Hands-on Gear Review

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Black Diamond Vector - Women's Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Climbing Helmets - Women's

  • Currently 5.0/5
Overall avg rating 5.0 of 5 based on 1 review. Most recent review: September 15, 2013
Street Price:   Varies from $75 - $100 | Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  very lightweight, easy to adjust, well-fitting, full coverage and protection
Cons:  more fragile than a hard plastic helmet
Best Uses:  ice climbing, rock climbing
User Rating:       (0.0 of 5) based on 0 reviews
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: McKenzie Long ⋅ Senior Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ September 15, 2013  
Overview
The only light foam women's specific helmet, the Black Diamond Vector - Women's even gives the unisex Editor's Choice winner, the Petzl Meteor III+ a run for its money. Since the women's specific Vector is slightly smaller, it is actually lighter than the larger sized men's Black Diamond Vector, weighing only 8 ounces (229 grams) to the 8.4 ounces of the men's. This is about the same weight as the Meteor, but it looks far more stylish and has larger ventilation holes in the back. For a female in the market for a lightweight foam climbing helmet, we highly recommend this model, which will fit better and look nicer than unisex equivalents.

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  • Photos
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

The Women's version of the Black Diamond Vector is very similar to the men's version, with no particular women's specific features other than different color offerings. The men's version comes in two sizes, and the smaller size is exactly the same as the women's version. The Petzl Elia is the only women's helmet that has particular features targeted at women that make it stand out from the unisex versions.

We do give the Vector props for being a good looking helmet. We like the color choices and the geometric pattern of the ventilation holes.

Performance Comparison
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The lightweight Bacl Diamond Vector - Women's on a multi-pitch climb in Yosemite Valley, CA.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

Comfort
Since this helmet is so blissfully lightweight, it is easy to wear without a second thought. Heavy plastic helmets like the Petzl Elios weigh you down and fatigue your neck. Not to mention, a heavy helmet adds weight to your pack on the approach. With this helmet, there is none of that. Also, this helmet fits more securely on the head than other women's models, making it more comfortable over the course of a long day. It has slightly less padding on the interior than the Elia, but we did not notice a difference in comfort due to this.

Ease of Adjustment
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The easy to use ratchet system on the back of the Black Diamond Vector. This helmet fits well and stays secure on the head all day.
Credit: McKenzie Long

The Vector requires two hands to adjust the rear system, but we do not find this to be a negative. The ratchet system fits low on the head, slides in and out easily, and securely holds the helmet to your head. This prevents any slipping or sliding on your head (which in turn prevents those silly crooked helmet photos!). It only takes a second or two to adjust, and then the helmet stays in place all day. The chin strap is a typical buckle, and is also easy to adjust.

Weight/Profile
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Finishing the Lost Arrow Spire Tip (and thankful to have survived the spooky Tyrolean traverse) in the Black Diamond Vector Helmet. This helmet offers full coverage, protecting even the forehead from falling rock.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

Constructed from co-molded EPS foam with a polycarbonate shell and weighing only 8 ounces, the Vector is the lightest women's helmet, beating the hard plastic Petzl Elia by almost 2 ounces. It weighs the same as the unisex helmet Editor's Choice winner, the Petzl Meteor III+, but it fits better. The Meteor is offered in only ones size, which is comparable with the larger sized unisex version of the Vector. The women's Vector is smaller, so is more likely to fit a smaller female head. Its light weight makes it easy to wear. While being lightweight, the Vector also offers the most coverage of the women's helmets. It sits lower on the forehead and comes down lower in the back than any others we tested. This provides additional protection by more fully encompassing your dome.

Ventilation
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A look at the rear adjustment systems of the W's BD Vector (left) and the Petzl Elia. The Vector ratchet system is vey easy to adjust and remains secure. The Elia accomodates a ponytail but required more fussing to get it to fit correctly.
Credit: McKenzie Long

The large holes in the rear of the Vector allow for more airflow than in either the Camp Armour Lady or the Petzl Elia. However, the Vector reaches lower onto the forehead than either of the other helmets, which offers far more protection, but does make it sweatier in the front. The Camp Armour Lady sits high on the head, offering little to no forehead protection, so this allows for more ventilation around the sides due to lack of coverage. We prefer to have more coverage than more ventilation, and the Vector balances this well.

Headlamp Attachment
The headlamp attachment is tight and secure, but difficult to accomplish while wearing the helmet. The Elia has the Vector beat in this category.

Durability
Some user reviews have complained of the durability of this helmet, which we think is a valid concern. Light foam helmets are definitely more fragile than hard plastic helmets and usually require a little extra care. We used our test helmet the same way we used the other plastic helmets and gave it no special treatment: we strapped it to the outside of our pack on long approaches, wore it on many long climbs, and stored it in a messy pile in our gear room. We did not find any fault with the durability of this helmet- it held up to all the abuse we could throw at it. We recommend treating your helmet with a bit of extra love in storage and packing, but at least so far we have not noticed any issues with the Vector.

Best Application
The Vector is the ideal choice if heading out on a mission where weight matters. It is far lighter, and therefore more comfortable, than either of the other hard plastic options. Though it can be a little more fragile, it is much easier to carry and wear than heavier versions. It will protect your head from falling rock and impact in any climbing application.

Value
At $100, the Vector is not cheap, however all light foam helmets cost more than the hard plastic options since the materials cost more. We think it is worth it to splurge on a lightweight helmet. Heavy helmets are cumbersome to carry and exhaust your neck. A light helmet means you are more likely to wear it, which means your head is more likely to be protected and you will stay safer. Which is the whole point of purchasing a helmet in the first place.

Conclusion
If you are in the market for a new helmet, we suggest trying this one out. Since it is pricey, it may not be worth upgrading from your unisex helmet unless you want to trade in a hard plastic helmet for a light foam version.

McKenzie Long

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: September 15, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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Black Diamond Vector Helmet - Women's
Credit: Black Diamond
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Amazon $75.00  -  25% off!
Backcountry $79.96  -  20% off!
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