The Black Diamond Vector is a lightweight EPS foam helmet with a thin polycarbonate shell on top. It's fully adjustable, has excellent headlamp attachments, and retails for $100. In many ways, this helmet is like a slightly heavier, but more affordable version of the Black Diamond Vapor. It has less ventilation than that helmet and still suffers from the same denting problems to the shell, but overall is a bit better value. It scores similarly in our overall ratings to the many other EPS helmets that we tested, such as the Petzl Meteor and Camp USA Storm, and so if you are looking for this style of a helmet or in this price range, the one that fits the best is likely the wisest choice.
Black Diamond Vector Review
Compare prices at 4 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
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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.
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 Black Diamond Vapor or the Petzl Sirocco 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 like the adjustability of this helmet. It has a sliding ratchet system similar to the BD Vapor and Petzl Meteor, 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, which is lacking on the ultralight Vapor, is something most people don't think about unless the chin strap is too far back and choking them.
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. The only genuine "women's" helmet on the market that we have tested is the Petzl Elia, which has a cutout system for a ponytail. Note that many men have ponytails, and many women do not, but that's about the most significant difference in helmet construction when it comes to the different genders.
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 1-1.5 ounces more than the BD Vapor, but it does give you the adjustable yoke.
The ventilation on this helmet is great, but not quite as good as the Vapor, which has seven more vents than the Vector in a very similarly shaped design. Most of the vents on the Vector are on the rear, whereas the Vapor has vents all along the sides (see photos below, Vector on the left and Vapor on the right).
To attach a headlamp, the Vector uses four permanently mounted plastic clips to secure a headlamp, which are similar to those found on the Petzl Boreo. 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.
By their nature, lightweight foam helmets are less durable than the hard ABS plastic helmets, like the Black Diamond Half Dome or Petzl Boreo. 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. Both the Half Dome and Petzl Boreo are good choices in that category.
The Vector is a great choice for those looking to shave some weight from their heads but who still want a lot of adjustability. It is far lighter, and therefore more comfortable, than a hardshell ABS plastic helmet, but not quite as durable long-term.
At $100, this helmet is priced similarly to the Petzl Meteor and the CAMP USA Storm. All of these helmets, however, are aimed at experienced climbers seeking higher performance, who are willing to sacrifice durability for lighter weight. If you are only 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 BD Half Dome or the Petzl Boreo. They retail for just $60-70 and are likely to outlast any of the lightweight foam helmets over the long term.
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.
— Cam McKenzie Ring & Luke Lydiard