GEAR REVIEW: Black Diamond Vector Helmet
GEAR REVIEW: Black Diamond Vector Helmet
Last year I went on my first spelunking outing and had an absolute blast. One problem: I’m 6’4”, and caves are dark. Walking around in pitch black on irregular and unsure footing means I’m spending much of my time scanning the ground, ie looking down. That’s a bad combination when you’re exploring places that also have, that’s right, irregular ceilings . I remember during my second spelunking outing I hit my head so hard on a stalactite that I fell down and almost knocked myself out. Time for some noggin protection!
The worst thing about helmets is that people don’t want to wear them. The excuses that we come up with vary greatly from comfort and style, to convenience and cost. For me personally, it was comfort and convenience. I’ve decided that being knocked out in a cave is a greater risk to my comfort than wearing a helmet, and would be incredibly inconvenient, especially if I’m out solo.
I went in to Next Adventure and found Josh back at the climbing center. Josh is a really great guy to talk to and got me all caught up on helmets. If you want to geek out and talk technical specs like poly-carbonate shells, he’s your man! We discussed my needs, which mostly include me wearing a helmet in a cave for hours at a time, and hopefully some mountaineering this coming year. Josh helped me narrow the search down to two helmets, and of the two I decided to pick up the Black Diamond Vector, primarily because it fit very well with or without a beanie on underneath it.
After getting the helmet home I did what I do with all my outdoor gear, I wore it around the house for a few hours, making minor adjustments along the way, and trying it with various beanies. This helmet is incredible light! I feel that it’s almost half as heavy as my cycling helmet [edit: after writing the article I checked and it’s about ? lighter!]. I noticed the weight in the store as the Vector is quite a bit lighter than the other helmets, but you don’t *really* notice it until you wear it around for a while. Due in part to it’s weight, the helmet is also super-comfy. The only thing that I wasn’t fond of initially was the harness adjustment. It requires two-hands, and the center piece can get off-centered. I’m sure they did this to save a few grams over the standard rotary style adjusters. Not a big deal, after all, you’re supposed to put the helmet on and leave it on, but it was a bit annoying.
In the Field:
I’ve taken the Vector spelunking twice since I picked it up a few weeks ago, each trip had me wearing the helmet for a few hours. The Vector’s built-in headlamp clips make it a great helmet for caving. The clips are built for standard 1” headbands and getting the headlamp on takes seconds. My only concern is that they are pretty thin pieces of plastic, it wouldn’t surprise me if one of them cracked off in really cold weather. Hasn’t happened yet!
The first trip was spent in a cave that had a bunch of ice formations, some extending from floor to ceiling. Within 5 minutes of entering the cave I smashed my head on a big icesicle that eluded my vision. I immediately called out “helmet!” since it saved my bacon! By the end of the day I had hit my head on a score of other ice stalactites, and a couple low ceilings, injury free. It is amazing how comfortable this helmet really is. After a few hours of wearing a helmet I expected to be really excited to take it off, this just wasn’t the case. No neck strain or irritation! In fact, after about 25 minutes the helmet felt very natural, like wearing a hat.
As you can see from the fotos, the helmet is also well ventilated. The first trip I wore a beanie under the helmet and didn’t have excessive head sweating, which was really nice as that can get really irritating after a few hours. Especially when the sweat cools and starts to freeze your head!
My only complaint while using the helmet was when I was crawling through a very small hole for about 30’. I was literally on my gut army crawling and the helmet was scraping and bouncing off the ceiling and walls. The helmet did boggle around more than I would have liked. In hindsight, the next time I know I’m going to be essentially dragging my head on a wall or ceiling I’ll lock the harness down more. The helmet didn’t rotate on my head too badly, and it did stay in place without going over my face, but the boggle was pretty annoying.
The Black Diamond Vector goes for $99.95 making it one of the more expensive helmets with the rest coming in around $60-$70 or so. After trying a few other helmets on, and using the Vector, I would suggest you treat your noggin to the Vector. Besides, $100 is a lot cheaper than a trip to the ER.
Who Should Buy the Vector?
Honestly, if you spend time doing adventure activities that require/suggest helmets (rock climbing, mountaineering, spelunking, etc) you really should get your own helmet. Of course you can rent helmets, but the rentals will never be as nice as owning and knowing your own gear. The Vector is a great choice for people that are going to be wearing a helmet for long durations due to it’s incredibly light weight and comfort. It’s also a very good match with a beanie, making it great for colder activities. If you don’t already own a helmet, or you’re looking to upgrade from an older, heavier, sweatier, uncomfortable brain bucket, head down to Next Adventure and have Josh pull out a Vector to try on! This is the helmet that makes me happy to wear a helmet!
Great fit with a beanie underneath
Simple Headlamp Attachment
Headlamp clips seems potentially fragile