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Black Diamond Vector Review

A comfortable and lightweight helmet with good adjustability, but not very durable.
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Price:  $100 List | $99.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Fully adjustable harness, rigid plastic rear adjustment band, lightweight, excellent headlamp clips.
Cons:  Not as well-ventilated as other lightweight helmets.
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Cam McKenzie Ring & Luke Lydiard  ⋅  Oct 25, 2019
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 13
  • Comfort - 30% 8
  • Adjustability - 20% 7
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Ventilation - 10% 8
  • Headlamp Attachment - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Vector is a lightweight EPS foam helmet with a thin polycarbonate shell on top. It's fully adjustable by way of a plastic tensioning band across the back of the head, and has excellent headlamp attachments. Receiving a very similar score to many of the other EPS and polycarbonate style helmets in this review, while also being priced at the same point, ensures that the Vector offers decent value. Those who are looking in this range are thus encouraged to try on many different helmets to see which one fits the best before committing to a purchase. At a reasonably light weight, but still featuring a fair amount of adjustability, the Vector is a good choice for any style of climbing.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Fully adjustable harness, rigid plastic rear adjustment band, lightweight, excellent headlamp clips.Super light, very comfortable, great ventilation, versatile for use while ski mountaineering, protects all sides of headLightweight, great ventilation.Lightweight, easily adjustable with slider bar, not as expensive as Sirocco, well ventilatedEasy to adjust, light, comfortable, durable plastic top piece
Cons Not as well-ventilated as other lightweight helmets.Not as durable as ABS options, expensive, less easily adjustable, magnetic buckle not for everyoneFragile, chin strap doesn't adjust forward, removable headlamp clips are easy to lose or forget.Magnetic buckle collects dirt, not as cheap as BD Half DomeNot as light as lightest helmets, pricey, difficult headlamp clips
Bottom Line A comfortable and lightweight helmet with good adjustability, but not very durable.The lightest, most comfortable, and most enjoyable climbing helmet to wear.A comfortable and lightweight model for sending days but not heavy use.A great value helmet that strikes a balance between low weight and affordabilityA solid lightweight helmet that’s a good alternative to the Sirocco.
Rating Categories Black Diamond Vector Petzl Sirocco Black Diamond Vapor Petzl Meteor Mammut Wall Rider
Comfort (30%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Adjustability (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
Weight (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
Ventilation (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
8
Headlamp Attachment (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
Durability (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
7
Specs Black Diamond Vector Petzl Sirocco Black Diamond Vapor Petzl Meteor Mammut Wall Rider
Measured Weight in Ounces (largest size) 8.6 oz 6.1 oz 7.0 oz 8.5 oz 8.5 oz
Shell Style EPS foam with Polycarbonate EPP and EPS foam, polycabonate top piece EPS foam with Polycarbonate EPS, Polycarbonate EPP foam, hard plastic top piece
Number of Sizes 2 2 2 2 2
Number of colors 4 1 4 3 2
Warranty 1 year 3 year 1 year 3 year Lifetime

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Black Diamond Vector is a lightweight climbing helmet constructed of expanded polystyrene covered by a thin plastic shell. It is held in place on the head 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 that hold a headlamp securely in place. It comes in two sizes: S/M (53-59 cm) and M/L (58-63 cm), and a variety of color choices. The women's version sold by BD is the same helmet, sold in size S/M, with different color choices.

Performance Comparison


This helmet is lightweight and adjustable  and a good choice for cragging days or bigger missions.
This helmet is lightweight and adjustable, and a good choice for cragging days or bigger missions.

Comfort


Like all lightweight foam helmets, the Vector is hardly noticeable on the head due to its light weight, but is slightly more noticeable than the absolute lightest options due to being just slightly heavier. On the inside of the Vector are a couple of strategically placed thin foam pads that do a good job of padding the helmet and wicking sweat.

We wore this helmet on long outings and shorter cragging days  and never found ourselves itching to get it off.
We wore this helmet on long outings and shorter cragging days, and never found ourselves itching to get it off.

Adjustability


We like the adjustability of this helmet. It has a sliding ratchet system, which we generally prefer over a click-wheel system comfort wise. It does require two hands to adjust the rear system, but we do not find this to be negative. The ratchet system fits low on the head, slides in and out easily, and securely holds the helmet to your head. This feature 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 single strand with a typical buckle, and the V-yoke has a sliding adjustment to dial in the fit better. The chin strap adjustment is something most people don't think about unless the chin strap is too far back and choking them.

The buckle on the side can slide up to the ears to secure the helmet better to your head.
The buckle on the side can slide up to the ears to secure the helmet better to your head.

The helmet is available in two sizes, which is great, and also as a "women's" version in the S/M size only, which is the exact same helmet as the unisex version but in slightly different colors. We're not sure what the point of advertising the same helmet as a "women's" model is, but it feels somewhat misleading.

We're not sure what makes this a "women's" version  other than the lighter blue color. The tensioning band sits low on the head and doesn't work so well with a ponytail.
We're not sure what makes this a "women's" version, other than the lighter blue color. The tensioning band sits low on the head and doesn't work so well with a ponytail.

Weight


This helmet is heavier than some of the other foam helmets in this review, but not the heaviest. The S/M size weighs 8.1 ounces, and the M/L weighs 8.6 ounces. That's only 2-2.5 ounces more than the lightest helmets in this review, but it also comes with greater adjustability.

While not the lightest helmet that we tested  we do appreciate the extra adjustability.
While not the lightest helmet that we tested, we do appreciate the extra adjustability.

Ventilation


The ventilation on this helmet is great. Most of the vents on the Vector are on the rear, whereas the Black Diamond Vapor, a close competitor, has vents all along the sides (see photos below, Vector on the left and Vapor on the right).

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.

We particularly like the two large vents found on the front of this helmet, which tend to help more than vents found in the back for quickly cooling the head down.

Headlamp Attachment


To attach a headlamp, the Vector uses four permanently mounted plastic clips to secure a headlamp, which are similar to those found on most helmets. 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, but it is not as versatile for using while ski mountaineering. This fact is because many helmets now come with an elastic band and hook in the back that is better for keeping ski goggles in place and also works fine for headlamps.

The headlamp clips cover the entire strap  and keep the headlamp securely on your head.
The headlamp clips cover the entire strap, and keep the headlamp securely on your head.

Durability


By their nature, lightweight foam helmets are less durable than hard ABS plastic helmets. They need to be treated with care, especially when packing. This helmet did seem to ding up fairly easily, though so far those dings are cosmetic. If long-term durability is your main concern, or if you tend to be hard on your gear, we recommend a hard shell helmet over a lightweight foam helmet.

It was a little disappointing that this helmet got a significant (though cosmetic) ding the first time we used it.
It was a little disappointing that this helmet got a significant (though cosmetic) ding the first time we used it.

Value


This helmet is priced similarly to the other EPS helmets with Polycarbonate shells in this review. All of these helmets are aimed at experienced climbers seeking higher performance, who are willing to sacrifice durability for lighter weight. Since many of these helmets have similar levels of performance, and also the same price, the one that will present the best value for you is the one that fits your head the best, so be sure to try models you are interested in before buying.

We liked this helmet for a variety of uses  including warmer days when plugging gear at the crag.
We liked this helmet for a variety of uses, including warmer days when plugging gear at the crag.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond Vector is a lightweight foam climbing helmet that has all of the necessary features. This helmet would be great for any climbing application, from big walling to cragging. It's hard not to compare it in every way to its lighter sibling, the Vapor, which is a great helmet but somewhat fragile to handle. Unless we were always climbing in hot conditions, we'd probably opt for this one over the Vapor do the slightly better durability and adjustability, not to mention the lower price.


Cam McKenzie Ring & Luke Lydiard