Published on: 11/29/2022Looking for a new climbing helmet? In this review, we break down the strengths, weaknesses, and performance of the Black Diamond Vector to help you decide if it's the right helmet for you.
It’s pretty straightforward to adjust the Vector, thanks to its plastic tensioning band and ratcheting system. You can easily wear a beanie or hat under the helmet, and its headlamp attachments are incredibly simple to use. Considering all of these features and the Vector’s price, we feel it represents great value for money.
There are some areas where the Vector falls flat, though. Its thin polycarbonate shell is considerably less durable than harder ABS plastic tends to be. For this reason, we wouldn’t recommend the Vector to climbers in areas with significant rockfall. The Vector also lacks ventilation at the front of the helmet, making wearing it less comfortable for hotter weather.
- Lightweight and streamlined
- The Vector’s tensioning band and chin strap make it highly adjustable
- Reasonably priced, especially given how versatile it is
- The Vector’s headlamp clips are easy to use and reliable
- Comfortable, thanks to its foam inserts and adjustable chin strap
- With most of its vents concentrated towards the back of the helmet, the Vector offers less-than-ideal ventilation
- The Vector’s durability leaves something to be desired
The Vector is Black Diamond’s answer to climbers looking for a helmet that maximizes comfort and adjustability while weighing as little as possible. This is made possible thanks to the Vector’s tensioning band, plastic shell, and Expanded Polystyrene foam, a combination that weighs a fraction of what a hard shell helmet with ABS would. The Vector comes in two sizes, S/M and M/L, which weigh in at 8.1 oz and 8.5 oz, respectively.
Thanks to its overall build and excellent adjustability, we found the Vector to be highly comfortable, even for longer rock climbing sessions. Its interior has foam pads, and its ratcheting system allows for a truly tailored fit. This prevents the Vector from digging in and helps it sit as naturally as possible across the head.
Wearing a cap or beanie underneath the Vector feels natural, too, thanks to how adjustable the helmet is. You can easily adjust how the Vector sits on your head, chin, or ears to accommodate extra gear properly. The chinstrap buckle also features soft edges, so you won’t feel like it’s digging into your neck as you turn your head. The straps themselves feel smooth, and the fabric isn’t abrasive in the slightest, which isn’t the case for some other climbing helmets.
Because of its PC shell, the Vector is also exceptionally lightweight. Combine this with how comfortable it is when it’s on, and you’ll barely even notice that you’re wearing a helmet in the first place. This makes this lightweight helmet a great choice for longer climbing days, where wearing a heavier helmet can start to take its toll.
Having said all of this, it’s also worth noting that how well a climbing helmet fits will vary depending on the shape of your head. Ultimately, we strongly recommend that you try the Vector before purchasing it because it may simply not mold all that well to the shape of your head.
One of the drawbacks of the Vector is that it provides relatively little ventilation. The back of the helmet is well-ventilated, but this is far less effective than providing vents at the front of the head. Keeping your forehead cool is a massive part of proper helmet ventilation, which the Vector struggles with.
This is less likely to be an issue for climbers in colder climates. It does also make the Vector potentially a better choice for climbing in the cooler months, too. Still, climbers looking for helmets in hot climates may want to consider other, better-ventilated models.
The Vector’s adjustability is arguably its greatest strength. The helmet uses Black Diamond’s fully adjustable plastic tensioning band to great effect. While you’ll need two hands to use the molded push buttons on its ratcheting system, it offers much more flexibility than a wheel ratchet typically would. To get a genuinely dialed-in fit, you can adjust the Vector’s chinstrap and sits over the ears.
It’s probably worth pointing out here that one strength of wheel-style ratcheting systems is that they’re much easier to use with gloves. So, if you’re planning on regularly climbing in gloves, you may find adjusting the Vector somewhat impractical.
Another thing we loved about the Vector is its headlamp attachments. These plastic clips on the helmet securely hold your headlamp in place and are very simple to use. Additionally, they sit flush on the front of the helmet, which is a smart design choice. Headlamp attachments that protrude more can easily get caught or snagged on something when taking them in or out of a pack.
Some of Black Diamond’s competitors do manufacture helmets that feature bungee cords or similar in addition to headlamp attachments. These make wearing ski goggles with the helmet much easier, and this is an attribute that the Vector lacks. This is arguably something of a niche feature and not something that many climbers will miss.
Black Diamond’s Vector uses co-molded EPS foam and a polycarbonate shell for its build. Like other foam helmets that use thin plastic shells, the Vector does leave something to be desired regarding durability. We found this shell to be surprisingly prone to dings and dents. While this kind of damage is usually only cosmetic, it can impact the overall longevity of the helmet.
While the Vector can take a crack, it should be inspected and possibly even replaced after larger impacts. Climbers looking for an incredibly durable helmet may want to look into models that use harder ABS plastic instead. These helmets tend to be heavier but far more resilient, especially for heavier blows to the head.
Thanks to its versatility, we argue that the Vector suits climbers of all abilities. The helmet is light enough that beginners are unlikely to find it cumbersome, while more experienced climbers will appreciate its adjustability. Black Diamond has designed the Vector to offer complete coverage protection, unlike other climbing helmets, which often primarily cover the crown of the head.
Additionally, we feel the Vector suits indoor and outdoor climbing. Due to its less-than-stellar durability, we’d be cautious about wearing it in areas prone to rockfall. And as mentioned previously, we would encourage climbers in warmer climates to look for helmets with better ventilation.
Ultimately, the BD Vector is a great choice for climbers looking for a helmet that offers excellent adjustability and comfort while remaining incredibly lightweight. The helmet is versatile enough for most climbing styles, and beginners and advanced climbers alike should be able to get plenty of use out of it. With all this in mind, we would argue that the Vector offers great value for money.
Still, it’s essential to acknowledge the Vector’s drawbacks, too. If you climb somewhere with lots of rockfalls or tend to subject your gear to plenty of wear and tear, this is unlikely to be the helmet for you. This is also likely to happen if you often climb in gloves due to the Vector’s ratcheting system. Also, if you’re based somewhere with a hotter climate, then you’ll probably find the Vector’s ventilation insufficient compared to models with more extensive vent coverage.
|Weight||8.5 oz/240 g (M/L Model)|
|Sizes||S/M (21-23 in/53-58 cm), M/L (23-25 in/58-64 cm)|
|Material||Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam with Polycarbonate shell|
Reference: Black Diamond official website
Not convinced by this particular helmet? Check out our selection of the 9 best climbing helmets for 2022!