Gear Review: Black Diamond Vapor Helmet
Weight: 7 oz, 199 g – Size: M/L
Size: S/M or M/L
Material: Polycarbonate Shell with EPS Foam lined with Carbon Fiber Rods and Sheets of Kevlar
Summary: The Black Diamond Vapor Helmet is one of the premier climbing helmets on the market. It’s ultra-lightweight, super adjustable, and keeps my head safe from the hazards of the mountains.
After finally retiring my beat up Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet, I decided to upgrade to the Black Diamond Vapor Helmet. The Vapor Helmet is Black Diamond’s premier climbing helmet and after using it in the mountains I’ve decided I really like it.
The Black Diamond Vapor helmet has a lot of good things going on. Most notably, this minimalist helmet is ultra lightweight. It’s so light that you’ll forget you’re even wearing it. The S/M weighs 6.6 oz, 188 g and the M/L weighs 7 oz, 199 g. That’s barely anything. Sometimes I worry it might blow away in a strong gust of wind. It’s significantly less than my go-to ski helmet, the Smith Vantage at 17.5 oz / 500 grams. The only climbing helmet that I know of that is lighter is the Petzl Sirocco, which is 20% lighter still!
When you put on the Vapor, you’ll barely notice it’s there. It’s super comfortable. Whether you wear it with a ball cap or a winter cap underneath, it’s still comfortable. This is due to the ability to micro-adjust the helmet to fit perfectly. Both sizes have decent range of adjustment – S/M – 21-23 in, 53-59 cm or M/L – 23-25 in, 58-63 cm. My big noggin requires a size large.
The adjustment system is located in the back of the helmet. It should be adjusted before you go as it’s not super easy to adjust on the fly. This tuck-away suspension retracts inside the helmet to reduce the tendency to snag when in transport. This makes it low profile and less likely to snag.
Adjusted properly, the Vapor fits snugly and comfortable. Plus, this helmet offers crazy ventilation. I’ve never had a ventilation system that is so breathable. Wear it for any aerobic activity and your head won’t get too hot. I’ve tried it climbing, mountaineering, ski mountaineering, and on ice and I almost always forget the helmet is even there. I find the helmet sits lower on my head than other climbing helmets, so I don’t get the cone head look, as much. Plus, it fits under my hood.
The Black Diamond Vapor also features secure headlamp clips. There are four clips (2 per side) that allow for easy headlamp attachment for alpine starts or dusk returns. Supposedly they are removable, but I found them difficult to attach to begin with, so I plan to just leave them in place. If they become a nuisance, I’ll reassess.
But the true test of a helmet is if it keeps your head protected. I can’t claim that I have had any falls or bang ups with the helmet yet. What I do know is the the Black Diamond Vapor utilizes a polycarbonate shell with EPS foam. Inside the foam are layers of Kevlar and series of carbon fiber rods that offer superb head protection.
I do have one concern about the Vapor Helmet. I read on multiple websites that the Vapor does pass CE (European Community) certification, but it does NOT pass UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) certification. I find this a bit odd. You can read more about the UIAA vs CE helmet certifications on Climbing.com. It’s certainly something to note if you’re considering buying this helmet.
I use my BD Vapor primarily for climbing, but also for ski mountaineering. I know it’s not a ski helmet, but I still use it for this application – as do many other ski mountaineers. When skiing, the Vapor fits well over a winter hat and can even be worn with ski goggles (although I prefer sunglasses). In the summer, the Vapor is comfortable with or without a ball cap and offers great ventilation on hot and humid summer days spent on rock.
The Black Diamond Vapor comes in two sizes (S/M – 21-23 in, 53-59 cm, 6.6 oz, 188 g AND M/L – 23-25 in, 58-63 cm, 7 oz, 199 g) and in three colors (Fire Red, Blizzard, and Steel Grey). To determine your size, measure your head one inch above your eyebrow and also consider that you may wear a hat underneath the helmet.
The Black Diamond Vapor Helmet is at home climbing sport or trad, picking away at ice, climbing remote peaks, and even ski mountaineering. It’s comfortable, breathable, and ultra-lightweight. I think it’s one of the best helmets currently on the market, even though it is expensive. Protect your head – especially in the mountains. Wear a helmet.