PRODUCT EVALUATION: RUGGED RADIOS BELL QUALIFIER PUMPER HELMET
So you can see, speak and breathe By the staff of Dirt Wheels
The Bell brand has been a well-known name in the motorsports industry for decades, and while not as long, so has Rugged Radios. Bell has recently made it far more affordable for an average UTV enthusiast to have a “pumper” helmet designed to be connected to a filtered clean-air system. No more breathing dust! So, you might be asking, why should you go to Rugged Radios to purchase a Bell helmet? For one, Rugged is a leading producer of filtered clean-air helmet systems for UTVs, and it stocks helmets they feel work well with them. In this case, though, Rugged Radios is also a world-famous source for in-car intercoms and car-to-car radios. When you buy the Qualifier from Rugged for $278.95, it comes with a professionally installed helmet kit that includes speakers, an adjustable boom mic and a quick-disconnect cord.
In addition to being pre-wired with a Rugged Radios helmet kit, the Bell Qualifier helmet is a DOT-certified helmet with a tough, light polycarbonate and ABS shell. Mounted on top is a large but sleek forced-air hose fitting that lets you connect with all popular fresh air systems. Having fresh, clean air forced in through the top of the helmet will help keep dust out of the helmet, but a removable dust skirt seals the bottom of the helmet to further keep dust out.
In the words of Henry Ford, “You can get it in any color you want as long as you want black.” It does come in sizes XS through XXXL, so there should be a Qualifier for everyone. Actually, perhaps not everyone. This helmet is not approved for racing, so no racers need apply. The helmet has a Click Release shield for easy and tool-free shield replacement. The interior features a removable and washable anti-bacterial liner. The helmet has a five-year warranty. The helmet has nicely integrated speaker pockets so you are not bothered by the twin speakers that are part of the pre-installed helmet kit.
On the Rugged Radios side, Rugged helmet kits are not hard to install, and we have done installs on our helmets. But, the install by the trained and experienced Rugged staff are always cleaner and less obtrusive than the ones we do. Our helmet’s install was flawless! You will, of course, notice the flexible boom mike. It must be very close to your mouth for best performance, so you will need to move it out of the way as you put the helmet on. The helmet must be plugged into a radio and/or intercom to work, so there is also a short cord with a quick-disconnect exiting from the dust skirt.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Putting the Qualifier on is a little more finicky than a normal Bell helmet. You have to make sure the dust skirt is out of the way, and watch out for the boom mic as it goes on. After the helmet is on, tighten the strap, position the mic for comfort and situate the dust skirt. After you are in the car, connect the umbilical for the radio and attach the hose from the clean-air system. Most installs pair the air hose and the helmet cord. It takes a little more time, but is well worth it in dusty conditions.
All the functions of the radio and intercom worked perfectly during our testing. The helmet was comfortable, and it did all that we expected of it. Fit seemed slightly roomy for the size, but we’d still call it true to size. If you decide to use the helmet without the dust skirt, you will find that the hook fabric that the skirt attaches to will catch on your other clothes. Also, tall folks (or low, streamlined cages) may have clearance issues with the hose attachment being on top of the helmet.
Aside from those minor complaints, and those are easily overlooked with a helmet this convenient and at a reasonable price, the helmet provided clean air and perfect communication.
We love the tough but smooth integrated look of the helmet and air fitting and how fine all of the gaps are. Rugged also has replacement shields, helmet bags and, of course, clean-air systems that will mate with the Qualifier. To find out more or get your own pre-wired Bell Qualifier helmet, visit www.ruggedradios.com.