The Smith Session MIPS helmet was introduced in 2018, and it’s still a front runner in the very popular all-mountain/enduro/trail lid market, thanks to offering great protection in a comfy and good-looking package. Smith is known for adopting Koroyd technology, and the Session features its distinctive protective honeycomb structure.
Design and specifications
The Smith Session helmets boasts all the usual features you’d expect with a lid of this high caliber: MIPS to add protection against rotational forces during angled impacts; a dial-adjustable retention cradle with three vertical positions; an adjustable peak; in-mould construction with the polycarbonate shell fully covering the EPS foam liner; and removable, washable pads. It meets the regular CPSC and CE EN 1078 helmet safety standards.
Where the Session differs is in its use of Koroyd in the four side vents for added impact protection, but with little detrimental effect on weight or airflow. This is thanks to Koroyd’s construction: thin-walled tubes, resembling plastic straws, welded together in a honeycomb structure. These crumple on impact to absorb the forces created by both direct and angled impacts.
The Smith Session uses a notably compact design so that the helmet snugly encases your head, making it look smaller and neater than many comparable headwear. It has extended rear coverage, but isn’t as deep dish as the POC Kortal Race, for example. Inside, the MIPS slip plane is clearly visible, more so because there is minimal padding just at the front with a second pad on the top of the head. The pads are made from an antimicrobial fabric containing silver ions, claimed to eliminate odor-causing bacteria so they need less frequent washing.
Ventilation is through 15 well-sized ports; five front, five top and five at the back, although four of these contain Koroyd. The helmet straps are fixed into the rim, feel comfortable against the skin and are easy to adjust, with slider clasps below the ears. Smith has designed the Session to be compatible with goggles, and you can easily stow them under the peak when it is in its high position.
This model is available in three sizes, S-L, for heads 51-62cm in circumference. While Smith is known for its lairy colorways, the current crop of Session designs comes in eight relatively low-key options, most of them two-tone the one I've reviewed here.
Lifting the Smith Session MIPS helmet out of its box it feels fairly light, borne out by the scales showing my size small weighs 359g. When I put it on it didn’t feel as immediately comfy as some helmets, because when you press it onto your head you can feel the hard MIPS liner at the top, where there is a 1.5-inch gap between the padding. However, once you’ve done the straps up you don’t notice this, probably because the pads are just thick enough to lift it off your scalp. I happily wore the Session on long day rides.
The padding is markedly minimal so the lid doesn’t have a plush feel, and also my head felt noticeably sweatier than with the exceptionally well-vented POC Kortal, likely because there is less padding to absorb the sweat. Ventilation is still very good, though, with air being channelled over the top of the head and out of the horizontal exhaust port. The oval fit suits my head shape well and there were no niggles or hotspots, even after wearing it for several hours.
I like the three-position visor as it’s very easy to adjust one-handed while riding, but because it’s quite small it doesn’t offer heaps of protection against sun or rain. Also, my goggle strap does partly cover the rear vents, although Smith has designed the Session to integrate with its own goggles (and glasses) so maybe this wouldn’t be an issue.
If you like its small and compact aesthetic, the Smith Session is a very protective and amply comfortable all-mountain helmet with decent ventilation, although I think it could benefit from more extensive padding to make it feel plusher. The price is good considering its safety tech and top-quality construction, and Smith Optics’ US website currently has some color options discounted to $112.
Tech specs: Smith Session MIPS helmet
Price: $170 / £139.99
Weight: 359g (size S tested)
Sizes: S, M, L
Colors: Merlot/aloe (pictured); gray; black; orange; white/cement; matte spruce/safari; French navy/rock salt; draplin (ochre/green)