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Smith Session MIPS Review

A mid-priced helmet from Smith with great ventilation, ample coverage, and a comfortable fit
smith session mips mountain bike helmet review
Credit: Smith Optics
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Price:  $170 List | $94.98 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Well ventilated, adjustable visor, MIPS, good coverage
Cons:  Sizing runs a little big
Manufacturer:   Smith Optics
By Jeremy Benson  ⋅  Apr 10, 2019
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78
SCORE

RANK
#14
of 22
  • Protection - 25% 8.0
  • Comfort - 20% 8.0
  • Ventilation - 20% 7.0
  • Features - 15% 8.0
  • Weight - 10% 8.0
  • Durability - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Session is a bit of a departure from the futuristic looks of Smith's popular Forefront helmet. It has a more classic and crowd-pleasing style. Testers immediately fell in love with the Session for its high level of comfort, great fit, and good coverage. This helmet also impressed us with its solid ventilation, some of the best in the test, with massive vents that keep the air flowing. Smith's Vaporlock fit system works well to dial in the fit, and the adjustable visor flips way up for google compatibility. This MIPS equipped helmet retails at a reasonable price, so you don't have to break the bank for a stylish, well-ventilated helmet that offers excellent protection and comfort.

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smith session mips mountain bike helmet review
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Price $94.98 at Backcountry
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$75.15 at Amazon
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$80 List$49.98 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
78
79
77
74
Bottom Line A mid-priced helmet from Smith with great ventilation, ample coverage, and a comfortable fitA versatile trail helmet that will stand up to all-day adventures and won't cost you an arm and a legAn affordable helmet with high-end styling and coverageA good option to save some cash and stay protected on the trail
Rating Categories Smith Session MIPS Giro Radix MIPS Specialized Camber Smith Convoy
Protection (25%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Ventilation (20%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Features (15%)
8.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
Weight (10%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Specs Smith Session MIPS Giro Radix MIPS Specialized Camber Smith Convoy
Rotational Impact Protection System? MIPS MIPS MIPS MIPS
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 13.36 oz, 379g 12.6 oz, 360g 13.8 oz, 394g 12.5 oz, 355g
Number of vents 15 25 13 21
Goggle or Sunglasses Integration? Yes No No eyewear integration
Adjustable Visor? Yes Yes No No
Sizes S, M, L S, M, L, XL XS, S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL
Certifications CPSC, CE EN1078 CPSC, CE EN1078 CPSC CPSC, CE EN1078, AS/NZS2063
Virginia Tech Helmet Safety Rating (if applicable) 5-star

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Session falls roughly in the middle of Smith's range of mountain bike helmets. This helmet more or less took the place of the Rover MIPS as their mid-range MIPS-equipped mountain bike lid. The Session is a versatile helmet that proved to be a tester favorite for its excellent combination of head protection, comfort, ventilation, and adjustable features. It can't quite match the highest-rated models in our test, but it is highly-regarded among our testers.

Performance Comparison


smith session mips mountain bike helmet review - testing the session high above lake tahoe on the tahoe rim trail.
Testing the Session high above Lake Tahoe on the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Protection


Protection is the primary function of a mountain bike helmet and the Session provides a high level of it. The Session's coverage is quite good, with a shell design that comes down relatively low on the back of the head. It doesn't have quite the same level of coverage as the POC Tectal or Specialized Ambush 2, both of which come slightly lower on both the temples and back of the head, but it's pretty close.

The Session also employs Smith's Koroyd, a proprietary impact absorption technology, strategically placed on both sides of the helmet. The Koroyd looks a lot like a honeycomb and Smith claims it absorbs more energy upon impact than traditional materials while still maintaining airflow. The Session employs significantly less of the Koroyd than the new Forefront 2 and has significantly better ventilation as a result.

smith session mips mountain bike helmet review - smith has strategically placed koroyd around the session for...
Smith has strategically placed Koroyd around the Session for enhanced impact protection.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

The Session comes equipped with a MIPS liner, the industry standard for reducing the rotational forces of impacts. Other brands, like POC and Leatt, have developed their own impact protection systems, but Smith has chosen to stick with the proven performance of the MIPS system.

smith session mips mountain bike helmet review - the mips liner of the session.
The MIPS liner of the Session.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Comfort


Comfort is somewhat subjective, but our testers found the Session to be quite comfortable. The Session has a great shape with a length and width that will fit the shape of most riders heads well. It is very middle of the road in this regard and doesn't put any extra pressure on any part of the head. It doesn't have quite as deep of a fit as the POC Tectal or Giro Chronicle, but it doesn't feel like it sits high on the head either. It is minimally padded, but the padding is placed strategically from the temples across the brow, with just a little on the top of the head, only in the places your head makes contact with the shell and MIPS liner.

smith session mips mountain bike helmet review - testers found the session to be super comfortable, but the strap...
Testers found the Session to be super comfortable, but the strap design has room for improvement.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

The rest of the fit is dialed in with the Vaporlock fit system which works well and provides a great range of adjustment. The Vaporlock system is similar to the size adjustments on most other modern helmets, with a dial at the back of the head that pulls tension evenly on both sides. It cradles the occipital lobe and can be adjusted up or down on a four position internal ladder to personalize the fit. The front attachment points of the Vaporlock system also have three positions of fore and aft adjustment by the temples.

smith session mips mountain bike helmet review - the vaporfit dial on the smith session is easy to use even with...
The Vaporfit dial on the Smith Session is easy to use even with gloves on.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Much like its more expensive sibling, the Forefront 2, one of the places the Session lost ground to the competition in comfort is the straps. The straps work well and are reasonably comfortable, but testers found it difficult to get the straps to lay completely flat. It is easy enough to adjust the locking strap splitter to avoid contact with the ears, but the nature of the design is such that they never sit perfectly flat.

It is also worth noting that the sizing of the Session seems to run a little bit large. One of our testers who has a chronically size large head fit into our medium test model perfectly. Several reviews found online also back up this assessment of the sizing.

Ventilation


We are very impressed by the Session's ventilation. It is one of the highest-scoring models in this metric. A total of 15 vents, 5 in the front, 5 in the middle, and 5 in the back, keep the air flowing to keep your head cool. The front vents are large and scoop lots of air that runs from front to back in the helmet's air channels. Testers found the Session to keep their heads cooler than most other helmets in our test selection, even on hot, sunny California summer days.

smith session mips mountain bike helmet review - the session's ventilation works well no matter how hot or sunny it...
The Session's ventilation works well no matter how hot or sunny it gets.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

The Manifest Spherical and 100% Altec ended up topping the charts for ventilation, with massive vents and internal air channels that move lots of air to keep you cool. The Troy Lee A2 MIPS also edges in front of the Session for ventilation with an air scooping vent design. While we found the ventilation on the new Forefront 2 to work much better than the original version, it still can't match the A/C like flow of the Session.

Features


The Session is a fully-featured mountain bike helmet. We've already mentioned many of this helmet's protective and comfort features in the sections above, like MIPS, Koroyd, the Vaprofit adjustment, and the straps, but it also has an adjustable visor.


The adjustable visor has three positions and is quickly and easily adjusted. It attaches by the temples and rotates, clicking into three positions — down, middle, and all the way up. This adjustable visor feature makes the Session compatible with goggles for the enduro and downhill crowd. Testers liked the range of adjustment and preferred it over the visor on the POC Tectal Race that requires the loosening of a screw to adjust. The visor on the new Forefront 2 proved to be a tester favorite, however, with a great length, sturdy feel, and metal hardware at the hinges.

Channels in the outermost vents on the front of the Session are also designed to fit the ear stems of sunglasses to hold them securely on your helmet when not in use. A helmet storage bag is also included.

smith session mips mountain bike helmet review - channels in the front vents fit the ear stems of glasses when not in...
Channels in the front vents fit the ear stems of glasses when not in use.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Weight


Weighing in at 379 grams or 13.36oz in the size medium we tested, the Session is competitively lightweight. This weight is very close to several other models we tested, like the Troy Lee A2 MIPS and the Leatt DBX 3.0. For comparison, the Oakley DRT5 is one of the heavier models we tested at 476 grams and offers a similar level of protection and comfort as the Session.

smith session mips mountain bike helmet review - not the lightest helmet around, but the session is far from heavy.
Not the lightest helmet around, but the Session is far from heavy.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Durability


So far, the Session appears to be a very durable helmet. The in-mold "Aerocore" foam is covered almost completely by the hard plastic external shell. The shell and foam fit together perfectly with no gaps or foam exposed in damage-prone areas. The outer shell is two pieces, upper and lower halves, that come together with a very clean seam in the middle of the helmet. The Vaporfit size adjustment has and continues to work well, and the straps and padding show no signs of wear other than some salty sweat stains. The three position visor remains perfectly functional and securely locks into its positions.

Value


We feel the Session is a great value considering the protection, comfort, features, and ventilation it offers. We loved this helmet, and it costs a fair amount less than many of the top performers in this review.

smith session mips mountain bike helmet review - head tester jeremy benson testing the session on the trails in...
Head tester Jeremy Benson testing the Session on the trails in Downieville, CA.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Conclusion


Smith did a great job designing the Session helmet. This versatile lid is great for all types of riding, with an outstanding combination of protection, comfort, features, and ventilation at a reasonable price. If you're looking for a new mountain bike helmet, we don't think you can go wrong with the Session.

Other Versions and Accessories


Smith makes a range of helmets for mountain and road biking for both men and women. The Session comes in three sizes, Small (51-55cm), Medium (55-59cm), and Large (59-62cm). It is available in a variety of colors to suit a range of tastes or match your kit.

Jeremy Benson

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