I love showdowns. Especially when it’s about helmets. Remember the days when everyone had a velvet helmet and that was pretty much all there was to choose from? I’m so happy those days are gone and now there are tons of different styles and options. Bling, color, lace, rhinestones… you want it, someone’s got it.
I’ve had my GPA Speed Air for years now, but as the time grew near for a replacement, I wanted to look at all my options a bit more. At AETA in January I was able to see, try on, and learn about tons of different helmets and really liked the Samshield. It had a lot of features I liked, it fit me well, and the fun part – it was fully customizable. I’m taking full advantage of the fact that I’m an eventer now and can buy whatever I want without caring about how “different” it looks. So now that I’ve had and worn the Samshield enough to form some opinions, I can draw some comparisons between the two. Don’t get me wrong, I like both of these helmets, but I’m gonna take the gloves off and get down to the nitty-gritty for the sake of comparison. Obviously this is all my opinion from my own personal experience and your mileage may vary.
GPA: Good ventilation is HUGE for me, being a Texan. Especially a Texan that sweats profusely. I had an AYR8 for a few years and never did feel like it had very good ventilation, which is why I went to the GPA after that. The Speed Air certainly has excellent ventilation, with those big mesh vents all over. It’s really my favorite part of that helmet.
Samshield: The Samshield seems to have good ventilation as well, and in a bit of a prettier picture. The small vent hole in the front gives it a more streamlined look than the GPA, although I don’t feel as much of a breeze through it. I do feel the air coming in through the vent in the front of the Samshield, just not the full force all over breeze that I get through the Speed Air’s giant mesh vents.
GPA: The foam lining in the GPA is nothing special, just your regular foam. While you can buy a replacement liner, and there are little Velcro dots inside the GPA that technically make the liner “removeable”, the Velcro loses its stickiness quickly and the liner itself consists of many seperate pieces. It’s not easy to remove on a regular basis to wash it, which makes for a funky stank that only a good odor spray can eliminate. The lining is comfortable enough, but nothing different from what 95% of helmets out there have.
Samshield: The liner of the Samshield is probably my favorite feature. I love being able to not only un-snap the entire liner to wash it, but also change the liner out for a different size. Another cool thing is that there are two types of Samshield liners – a regular Shadow Matt liner that has padding all the way around your head, and a Premium liner that leaves a gap on your forehead to help alleviate the pressure there. I love that my Shadow Matt can also accommodate the liner from a Premium, so I have two options for liners. I can easily change not only the size of my liner, but also the style of my liner, PLUS take it out and throw it in the wash when it gets gross. This is brilliant. I also like that it’s made from memory foam, which has a nicer feel to it than the standard cheap foam in the GPA.
GPA: I hate the harness on the GPA. Hate. I don’t throw that word out here a lot, but it’s true. The exposed nylon looks cheap and the flimsy little velcroed-on pad under the chin never went back together correctly after the first time I unvelcroed it to adjust the chin strap. The little plastic things that are supposed to keep the straps properly arranged under your ears broke within weeks of me buying the helmet and do nothing to contain the straps. I also don’t like the big floppy piece on the back of the helmet, mostly because I think it makes kind of an ugly silhouette. Another thing I noticed is that it seems like the chin strap loosens itself as I wear it, and every couple of months I have to shorten it back up. Maybe my fat chins are just really strong, but that sure didn’t make me feel like it was the most secure thing in the world. The harness is the worst feature of what is otherwise a nice helmet.
Samshield: The Samshield harness on the other hand is pretty nice. It’s a solid covered piece and padded with memory foam, which IMO looks a lot more attractive than a nylon strap. It’s cut to sit more forward under your chin, which feels a little odd at first, but I stopped noticing it after the first couple days. I think that this cut and positioning make it much more secure on my head, and thus makes it feel safer. Granted, since the harness is bigger and thicker it does cover more of your face. I’m ok with that because I don’t notice it, but some people don’t like it.
GPA: GPA has started to offer cool things like bling and a few colors of piping, but a fully customizable helmet is not happening for the average person. Granted, most people (especially our h/j friends) just wear a “plain” or “normal” helmet anyway.
Samshield: With tons of color and material options, I don’t think any other helmet manufacturer on the market offers more customization options than Samshield. You can go pretty much as plain or as crazy as you want.
GPA: I was able to nab my Speed Air on closeout for under $300, but regular retail price from Dover is $599.
Samshield: Along with all those custom options comes a wide range of prices for a Samshield. The basic Shadow Matt starts at $420 from Dover… mine with the custom yellow trim is right around $550 retail.
GPA: I bought my GPA with a pretty snug fit, because everyone swore they compress a lot as you wear them. I wish mine had done that but it never really did, so it’s always been tight and leaves a red spot on my forehead with my hair tucked under it. I have a definite long oval head shape and the Speed Air, while being the most long oval GPA model I’ve ever put on my head, still isn’t quite long oval enough to be perfect for me. Not the helmet’s fault, just a matter of head shape and shell shape.
Samshield: The shape of the Samshield definitely suits my head better. I bought this one fitting a bit snug too, and it has molded to my head shape pretty well. It’s still just a touch tight across the forehead when my hair is up, so if it doesn’t compress more within the next month I’ll either buy the next liner size up or get the Premium liner that doesn’t have padding along that part of my head. Pretty nice to have the option to play with the fit a little!
GPA: Aside from the much-hated harness, I’ve been happy with the quality of my GPA. It’s managed to survive years of living and horse showing with me, so it must be pretty durable. I was worried that the mesh vents might dent or come apart over time but they’re still holding up well.
Samshield: Everything about the Samshield just oozes quality. The construction is beautiful and the lines are elegant, although I do think that it’s very smooth finish will be more prone to scratches. For that reason, it’ll live in it’s little Samshield bag. My only real concern is for the chrome air vent – there were issues in the past with the finish flaking off, which Samshield says they have since fixed, so we’ll see as time goes on. Fingers crossed.
*** please excuse Bobby snickering when I say I have a long oval head. He’s so immature. ***
Overall, there are pros and cons to each helmet. I love how light and airy the GPA Speed Air is, but that harness is a huge detractor for me. Putting aside all the superficial things, the harness makes me nervous as a possible safety issue. I don’t like that it loosens itself or that the plastic pieces broke right off the bat. Because of that, and the customization options and snap-in liners, Samshield takes the win for me. Thanks Luxe EQ for the beautiful helmet!