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.
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.)