mainly something that MIPS calls “brain strain” (this is where it’s important to note that MIPS technology was developed by scientists – including a brain surgeon and a dude with a PhD on head and neck injury biomechanics). In their words:

From an engineering perspective, rotational motion is a combination of rotational energy (angular velocity) and rotational forces (angular acceleration) that both affect the brain and increase the risk for minor and severe brain injuries. The reason that the brain is more sensitive to rotational motion is that the brain is very much like water or a gel when it comes to its shear properties. The brain, like water, is also incompressible. Therefore, a linear motion will not affect the brain as much as a rotational motion.

MIPS2

Common injuries that are proven to be linked to the rotational forces caused by angled impacts? Things that probably sound familiar to equestrians, such as subdural hematoma and concussion. The MIPS layer has been designed to reduce these rotational forces, thus, hopefully, reducing the subsequent injuries.

MIPS is basically just a thin layer that is between the EPS and the helmet liner itself that allows the helmet to rotate a few millimeters in any direction around the head in the case of an angled impact. This decreases the rotational forces on the brain itself.

giphy (25)
side impact
giphy (26)
angled front impact

MIPS technology has also been used in cycling helmets, motorcycle helmets, and snow helmets. Originally it was introduced into equestrian helmets in Sweden, via the EQ line, where they have been in use for the past few years. This is the first time that this helmet technology has been available in equestrian helmets here in the US.

By this point you’re probably either buying into the technology or you’re not. If you want to read more about it, there’s plenty of info here. Or just… Google in general. It’s all over the internet. The studies conducted by MIPS have shown that it does actually help decrease these rotational forces. On that same point, you also have to understand that our current testing standards for equestrian helmets (for SEI/ASTM, for example) do not test for things like this. I’ve talked about it here before, but there is a ton of room for improvement in our helmet and safety vest testing methods. For real, look into it, you might be shocked. Alas… that’s a different topic entirely.

I personally am extremely interested in the MIPS technology, and really eyeballing these helmets hard. My “schooling” GPA is nearing the end of it’s lifespan, which means I will soon need to be looking for a replacement. Of course, even scouring everything that I could find about the helmets online left me with a lot of questions. I sent an email to Back on Track, who referred me to the design company, Trauma Void. I was able to get a phone call scheduled with Maria, who was infinitely helpful (and patient) as I spent half an hour asking her questions. So, here are some of the things I learned.

EQ3pic
photo used with permission from Trauma Void

One of the first things I wondered, when I understood how MIPS technology worked, was whether or not the helmet would “jiggle” during regular riding. Maria said that she had wondered the same thing as well, but that she and the rest of their staff have been wearing the helmets and no one has noticed any movement, nor have they had any customers comment on it.

What about weight? Does that MIPS layer make the helmet weigh more than most helmets? The MIPS website says that the layer is very thin and weighs between 25-45 grams (so 0.0551156 to 0.099208 pounds). Not significant. Maria went a step farther and weighed an EQ3 helmet in each size for me so I could compare it to something more “known” to us on the market. The EQ3 helmet weighed in at 1.25-1.5lbs, from smallest size to largest size. I weighed all the helmets I could get my hands on (for science!), all in sizes 7 1/8 to 7 1/4, and they came in like this: GPA Speed Air weighs 1lb, Charles Owen JR8 weighs 1.2, Samshield ShadowMatte weighs 1.2, and Charles Owen 4 Star weighs 1.4.  So based on that, there is little to no difference between a “regular” helmet and the EQ3. It may even weigh a bit less than a skull cap. 

a view of the MIPS layer, which is under the padded inner liner

Because the helmet is being distributed by Back on Track, a lot of people seem to think that some kind of BOT material or product is incorporated here. Don’t worry, head-sweaters, that’s not the case. The liners are made of a Coolmax® material and are machine washable on the delicate cycle. There will also be replacement liners available for sale separately.

Another interesting feature of the EQ3 helmet is a brim that is more flexible than your standard brim, to allow it to bend and flex as needed upon impact, making it less likely that the helmet will shift out of place on your head or cause an irregular impact pattern. On the “smooth” style helmet this brim is covered in a PU (leather like) material, and on the microfiber helmet it is covered in microfiber.

And then of course, the thing we all want to know: how does it fit? Trauma Void says that the helmet tends to fit a bit more on the round side, but they were quick to point out a couple things. First, the helmet comes with two liners, a thicker one and a thinner one. These liners are fairly moldable, and between the two options they have been able to get the helmets to fit properly on most of the people that have tried them. They also offer a 14 day return policy if the helmet does not fit, or if you need to exchange for another size. Currently they are only available up to size 7 1/2, but they might be open to expanding the size range later on if there is enough demand (so those of you who need a larger size and want one of these helmets – EMAIL THEM and let them know!).

The helmets have four vents, two in the front and two in the back. Reports that I’m seeing so far from early users are that the ventilation feels similar to a OneK. Of the two different styles, the smooth comes in navy and black and the microfiber comes in navy, black, and brown. The Microfiber has a slightly glittery piping (black on the black helmet, a slightly lighter shade of blue on the navy helmet, and a golden color on the brown helmet), for those who are looking for something with a little more pizzazz.

EQ3pic2
photo used with permission from Trauma Void

At $249 the price seems pretty reasonable to me, all things considered. They also offer reduced pricing on replacement helmets in the event of a fall. You have to register the helmet online within 30 days of purchase, after which point you’re eligible for 50% off a replacement helmet in the first year, or 25% off in the second year.

Whether or not you like the helmet, they are definitely interesting. If nothing else, it’s a fun new technology to geek out over and have discussions about. Within the cycling community I’ve heard a lot of good things about the MIPS technology so far, and I definitely look forward to seeing how it applies to horse sports.

What do you guys think? Anyone bought one yet?

Also Maria gave me carte blanche to email her with any other questions, so if you have any feel free to hammer away and I’ll try to get them answered for you!

34 thoughts on “EQ3 helmets and MIPS Technology

  1. oohh lots of info here. Thanks! I saw these and figured you would be all over them 🙂 They look a lot like the one-k which is fine by me. that is the most comfy helmet i have ever warn. And the price is not outrageous. My one-k retailed for 230 bucks (I got it on Tack of the day so scored one for a lot less) But i think for your head it is not a crazy price to pay!! I mean we only have one head! LOL can’t wait till you get one cause we know you will 🙂

    I love how they offer reduced pricing as well later on for replacement helmets. Very cool!

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  2. Thank you!! I have been under a rock, but looking at these helmets the last few days. I don’t need a new helmet, but find these intriguing. As someone worried about head injuries thanks to a history of concussions as well as chronic migraines, I’m seriously considering trying one of these helmets. I figure, it can’t hurt. The OneK fits me perfectly so that bodes well for this (I have to avoid all pressure points with helmets or migraine)… That said, my helmet is only a year and a half old… I’m curious to see if anyone buys one.

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  3. Interesting stuff! They look a lot better in these photos than the photos BOT just sent us (we get all their stuff as ‘distributors’ as vets) so I may be tempted when my One K needs to be replaced.

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  4. I am really tempted by this… I think we are always looking for ways to be safer without compromising (much) on comfort. I would love to see how people like them over the next few weeks, and then maybe invest in one. My One-K is still fairly new, but if a fall happens, I will take a hard look at these.

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  5. Really cool technology — I have two helmets that are less than a year old, so I should be set for a while (knock on wood) but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on these for the future!

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  6. Thanks for doing my homework for me. 🙂 Hubby and I are planning to try these at the-event-formerly-known-as-Rolex as we both need new ones. I’m really hoping they fit and we like them.

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  7. I just replaced my helmet and was back and forth between the new BoT helmet and One K. I went with the One K, there is just something about the BoT helmet that doesn’t appeal to me aesthetic wise. I’m not sure if its the logo on the front that sort of looks like a baseball or the vents? I do like their shade of navy more than One K’s navy though. I wish I liked the BoT, and I hope more helmet manufacturers add this technology in soon!

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  8. Thank you for posting this! I’m familiar with the MIPS technology as hubby’s mountain bike helmet has it and when I needed a new bike helmet last year I made sure I got it too. Especially since on trails my balance is a lot worse than it is on a horse 😄

    I don’t think they are bad looking and I’m happy they have some vents. What I’m really hopeful for is that this technology will take off and we will have the big names in helmets getting into this and making more options available.

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  9. Thank you for doing all the research and sharing with us! After getting my first concussion last year, I’m always looking for ways to be safer while riding — this will be high on my list for he next helmet!

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  10. Interesting. I love when companies keep working hard to improve safety standards. I have a very long oval shaped head and hope that they come out with a more oval version someday. Round helmets do not work on me at all.

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  11. Ooh! So glad you wrote about these! I was just looking at them a few days ago as my schooling helmet is at the end of its lifespan, and I need a new helmet. #mindyourmelon I hope the harness is more comfortable than the OneK helmet since the fit on that helmet was really nice, but I just hated how stiff and constricting the harness felt.

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  12. I’m going to have to keep an eye on this helmet. I will probably need a new helmet within the next year and I definitely want to buy a helmet that is protective and safe. I really agree that helmet testing needs to be changed. It does almost nothing to prove that any helmet is safe, imo. The safety standards are old as well. I’ll keep this one in mind when I go on my shopping trip.

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  13. THANK YOU for doing this. I’ve been hemming and hawing over one (and also asked Nicole over at Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management to put her science brain on the task of evaluating the helmet/MIPS).
    It’s about time for me to get a new helmet and I have been comparing this vs a skullcap. I think I’m going to get this one. Now the question is: smooth or microfiber?

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      1. I have a lot of opinions on GoPro mounts being on helmets at all (having had one and worn one for a while, I don’t think they’re particularly safe) but with the right harness attachment, yes.

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  14. I am super intrigued by this. I was planning on buying a different helmet for showing sometime soon, but this helmet looks really promising. I definitely like the rotation design and thought that goes into that. And yeah I saw that design comparison and laughed. I have never ever seen anyone fall straight up and down like that haha. I am definitely going to do some more research and wait to see how people like them!

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  15. Thank you! I haven’t seen these yet, and I’m REALLY interested in this technology. It makes sense that it would offer more protection. And I think that’s a reasonable price point. It’s a lot cheaper than a Samshield! As my helmets get ready for replacement, this will definitely be one to consider if it will fit me. I’m more of an oval shape, so that could possibly be an issue. I’m guessing as more and more research is done this technology will probably find its way to other brands as well.

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  16. Wow I am surprised the price is actually pretty reasonable considering! Will def wait to hear for “real world” reviews, but I might purchase one of these once my OneK wears out.

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  17. I’ve had my EQ3 for about a year know, and I must say I kinda love it! Being a swede, I’ve had the possibility to try out some of BoTs earlier models, and EQ3 is really a step up when it comes to both function, comfort and style. I’m a a pretty gross and sweaty rider, and I was afraid it would feel too compact and airtight, but that actually havent been a problem at all! Also, I was worried about the fit. Normally I prefer helmets with a somewhat adaptable size, like the little wheely-thingies in the back that some brands have. But despite of me having an oval head shape, that can be pretty hard to fit for a helmet, EQ3 fits pretty darn perfectly. The only con I can come up with is the weight. It’s definately not a heavy helmet, but it isn’t super light-weight either so I can imagine that might be an issue for some people 🙂 . Oh and btw, sorry for being a total stalker and not commenting before! 😉 Absolutely love your blog, keep up the awesome work! 😀

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  18. I’ve been looking into this helmet since it popped up on Instagram. Thanks for doing all the research 😂 I think this will soon be on my list to buy since I also have to replace my schooling helmet 2 falls ago… especially as someone who suffers from past concussions…

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  19. Just rode in mine for the first time today. It fits well, feels very solid yet beautifully balanced. I don’t know…after concussion issues last year (from a hockey game, but probably compounded from previous undocumented concussions from falls off horses), this makes me feel a lot better. It’s my new safety blanket. I am impressed with it and was driving home from the barn, thinking about buying a second EQ3 for no reason whatsoever (I need it in black? haha…)

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    1. What color/style did you get? I can’t decide if I should just totally throw caution to the wind and go with brown microfiber, or stick to the more versatile smooth black. I have a navy matte Samshield and a black CO JR8… I’m torn. 😂

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  20. I’m going back to read the rest of the blog, but just wanted to say, that I have fallen off once like the picture on the left, albeit from a very low height as the horses head I rode to the ground while he was backing out from underneath me as fast as he could back. And it was WAY worse on my neck and back than my noggin. I believe we called it the piledriver and my friends might have laughed at me just a little bit.

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