PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: Vector helmet
Innovation is what drives everything here at Black Diamond. If we're not making gear better, stronger, lighter, faster, more durable and easier to use, then we're not doing our job. In this ongoing series of monthly posts, we'll be giving you an inside look at some of our most innovative products through one-on-one interviews with our team of industry-leading product designers and category directors.
This month we sat down with Senior Industrial Designer Kasey Jarvis to talk about our all-new lightweight climbing helmet, the Vector, which combines lightweight protection, a streamlined, geometric design and 'barely there' comfort.
To learn more about the Vector, which also comes in a women's-specific version and will be available this coming July, CLICK HERE.
Who was the Vector Helmet designed for?
The Vector is designed for climbers who prioritize weight. Long trips, alpine routes. Many climbers who don't wear helmets very often tell us that helmets are too heavy or too hot and uncomfortable. We designed the Vector to address those concerns.
How is the Vector an evolution from the lightweight Tracer helmet?
The Vector is a lighter, better fitting more breathable helmet than the Tracer without giving up any of the protection. One big difference is that the Vector is less bulky than the Tracer. It allows climbers to work in tighter spaces and conforms better to the shape of the head.
How did you go about designing the shape and suspension of the Vector?
We were able to make many different prototype helmets early in the design process that helped us make multiple adjustments and refinements to the shape and fit of the Vector. People's head shapes and sizes have a lot of variability and its important to make sure that you address those needs. We spent a lot of time in the sample room here sewing and testing the design of the suspension system to make it comfortable, testing webbing that was lighter and that felt nice next to your face and ears.
What materials are used in the shell and how do they work in concert?
The shell of the helmet is made up of two materials. The protective outer material is a thin layer of polycarbonate and the inner layer is an energy absorbing foam called EPS. The polycarbonate layer helps protect against scratches and dents. It provides some of the overall strength of the helmet and it helps to distribute any impact loads on the foam. We spent a lot of time tweaking and tuning the density of the EPS foam and the thickness of the polycarbonate to make sure that it would handle the impacts required for safety, be as light as possible and still be durable.
What other unique features does the helmet have?
The Vector has some extra large vent openings that help increase airflow to keep your head cool. The internal fit system eliminates pressure points and increases comfort by extending the anchor points to the foam further forward. We used extra thin velcro to attach the internal comfort pad and recessed it into the EPS to make sure that you wouldn't feel any pressure points or irritating lumps.
What about the fit?
We really wanted to make a helmet that more climbers would want to use. Some of our competitors make "one size fits all" helmets that don't work well with the shapes of your head and don't compliment the features of the face. The vector comes in different sizes and allows for a much better fit that looks great when people wear it and eliminates many of the reasons people often give for not wearing a helmet.
Any unique challenges encountered while designing the Vector?
Climbers spend a lot of time looking up. You want to reduce the bulk of the helmet to give them as much visibility and mobility as you can without sacrificing protection and safety. We spent a lot of time making sure that the front of the helmet lets you see your partner while still protecting your forehead, and that the back of the helmet would let you look up without getting caught on your pack or irritating your neck. We reduced the thickness and width on the sides of the helmet while making sure that we left enough room for sunglasses and eye protection.