Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Adding headphones to a ski/snowboard helmet

I wanted a second helmet for cold weather flying and a ski/snowboard helmet seemed like a logical choice.  But I also wanted to add headphones, partly for motor-sound attenuation, (because I don't like ear plugs) but mainly to also have a communications and/or music option when I fly. 

You can use whatever headphones you like, starting with basic sound protection head phones if all you want is hearing protection, or add NAC communication headphones, or any other Peltor offering, right up to top of the line Peltor Powercoms.  

I started with this guy, a pretty standard-looking, snowboard helmet that I picked up used, but in good shape.  I don’t think these things cost much more than fifty bucks or so brand new, however, because they are not specialty branded for aviation.
I unsnapped the removable earmuffs from this helmet and tossed them.

Then I marked where a pair of OpsCore style, "FAST" helmet rail mounts would go.  (Ten dollars from Aliexpress/eBay.)  These rails will not only be a mounting platform for the Peltor headphones, but can also accommodate cameras, and lights, and PiccatinnyWeaver rail adaptors.  And they neatly cover up the cut section you will be making, leaving a neat, professional appearance.  I drilled ¼” holes on each side which will both mount the rails and fasten new, slightly-longer, chin straps that will allow room for the headphones.
Shown below: Emerson Airsoft ARC rail helmet mounts.  Ten dollars, with free shipping from aliexpress. 
Next, I popped out the helmet’s Styrofoam insert.  (Which took a little effort.)  I used a flat head screwdriver to pry it out, a bit at a time, like opening a can of paint.  It’s snug, and the insert may be spot glued in a couple of areas.  Mine was.  Eventually I heard the glue crack, and out it came.  

I used a rotory (Dremel) tool with a cut off wheel to grind off the rivets holding the old chin straps.  Then used 1/2” webbing to make new, longer length straps, using the hardware off the old straps.

Once the rails were positioned, I carved away some of the helmet material, to let the headphones ride up a little.  Without this cutting, the headphones won't work with any ski helmet I've looked at.
Then I did some corresponding reshaping of the Styrofoam insert.  It was no trouble to reshape the lining to fit my cut styrofoam.
As you can see from the first picture at the top, the straps are going to have to be longer so they can fit around the headphones.  You will need some good quality web strap material, of the same width as your existing chin strap, so you can reuse the chin strap clips.

Reassemble the helmet, and try it on, using duct tape to temporarily attach the new straps to the outside of the helmet to figure out the exact length they needed to be.  Then cut to length, heat sealed the ends with a match.
I  folded them over, and glued the fold flat using a little epoxy and a clamp.  
I punched a ¼” hole in the folded ends once they were dry.

Then I used a ¼ - 20 T-nut with the sharp points ground away. (I'm referring to the four sharp, prongy looking thingys seen below.)  T-nuts without the prongs aren't available at my HomeDepot, but can be found online (eBay) or you can buy a set purpose-made for attaching straps to MICH helmets, but cutting, grinding, or otherwise removing the prongs from commonly availabel T-nuts is simplicity itself.
Finally, I attached the straps using ½” long machine screws and a washers.
The rails fit fairly well to the contours of the new helmet, and now the unit is ready to attach Peltor style rail mounting hardware.  These are the clips that attach the headphones to the helmet. I found an inexpensive source here: http://cryeprecision.com/P-ACCPA100000/Airframe™-Peltor™-Adapter-Set
They were only $8.60 plus shipping. 

I bought some "hard hat"  headphone ear defenders off Amazon for under fifteen dollars, http://www.amazon.com/3M-Peltor-Optime-Attachable-Earmuff/dp/B0017YEMYI/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1381365622&sr=8-2-fkmr2&keywords=peltor+hard+hat+ear+defenders and used the phones, and the steel wire clips to integrate with the Crye adapters, and that was it.

You could of course just attach these hard hat headphones to your ski lid, (once you made an appropriate cut in the helmet shell) and using a single T-nut at the appropriate spot, but you would still have to lengthen and spread out the straps.  And the whole project would probably look kind of cheesy.
I don't mind homemade gear, but I don't like it to look homemade.  Those FAST rail ARC rail things, make the project easy, and the final outcome looks reasonably slick.
If all you want is music, you can look at my post on adding music speakers to NAC headphones.

Or check out the post on Peltor Powercom Plus headphones.  

Bluetooth is probably the future of PPG comms, however.
Pilot Jeff Schaber has worked out a mod for adding a SenaSmh5-FM motorcycle Bluetooth comms set, (which runs about$96) to Peltor headphones.  These incorporate a pair of speakers which will fit inside the Peltor headphones, and a boom mic.
You can read his post (105306) on the Yahoo group PPGBiglist, and see build photos here:

Want to further pimp your lid?
Add an NVG mount to attach your GoPro.  Aliexpress has them with shipping for $11.95  My homemade NVG GoPro mount link can be found here.
I have come to prefer shooting GoPro footage with the camera right on the front in my NVG mount, as there is no danger of getting a piece of my helmet in the shot, as has happened several times in the past using an adhesive mount on the top/front.
And search eBay or Aliexpress for "Helmet Velcro".  I like having a little 3M velcro on the helmet to attach my iPod and helps keep my goggles secured.

1 comment:

  1. I wanted a second helmet for cold weather flying and a ski/snowboard helmet seemed like a logical choice. But I also wanted to add ... snowboardhelmet.blogspot.com