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Leather Helmets - Cairns-vs-Paul Conway-vs-?

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  • Leather Helmets - Cairns-vs-Paul Conway-vs-?

    I'm looking for input from anybody that has experience with new leather helmets. A few of us in our department are going to buy leathers with our own money, and want to make the best decision as to which is the best quality, value, etc. I would rather spend a little more $$$ for a helmet that is going to last a while and can take a little abuse. So far, it looks like it's gonna be Cairns' Houston versus Paul Conways' Heritage. We would definately be interested in hearing from people who have worked with both.....


    Robert Cook
    San Mateo Fire Department

  • #2
    Our department issues leather helmets to all firefighters. We currently use Sam Houstons. Guys either love 'em or hate 'em. They either fit you or they dont. I was recently put in charge of gear/helmets, and reseached the paul conway. This is a very nice helmet, but remember, it is a composite helmet wrapped in leather. This gives you the best of both worlds, the heat protection/durability of the leather, and the light weight of the composite. Another issue with the paul conway is that the leather is dyed as opposed to painted, so you will never bubble or have to repaint your lid. The only downside to the conway is that you can't put your costom bends into it when it gets hot. So if this is not a concern to you, I would say go with it. Otherwise, try on a sam houston, make sure its comfortable, and go with that.

    Hope this helps


    • #3
      Go with the Cairns

      Forget the Paul Conway. You guys either want the Cairns' Houston or the Cairns' New Yorker. My department issues the Cairns' Tupperware Helmets which are actually called Metro's I think, however many of the guys have gone out and purchased their own leathers, which happen to be Cairns' New Yorkers.

      You won't go wrong with a Cairn's New Yorker!

      Captain Chris Shields
      Lyncourt Fire Department
      Syracuse, New York
      Chris Shields
      Lieutenant / EMT
      Haz-Mat Technician
      East Syracuse Fire Dept
      Onondaga County, NY


      • #4
        I agree with Signal99.com

        Not to mention, I WAS JUST APPROVED TO WEAR MY N5A TODAY!!! I waited for like a year to have it done, but I finally got permission. Now, onto the good stuff:

        One of the benefits of wearing the New Yorker or Sam Houston Helmets is that the shell is made of 100% leather, there is no composite. It is paintable. If your department has a different color for different ranks, and you get promoted or elected to a new rank, you can paint it if you choose to do so. One of the things I heard about the Conway is that the dye in the leather shell can come off. There are really no parts inside that you can break, like those wannabe Metros, 1010's and Classic 1000's.

        The only negativity that I have heard about the Cairns helmets is that they are too heavy and don't fit. This is a mistake made by the wearer, as they do come in different sizes and from there, they are adjustable with foam "shims". As far as being heavy, well that is something you get used to.

        My personal opinion is that there is NOTHING better than a nice leather helmet with a Bronx Bend in it. The leather helmet signifies the Fire Department's Tradition and History. If you have the choice, buy Cairns!!! I own 2 of them, and they will always be a part of me. LEATHER FOREVER!!!!

        Instead of paying 400.00 for a new one, see if you can find a used one, I know there have been some up for auction on Ebay and if you are lucky, you may just pick one up for around 300.00

        Stay low and be safe!!!
        Last edited by BUGGY5632; 05-30-2002, 11:04 PM.


        • #5
          Our department has just begun to use the Morning Pride Ben 2 Plus (FDNY style with the Bourke shield)...Our members are also issued NFPA goggles.

          So far, we are very happy with this helmet for a number of reasons:

          It is affordable: less than $200.
          It is relatively lightweight.
          It has a lower, much more comfortable fit.
          And it looks good.

          I hope this helps!!!

          Stay Low and Stay Safe!!!



          • #6
            I have been wearing my Conway for 2 years now and still love it. It is much less expensive, by a hundred bucks or so, balances on my squash very well, wears well, and is much more comfortable.

            I prefer it over teh Cairns for these reasons:

            1) It sits well on the head. It weighs about the same as a Cairns
            but is balanced well and you don't feel the weight on top of
            your head. I've worn it for hours at a time and after it is all
            said and done, my neck doesn't feel like I've put a cinder block
            on top of it.

            2) The helmet is more comfortable, The entire interior suspension
            system is wrapped in padded leather. Since I sweat like a
            stuck Irish pig, I've had problems with the cloth and nomex
            linings slipping on my head, the leather padding keeps the
            helmet in place on my head.

            3) The leather of the helmet is yed through. I don'te care for my
            helmet changing colors. I have also seen these leather helmets
            missing sizeable chunks from where the leather has cracked and
            chipped off.

            4) I don't have to add shims or remove and impact cap to make my
            helmet fit well. All I do is turn the little knob at the back
            and magically it fits.

            Now, that being said, I have made a few personal alterations to my helmet out of preference. I placed on a milwaukee chin strap (Because I hate looking for that damned little clip to snap into while I see fire in front of me). I actually do wear the chine strap. I also put on ESS goggles. The standard goggles that come with any helmet now are garbage. They fog up too easily, are difficult to adjust and are very cheap.

            Overall, this is a great helmet. I don't regret my decision at all. I personally don't want to put "The bend" in my helmet. My department wouldn't let you do it anyway so its a moot point.

            Just a little note too, I found Conway "Cosmetic Defect" helmets at http://www.thefirestore.com for only $279. The helmets are still compliant but the sticthcing is out of place or there are a few scuffs or dings in them but they are still very much serviceable. It's worth a look.

            Also, search the backlog of topices in this posting. If you type in leather helmet, conway, or some things like that you'll find this topic has been posted several times and there are many opinions and takes on the subject.
            "Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like." Will Rogers

            The borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7 - Debt free since 10/5/2009.

            "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." - New York Judge Gideon Tucker

            "As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government." - Dave Barry

            www.daveramsey.com www.clarkhoward.com www.heritage.org


            • #7
              By all means go with the Cairns. It is the first company to make
              them and they pretty much have it down to a science. Bend and twist it
              as you like. Although plastic wrapped in leather is a novel idea,
              it is still a plastic helmet when you come down to it. You could wrap
              fur, human hair, velour, or anything for that matter on it, it is
              still a plastic helmet. All leather forever!!!!!!!
              "I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we know the work which a fireman has to do believe that his is a noble calling."

              Edward F. Croker
              Chief 1899-1911
              Fire Dept. City of New York

              HOOK N' CAN of the I.A.C.O.J.


              • #8
                My volunteer department bought a batch of 10 Conway helmets just to try out before buying for the whole department. We brought them to our training field and subjected them to the normal burn drill. No flash over simulators, no "burn them up" drills, just a regular drill with average heat. When the day was over the Conway helmet was a mess. Top side blistered, underside blistered, etc. We then boxed them back up and went with Cairns. A number of us had our own Sam Houston's already and love them. The only down side being the price. In a heads up, apples to apples comparison the Cairns kicks the Conway everywhere. The Cairns impact system is more user friendly, the durability is greater and all in all they seem to fit better over two hoods. All this plus Cairns practically invented the leather fire helmet. They are a little more expensive. We pay $425.00 each and we issue one to every member of our department. They all love them and wouldn't want any other helmet. Just my thoughts.

                P.S.: The irony is that we are infatic about Conway shields on our Cairns Sam Houston helmets. Funny huh.
                Stay low and move it in.

                Be safe.



                • #9
                  Go with the Cairns...in my opinion, it's a superior helmet. Mine has taken hits that would've taken the Conway out of service.

                  If you're concerned about price, look for a show near you, or head down to Firehouse Expo. Many vendors, like The Firestore, or Allsafe, have helmets with them and give decent show special prices.
                  My views are, of course, mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinion of my station

                  "Give me the storm and stress of thought and action rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. " ~ Robert Ingersoll


                  • #10
                    I have had my Cairns for almost a year now and I love it. It might take you a little time to adjust it to fit your head perfectly but it is definitely possible. It was also very easy to paint yellow which was a big plus. Recommend it to everybody I know.


                    • #11
                      Cairns leather. Is there really any other?
                      Steve Gallagher
                      IACOJ BOT
                      "I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes


                      • #12
                        definately go with cairns. as far as durability goes i have my grandfathers g5a that he wore in the 60s and 70s. it's still in good shape and the only thing keeping it out of service is lack of an impact cap and no eye protection. i wear a houston and it's very nice. as far as weight goes you get used to it after a bit. leather forever.


                        • #13
                          I have both the Conway and an N5A. The Conway I use at work because it meets all the NFPA standards. It fits me and a lot of other people much better than the new Carins N5's or N6's, it is lighter on the head, it has a lower profile so it doesn't stick up as high as the Carins and bang on every doorway you walk through. I've had it in the flashover simulator and burn buildings as well as some real structure fires and it holds up quite well. The leather is dyed so if you get a scratch you don't realy notice it. The only thing I don't like about it is that you can't bend it. I use my N5A where I volly, it is an older one, has the small skull cap and doesn't have the rachet. It fits me much better than my Conway but it doesn't meet NFPA. It is also lighter than my old 660 metro, you can wear all day and not feel it. I've worn the new N5's and N6's and I like the Conways better. You should see if you can get one of each to try out from someone else in your dept or maybe a neighboring dept.
                          Once upon a time, at a firehouse far, far away.....


                          • #14
                            I have always used the Cairns Leather Helmet...and in my opinion....You can not beat em...They are the REAL thing....not an imitation. (and...I dont even sell them )

                            In fact....I just ordered one for my son.
                            09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
                            IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
                            "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
                            BMI Investigator
                            The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


                            • #15
                              Check em out and try em on. I have a Conway and have no gripes with it. As mentioned before, the leather liner makes it extremely comfortable and the ratchet system is much better designed than the Cairns one, which kind of just grips the back of your forehead. I have used the helmet in high heat and have never had any problems. On the other hand, I think the Houstons look a little better, and you can bend their brim, so if you're more interested in being in a fashion show, that get a Cairns. Basically, guys who have Cairns, love Cairns, there's no way around it. You would be really hard pressed to convince a Cairns guy to change to Conway. However, you can get a brand new, well-fitting Conway with the features you want for around $300, while a Cairns is gonna run you at least $150 more. Those are the pros and cons as I see them, but I would try to get one of each to try them out on your own. Remember, in the end you're just gonna want to burn them up and make em look all salty anyway....


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