Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $60 | Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros: light weight, mesh lining over vents, adjustment wheel
Cons: expensive, sits low forehead, fragile, straps cut into ears
Best Uses: free climbing, cleanaid walls
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
The Black Diamond Tracer is the second lightest helmet reviewed and has a very secure fit. It comes with a few additions not found on other helmets, such as mesh covering over the vents, microchinstrap tabs and three different sizes to accompany a wide range of domes. It also comes with a tightening wheel something not found on most other ultra-light helmets.
The Tracer is a solid ultra-light helmet that fits very snugly around the head. If you want an ultra-light helmet, try this against the Petzl Meteor III and see which fits you prefer. We preferred the Meteor III because it was lighter and had better chinstrap adjustment. At $90, you pay a premium for the light weight so you should also check it against the more durable value options that were all highly rated and only cost $60-65.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Tracer is ultra-light, provides good topofthehead coverage and stays put on your head. The mesh lining over the vent holes does a good job of keeping out small falling debris. This helmet is exceptionally breathable, second only to the Petzl Meteor.
The Tracer sits very low on your forehead; a plus for many testers. It doesn't wobble around or sit on top of your head. Instead it fits snugly around your head.
This is one of the only helmets to come in three sizes. Many people will appreciate this as they are more likely to find a helmet that is right in their sweet spot.
For some tester, the straps dug into the back of the ears. Some people were able to adjust their way around this. But for folks with big ears or ears in the "wrong place," there was no way around the straps cutting in. The reason this happens is clear: the rear straps are positioned much further forward than on most helmets. This means they are hard to get out of the way if your ears are in their path.
Chris Van Leuven found that the helmet sat too low on his brow, which was distracting, but this is personal preference. Many climbers/testers didn't find this to be a nuisance and preferred the fit.
Since the helmet comes in three sizes, it means you have more options if you have either a large or small head. That said, the probably reason that there are three sizes is that that each size has a narrow range. For example, the medium size fit most testers great. But when we tried to wear the helmet with a hat, it was on the borderline of being too small. So if you are between sizes you will have a dilemma if you want to wear the helmet with a hat.
As with the Petzl Meteor III, care must be taken not to crush the helmet under a heavy pack or squatted on like a goose on an egg. Either one will likely cause cracking, thus ruining the helmet.
Like most ultralight helmets, the Tracer is expensive. But if that means you'll wear it more often, then that's money well spent.
The Tracer works best for hard free climbing, clean aid climbing (you wouldn't want to bouncetest and blow a piton into this helmet), light alpine routes and ice climbing. This is not the ideal entry level helmet because you need to handle it carefully and it is expensive.
For $90, this helmet costs less than the Petzl Meteor III by $10. Still, that is about $30 more than most other competitors. It is an expensive helmet but a better deal than the Meteor III if you like the fit more.
Chris McNamara's Opinion
I used this for the first time on my Grand Canyon Climbing Trip with Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden. I was aid climbing the Grapevine Buttress so that they could free climb it. I felt the helmet was very light and comfortable. The steel mesh kept the VERY flakey rock our of my hair. Best of all, when I pulled a few hooks when bounce testing, the helmet showed no damage. Overall I felt it was a great helmet. It was only later, when I put it head to head with the Meteor III that I really found I preferred the Meteor. The point is, I like the Meteor better but overall the Tracer is a solid helmet and a little cheaper than the Meteor. I like the Tracer a lot more than the Black Diamond Half Dome.
— Chris McNamara, Chris Van Leuven
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: April 3, 2011
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