Air filters for humans

By Ray Gibbs and the Dirt Wheels staff

The original Parker Pumper for a two-seat machine comes with two wired HJC helmets with fittings to attach the air hose.

The concept of plumbing-filtered air into a helmet has been around for many years. I believe that from the beginning of off-road racing, the idea has been incorporated in one form or another. Back then, there were few commercially available units to choose from, and custom one-off units were not uncommon. Off-road racing, especially out west, is very dusty by nature, and unless the vehicle is a quad or a bike, they will have a fresh-air system on board.


My reasoning for obtaining and installing one of these units was not for racing purposes, but mainly to lessen the nasty effects of ingesting that nasty stuff when the wife and I go off-roading with our group of friends. There is nothing quite as nasty as breathing someone else’s dust!

This isn’t an individual test of a sponsored product, rather a point of view from a recreational rider’s first experience with this concept. I purchased my Parker Pumper unit (and the topic of this discussion) at a local industry show and got it for less than the $1,065.95 retail price. The kit includes the two-seat original Parker Pumper with two wired helmets. It consisted of a two-speed “squirrel-cage” fan unit, a splitter (to connect two separate hoses for driver and passenger), two full-faced helmets, hoses, and helmet “skirts” but no mounting brackets. The unit is of a classic design and has been around since the beginning days of off-road racing. There are newer designs available from different manufacturers, some appear easier to mount than others, but they all perform the same basic function—as an air filter for humans.


I had originally fabricated my own brackets for this system to fit my Polaris XP Pro two-seater, but sold the car before I got to install and use it. While doing some testing with the Dirt Wheels Polaris Pro R two-seater, I discovered that the two cars use the same design of the restraining harness’ top mounting points and was able to quickly install the system on it.

I was curious as to how it would work! While this system comes wired to be a two-speed fan, this was only a temporary installation, so to simplify the wiring I opted to wire it in as a single-speed (high speed).


The first time that the wife and I drove the car with this system installed, we were the only car driving that day, so a true “dusty” environment was not available. We did have a few encounters where I skidded the car to a halt only to have our own dust cloud envelope the car with the system pumping, and it worked great—not a trace of airborne muck!

Two things that we took away from this test: First, the unit is on the noisy side. This is the first time that I had operated a machine with supplied filtered air, and I wasn’t used to the sound entering my helmet. It wasn’t deafening, not really distracting, just different. I could probably wear earplugs and filter out the biggest part of it. 

Second, the unit’s filtered air supply also acts as a personal helmet air-conditioner! I wasn’t quite expecting this. It was a hot day, but this system made a very noticeable temperature reduction inside of our helmets! It was kind of weird when taking the helmet off after a lengthy ride and not have a sweaty head. I like it! So, if you ride in a group or ride in a warmer climate or both, this system is what I would call an investment in personal comfort. From this point on, I will always have a version of filtered helmet air in all my off-road vehicles! Visit their website at for more info.

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