Black Diamond Vapor Helmet — Review


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | June 8, 2016      
Sporting the Vapor in AK.

Sporting Black Diamond Vapor in AK.

Helmets are annoying. There, I said it. Ski helmets are nearly always heavy (compared to a hat, anyhow) and usually too darn warm for ski touring.

Possible solution, the Black Diamond Vapor to protect your noggin’ — a lightweight, low profile climbing helmet well suited for mountaineering of the skiing persuasion.

(Safety caveat: Most climbing helmets will not protect your head as well as a full blown ski helmet. This review is intended to focus on the Vapor as an option for mountaineering for those times and places when a ski helmet is not practical. And yes, there are a few “dual rated” helmets out there. In this case I’m sticking with a climbing helmet. It’s a review.)

At less than seven ounces my helmet may no longer be my heaviest head layer. The Black Diamond Vapor helmet offers a climbing helmet that you can forget you ever put on.

Co-molded foam with a polycarbonate shell makes the BD Vapor. . .wait, sorry, never mind, none of us have any idea what any of that means, but I like whatever it does.

Along with the weight, a few more thoughts:

  • Even though the WildSnow editors constantly berate me about finding cons for a “true” gear review, I couldn’t find much about this helm to criticise. One thing to remember is that while helmets appear to protect, and sometimes do, they’re not the end-all in safety for your noggin and all could stand some improvement in their protective functions. More about that here. As with most climbing helmets, the Vapor has no way of sealing vents. That’s what hoods are for (and why you need to test hoods for helmet compatibility — before you leave on that dream trip). If you’re used to ski helmets with clever vent closure systems, be advised you don’t get that here.
  • Killer ventilation: often overlooked in the ski world, but I find staying cool and dry to be often just as hard as staying warm, especially if you are wearing a helmet while moving uphill (a good idea in many ski mountaineering circumstances).
  • Quick adjustability: many helmets have something like this, but I find it super quick and easy to stick the Vapor over a hat or readjust for use by itself on the fly.
  • Low profile: The helmet fits well over a hat and under a hood at the same time. Thumbs up, this is a tough one for many helmets. The smooth exterior profile is a safety feature as well. A ski helmet shouldn’t have protrusions such as fixed-molded brims that can drag on the snow during a sliding fall, thus possibly contributing to spinal injuries.
  • I didn’t test was the headlamp clips. Land of the northern sun, need I say more? The clips appear to be functional but I’d advise a good “carpet” test before field use.
  • Likewise, we were not tree skiing so I wasn’t worried about “punji” events violating the Vapor’s commodious vent openings. This could be a valid concern for those of you who experience copious vegitation.
  • Shop for Black Diamond helmets here.

    Vapor testing in the Eastern Alaska Range

    If you missed them, here are the trip reports of exploring the Eastern Alaska Range where we tested the Vapor: Part One, and Part Two.

    (Disclosure from WildSnow.com: While this isn’t what we’d call a “sponsored content,” Alex does have his Black Diamond gear on long-term loan and we doubt BD will want his stinky old helmet back once he’s done coating it with unmentionable hair products from lengthy stints on far Alaskan glaciers. So, yes, he gets a helmet out of the deal.)

    Comments

    27 Responses to “Black Diamond Vapor Helmet — Review”

    1. See June 8th, 2016 10:47 am

      No mention of goggle compatibility? In my experience, this is the biggest issue using climbing helmets for skiing.

    2. Lou Dawson 2 June 8th, 2016 10:50 am

      Aha, time for comments! Alex? Thanks See…

    3. Todd June 8th, 2016 12:08 pm

      Short version: goggle strap on outside of helmet = bad, goggle strap on inside = maybe okay depending on strap.

      I own this helmet, and I think it kind of sucks with goggles! Yes, it comes farther down the back of your head than many climbing helmets (e.g. every plastic climbing helmet), but you still have to get your goggle strap way up nearer the crown of your head. Also, since the headlamp clips are pretty high and face downward, don’t expect them to hold your goggle strap in place.

      The other main problem as far as goggle compatibility goes is that, when you do get the goggle strap onto the back of the helmet, it pulls the helmet forward so the back of the helmet is right up against the back of your head. Maybe this could be comfortable if the adjustable retention system around the back of your head were a bit wider and padded (which would not be desirable in a climbing helmet), or if the helmet had a very snug fit, but it’s pretty uncomfortable.

      If you want to instead put the goggle strap under the helmet, which is probably a great idea, then the helmet works pretty well unless your goggle strap has a big plastic thing right in the back. Then the plastic thing on the goggle strap sits right under the back-of-the-head retention system, which is kind of annoying. My goggles (~5 year old Smith Stance) have a clip-together strap in the back, so if you have an actually decent goggle strap you should be fine like this.

      That said, I have never been in a situation when I wanted to use a climbing helmet with goggles. Usually I use a climbing helmet because a ski helmet is too hot and heavy, in which case so are goggles. Sunglasses work great.

    4. Lou Dawson 2 June 8th, 2016 12:36 pm

      Thanks Todd, I was wondering about the goggle issue. Time for a mod? Lou

    5. Todd June 8th, 2016 12:52 pm

      Maybe a new goggle strap would work. I’ll cross that bridge when I feel the urge to ski with goggles and a climbing helmet.

    6. See June 8th, 2016 1:11 pm

      Thanks. More or less confirms my feeling that climbing helmets might be good for spring skiing but aren’t that great for use in winter, or whenever one might want to wear goggles. Also, climbing helmets seem much more protective on top, but kind of thin on the sides. I’m still looking for a good, well ventilated, minimal ski helmet. And (like Alex said) hoods eliminate the need for vent seals. But, in my experience, very few “helmet compatible” hoods actually fit well over a helmet.

    7. See June 8th, 2016 2:19 pm

      What I meant to say was that the climbing helmets I’ve examined seem thicker on top than at the sides, front and back, not that they’re more protective than ski helmets on top. Best ski helmets (imo) in terms of weight and ventilation are the various Giro 9’s. Still not as light or well ventilated as I would like. There are some mountain bike helmets that look good for spring skiing, but I haven’t tried them.

    8. Andy June 8th, 2016 2:43 pm

      Check out the Solly Mtn Lab helmet. It’s a pretty sweet dual-rated lid that’s relatively light and designed to be a skiing/mountaineering hybrid. I like mine.

    9. Alex June 8th, 2016 3:33 pm

      Agreed, goggles are an issue… Like Todd said, you can always rock the park skier look and go goggles under the helmet (which isn’t too bad if you are, say, putting on goggles before a descent and likely wont need to take them on and off much for a while).

      That being said, I do think the vapor has some advantages over many other climbing helmets (not ski helmets), namely how far down the back of the helmet goes (especially compared to a hard-hat style climbing helmet),and larger than norm rear headlmp ports, which you can sorta fanagel the goggle straps into at a not to awkward angle…. But alas sill not great, a problem for any climbing helmet.

    10. William F June 8th, 2016 4:56 pm

      Goggles work fine for me using the rear headlamp clip. also a small string works just fine.
      con to this helmet is if its on your pack and it gets bumped it is very very fragile.

    11. Eric Steig June 8th, 2016 7:09 pm

      What I’d really like to see is some comparos. Vapour is nice, but a helmet like the Camp “rando race” helmet seem just as nice, just as light, and nominally designed for skiing.

    12. playinginthemountains June 8th, 2016 10:58 pm

      I skied this helmet all winter and was very happy with it. No issues with my Julbo Aerospace goggles – they stayed right where I wanted them, whether up or down. The silicone stripes on the inside of the Julbo head band undoubtedly help. And apparently my head is just the right size that the goggles don’t put too much pressure on the helmet and make it uncomfortably pull into the back of my head (as another commenter said his did).

      Like the reviewer, I can’t find a whole lot that I didn’t like about this helmet. Sure it could be more protective, but then it would be bigger, heavier, and something other than what it is – a nice, light way to keep your noggin a bit safe, but not something that will help at all if you meet a tree head-on at 60.

    13. See June 8th, 2016 11:14 pm

      Thanks Andy and Eric. I will definitely check out the Mt Lab and Camp when I need a new helmet… which reminds me of another criterion which may be worth considering— how well does the helmet stand up to being jammed into your pack? My old Giro may not be as light or ventilated as I would like, but it’s held up to a fair amount of abuse.

    14. biggb June 9th, 2016 1:38 am

      I use my vapor all summer for river surfing and climbing protection … and winter for ski mountaineering. the goggle strap issue is the biggest problem: i’ve taken to using those bendable rubber coated metal twist tie-y things on the back – thru some vent holes and around goggle strap. Not the best but good enough.

    15. samo June 9th, 2016 1:48 am

      Hi, what about Singing Rock Penta, it is half a price and almost the same weight?

    16. Steve June 9th, 2016 8:14 am

      Lou,

      Have you checked out the K2 Route helmet?

    17. Lou Dawson 2 June 9th, 2016 8:27 am

      I don’t use a ski or rock climbing helmet much so I’m not a good evaluator. K2 Route looks to be a good compromise of ventilation vs large holes that can allow punji injury. On the other hand, I know from speaking with high-output alpinists that ventilation is key and only one thing seems to really work: large vents. Thing is, rather than dangling their helmet from their pack or strapping it into a helmet net, many core ski mountaineers wear it nearly all the time, which in my opinion his how a helmet should be used. It should be part of your hat system, not an add-on. My main gripe about helmets is while I totally agree they provide some protection, what they actually do provide is alarmingly minimal compared to their appearance and feel, not to mention marketing and peer pressure to wear them. The problem is it’s pretty easy to get a concussion even with the latest ski and climbing helmets, and concussion injury is permanent and cumulative — you’re only allowed so many in a lifetime. Lou

    18. Ben W June 9th, 2016 11:36 am

      Petzl Scirocco is a pretty darn good choice. It’s lighter, more durable and is certified for higher impact forces than the BD helmet. Downside is it is incredibly ugly and tricker to adjust. That said, I’d always get the one that fits better. Last thing I need when I’m climbing is a distraction.

    19. Bruce Moffatt June 9th, 2016 12:24 pm

      Fit, because it won’t get worn unless it feels right. Protection because that is the reason to wear it. if you get a helmet with multiple certifications skimo, climbing etc. you are good to go. Salomon Mtn. Lab has a durable outer shell, lightweight, great winter liner and just doesn’t fit my melon. Petzl Sirocco damn light, well vented a bit fragile, Vapor plus and minus as mentioned above. Camp Speed, easy to adjust, well vented, light enough that I barely know it is on so it gets worn all the time.It fits my oval head with or without a knit hat.

    20. scott June 9th, 2016 8:47 pm

      new mountain bike helmets designed for enduro racing do a great job of still being light and designed for google. they also provide better side protection than any mountaineering helmet.

    21. Paul June 9th, 2016 10:00 pm

      I have not had any trouble with any of the 3 or 4 goggles I have used with the Vapor. I have also used the Mtn Lab – just as comfortable, just a little heavier, more resistant to side-impact damage, and designed to be a ski helmet. I had to cut the wool earflaps off the Mtn Lab- just too warm and a thin beanie, buff, or snug hood is more versatile.

    22. Jim Milstein June 10th, 2016 7:48 am

      CAMP Speed 2.0 helmet

      Similar weight and features to the BD. I always wear it, up and down. It’s cooler than a cap worn alone and accommodates a hat under and parka hood over.

      The Julbo Aerospace goggle works well with this helmet, due to its excellent ventilation for the uphill. The non-slip headband holds on the outside of the helmet without slipping(!), and, deployed that way, you can move the goggle up onto the helmet as needed. With the headband directly on the head, you can’t do that.

      I modded the helmet by glueing on a small flexible foam visor, which is great when not wearing a bill cap under the helmet.

      But, as always for safety, don’t fall! Also, don’t impale yourself on trees. Those two tricks work better than the best helmets and releasable bindings.

    23. See June 10th, 2016 8:56 am

      Any issues with the one-size-fits-all aspect of the Camp helmet? If the adjustment system works well, could allow wearing a variety of different layer under the helmet.

    24. Jim Milstein June 10th, 2016 9:24 am

      No complaints about the CAMP helmet adjustment. It works for all my head warmth combos.

      The CAMP like the BD has no vents in front, which is good for a goggle parking space. Bicycling helmets are poor for that.

    25. Steven Kovalenko June 10th, 2016 9:51 am

      After breaking a Petzl Meteor by simply repeatedly stuffing it into my climbing pack over a season of ice climbing, I will not buy an EPS foam helmet again for climbing or skiing. The Scirroco is a better value choice for a lightweight lid, given it is nearly indestructible. The Vapor is also not UIAA certified, so I will not trust it to protect my noggin in a nasty upside down climbing fall. I do not like to run a quiver of helmets, so I only run Scirocco (all climbing, skimo) + ski helmet. I like to think the Vapor is one of those “just for show” helmets. It’s too light to be useful when you need it.

    26. dmr June 11th, 2016 3:20 am

      My choice to use or not use a helmet is based primarily on the ascent:
      *Am I in a more ski-mountaineering situation (crampons, ice axe, rock fall, etc.)? If yes, I wear a helmet.
      *Is the snow bulletproof on the way up (putting ski crampons on)? if yes, I’ll wear a helmet.

      In both cases, since I’ve worn it on the way up, might as well on the way down, and I’ve never had an issue finding the right fit for goggles (whether a CAMP or Petzl helmet).

      In powder conditions (mid-winter), on “regular” touring or lap terrain, I rarely wear a helmet.

    27. Cody August 14th, 2016 9:21 pm

      I use the Vector (basically the same helmet just with a few less vents and $) for my ski helmet, kinda because I have two and I am cheaping out on getting a quality ski helmet.

      I absolutely love it. My head and feet run hot so I love the extra ventilation in CA, and OR. For some reason though on my head one size of the helmet causes my goggles to fog, and the other size doesn’t. I forget which size does it since it’s been a few months since I last skied. Not sure on why that is, but I think it has to do somehow with the positioning of my googles on my face between the two.

      Also I don’t have a problem running the goggle strap on the outside.

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