Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond Vector Review

A comfortable and lightweight helmet with good adjustability, but not very durable.
Black Diamond Vector in Blizzard white.
By: Cam McKenzie Ring & Luke Lydiard  ⋅  Nov 13, 2017
Price:  $100 List  |  $99.95 at REI
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
72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 12
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Adjustability - 20% 8
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Ventilation - 10% 8
  • Headlamp Attachment - 10% 8
  • Durability - 20% 5
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Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Vector is a lightweight foam helmet with a thin shell on top. It's fully adjustable, has great headlamp attachments, and retails for $100. There's a lot to like about this helmet, though we did prefer the newer style of open foam and shell hybrid like on our Editors' Choice winner, the Mammut Wall Rider. It's a little lighter, a little more durable, and has slightly better ventilation.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Black Diamond Vector is a lightweight climbing helmet constructed of expanded polystyrene covered by a thin plastic shell. It is held in place 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 which 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, include some "women's" colors in the S/M size.

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 of the lightweight foam helmets, the Vector is hardly noticeable on the head due to its light weight. It 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 which 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 liked the adjustability of this helmet. It has a sliding ratchet system similar to the BD Vapor or 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 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 single strand with a typical buckle, and the V yoke has a sliding adjustment to dial in the fit better. This adjustment, which is lacking on the ultralight Black Diamond Vapor, 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.

This helmet is available in two sizes, which is great, and also as a "women's" version in the S/M size only, which is actually 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 slightly misleading. The only true "women's" helmet on the market that we could find 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 biggest difference in helmet construction when it comes to the different genders.

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 1-1.5 ounces more than the BD Vapor, but it does gives you the adjustable yoke.

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, but not quite as good as the BD Vapor helmet, which has seven more vents than the Vector in a very similarly shaped helmet. 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 left and Vapor on 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.

Headlamp Attachment


This headlamp uses four permanently mounted plastic clips to secure a headlamp, which are similar to those found on the Petzl Meteor. 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.

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 the hard ABS plastic helmets, like the Black Diamond Half Dome or the Petzl Boreo. They need to be treated with care, especially when packing. This helmet did seem to sing up fairly easily, though so far those dings are cosmetic. If long-term durability is your main concern, or if you tend to be really hard on your gear, we recommend a hard shell helmet over a lightweight foam helmet. Both the Black Diamond Half Dome and Petzl Boreo are good choices in that category.

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.

Best Applications


The Black Diamond 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.

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.

Value


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 simply 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 $60-65 and are likely to outlast any of the lightweight foam helmets over the long term.

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.

Cam McKenzie Ring & Luke Lydiard

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Most recent review: November 13, 2017
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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