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Hands-on Gear Review
Black Diamond Vector - Women's Review
Cons: more fragile than a hard plastic helmet
The only light foam women's specific helmet, the Black Diamond Vector - Women's even gives the unisex Editors' Choice winner, the Petzl Meteor 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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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
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.
Since this helmet is so blissfully lightweight, it is easy to wear without a second thought. Heavy plastic helmets like the Petzl Elios and Elia 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
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.
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 Editors' Choice winner, the Petzl Meteor, 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.
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.
The headlamp attachment is tight and secure, but difficult to accomplish while wearing the helmet. The Elia has the Vector beat in this category.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The unisex version of this helmet is the Black Diamond Vector, and it is identical except that it has different colors and is available in a second larger size.
Be sure to also consider the unisex Editors' Choice winner, the Petzl Meteor, which is also a lightweight foam design. The newest iteration of this helmet comes in two sizes, and the new smaller size now fits smaller-headed women much better than the previous single size. The smaller size also comes in more feminine colors even though it is still labeled a unisex helmet.
— McKenzie Long
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