Black Diamond Vapor Helmet Review

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Ever since Yvon Chouinard began selling pitons out of the trunk of his car in Yosemite Valley in the 50’s, his work was recognized as superior in the climbing world. While the company didn’t take the name Black Diamond until 1989, the standard for quality and innovation has not waivered. As we are approaching the ice climbing season in Northern Michigan, I knew it was time to replace my old Black Diamond Helmet with something newer, lighter and sharp looking. The Black Diamond Vapor Helmet sounded like the perfect choice.

Excellence in Design and Construction

The Black Diamond Vapor is like no other climbing helmet I have held in my hands. It is an ultralight helmet designed for airflow while offering great protection from falling rock and ice. The main body of the helmet is made from a Styrofoam-type material which is a mix of EPP and EPS foam. This mixes durability with flexibility, similar to the inside of a car bumper. The top of the helmet is a polycarbonate plate covering an ALUULA composite.  ALUULA is known for creating some of the lightest and most durable of outdoor product materials in the adventure world.

I have always had full coverage, hard shell helmets with a suspension on the inside. The design of the Vapor Helmet eliminated the heavy plastic pieces inside the helmet. No more twisting the adjustment while trying to cram the bulky helmet in to your backpack. Black Diamond designed the Vapor with a strap system that, at first glance may seem a little confusing. Once I took the time to get the straps organized, I realized that it was a genius orientation of 3 main straps that adjust the fit of the helmet (more on that in the next paragraph). The padding is smooth and durable, and contacts your head in just the right spots to lift the helmet away from your crown and forehead. As a woman with longer hair, I have to add that the ponytail fits perfectly out the back of the helmet and never gets tangled.

A Featherlight Fit

The Black Diamond Vapor Helmet weighs in at only 5.5 ounces for the S/M size helmet. When it is on your head, it feels no heavier than a stocking cap but with so much airflow! This will be great when the work is hard and my head is sweating. With the padding organized in a way to support the airflow, this will hopefully help keep the helmet from sliding around in my sweat. If that isn’t enough, the strapping system is perfect. The Vapor Helmet had the standard V-type chin strap to hold it securely to your head.

There is a second adjustable strap that connects the back sections of the chin strap together. This pulls the helmet back so that your forehead is fitted comfortably to the front of the helmet and there is an airspace in the back. A third strap, barely visible in my photos, is a thin adjustable cord that attaches at the temple and goes to the back of the head (over my ear). This seems to be the key to keeping the helmet perfectly in place. It never felt sloppy or moved around.

Fantastic Headlight Attachment

With a majority of my climbing trips happening in the winter, the days are short and I am often times hiking in and setting up in the dark. The headlight attachment on the helmet was much better than the past helmets I have had. It had the two clips in the front of the helmet like most, however, in the back, there is a hook and elastic cord to keep the back strap in place. I found this super helpful because my favorite headlamp is one without conventional straps and the battery is in the back. The cord/hook system hooked neatly over the back battery and it did not move. So nice!! Black Diamond thought ahead because, well, sometimes climbers are rough on their equipment, and made these attachment points replaceable in case one should get damaged.

Stay’s in Place:  Work or Play

Since their isn’t enough Ice climbing yet in Michigan, I decided to test out the helmet while assisting my husband in a tree cutting project. I found that with or without a stocking cap underneath, I was able to adjust the helmet easily with the adjustment points. The chin strap has a rubber strap retainer so that the tail end isn’t flopping around. My task involved a lot of looking up and down, picking up logs, etc. I found that the helmet was super light and never moves from its perfect fit. I know that this isn’t the exact use most will use it for, but it was a good way for me to give it some practical use for this review.

The Nerdy Stuff

For those of you who like to know the technical information, here is some tech specs from Black Diamond for the Vapor Helmet:

  • Shell: Polycarbonate
  • Foam: EPP, EPS, ALUULA
  • Sizing: [S/M] 53-59 cm (21-23 in), [M/L] 58-63 cm (23-25 in)
  • Weight: S/M] 155 g (5.5 oz), [M/L] 180 g (6.35 oz)
  • Available Colors: Black, Envy Green, Octane (red) and White

The Black Diamond Vapor Helmet: Final Thoughts and Recommendations

I’m definitely going to recommend the Black Diamond Vapor Helmet. It has an innovative design to reduce the weight of the climbing helmet (improved in this years model). The design also promotes airflow, and most importantly, protects your head from falling debris and falls. Winter is upon us and I will soon be taking the Vapor Helmet north to climb frozen waterfalls. I look forward to the light weight and space saving design of this helmet when in my pack.

I did note in the instructions that there are many no-no’s with this helmet. Heat, chemicals, paint and solvents can damage the foam. The directions also warn against sitting on the helmet or packing it with heavy items on top. This makes me skeptical of the helmets durability. I will be sure to update my review if I find that it’s not lasting to my expectations. That said, I trust Black Diamond’s experience and research when it comes to protective equipment. I absolutely love the fit and feel of this ultralight helmet and I’m sure you will, too.

I feel that superior protection for my noggin is priceless, and at $149.99, this helmet is extraordinary!  For more info or to order your own Black Diamond Vapor Helmet, visit or

Sara Fillman: Sara is an avid ultra-marathoner and outdoor adventurer. Living in Michigan, Sara has ample opportunities for outdoor sports during all seasons. When not open water kayaking on the Great Lakes or backpacking in some distance mountains, she can be found ice climbing in Norther Michigan at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. She is constantly looking for the next big adventure.
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