Review: Helite Hi-Viz Airnest Vest

Jul 12, 2015 View Comments by

Review: Helite Hi-Viz Airnest VestAn Airbag That You Wear! –

Protective gear for motorcyclists has continued to progress at a rapid rate over the last 20 years or so. From better helmets to armored jackets and pants to hard shell back protectors, riders have more defenses against injury than ever before. Perhaps the next great leap forward in protection technology is wearable airbags, which are just beginning to really proliferate. A number of companies have fielded a variety of different designs, each with a unique focus and approach. Some are highly sophisticated and electronically interfaced with accelerometers and other sensors on the bike itself to detect a crash and initiate airbag inflation. Others, like the Helite Hi-Viz Airnest, use a much simpler approach.

Helite got its start in 2001 with a personal airbag created for pilots of light aircraft. Further development produced products for equestrian and motorcycle applications. According to Helite, theirs is the only motorcycle specific airbag system to garner a full CE rating.

So how does it work? The Hi-Viz Airnest Vest is made to be worn over a riding jacket. A tether connects the vest to the motorcycle. Unlike other airbag systems, the Helite uses a purely mechanical trigger. In a crash, when the rider is separated from the bike, the tether is ripped out releasing a spring-loaded piston. The piston then pierces a large CO2 cartridge, which inflates the airbag. All this takes place in just 100ms, well before the rider would hit the ground or anything else in most situations. The airbag inflates to an initial pressure of around 200mBAR—hard enough to protect but soft enough to absorb crash energy. After the initial inflation, the vest self deflates over the next few minutes.

Once inflated, the airbag covers the rider’s front and back with a neck roll behind the head. This protects vital organs, but even more importantly, it limits head movement so as to prevent or reduce hyper flexion of the neck. The airbag also slows down the overall impact and distributes the forces more evenly, greatly reducing the risk of serious injury.

The Airnest is clearly well built and has a sturdy, quality feel to it. At first appearance it looks very large and bulky, but that’s only because it’s designed to be worn on top of a motorcycle jacket. The 100cc (for the L and XL sizes) CO2 cartridge is mounted to the front of the vest on the right side. Before putting it on, the vest feels heavy and cumbersome, but once on, it’s largely forgotten. Remembering to connect and disconnect the tether every time one gets on an off the bike does take a bit of getting used to, though there’s no need to worry about accidently triggering the airbag—this is nearly impossible to do.

The vest further enhances rider protection with an included CE Knox back protector and a very conspicuous color. Visibility is also increased via huge reflective strips on the front and back. In fact, the Helite Airnest is CE approved for high visibility, too.

The downside of the Helite Airnest Vest, and just about anything else a rider would wear over a jacket, is that it adds a layer and blocks venting when worn in hot weather. For many, the slight discomfort is a small price to pay for the peace of mind and protection offered by the Airnest.

If the vest is ever inflated, simply flatten it back out and install a new CO2 cartridge (unless there is reason to believe it’s been damaged). For the ATGATT evangelist and the rider who will settle for nothing less than the ultimate protection, the Helite Airnest Vest is the next step. At $629 it’s relatively affordable, too, especially compared with some electronically-actuated airbag suits.

Helite Hi-Viz Airnest Vest
Color: Hi-Viz Yellow
Sizes: Child S-L, Adult S-XL+
Price: $629


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About the author

There’s something relentlessly romantic about riding a motorcycle. I’m blessed to know that feeling. With a background in photography and a love for motorcycles, I’m interested in the beauty and honesty of the open road. You’ll find me riding Carolina’s roads on my Suzuki SV650.