Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $80 - $100 | Compare prices at 5 resellers
Pros: Fully adjustable harness, rigid plastic rear adjustment band, lightweight, excellent headlamp clips
Cons: Heaviest light foam helmet, not as well ventilated as other lightweight helmets
Best Uses: Trad climbing, multi-pitch adventures, fast and light mountaineering, sport climbing
The Black Diamond Vector is very comparable to our Editors' Choice winner, the Petzl Meteor III +, and it scores similarly. The Meteor edges out the Vector for the award because it has better ventilation and a better buckle, is slightly lighter, and is a little more comfortable. Both of the helmets are equally durable, fully adjustable, and have excellent headlamp attachments. They also both retail for $100, although some retailers have recently raised the price of the Meteor by $10. The choice between the two helmets is a tough one. For most people it will likely come down to which helmet suits your style preference or which helmet you can find for better deal, since they are so close in our tests.
The Vector is a lightweight foam climbing helmet. It is constructed from expanded polystyrene and covered by a thin polycarbonate shell. This style of construction is similar to both the Petzl Meteor III + and the Black Diamond Vapor, which has the advantage of being much lighter in weight than hard plastic helmets like the Black Diamond Half Dome or Petzl Elios, but is not as durable.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Black Diamond Vector is a lightweight climbing helmet constructed of expanded polystyrene covered by a thin plastic shell. It is held in place by a webbing harness and a rigid plastic adjustment band which provides for a wide range of adjustment. It has four well-designed plastic clips which hold a headlamp securely in place.
Like all of the lightweight foam helmets, the Vector is hardly noticeable on the head due to its light weight. It is slightly more noticeable than the Vapor or the Sirocco due to being just slightly heavier. On the inside of the Vector are a couple of strategically placed thin foam pads which do a good job of padding the helmet and wicking sweat.
Ease of Adjustment
The Vector has all of the necessary adjustments. It uses a simple plastic clip to close the chin strap and a rigid rear adjustment band to cradle the occipital lobe. The rear adjustment band, identical to the on found on the Black Diamond Vapor, requires two hands to adjust as opposed to helmets with an adjustment wheel that can be manipulated with one hand.
The chin strap clip works fine, but we prefer the buckles on Petzl helmets which integrate the chin strap clip with the fore/aft adjuster and eliminate two pieces of plastic. On the Vector the chin strap can be adjusted fore/aft by sliding the webbing through the plastic pieces on either side of the harness. This adjustment, which is lacking on the ultralight Black Diamond Vapor, is something most people don't think about unless the chin strap is too far back and choking them.
The Vector is the heaviest of the four light foam helmets we tested. At 8.4 ounces, it weighs 2.6 ounces more than the Petzl Sirocco, which is the lightest climbing helmet currently on the market. However, the difference between the Vector and our favorite helmet, the Petzl Meteor III +, is only 0.5 ounces, which is barely perceptible. Black Diamond also makes the Vapor, which is essentially a super light version of the Vector. The Vapor eliminates 1.2 ounces from the Vector by trimming down as much foam as possible and skipping the adjustable yoke hardware.
The vents of the Vector are all located in the rear, or rear half of the sides of the helmet. The ventilation is decent, but not as good as Black Diamond's flagship Vapor helmet, which has seven more vents than the Vector in a very similarly shaped helmet. The Black Diamond Vapor is the most ventilated helmet we tested, and we recommend it for climbers who frequently climb in sweltering temps. We also found that the Petzl Meteor had slightly better ventilation than the Vector, mostly due to the vents being placed more evenly around the rear, sides, and front of the helmet.
The Vector uses four permanently mounted plastic clips to secure a headlamp, which are very similar to those found on the Meteor III +. To attach a headlamp you slightly lift the clip and slide the headlamp strap underneath. We've found that this style of clip is the simplest, lowest profile, and most secure way to attach a headlamp.
By their nature, lightweight foam helmets are less durable than the hard plastic helmets like the Black Diamond Half Dome or the Petzl Elios and they need to be treated with care, especially when packing. We found the Vector to be similar in durability to our favorite foam helmet, the Meteor III +. Both of these helmets showed less signs of wear than the Vapor, which easily dented from minor bumps, or the Petzl Sirocco, which lacks a hardshell completely and is prone to squashing.
We like that the plastic shell wraps around the bottom edge of the foam to protect it from abrasion when the helmet is not on your head. This is a feature shared by the Meteor and Vapor and is found on higher end cycling helmets.
If long term durability is your main concern, or if you tend to be really hard on your gear, we recommend a hard shell helmet over a lightweight foam helmet. Both the Black Diamond Half Dome and Petzl Elios are good choices in that category. The Half Dome, which wins our Best Buy Award, retails for just $60 and will likely outlast any of the lightweight foam helmets under hard use.
The Vector is a good choice for any type of climbing. It will protect your head from falling debris while being lighter than any hard plastic helmet. Like all lightweight foam helmets, it is best for experienced climbers who know to treat their gear with care.
At $100, the Vector is priced exactly the same as our Editors' Choice, the Petzl Meteor III +. The Meteor scored slightly better in our tests, so we feel that it is slightly better value. Both of these helmets offer more value than the Vapor, which is $40 more expensive and is only slightly lighter. All of these helmets however are aimed at experienced climbers seeking higher performance, and who are willing to sacrifice durability for lighter weight. If you are simply looking to protect your head from falling rock and other debris, then you will find more value in a heavier but less expensive helmet like the Petzl Elios. The Elios retails for just $65 and is likely to outlast any of the lightweight foam helmets over the long term.
The Vector is a solid, light foam climbing helmet that has all of the necessary features. This helmet would be great for any climbing application from big walling to cragging. The Vector scored just behind our Editors' Choice, the Petzl Meteor in every test. While the Meteor has some subtle qualities that we think make it slightly superior, the Vector may be more visually appealing to you. We think either helmet will get the job done.
The Vector comes in three different two tone colorways and solid black. It's main competitor, the Petzl Meteor, comes in three different colors with printed abstract designs. Our testers were evenly split on which helmet they found more appealing. Since the helmets are so similar in performance, we think it's reasonable to consider which helmet you think looks cooler when make your decision. You are the one that has to be seen wearing it, after all.
There is also a Black Diamond Vector - Women's, which is the exact same helmet available in only the smallest size and with different color options.
The Black Diamond Vapor is essentially a super light version of the Black Diamond Vector. The Vapor uses structural Kevlar and carbon to maintain strength while adding vents and losing weight. Our scales show the Vapor weighs 1.2 ounces less than the Vector. The weight savings comes at the cost of durability and adjustability.
— Luke Lydiard
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Most recent review: March 22, 2014
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