Snowboard Editor-at-Large MacKenzie Ryan in POC's Fomix Backcountry MIPS Helmet. Ben Girardi photo.
What are the things you consider when you buy a helmet? If you’re a regular backcountry ski or splitboarder, the third thing you thought after #1: protection and #2: fit ,was ventilation. Then, maybe you gave a passing thought to weight. Not to worry, the good folks at POC Sports have considered each one of these critical details in their Fornix MIPS. Here is what you can expect.
The full coverage and ventilation features. POC photo.
POC literally has a research & innovation lab in Stockholm, where the company tests how products like the Fornix MIPS responds to impact. Their in-house team includes a neuroscientist, a spine doctor, a former professional ski racer, an orthopedic surgeon, and a traffic safety data analysis expert (think of those 1990's crash test dummy commercials). They follow up their beta testing with in-field use from their team of pro athletes. As far as R&D goes, this is as tight of feedback loop as you could expect.
Full disclosure: aside from the doctors and technical experts bashing this helmet, I have fortunately not had the chance to test it in a high-impact situation. This helmet has, however, taken many a whipper and revealed next-to-no evidence of impact, which is promising.
It has aramid fiber (the stuff Kevlar is made of) reinforced in bridges across the helmet, which redistributes the force of impact. The biggest selling point of the Fornix MIPS is what POC calls the Multi-directional Impact System. The helmet’s structure and materials are geared to protect your brain from impacts on all side. Think about a prolonged tomahawk and how you seem to hit a different part of your head on the way down. That’s what this helmet will help you survive.
The front-to-back coverage on this helmet is perfect. If you’ve tried on a lot of other helmet brands, you might notice how some of them do not cover completely the brain stem. Or they do not have enough frontal coverage. You will not not need to worry about that with this helmet. Plus, per most POC products, you have a lot of adjustability. You can add and remove padding as you see fit, and it won't disrupt the helmet’s protection.
Ventilation and Weight
All the safety features aside, the Fornix MIPS has fantastic ventilation. You can tour with it on. If you’re someone prone to wearing a hat plus helmet, I’d recommend wearing a baseball cap or ditching the helmet entirely on the way up. The knit hat and helmet combo on the way up is the only time this helmet caused my sunglasses or goggles to fog. Since this isn’t really anyone’s preferred method anyway, and more of side effect of needing to boot up something after you’ve transitioned, I wouldn’t give it a second thought. And at just under a pound, the POC Fornix weighs light enough you won't be in a hurry to take it off.
The Bottom Line
This is probably the best backcountry-focused helmet on the market. Ski mountaineers may prefer something even more lightweight and well-ventilated, but most avid backcountry skiers and snowboarders will be delighted with how well this helmet ventilates, and how much it covers. If it matters to you, stylistically the Fornix MIPS doesn’t look dramatically different from any other POC helmets, meaning no one will bat an eye if you use it on the tram.
The only downfall about this helmet is the price point, which hovers around $200. Then again, your brain is literally the most important thing in your life. So, $200 isn’t that big of a deal.