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Black Diamond Vapor Review

A comfortable and lightweight model for sending days but not heavy use.
Black Diamond Vapor in Fire Red
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Price:  $140 List | $104.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, great ventilation.
Cons:  Fragile, chin strap doesn't adjust forward, removable headlamp clips are easy to lose or forget.
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 13, 2017
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 12
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Adjustability - 20% 6
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Ventilation - 10% 10
  • Headlamp Attachment - 10% 7
  • Durability - 20% 5

The Skinny

The Black Diamond Vapor is the second lightest climbing helmet on the market, weighing only an ounce more than the Petzl Sirocco, but with a more "traditional" helmet shape and look. The Vapor has a similar overall shape to Black Diamond Vector but with more vents and less adjustability. This was the most expensive helmet in our review thanks to the Kevlar and carbon rod components that are molded into the foam to maximize strength while making the foam slightly thinner. While we appreciate efforts to make helmets more comfortable, and therefore more wearable, the result is often a lack of durability. You're not supposed to put this helmet in your pack, but if you carry it on the outside it gets dented the second you put it down! Luckily, Black Diamond also makes our Top Pick for Durability, the Half Dome, which is less than half the price of the Vapor. If you're looking to check out an EPS helmet for the first time but don't want to completely blow your budget, our Best Buy winner, the $80 CAMP Storm, is a good bet as well.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Vapor is the lightest climbing helmet Black Diamond's lineup. It weighs 7 ounces in the M/L size that we tested, and is made with and EPS foam liner with a polycarbonate shell. Other components include carbon rods and Kevlar to provide extra structural integrity around all the vents. The S/M size range is 53-59 cm and the M/L size is 58-63 cm.

Performance Comparison


Climbing in hot weather? Hate the feel of a helmet on your head and rarely wear them? The Vapor was made for you!
Climbing in hot weather? Hate the feel of a helmet on your head and rarely wear them? The Vapor was made for you!

Comfort


Overall the Black Diamond Vapor is a very comfortable helmet due to its light weight, interior padding, and minimal hardware. On the inside of the helmet there is a thin but adequate headband and a small amount of padding at the top. The rear adjustment band is both secure and comfortable once fitted properly. Depending on the fit though, the chin strap might bite into the front of your neck. The chin strap is permanently fixed to the V-shaped yoke created by the front and back straps. Since it cannot be adjusted, if you are on the smaller end of the size range it'll cinch down under your chin as opposed to on the side, which in not very comfortable.

Scott is all smiles in the Vapor. It is lightweight and comfortable  but lacks a little in adjustability.
Scott is all smiles in the Vapor. It is lightweight and comfortable, but lacks a little in adjustability.

Adjustability


This helmet uses a rigid rear adjustment band to cradle the occipital area and push your head into the front sweat band. The rigid band is very similar to the one found on the Vector and requires two hands to operate. We found it best to fully expand the band before putting the helmet on, and then tighten it down with two hands. The band can collapse and stows in the helmet when not in use.

The Vapor comes in two sizes. We tested the larger size and found it to have a slightly larger fit than the Petzl models, so it's nice that there is a smaller size option. As we mentioned above though, the V yoke for the chin strap is sewn in one fixed position. This limits its adjustability a bit, and we found that the helmets with this configuration were more prone to lateral movement if we didn't have a perfect fit in them. Skimping out on that buckle might save a half an ounce on the overall weight, but it does allow you to dial the fit in a bit better. The Black Diamond Vector has an adjustable yoke.

While it's easy to adjust the back of the helmet  the V-yoke on the chin strap is not adjustable  and they tend to sit on the low side.
While it's easy to adjust the back of the helmet, the V-yoke on the chin strap is not adjustable, and they tend to sit on the low side.

Weight


There's no question that this is a light helmet, and everyone who tried it on oohed and aahed over how light it feels. The Vapor is the lightest helmet available from Black Diamond, and the second lightest helmet we've tested. At 7 ounces, about 1 ounce heavier than the ultralight Petzl Sirocco and 1 ounce lighter than our Editors' Choice, the Mammut Wall Rider. That's approximately the weight of a Camp Nano 22 carabiner, but dispersed across the head it's hard to distinguish. We noticed the difference more when comparing a hard-shell ABS helmet like the Mammut El Cap than between the various EPS and EPP models. That's why we preferred the Mammut Wall Rider overall to this helmet, as the extra ounce gave us a bit more durability over this one.

It's hard to find something lighter than this helmet. We liked the weight  and the low-profile cut.
It's hard to find something lighter than this helmet. We liked the weight, and the low-profile cut.

Ventilation


Due to the plethora of vents, the Vapor has the best ventilation of all of the helmets we tested and we recommend it as the best helmet for sweltering days. If you frequently climb in hot weather (summer El Cap routes, anyone?), check out the Blizzard white colorway which will reflect the most sun.

The overall shape of the helmet is very similar to that of the Vector but with an increased number of vents, 21 in total compared to the 14 of the Vector. The rear and sides of the helmet have almost as much open space as helmet. There aren't any vents in the very front of the helmet, but the inside foam is recessed away from the forehead which promotes air flow to the side vents.

At times this helmet seems to be made more of air than foam. If you are looking for something with great ventilation  this is it!
At times this helmet seems to be made more of air than foam. If you are looking for something with great ventilation, this is it!

Headlamp Attachment


The Vapor is the only helmet we know of that has removable headlamp clips. The four clips are included when you purchase the helmet, but usually do not come attached (note that ours did when purchasing from an online retailer - perhaps it was a returned item). If you buy this helmet we highly recommend you pop the clips into place immediately and never remove them. Otherwise we think it's likely that the clips will get lost or you will forget to install them before bringing a headlamp on a climb. We think it's hard enough to remember a headlamp, and this feature is just asking for trouble. Black Diamond says that removing the clips reduces snagging on slings and clothing. While we've experienced our entire helmet stuck in squeeze chimneys before, we can't ever remember having a problem with headlamp clips hanging up.

Each clip attaches to the helmet via three prongs which snap into inserts in the foam. Each clip is different, so pay attention to which one is which. Initially we were a little worried that the clips might pop out, but they are actually quite difficult to remove, which is a good thing. We think the clip is more likely to break than detach accidentally.

These clips are removable  but we (and even Black Diamond) recommend that you don't.
These clips are removable, but we (and even Black Diamond) recommend that you don't.

Durability


This helmet is constructed primarily from lightweight polystyrene and is covered by a thin polycarbonate shell. Our test helmet got a lot of small creases and dents in the outer shell from relatively small impacts. We think that this was due to the polycarbonate shell being particularly thin. This helmet also uses Kevlar and carbon rods molded into the foam to add strength to it. We suspect that these re-enforcements were needed due to the large number and size of the vents.

We couldn't put an entire season's worth of climbing on this one helmet, so in addition to our field tests we also researched a lot of online use reviews and talked to people that have been using this helmet extensively. The consensus is that it gets a lot of cosmetic dings fairly quickly, and that there's no good way to carry it except on your head. Black Diamond replied to durability complaints on their website with this statement: "We do clearly state in the instructions not to store this helmet inside of a pack." So we didn't put it in our pack, but attached it on the outside, and then the second we put the pack down it got all dimpled! Considering the way most climbers treat their gear, it's a little weird to think that we have to baby our helmet, which is what's supposed to be durable enough to protect our head from an impact. If you're looking for something that can take a beating, get stuffed in the bottom of a pack, or dropped a couple of feet without breaking, check out BD's Half Dome helmet instead.

We see a lot of Vapors out and about these days  and they are all covered in dimples after only minimal wear. While these dimples are only cosmetic  it can't bode well for the longterm durability of the helmet.
We see a lot of Vapors out and about these days, and they are all covered in dimples after only minimal wear. While these dimples are only cosmetic, it can't bode well for the longterm durability of the helmet.

Best Applications


This lightweight, well-ventilated helmet excels at sport climbing, light and fast alpine climbing, and hot days.

Luke Lydiard climbing Polygrip in Indian Creek while wearing the Black Diamond Vapor.
Luke Lydiard climbing Polygrip in Indian Creek while wearing the Black Diamond Vapor.

Value


At $140, the Black Diamond Vapor is the most expensive helmet we tested at $140. The Mammut Wall Rider out-performed the Vapor in almost every category and retails for $40 less at $100. We think this is a much better value for a performance oriented, lightweight foam helmet.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond Vapor is a well-ventilated helmet that sacrifices a bit of durability and adjustability for weight savings. It is expensive and offers almost no advantage over other slightly less expensive helmets.


Cam McKenzie Ring