Over the winter break I went skiing for the first time in ten years and was shocked to see everyone and their mom wearing helmets. Back in the day, the only people wearing helmets were jibbers doing tricks at the park. Today, you’re the odd one out without a helmet. Somehow, over the last decade, it has become “cool” to wear a helmet skiing. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case in climbing. But it got me thinking, what would it take in culture and helmet design to get climbers to the point where wearing a helmet is seen as cool? The Black Diamond Vector helmet is a step in the right direction.
Fit: I like that BD has a male and female helmet, because let’s face it – we have different sized heads. I wear the women’s Vector in a S/M. Thanks to the ratchet adjuster I was able get this baby nice and snug. Apparently I have a really small head, because tightening it to fit resulted in the chin strap dangling down about 5 inches and no obvious way of securing the chin strap other than cutting it. That downside aside, in comparing the fit of the Vector with my previous (non-BD) helmet, the Vector felt more secure. It also dipped lower on my forehead which I appreciate as a belayer. While I can’t say that I forgot that I was wearing it, it was comfortable enough that I wasn’t dying to take it off the second I was “off belay”.
Form: I will admit I am far more likely to consistently wear a helmet if it doesn’t look like a giant Croc on my head. Yet, climbing helmets continue to lag behind the direction that ski and bike helmets have taken in making a helmet look “cool”. However, Black Diamond confirms its reputation as a solid design company with the helmet’s smaller footprint and sleeker shape. Even my husband, who formerly would only put his helmet on if he were actively being pelted by rock fall, is willing to wear the Vector. The colors offered are a (Crux Crush-ish) tourquoise and light gray or a green and red. I have the teal and gray, which may emphasize the fact that I have a large helmet on. I find the green a little more subtle and surprisingly not Christmas-y.
Function: BD scored points by integrating geometric designs into the helmet that double as ventilation. Comparing this helmet with my old helmet, it is noticeably more ventilated. Not only is the helmet lightweight (EPS foam with a polycarbonate shell), but it also contracts the chin straps into the helmet to easily fit into your pack or store. BD claims that their in-mold headlamp clamps are the best out there. While I cannot attest to every helmet out there, they are extremely secure in holding your headlamp and very unobstrusive when not in use. I’m still waiting for a helmet with a pony tail holder, but other than that minor detail, the Vector functions very well.
Finances: It retails at $99.95, and given that this helmet could potentially save your life, I’d say this is a fair price. Again, in comparing the Vector with my old helmet, it simply felt better constructed. You pay for what you get, and I’m willing to spend a little more on something like a helmet.
Overall Crush Status: The Vector is headed in the right direction, but with areas to still improve upon. I don’t expect to see helmets taking over the crags just yet, but hopefully we’re getting closer with more aesthetically pleasing and comfortable helmets like the Black Diamond Vector.
Climb on! ~Cate