Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $60 | Compare prices at 6 resellers
Pros: Inexpensive, durable, quick and powerful click wheel
Cons: Heavy, hot
Best Uses: All types of climbing from sport cragging to big wall nailing
The Black Diamond Half Dome is our Best Buy Award winner, just edging out the Petzl Elios for the best value in a climbing helmet. These helmets are very similar and scored very close in our tests. If you like a rear click wheel adjustment, then this is the helmet for you. If click wheels aren't your thing then the Elios is just $5 more and uses dual push buttons to adjust tightness.
This is the second iteration of this helmet from Black Diamond, and is a significant improvement over the last version. This new version is available in two sizes and five different colors. The newly redesigned click wheel on this helmet is the best we've found.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Black Diamond Half Dome is a hardshell plastic helmet which is very durable compared to the rest of the field. It is available in five different colors and two sizes.
Black Diamond uses dense foam padding covered in a smooth material to pad the inside of this helmet. The smooth material is very comfortable on the forehead though we found that this combination of materials absorbed less sweat than the spongier foam and fuzzier material found on Petzl helmets.
Though this is one of the heavier helmets we tested, we didn't think Half Dome felt top heavy. It sits well on the head and doesn't slide around like the some of the other heavy helmets. This is due to the well designed band which encompasses the head and tightens at the back with a sweet click wheel.
Our testers ranked this helmet as more comfortable than the Skywalker II, and slightly less comfortable than the Petzl Elios. All three of these helmets scored below the lightweight foam helmets in terms of comfort mostly due to their extra weight which makes them more noticeable on your head.
Ease of Adjustment
This new version of the Half Dome uses an improved click wheel to adjust the rear band. The click wheel is coated in a soft rubbery material which allows for quick and easy adjustment with or without gloves on. The diameter of the wheel found on this helmet is similar to the one on the Mammut Skywalker II, but the overall mechanism is much larger on the Skywalker which makes for more bulk at the back of the head. Both wheels are secure and powerful, but our testers preferred the feel of the Black Diamond.
We think that it is important to be able to adjust a helmet's chins strap from front to back in order to get a snug fit without choking the wearer. The chins strap on this helmet can be adjusted fore/aft via two small plastic bits which are identical to the ones found on the Skywalker sans the molded Mammut logos.
This is a relatively heavy helmet. Our size M/L test helmet weighed 11.9 ounces, which makes it the second heaviest helmet in our most recent test. Only the Mammut Skywalker is heavier. It's closest competitor, the Petzl Elios, is a negligible 0.3 ounces heavier. If you are sold on the extra durability of a hardshell helmet, these two are about as light as they come.
If saving weight is a top priority for you, we recommend you consider a lightweight foam helmet instead of a plastic hardshell. Though less durable, lightweight foam helmets like the Petzl Meteor III + or Black Diamond Vapor weigh around half of what most hardshell helmets weigh. The lightest helmet on the market is the Petzl Sirocco at an astonishing 5.8ounces.
Like the other hardshell helmets we tested, the Half Dome is on the hot side and scored low in the ventilation test. Though the sides of the helmet are suspended away from the head, airflow through the helmet is at a minimum. The shell of the Half Dome has just seven vents compared to the Black Diamond Vapor which has a 21 vents and has the best ventilation in our test. One plus to the lack of openings in the shell would be ice or alpine climbing in very wet or rainy conditions where this shell design fends off more water, though we prefer to let a jacket hood do this job.
Like most of the other helmets we tested, this helmet uses four plastic clips positioned around the helmet to hold a headlamp. The clips on the Half Dome are some of the easiest to get the strap under and are also some of the most secure due to a small lip molded into the underside of the clip to prevent the strap from sliding down. These clips, along with the ones found on the Meteor III +, are the best that we tested. We recommend briefly taking the helmet off when securing a headlamp to ensure that the headlamp band is fully secured beneath the clips. Alternatively, have your partner double check if you are in a precarious spot and taking the helmet off is not a good idea.
This is the most durable helmet we tested. Due to the thicker plastic shell and smaller amount of fragile polystyrene, hardshell helmets tend to be more durable and longer lasting than lightweight foam helmets, and the Half Dome is just that. The foam on the inside is protected from punctures or abrasions and does not have any areas likely to fail from flexing the outer shell. The rear adjustment band is hinged, which allows the band to collapse within the shell to protect it when packing. The yoke and chin strap hardware is simple but durable.
Black Diamond offers a one year warranty on all of their helmets, while Petzl helmets have a three year warranty. We doubt that either of the warranties would cover anything outside of materials or workmanship, so this may not make much difference for a helmet.
This helmet is appropriate for all types of climbing from cragging to big walling. Anybody looking for a great deal that will last a long time should consider this helmet.
At $60, the Half Dome is the least expensive helmet and the best value available in a climbing helmet. Since it is likely the most durable climbing helmet we tested, it should last for a very long time and we are sure you will get your money's worth out of it. The Mammut Skywalker II also retails for $60, but the Half Dome is a much better helmet. The Petzl Elios is equally as good as the Half Dome, but costs $5 more.
Lightweight foam helmets start at nearly twice the price, at $100, and range up to $140. While these helmets can weigh as little as half as much as the Half Dome, they are not as durable and will not last as long.
The Half Dome is comfortable, durable, and an excellent value at $60. It scored very similarly to the Petzl Elios, in our tests but costs $5 less. We think that either one of these helmets are excellent options in the hardshell category. The main drawback to either of these helmets is the extra weight compared to lightweight foam helmets, but they are both cheaper and more durable.
— Luke Lydiard
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Most recent review: March 17, 2014
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