Best Adventure Motorcycle Helmets for the Great Outdoors

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams

Meet adventure head on

Adventure motorcycle helmets blend the features of on-road and off-road helmets, providing adventure riders with versatility that mirrors the capabilities of their machines in the great outdoors. Manufacturers of all kinds have entered the ADV helmet market, offering riders a wide array of options. To simplify your decision, we've compiled our top three picks of the best adventure motorcycle helmets, based on our extensive review and testing process, along with feedback from trusted enthusiasts and fellow journalists. When it comes to safety, we do our best to avoid recommending budget options, so below you'll find three picks that we believe are very similar in performance quality. As a result, these recommendations are listed in no particular order, and choosing the right one for you will largely depend on personal preference in terms of style and fitment.

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Table of Contents

1a: Shoei Hornet X2

Back in January 2015, when Shoei first unveiled the Hornet X2, our Tom Roderick took notice of its potential for adventure riding. Following Roderick's review, site editor-in-chief, Evans Brasfield decided to conduct extensive testing in 2018, especially considering the importance of using up-to-date helmets for safety.

During our extensive testing, we found that the Shoei Hornet X2 lives up to Shoei's reputation for producing top-quality helmets. The fit of the helmet was near-perfect, consistent with the high standards we've come to expect from Shoei. The 3D Max-Dry Interior stood out for its excellent moisture-wicking capabilities, a vital feature for rides in hot and arid conditions. We also appreciated the safety provided by the Emergency Quick Release System (EQRS), offering added peace of mind.

A significant aspect of our findings was the Hornet X2's impressive performance in noise reduction at high speeds, despite its sizeable sun visor. This feature exceeded our expectations, maintaining low levels of wind noise. The helmet's design effectively minimized lift at higher speeds, addressing a common issue with other adventure helmets. Although there was some additional neck torque when checking blind spots at speed, it was considerably less than what we've experienced with other models.

We were impressed with the Hornet X2's ventilation, facilitated by its 11 vents. This design effectively maintained airflow, keeping the rider comfortable. The versatility of the helmet was another high point, with a wide eye port and a high-flipping face shield accommodating goggles for off-road use. Removing the sun visor, however, required some effort, despite the presence of quarter-turn fasteners.

One challenge we encountered with the Hornet X2 was in swapping face shields. Contrary to Shoei's claims, we found that adjusting the sun visor was a necessary step in this process, and aligning the various components was more challenging than with other Shoei models.

Still, our experience with the Shoei Hornet X2 was overwhelmingly positive. Its standout features include quietness, effective wind management, comfort, and versatility, making it a strong recommendation for adventure riders. The only minor issue we noted was with the shield swapping process.

1b: Arai XD4

The Arai XD4, a testament to tradition and craftsmanship, stands out in our helmet evaluations. Known for its heritage and handcrafted production in Japan, Arai has maintained a strong reputation in the helmet industry since the 1950s. The company's helmets are often used by professional racers in various forms of motorsports.

Launched in 2012, the Arai XD4 is the successor to the XD3 with notable improvements in ventilation and a new shield design for better cooling. The helmet's interior padding allows for customization, and the inclusion of emergency quick removal tabs for the cheek pads improves safety.

The shell of the XD4 has been slightly redesigned and is available in five sizes, aiming to provide a balance of comfort and weight. Updates in 2018 included aerodynamic adjustments to the peak, a fabric upgrade similar to the Corsair model, and the introduction of anti-fog coated shields with tint options.

The helmet's finish and graphics are of high quality, although a minor issue with asymmetrical graphics was noted during our review. Weighing 3 lbs 9.9 oz, the XD4 is moderately weighted compared to other adventure helmets. Its construction involves hand-laid carbon and fiberglass, contributing to its weight, especially in North America, where it meets DOT and Snell M2020 standards.

The comfort of the XD4 is a highlight, with liners that adapt to various head shapes. The cheek and crown pads offer customization with removable foam layers. A standout feature is the helmet's large eye port, which enhances peripheral vision and allows for goggle use off-road. The XD4 can be configured in three ways: with peak and visor for regular use, with goggles for off-road, and visor-only for street riding.

Despite its aerodynamic design, the peak can be susceptible to wind. The ventilation system is effective, with adjustable chinbar vents and top vents. However, the visor has been noted to be less robust compared to other models and prone to fogging, a concern worth mentioning.

As the adventure riding market has expanded, so has the competition. The Arai XD4 continues to hold its position as a top choice, despite its higher price and being one of the older models in the market. While some updates are desired, such as a lighter version with improved aerodynamics and standard Pinlock features, the XD4 remains a preferred option for its blend of comfort, safety, and versatility.

1c: AGV AX9 Carbon

While we haven't had the opportunity to conduct a hands-on review of the AGV AX-9 Carbon Helmet, it comes highly recommended by fellow enthusiasts and trusted sources in the riding community. We are eager to get our hands on this helmet for thorough testing to provide our own in-depth analysis.

The AGV AX-9 Carbon Helmet is an upgrade from its predecessor, the AX-8 DS EVO Helmet. One of its standout features is the ultra-lightweight 100-percent carbon fiber shell, which contributes to both its durability and comfort. Aerodynamics have been a focal point in its design, with a newly redesigned and adjustable peak that aims to reduce the sail effect at high speeds.

Ventilation in the AGV AX-9 is handled by a total of five vents. This includes an adjustable chin vent, two brow inlets, and two extractors, delivering ideal airflow during rides. The helmet features four different configuration options: with or without a peak and/or visor, and with options for using goggles. This makes it a great option for a wide range of riding scenarios.

Comfort is also a focus on the AGV AX-9. The interior is designed to accommodate glasses comfortably, a crucial feature for riders who wear them. In addition, the padding inside the helmet is treated to maximize comfort. Finally, the cheek pads and top liner are moisture-wicking, while the neck roll is water-resistant.

We plan on conducting our own thorough review of the AGV AX-9 so we can experience firsthand why it's a top recommendation in the community.


Which features do I need to consider when choosing adventure motorcycle helmets?

This mostly depends on what and where you ride as well as personal preferences. If you live in a climate that is hot, ventilation might be an important feature. Or, if you live in a rainy climate, you may want to consider a helmet with a Pinlock-compatible shield to reduce the chance of fogging. Weight is also a factor that often correlates to price, which is itself another important point. The helmets listed above provide a wide range of options for curious ADV riders.

What’s the difference between adventure motorcycle helmets and regular helmets?

The biggest difference between adventure helmets and other street helmets is fairly obvious just from looking at the two side by side. Adventure helmets meld off-road and street helmet features into one. The peak, large viewport, and pointed chin guard all help bridge the gap for performance on and off-road.

What are the advantages of a modular adventure helmet?

Being able to flip up the front of the helmet to eat, drink, and talk to people is less of a big deal on most ADV helmets, because most ADV helmets already give you a much bigger eye port and more airflow that a traditional full-face. But if you’ve gotten used to a modular, it’s hard to go back, since eating, drinking, and talking is mostly what you do on your motorcycle anytime you’re not riding it. So far, Schuberth and Scorpion are the only helmet makers on our list to offer a modular.

Recent Updates

January 23, 2024: We have decided to reduce the number of recommendations for best adventure helmets to three for 2024. These are the top three adventure helmets we've personally used or come highly recommended from trusted fellow enthusiasts.

September 2022: Updated images and text.

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Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

Ryan’s time in the motorcycle industry has revolved around sales and marketing prior to landing a gig at An avid motorcyclist, interested in all shapes, sizes, and colors of motorized two-wheeled vehicles, Ryan brings a young, passionate enthusiasm to the digital pages of MO.

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2 of 12 comments
  • Mike buhler Mike buhler on Feb 08, 2024

    I love my Schuberth E1, I'm on my 2nd. Schuberth USA very kindly gave me a crash replacement for 1/3 retail cost. Thank you! Well built, good comfort and very handy modular. Not cheap but my little getoff proved how well it does the job.

  • Shy Shy on Apr 06, 2024

    Surely you should have included the other big players in the field: Helite and in&motion. They produce and sell so many products, tethered, wireless, jacket integrated, branded, as it stands, the article feels like a long advertisement, not an overview of whats out there.