Black Diamond Tracer Helmet – Lightweight Versatile Protection

Post by blogger | April 26, 2007      

Update, headlamp goes strapless.

Black Diamond Tracer helmet for climbing and backcountry skiing
What is the deal with duct tape? You need a solution, you end up with a glom of silver sticky stuff on your gear — and it works. This “elegant” way of attaching a headlamp to a helmet functions super well. Needs the type of headlamp that has batteries in same unit as bulbs, as with this Princeton Tec.

******************original post below

In the seemingly endless quest for good athletic helmets, I’m always looking for one that’ll work for both spring skiing and climbing (not necessarily in that order). Climbing helmets such as the Black Diamond Halfdome work okay for such, but I like something that feels snugger to the head, with the foam protection such as that found in bicycle and ski helmets (rather than a suspension system). Black Diamond’s Tracer model looked like a good bet for those criteria so I scored one a few weeks ago. My take after a few trips with the new helmet:

Black Diamond Tracer helmet for climbing and backcountry skiing
First step was getting the right fit. I tried a large but it looked like I was wearing a balloon on my head. The medium fit much trimmer and crammed easier in the pack. I picked white so it’ll stay cooler in broiling high altitude sun.

The Tracer uses sacrificial foam protection technology similar to that of bicycle and ski helmets. During a hard blow the foam is intended to crush with minimal bounce-back, thus providing effective protection for side blows as well as those from the top — something suspension helmets don’t do as well.

Critical thing for our style of ski mountaineering is a good headlamp attachment system. I’m not 100% satisfied with the Tracer’s headlamp clips as the headlamp strap can easily slip out, but it seems to work for most situations. The headlamp shown above has the top (crown) strap removed (the one that goes over the crown of your head). A crown strap keeps the strap as shown from slipping down. But not all headlamps have a crown strap, and we remove ours because they tangle and we usually don’t need them. For extreme missions a bit of duct tape provides insurance, and I suppose one could get used to always having the top strap on their headlamp strap system, or add one if your headlamp doesn’t have it.

Our biggest dilemma with helmets is how to combine goggles with headlamp. Tracer’s minimalist clips make this more difficult than doing so with the help of a ski helmet’s roomy goggle clip. Our solution is a small velcro strap run through the rear vents and over the goggle strap. This is a good example of how gear can always be improved. Black Diamond has quite the brain trust, and their neurons are no doubt intact because they all wear excellent BD Helmets while climbing. So how about it guys? Can you come up with a cool think-outside-of-box solution to the helmet/goggles/headlamp tangle? Perhaps build some LED’s into the helmet? Or provide goggle straps that clip to the sides of the helmet rather than going all the way around back?

Black Diamond Verdict backcountry ski
This is the killer feature. Reach behind your head and dial your fit. Nothing new in the helmet world, but always appreciated. Inside the helmet a nicely portioned padding system gives some ventilation next to your scalp while keeping the feeling of a snug fit.

What else? Open vents on top of a helmet attract sharp tree branches like fresh blood attracts sharks. Tracer has metal mesh over the top vents. Good. Fewer stitches after the day’s work. As for ever important aesthetics, Tracer has a nice Italian-like flow to its lines, and comes in four colors including the white shown above.

Tracer is definitely not a dedicated ski helmet, as the vents don’t close and it doesn’t have ear coverings. But for a combination climb/ski helm it is a fine addition to my quiver — and will be nice for those summer scrambles as well.

Shop for Black Diamond Tracer Climbing Helmet.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


8 Responses to “Black Diamond Tracer Helmet – Lightweight Versatile Protection”

  1. Skinny D April 27th, 2007 1:47 am

    Hi, I was wondering if there are any helmets out there which are fully rated for skiing and climbing? I’m after one with some removable earflaps for cold winters but which I can also wear when ski mountaineering.

    Cheers, Dave

  2. Lou April 27th, 2007 5:37 am

    I’d say any good quality rated ski helmet with removable ear flaps is totally adaquate for climbing while ski mountaineering, though not rated for it. That’s normally what we and nearly every ski mountaineer I know wears. By using the Tracer I saved some weight and bulk for spring skiing, but during winter I’ll go back to using a ski helmet with ear and vent covers.

  3. Jonathan Shefftz April 27th, 2007 6:47 am

    Addressing Dave’s question, the only helmet officially tested for both skiing & climbing is the Camp Pulse:

    I’ve been using the Kong Scarab – climbing helmet that’s also certified for biking & horsies, so I figured (correctly?!?) that if it tested out well for all that, must be better for skiing than the typical climbing helmet. (Plus it’s super light & super comfy.)

  4. Rando Swede April 27th, 2007 7:13 am

    Hey Lou-
    I know the BD Icon headlamp you show there comes with an add-on strap that goes from front to back, over the top the of the helmet. I was not psyched about the headlamp attachement system until I added that strap. With tension, it seems to pull the “around the head” strap up into those little clips. Mine is much more secure now.

  5. Lou April 27th, 2007 7:23 am

    Whoops! Rando, I should have mentioned that. Will edit. We take those straps off because they tangle up on everything when we’re not using helmets, and usually don’t have them with us, so our helmets need to work without them. Thanks for mentioning that! Our modified gear gets the better of us sometimes!

    P.S. Too many recent dawn patrols have temporarily compromised my cognitive abilities. Apologies.

  6. cory April 27th, 2007 10:38 am

    More than you ever wanted to know about helmet ratings:

  7. Skinny D May 1st, 2007 1:30 am

    Hi there, many thanks for the links, I’ll get on to those.

    With regards to the headlamp conundrum, Petzl is a pretty big head torch brand over here in Europe and they do a series of adaptors. Have a look at:

    Between myself and my GF we have the Tikka and Myo XP which are bright and also the Black Diamond Spot. The tikka xp is similar to the BD spot while the Myo xp is definately a step brighter. I use any of the 3 for night trail running, navigation, a bit of biking and climbing.

    Cheers, Dave

  8. Brian October 13th, 2007 7:06 am

    I’m hoping to find the most all-around helmet i can for skiing, rock climbing, biking… The Pulse helmet by C.A.M.P. looks really good with its double rating, but being designed for winter sports i’m wondering if it would be too warm for summer climbing. Does anyone know?

    thanks, Brian

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