Samshield vs GPA – the showdown (with video)

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.

GPSvsSam1I’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.


these are actually the same size, I promise. I just can’t center a photo.

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!

37 thoughts on “Samshield vs GPA – the showdown (with video)

    1. as always…she is NOTHING (I SAY NOTHING) without you Bobby (snicker snicker):)

      I have to say the Samshield is gorgeous. Even if it hurt your head i would love it. I would definitely look at that if i moved up a degree in my costs for helmet 🙂

      BTW, I feel the same way about my OneK I just bought with the sunshield . I get more compliments than i have ever gotten from bystanders and love the fit and comfort of it (i cannot get used to not having a headache when i take it off, and often forget to take it off while i am untacking etc which NEVER happened before). LOL

      Albeit not as expensive as the Samshield and not as custom but it works for me 🙂


        1. i got mine from tack of the day. its the suede blingier one than i wanted but i got it half price so i will take it 😉


  1. I have to say that as a recent buyer of a Samshield I love it. Ive never worn a speed air but the Samshield is no comparison for the other GPA I have worn it for my CO Ayr8. Way more comfortable. 🙂


  2. Though it’s not as pretty as the Samshield, I will say that OneK also has the same liner and harness, and huge vents like the GPA. If I was going to get a second helmet, I would probably go with the Samshield for showing and whatnot, but the OneK is an option that kind of has some of the best features of both. Definitely never, ever going back to CO though. Not while I live somewhere warm at least.


      1. For all of the nice features (like the removable liner which I have washed several times) it’s a really reasonable price. I do get the appeal of the Samshield, and if I hadn’t been on such a budget I probably would have gone that route.


  3. Great comparison… more than anything for me, head shape pretty much determines the helmet. The ventilation in the GPA is pretty much amazing after wearing an AYR8 for so long.


  4. Samsheild is soooo pretty! I’ve always been pretty happy with my COs, never any headache issues, my GPA is small and kills my head. I’m really wanting a one K next, or there is a brand new CO on the market in Europe that a few riders here in the US are trying…might want one of those too. How to choose!?


    1. Here on the surface of the sun, er… Texas, those Charles Owen’s feel like easy bake ovens. I love how they look but good lord my brains were getting scrambled! If I lived in a cooler place it would have been a tough choice between the leather look AYR8 (which I think is gorgeous) and the Samshield. And the little pony kid in me loves the navy glitter CO too. 😉


      1. OMG yes, the navy glitter is on the top of my list too! ALL THE SPARKLES. Also, I don’t know how I deal with no vents when it is 100+ degrees here, possibly my brain is already scrambled.


  5. I recently tried on a Samshield Shadow Matte helmet in the tack store and I really liked it. I just can’t justify the price right now. I would like to try a One K, but I haven’t found one to try on yet. My AYR8 fits my head really well, but the ventilation is not very good. I also really liked the Speed Air when I tried it on, but again, too expensive for my measly little wallet. It’s nice that there are a lot of nice helmets in a range of budgets. 🙂


      1. I agree. That definitely helps. It’s nice when you can use Riding Warehouse coupons, too. 🙂 Since I evidently have problems staying on a horse these last few years, I’ve been able to utilize the Charles Owen replacement policy which has helped with cost a lot. That makes it hard to spend even more money on a helmet when i can get a new CO for a lot less than new price.


  6. I find it really odd that GPA would put such a cheap-looking harness on their most expensive helmet! I have the GPA “Extreme” (tiny, round head only fits in GPA. cue my wallet crying.) and the harness is sturdy and padded and covered in soft fabric. I do wish that GPA would get on the bandwagon with classier/removable padding on the inside of their helmets like Samshield has done!


  7. i definitely prefer the look of the samshield to the gpa (those big vents really just never did it for me) but have never been as happy with a helmet as i am with my one k.


  8. See, I giggle when you call a $300+ helmet mid-range. Just. Can’t. Nope.


    I really really really want the sparkle OneK and I’ve tried it on and it fits, but I cannot shell out that much.

    So your $500+ options are not even in the same stratosphere. Good review though. Very comprehensive.


    1. I don’t like the sparkle one k as much as I like the sparkle CO. It’s not as pretty. Granted, my heart goes pitter patter at the Samshield shimmer the most. Stay sparkly my friend.


  9. Amanda is a blogger,
    Amanda is a blogger,
    She’s so many helmuts she’s a hogger,
    She tried to compare,
    Which helmut was a square,
    And tried to clear up the fogger.


  10. This couldn’t have come at a better time- I was just weighing between the GPA and Samshield to replace my CO AYR8 before next summer. While not TX, North Carolina gets hotter than hell also and the CO just does not cut it. Of course the Samshield customizer thing is addictive and I have yet to find another helmet that allows turquoise piping…


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