Snowmobile helmet vs motorcycle helmet: are they interchangeable?

If you ask someone who is not involved in the world of extreme sports with high speeds and wind in the face, they may get confused by the question in the title. They could tell you that a helmet is a helmet, it’s made for protection, and what’s the difference? If only! When you are dealing with high-risk activities, every detail becomes critical, and every nuance matters.

So the short version of the answer about snowmobile and motorcycle helmets and their potential interchangeability is no, you can’t substitute one with another. Why? —The devil is, as usual, in the details.

Let us introduce you to the exciting world of snowmobile and motocross helmets and explain their differences and similarities. By the end of the article, you should be able to answer the question of why you shouldn’t exchange one for another.

snowmobile helmet vs motorcycle helmet
Image credit:

Safety as a priority

The primary goal of any helmet, no matter the sport, is safety. Helmets must protect one of the most vulnerable parts of the human body — the head. It is true for both snowmobile helmets and motorcycle helmets.

But the problem is that the dangers motorcycle and snowmobile riders are exposed to are not the same.

Each sport has its hazards, and helmet designs using the experience of generations of riders have accumulated all this valuable knowledge and generated the best possible protective structures, each one perfect for its sport.

masterhelmet 6
Image credit:

Motorcycle helmets: saving the reckless, protecting the brave

Without an additional protective layer provided by the automobile, motorcycle riders are more vulnerable on the roads. Motorcycle helmets, therefore, prioritize the safety of the rider’s head. The whole design works for that very purpose.

Of course, physical comfort is also taken into account in most models because motorcycle riders often spend extended periods in the saddle and shouldn’t feel any pain or distress.

And we can’t forget about the need of showing off a bit. Motorcyclists are renowned for their unique and fancy helmets with exquisite art expressing the rider’s identity.

Let’s explore a motorcycle helmet from the inside out and identify its key features.

Ventilation. A critical part of the motorcycle helmet design. Vents prevent the rider’s head from getting overheated. Without them, especially during long rides in hot climates, motorcycle riders risk fatigue and dizziness, which is dangerous, as losing focus on the road can cause accidents.

Vents can differ depending on the model, but they are an integral part of the motorcycle helmet.

Cheek pads. These elements of the helmet provide comfort to the rider’s face. Riders specifically appreciate the pads during extended rides. They help with temperature regulation and sweat absorption as well. They are available for fuller coverage helmets only.

Chin strap. This is a critical safety element of motorcycle helmets. Without it, the helmet would fall from the head of the rider failing to protect them. Securing the helmet in the proper position during any calamity is the main purpose of a chin strap. It’s firmly fixed on the head, but thanks to comfortable padding, it shouldn’t stifle the rider or cause them any discomfort.

Comfort layer. This layer serves to sustain reasonable temperature and absorb the perspiration of the motorcycle helmets. Although, formally, this layer’s goal is comfort provision, it also works for the rider’s safety. A distressed rider is more prone to make a mistake, which can be too costly on the road.

Impact liner. The thickness of the impact liner may vary, but the goal remains the same: neutralizing the force of the impact. If a motorcycle riding ends in an accident, and the rider is knocked out of the saddle, this part of the motorcycle helmet softens the blow and minimizes its effect.

Outer shell. This is the helmet’s first line of defense. Whether a rider gets into an accident or is struck by something during a ride (rubble, branches, etc.), the outer shell will take the first hit, and its solid structure will protect the rider as much as possible.

Shield. Aface shield is crucial for the safety of motorcycle riders. The most common face shield is a single-pane shield providing enough protection from the objects that can hit the riders during the trip. A tinted singlepane shield additionally helps the rider deal with the bright sun rays.

masterhelmet 2
Image credit:

Snowmobile helmets: sustaining the warmth, providing safety

One of the main ‘inconveniences’ snowmobile riders have to deal with is the weather. Snowmobile rides usually happen in freezing temperatures, and snowmobile helmets must provide the riders with appropriate warmth as part of their protective feature. So it’s a specific helmet serving a specific purpose.

The functionality of the snowmobile helmets dictates their distinctive features that we will describe below.

Chin curtain. Anyone who has experienced snowy winters knows that a good scarf is a must if you don’t want to get sick. For snowmobile riding, neck protection is essential. A curtain wrapped around the neck prevents the cold wind from getting to the rider.

Ventilation system. This system secures a proper temperature inside the snowmobile helmet preventing any extreme conditions.

Electric heated visors. This is a protective element securing the temperature oversight for the lens. An electric visor is really valuable in cold weather conditions.

Breath box. Isolating the breathed air that can make helmet lens fog is critical (the same goes for a face shield, too), which is the reason why snowmobile helmets are equipped with several elements protecting the visibility of the riders, a breath box included.

Shield. Preventing face shields from fogging is a priority in snowmobile riding. That’s why, snowmobile helmets are equipped with a dual-pane shield. Such a face shield offers the most effective way to prevent fogging the lens, thus decreasing the visibility for a rider. Not all helmets feature a dual-pane shield, but for a snowmobile helmet, it’s a critical element.

A perfect snowmobile helmet will always secure proper visibility for the rider in cold weather.

masterhelmet 3
Image credit:

Substitution potential

Now let’s look closer and find out which features make it possible or impossible to substitute a motorcycle helmet with a snowmobile helmet and vice versa.

Conquering the snow fields… in a motorcycle helmet?

That’s something we would not advise. Let us explain why. The first clue is the ‘snow’ part in the word ‘snowmobile’. Unlike motorcycle riding, snowmobiles only operate in winter or very cold climates. Subsequently, snowmobile helmets are designed to protect the rider from freezing winds and snow.

A motorcyclist is not normally exposed to such extreme weather conditions, and a standard motorcycle helmet, if anything, protects you from excessive heat.

A motorcycle helmet has a design providing the most aerodynamic effect possible, and it’s relatively light, too.

It protects the rider from injuries caused by accidents on the road.

Snowmobile helmets differ from their counterpart because snowmobiles are basically off-roaders. Snowmobile riders face a different battle than motorcyclists: they must survive extreme weather conditions.

The snowmobile helmets are heavier, their face shields are more substantial. One of the most critical issues for snowmobile riders is the clearance of the lens. Any degree of visibility loss can cause an accident.

So you can see that wearing motorcycle helmets can potentially get you frozen, have you losing orientation, and find yourself somewhere in a ditch.

masterhelmet 7
Image credit:

Hitting the road… in a snowmobile helmet?

If we only speculate, it’s not impossible. If wearing motorcycle helmets on snowmobiles can literally freeze you, here there is no obvious danger. However, we would not recommend that swap either. Let us explain why.

As was noted before, snowmobile helmets are significantly heavier. You’ll feel it immediately. Besides, as snowmobile helmets are supposed to make the rider feel comfortably warm in snowy winter, a summer ride on a motorcycle in a snowmobile helmet is debatable fun.

Although it doesn’t look dangerous if you ride a motorbike in a snowmobile helmet, just uncomfortable, it’s not as simple. Overheating can cause dizziness and fatigue, which will lead to losing concentration, which, in turn, may lead to an accident.

masterhelmet 4
Image credit:

There must be something in common…

Snowmobile helmet vs motorcycle helmet… are they so different? There must be some similarities.

Yes, there are. And the first one is obvious: it’s the objective of snowmobile helmets and motorcycle helmets — to protect riders.

Another similarity: both helmets offer a well-functioning ventilation system, although it serves a little different purpose.

Both types of helmets exist in a variety of designs, sizes, and hues. Riders can customize snowmobile and motorcycle helmets to make them unique. Riding motorcycles or snowmobiles wearing an exclusive helmet is part of the fun.

Regulatory requirements

The good news is that although snowmobile helmets differ from motorcycle ones, they both are subject to federal safety regulations. That’s a comforting thought, isn’t it?

Is a snowmobile helmet DOT approved? Yes, absolutely. The same goes for motorcycle helmets. Department of Transportation is the main organization that ensures that only safe snowmobile and motorcycle helmets appear on.

masterhelmet 5
Image credit:

In conclusion

Snowmobile and motorcycle helmets are very different. The reason — they serve separate purposes and operate in dissimilar environments. Each one has its application and shouldn’t be substituted.


Are motorcycle and snowmobile helmets the same?

Motorcycle and snowmobile helmets differ significantly because they function in dissimilar weather conditions and on different terrains.

Can you wear a motorcycle helmet for snowmobiling?

You can, theoretically, but it’ll feel suffocating because snowmobile helmets are designed, among others, to provide heat in cold winters. Motorcycle riding usually happens in warmer weather.

Can you use a snowmobile helmet for ATV riding?

You can do it if you ride an ATV in cold climates. In hot summer, the helmet will provide excessive heat.

Can you use a motorcycle helmet for snowboarding?

It’s not a good choice as motorcycle helmets are much heavier than snowboarding ones. It will slow the snowboarder down and feel uncomfortable on the head.

Robert Miles

I have an immense love for fast motorcycling and a deep passion for motorcycles. With a decade-long involvement in motorsport, I have experienced thrilling adventures and have had the opportunity to explore various aspects of this exciting world.

Leave a Comment