When my nephew decided he wanted to give go kart racing a shot, the first thing we had to do to get approval from his mom was to make sure he was as safe as a button. That entailed a lot of research. Luckily, we were able to learn a lot through research and make informed buying decisions. We’d like to share that with you in our guide.
Anyone involved in karting knows to really get into the sport you’re going to have to get proper safety gear and that can be costly. Our goal was to cut costs and not safety.
We recommend at the minimum buying: gloves, shoes, rib protector and a helmet. Lots of times this means buying stuff online at the best price and figuring out the sizing at the store first.
My recommendation: Vega Full Track Karting Helmet
We don’t recommend buying a helmet online for your kid. It is something that needs to be tried on because everyone has a different shaped head. Price and safety might look great when you’re reading bullet points on a listing, but if its delivered and the pressure points give your youth karter a headache, then the frustration of returning it is not worth it. Additionally, lots of the cheaper models will have ventilation issues. If your kid is turning redder than a tomato they’re not going to have a good time at the track. That’s why it’s important that when you find a pair that fits great, you also have them wear it for a little bit. See if it fogs up or becomes uncomfortable.
When taking them to an indoor track, we still don’t suggest using the helmets they include in the rental. You can never know the history of the helmet and if it’s been beaten around before.
Some popular brands of karting helmets are Bell, Arai,Vega, and HJC. With Arai being the most expensive but a highly recommended brand. HJC is more of a budget option. Racing helmets have a huge range in price, with some brands getting up to the 800 dollar mark.
In order of importance for karting safety is #1 the helmet and #2 the rib protector. The one thing that’s unforgiving about karts is what makes them great. They’re bare bone racing machines, but when you smack into a racer or a wall there isn’t much to protect you. That’s why getting a rib protector is so important. It reduces the impact of minor hits and major ones. You’ll be glad you bought it, trust me.
The adjustable strap on the K1 protector means you’re not going to have to worry about growth spurts. One of these should last your kid through their racing career.
In terms of comfort, the right karting shoes are huge. But, do they have to be made specifically for go-karts? No, and many families choose to use wrestling shoes or sneakers for their kids. If you’re going to spend over $100 dollars on a pair of karting shoes, it’s going to be a pain to replace those after a growth spurt.
If you can find a shoe with great ankle support and a flexible sole, go for it. There are no hard set rules for feet in karting. The Tech 1-K karting shoes provide great stability for ankles and it’s a quality made piece of footwear. Wrestling shoes also tend to have great ankle support and a flexible sole which makes them a solid alternative.
In the case of my nephew, he has hands that tend to sweat a lot when he races which made getting gloves a good idea. The G-Force racing gloves wicked away the moisture and gave him a better grip. Plus, they make him “feel” like a racer. Always a good sign.
Gloves aren’t a necessary component to karting though. And the gloves don’t have to be specifically made for the sport. What karting gloves like the G-Force are made for is grip, vibration reduction and reducing moisture. A regular set of gloves can hit all these points, it just won’t be specialized for the sport. The most advantageous thing about getting racing gloves for karting, in my opinion, is the reduction of vibration and moisture.
Safety requirements at karting tracks have tended to go up over the history of racing. Nowadays there are places that require you to be wearing a neck brace to race there. If you’re not too keen on having your kid wear a rental, then the K1 Junior Brace will do. By far the most important thing for head safety is a helmet, but it’s not a bad idea to have something that will prevent whiplash.
This is another item that we recommend to be tried on in person. If it affects movement of the helmet or makes it uncomfortable for your racer to turn their head, then it’s doing more harm than good. Opinions vary and at first glance, it might not be a must-have. If you notice your kid’s helmet is a bit heavy for them, it’s always a good idea to provide more neck support.
As an additional buffer to a racer suit or in place of one, you should have elbow protection. Although it’s not as common as it should be in the sport of karting, protecting your elbows while keeping comfortable isn’t a bad idea. There is no superior elbow brand option for karting, so we suggest finding something comfortable that has a hard shell. Foam padding like in football won’t be ideal for racing.
Karting Racing Suit
When you start really getting into the sport, we recommend looking into a racing suit for your kid. Mishaps occur, and god forbid if your child ever were to flip or make contact in the ground in their go-kart, one of these is a skin saver. They have two main purposes, keeping skin intact and being fire resistant. Anytime gasoline is involved, that’s not a bad thing. But, thankfully it’s unlikely.
Sizing is important and make sure you have the right measurements. Just like with helmets, it’s important that it feels good and is well ventilated. Trying these on in the store and then buying them online for a much cheaper price isn’t a bad idea!
You’ll never regret saying “I bought my kid too much safety gear”. But, it doesn’t have to be a financial burden. There are good buys and there are bad buys, do your research in person for many of the safety options that your kid might want. Their helmet has to fit just right along with their shoes. As for the other options, like a chest protector – they have more adjustable pieces thankfully. So you can usually go ahead and get one that’s a good deal online and make it work. Good luck on your search and let us know how it goes in the comments.
I'm the owner of Beast Auto. I live in Phoenix, Arizona. I love anything automotive related, and taking road trips all across my beautiful state.