Black Diamond Vector Review
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
Compare to Similar Products
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 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 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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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