Gear Review- Black Diamond Vapor Climbing Helmet

Black Diamond Vapor Helmet Review

The Black Diamond Vapor Helmet is the lightest and most breathable helmet in Black Diamond’s line and is only an ounce heavier than the Petzl Sirocco that I reviewed here. A sheet of Kevlar and a series of carbon rods in between co-molded EPS foam provides the bulk of impact protection along with a thin but full polycarbonate shell. I’ve been testing this helmet out while climbing and guiding for the last three months and I’m ready to share my opinions on it! As normal I’ll start with the most noticeable features and work towards the minutiae.


Weight

Black Diamond Vapor Helmet Review

Black Diamond lists the weight of the M/L size at 199 grams, or 7 ounces. My home scale measured 206 grams, or 7 3/8 ounces. For comparison my size 2 Sirocco weighed in on the same scale at 174 grams, or 6 1/8 ounces. While the listed weight seemed a slight bit low it truly weighs only an ounce more than the bar-setting Petzl Sirocco. This ultra-light weight is a boon for long approaches and descents and increases long-term comfort. You truly can forget you have your helmet on when wearing lids like this!


Breath-ability

IMG_9585

Twenty one geometric and well placed holes offer excellent airflow through the helmet making this one of the best hot weather options out there. Furthermore I tested the “Blizzard” color which is basically white and reflective and I found the helmet to be as cool as is possible even on sweltering August days.


Fit/Comfort

Black Diamond Vapor Helmet Review

The M/L size is listed to fit a head circumference of 58-63 cm (23-25 in). My head measures about 60 cm (23.5 inches). That said I found the helmet to run a little small. It fit my shaved head well but was almost maxed out (I do have a large head). I have just enough room for a thin hat liner for cold weather climbing. Removable and breathable helmet pads are soft on the skin and can be removed for washing. The Y-harness strap is not adjustable but fell perfectly around my ears. The feather like weight and high degree  of breath-ability really do make this one of the most comfortable helmets I have ever tested.


Features

Black Diamond Vapor Helmet Review
The author wearing the Black Diamond Vapor while topping out the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle, Mount Washington. Photo by Brent Doscher

Other than the weight and breath-ability the only other feature to talk about is the headlamp clips, which oddly are removable. Black Diamond suggests that removing them may make the helmet less likely to get snagged on slings, etc. but I’d suggest just leaving them on. They didn’t get caught on anything while I was testing. The helmet also has a nice low profile while providing great coverage on the back and sides.


Durability

Black Diamond Vapor Helmet Review
Alex rocking the Black Diamond Vapor helmet during an early morning climb at Otter Cliffs- Photo by Brent Doscher

It’s hard to accurately rate long term durability after just three months. I have friends who have climbed regularly in theirs for over a year. The thin polycarbonate shell does not resist small dents and dings with regular use. Black Diamond advises against packing this helmet inside your pack. I packed mine in the top of my pack like I usually do if I don’t have a full load and had no issues (but I remember it is in there and don’t sit on my pack when it is in there). If you strap it on the outside of your pack I would suggest you don’t just drop your pack on the ground when you reach the crag. I wouldn’t say you need to “baby” this helmet but if you want something that can take more abuse check out the Black Diamond Half Dome or Petzl Boreo that I reviewed here.


Summary

This is a specialist helmet. It’s a bit pricey, but the weight savings and breath-ability can easily justify the price. I’ve heard that cycling helmets made with a similar construction can go for 2 to 3 times more! The best uses for this helmet would be alpine climbing and long multi-pitch trad climbing. I’d chose something longer lasting for sport climbing where a couple ounces more can buy you a lot more durability. If weight and long term comfort in warm weather are a priority the Black Diamond Vapor is a great pick!

Buy on Backcountry

sale price vapor.PNG

Buy from EMS

Buy from Moosejaw

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Buy from Mountain Gear

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Buy from REI

sale price vapor.PNG

Gear Review: Black Diamond ATC Pilot Belay Device

Black Diamond ATC Pilot Review

The new Black Diamond ATC Pilot is an impressive addition to the growing number of “brake assisting” belay devices on the market.


What it is

From Black Diamond:

The lightweight Black Diamond ATC Pilot represents an advance in technology for the world of assisted braking devices. Providing an added level of security to your belay, the ATC Pilot threads similarly to other tubular belay devices and accommodates ropes from 8.7-10.5mm. The durable steel braking surface has no moving parts, and the smooth and secure control allows for gradual lowering. With an easy rope payout, the ATC Pilot makes single-pitch projecting burns less tiring for the belayer and more secure for the climber.

 

  • Accommodates ropes from 8.7-10.5
  • Provides an added level of security to single pitch belays
  • Smooth rope payout
  • Controlled lowering
  • Steel construction
  • Ergonomic, non-slip surface
  • Single rope use

How we tested

Over the course of two months I carried the Black Diamond ATC Pilot Belay Device for almost two dozen days of climbing between Rumney Rocks and crags all over Mount Washington Valley along with a couple trips to the Salt Pump Climbing Gym. We used a Black Diamond RockLock Magnetron Carabiner (our favorite belay carabiner). More significantly I handed it to my clients and regular climbing partners every chance I could to get their opinions as well as determine really how intuitive this device would be in the hands of both longtime veteran climbers and first-day-ever climbers. Over the test period I had at least 10 different people belay me while lead climbing and top-roping, some as young as 10 years old!

Black Diamond ATC Pilot Review


The results

We found the Black Diamond ATC Pilot to be incredibly intuitive with a quick learning curve to become proficient in both lead and top-rope belaying. Experienced climbers felt that using it felt very similar to operating a regular Black Diamond ATC or Petzl Verso. Clear images on the device and a lack of moving parts helped even the newest, and youngest, of our testers properly install the device on the rope.


Top-roping Belaying and Lowering

Belaying on a top-rope system is quite simple with the Black Diamond ATC Pilot. Using the universal belay technique belayers had no problem removing slack from the system. When it came time to lower minimal coaching was required to have the belayer lower the climber. The biggest advantage during the lower is the lack of moving parts or levers make this device feel less likely to have an inexperienced belayer defeat the camming mechanism causing an uncontrolled fall and possible injury.

Black Diamond ATC Pilot Review
Black Diamond ATC Pilot Review

Lead Belaying

Belaying a lead climber with the Black Diamond ATC Pilot is quite simple and we found that newer belayers could “keep up” with the lead climber’s progress easier than other brake-assisting devices on the market. With just slight upward pressure on the thumb lever (while keeping the brake hand around the brake strand) slack could be payed out as easily as any tube style belay device and at least one tester felt it could be payed out even smoother than a Petzl Gri Gri+ in experienced hands. In the event of a fall it is highly unlikely for a belayer to keep upward pressure on this lever and intuitive to slide the brake hand back down the strand for a secure catch.


Assisted Braking

The amount of braking will vary based on rope diameter and age, along with the amount of friction already in the system (top-rope vs lead catch). We found skinny new single ropes like our Sterling Fushion Nano IX 9 mm would slowly slip in a top-rope system (but were easily locked off with proper brake hand position). The slightly thicker Black Diamond 9.4 mm used in the video below would hold fast. Regardless the device must not be treated as “auto-locking”. A brake hand is required 100% of the time.

Black Diamond ATC Pilot Review
Black Diamond ATC Pilot Review

Rappelling

While the Black Diamond ATC Pilot is not designed for rappelling it can safely be used to descend a single strand rappel. Care must be taken as without gloves on your hand will come in contact with the carabiner which will create some heat on a long or fast rappel. We would likely still carry a traditional belay device like the Black Diamond ATC Belay Device if we were planning on doing a lot of rappelling.


Video


Summary

The Black Diamond ATC Pilot is a great addition to the growing amount of assisted braking devices on the market. While it’s obvious this would be a good tool for gym and sport climbers we believe it could also earn a place with climbing guides and instructors. It’s an excellent choice for a new belayer due to its intuitive use and extra layer of security it provides while maintaining a simple design. The symmetrical design also makes this device equally effective for those who are right or left handed, something that many similar devices do not do. We also find the light weight and competitive price of this device to be a compelling reason to add it to your kit. You can check it out from the following retailers:

Shop Local!

International Mountain Equipment, North Conway NH

Eastern Mountain Sports, North Conway NH

Shop Online!

Backcountry <- currently 25% off and adding our favorite Black Diamond RockLock Magnetron Carabiner to go with it gets you to free two-day shipping!

Bentgate

EMS

Mountain Gear <- currently 24% off

REI


Technical Instructions from Black Diamond

Special thanks to AJ at Mountain Life International and Jeremy Ray for their assistance in making the above video.

Disclaimer: The author bought this item with his own money. All opinions are his own. Affiliate links above help create reviews at Northeast Alpine Start like this at no additional cost to you! Thanks for reading!

 

Gear Review: Petzl Boreo Climbing Helmet

The new Petzl Boreo helmet is a super protective rugged great value choice that replaces the long loved Petzl Elios helmet in Petzl’s award winning helmet line.


How we tested

We tested this media sample while sport climbing at Rumney, NH, cragging at various cliffs in Mount Washington Valley, and multi-pitch climbing on Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledge along with some alpine climbing in Huntington Ravine. I shared this sample with some of my co-workers, climbing partners, and guests and solicited their opinions. After 3 months of testing I’m ready to share my opinions on this model to help you decide if this is the right helmet for you. As usual we will start with the most positive stand-out features and work our way down the list after covering the manufacturer info.

Petzl Boreo Review
Tom tests the Petzl Boreo during some alpine climbing in Huntington Ravine

From Petzl:

Durable and very versatile, the BOREO helmet is suitable for climbing, mountaineering, caving, via ferrata, canyoning… Thanks to its hybrid construction, the helmet is both compact and head-covering. Protection against lateral, front and rear impact is reinforced. Optimized volume on the head and wide ventilation holes make it a comfortable helmet for all activities.

Description

  • Rugged:
    – hard outer shell is impact and scratch resistant for optimal durability
    – hybrid construction with thick ABS shell, an EPP foam liner and an EPS foam liner makes it compact on the head
    – soft headband conforms perfectly to the shape of the head and folds into the shell for storage and transportation
  • Head-covering design for optimal protection against lateral, front and rear impact:
    – carries Petzl’s TOP AND SIDE PROTECTION product label
    – head-covering shape, lower in the rear, offers reinforced protection
  • Versatile, for a variety of activities:
    – suitable for climbing, mountaineering, caving, via ferrata, canyoning…
    – four clips for headlamp attachment
    – compatible with the VIZION eye shield

Specifications

  • Material(s): ABS shell, expanded polypropylene (EPP) liner, expanded polystyrene (EPS) liner, polyester webbing
  • Certification(s): CE EN 12492, UIAA
  • Weight S/M 285 grams (10 ounces) M/L 295 grams (10.4 ounces)

Durability

Petzl Boreo Review
The author cragging with the Wednesday Sendsday crew- photo by Corey McMullen

Petzl uses three main materials in the construction of the Boreo. The outer shell is a hard plastic ABS shell which both protects the energy absorbing liners and helps dissipate force in a hit. An expanded polypropylene (EPP) liner makes up the bulk of protection around the entire helmet except for the crown (the very top of the helmet) which uses an expanded polystyrene (EPS) liner for added impact protection from a direct top hit. For comparison this EPS liner is about 25% smaller in size than the EPS liner in the award winning Sirocco 2017 model (my review of that model is here).

Petzl Boreo Review
A protective ABS plastic shell houses the EPP foam with a crown section of EPS foam in the Petzl Boreo

All this adds up to a helmet that is super durable and long lasting. It should survive many years of small knocks and hits from falling ice, occasional rocks, etc. As with any helmet a major hit whether from a fall or object might require retiring it, but this is a helmet I could cram into an overloaded haul bag and not get too nervous when I forget it’s in there before sitting on my pack at a trail break (I’ve broken ultralight climbing helmets in this manner before). This helmet definitely stands out in terms of long term durability!


Protective

Petzl Boreo Review
Full side and back protection makes the Petzl Boreo a great choice for those who want the most protection regardless of the type of hit or fall

The next most significant feature of the Petzl Boreo is how much protection it provides. There are a lot of things that determine how protective a lid will be so let’s start with the material. The ABS/EPP/EPS combo is un-matched for being able to absorb and dissipate energy in a hit and is likely the most durable construction out there (at the cost of some weight). While carrying certifications from both CE and UIAA Petzl has gone further and created there own internal tests for gauging side and rear impact protection. CE and UIAA tests focus on top protection but for a helmet to truly protect the wearer from a bad fall the sides and rear of the helmet need to be tested as well as they are certainly prone to impact. This may be the most protective (and durable) climbing helmet on the market.


Affordable

Petzl Boreo Helmet Review
The author testing the Boreo while setting the rigging for a guided Waterfall Rappelling adventure. Photo by CF Photography

There are very few models that can offer the protection, durability, and design Petzl achieves at this price point. This makes the Boreo a great choice for institutions, climbing camps, guide services, and climbers who appreciate durability over saving a few ounces or grams.


Comfort

Petzl Boreo Review
The Petzl Boreo has good ventilation for warm weather climbing

I found the Petzl Boreo to be relatively comfortable for a helmet in this weight category. It definitely feels heavier than the ultralight Petzl Sirocco and on long climbing days I rarely would forget I have it on. The removable foam pads are comfortable directly on the skin and can easily be washed after they’ve seen a few weeks of sunblock greasy climbing. Ventilation is much better than the Petzl Elios it replaces but not as airy as the super breathable Petzl Sirocco.


Fit

Petzl Boreo Review
Dylan found the Petzl Boreo to be quite comfortable during a morning tour of Cathedral Ledge despite having a twist in his helmet strap here!

The Petzl Boreo comes in two sizes, S/M and M/L. S/M is for a head circumference of 48 to 58 cm and the M/L is for a head circumference of 53 to 61 cm. My head measures in at 59 cm so the M/L fits me well with no hat and I can where a thin winter hat liner with the helmet adjusted to its largest setting. If your head is 60 cm or larger you might find this helmet a bit to snug to wear with a winter hat. While the side yoke straps are not adjustable they did fall perfectly around the ears. My only small gripe about the adjustable mechanism is when the helmet is packed it tends to adjust itself to a smaller size requiring the need to re-size the helmet almost every time I take it out. This only takes a second or two but it is worth noting.


Features

Petzl Boreo Review
Four helmet clips secure your headlamp on the Petzl Boreo

The Petzl Boreo is compatible with the Petzl Vizion Face Shield and that combo would offer the most about of protection possible for ice climbing. The helmet includes four clips for mounting a headlamp and my Petzl Actik Headlamp attached quickly and securely. As already mentioned the removable and washable foam pads are really comfortable on direct skin and clean up easily when they get that mid-season funk.


Summary

The Petzl Boreo is the most durable and protective climbing helmet I have reviewed to date. The focus on increased side and rear impact protection is proof of Petzl’s forward thinking design and desire to not only meet existing standards but go beyond. The Petzl Boreo is a great choice for not only rock and ice climbing but for ski mountaineering pursuits. While ounce counters might not like the relatively high weight those looking for value in a long lasting highly protective helmet wouldn’t find many options as appealing as this one. I think this is an excellent choice as a “first” helmet and its durability will likely keep it in your kit for certain missions throughout your climbing career.

You can pick this helmet up at the following local retailers in Mount Washington Valley:

International Mountain Equipment, North Conway

Eastern Mountain Sports, North Conway

You can also order from these authorized Petzl online retailers:


Backcountry   Bentgate   EMS   Moosejaw   Mountain Gear   REI   Amazon


See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: A media sample was provided for purpose of review and affiliate links above support the content created at Northeast Alpine Start at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

How To: “Belaying in the Gym” by PETZL

Petzl is a well known industry leader in climbing gear and safety. When I first started climbing over 20 years ago I looked forward to each annual Petzl catalog for the wealth of technical information they would include, along with some of the most stunning and inspirational photos! I probably learned as much about climbing from these catalogs back in the day as I learned from that timeless classic Freedom of the Hills!

Petzl Gear Review
The author on the summit of Forbidden Peak, North Cascades, wearing the Petzl Sirocco Helmet and Petzl Sitta Harness

Now Petzl has just launched a new series of downloadable “ACCESS BOOKS”, basically a collection of technical tips centered around one particular aspect of climbing. In their first PDF “booklet” Petzl focuses on indoor climbing.

Petzl Access Books
Petzl Access Books- Download your own copy here.

As always the illustrations are clear and to the point. The techniques described are considered “best practices” throughout the industry. Whether you are a new climber or a salty veteran a little review of the basics never hurts!

Download your own copy here

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

P.S. Speaking of Petzl here are some recent reviews I’ve posted of some of my favorite Petzl gear!

Petzl Sirocco Helmet (2017 model)

Petzl GriGri+

Petzl Sitta Harness

Petzl Hirundos Harness

Petzl Ice Screws (comparison review)

Petzl Bug Backpack

All links are affiliate links and making a purchase through one of them supports Northeast Alpine Start at no additional cost to you! Thank you!

Gear Review- Montem Diadema 18L Backpack (and contest)

This simple yet well designed backpack easily crosses over from an everyday gym bag to a ultra-light multi-pitch rock climbing pack. I received a media sample to demo this past summer and ended up quite impressed with a pack in this easily affordable price range. Let’s take a close look at this model and see if it would be a good addition to your pack fleet!

Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
Hard to believe this pack only weighs 4 ounces! The author at the top of Whitehorse Ledge, White Mountains, New Hampshire

Buy on Amazon


Capacity/Weight

Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
This was the gear stuffed into the Montem Diadema 18L backpack for a trip up a 9 pitch route on Whitehorse Ledge this Fall.

At 18 liter (1,100 cubic inches) this pack is 2 liters larger than the popular Black Diamond Bullet and the same volume of the Petzl Bug (my review). The Diadema is a few inches longer than all three of those models which allows internal packing of many styles of trekking poles like Montem’s own award winning line of ultra-light trekking poles. Where this model really stands out in the field of “bullet” packs is in its weight. The Montem Diadema 18L only weighs 4 ounces! This is 14 ounces less than both the Black Diamond Bullet and the Petzl Bug and 7 ounces less than the Mountain Tools Slipstream that I reviewed here.  This weight combined with being able to compress into the size of a grapefruit makes this a great choice for stuffing into a larger multi-day backpack during expeditions or in luggage for international travel.


Durability

Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
Lightweight but durable fabrics help this pack cross over from “gym bag” to multi-pitch trad pack!

Montem uses a high denier supple waterproof ripstop nylon in the Diadema’s construction. The material feels very soft in hand which helps the pack compress when storing inside a larger pack. Being made of a waterproof fabric is a nice boon with a pack so moderately priced however the seams are not taped or sealed in anyway so I would not consider the pack to be completely waterproof, but highly water-resistent. After a couple weeks of cragging, trips to the gym, and 20+ pitches of alpine climbing the pack has not incurred any noticeable wear or damage. I would assume that over a few years of hard use packs made with heavier fabrics might outlive the Diadema but some sacrifices could probably be made when choosing a pack that only weighs 4 ounces!


Comfort

This is where we have a bit of a double edged sword. The contoured mesh shoulder straps are super breathable and distribute the weight well. A height adjustable sternum strap helps keep the load centered and thin waist belt secures the pack to the body for better balance while rock hopping and climbing. The actual “comfort” level of the pack varies with how, and what, is packed inside. There is no foam back panel or padding so if you pack your #2 Black Diamond Camalot right up against your back you are going to feel its edge digging into your pack on the approach. The solution here is to pack wisely. I stuff my extra layer, a light puffy jacket, in first and flatten it out along the back to serve as padding before stuffing my hard wear into the pack. With a little bit of thought you can certainly carry a full pack, first aid kit, puffy, headlamp, etc. and everything should carry well over a long approach. Once you’ve racked up and started climbing you will quickly forget that you are even wearing this pack!


Features

Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
Features that are at home at the climbing gym, crag, or big wall!

Rounding out the features of this pack the author appreciated the single external zippered pocket that easily fit my snacks and lunch or my first aid kit, headlamp, and other “essentials”. The internal hydration sleeve can hold bladders from 1.5 – 3 liters in comfort and a hydration port allows the hydration tube to exit easily. The minimalist drawcord closing system obviously saves a lot of weight and bulk over zippered closing systems and the inclusion of a whistle on the sternum buckle always gets a “tip of the hat” from me!


Summary

This relatively new entry into the field of steam-lined “bullet” packs has a lot going for it. The most impressive features are its insane lightweight and packability. The inclusion of waterproof fabrics and adjustable carry system make it more than a simple gym/tote bag. With careful packing it is excellent for approaches and feels non-existent when technically climbing with your hard-wear out and on your harness. The style and design also lend it well to less extreme uses like travel and a gym/yoga pack. If it sound like a good addition to your gear room check it out at the link below!

Buy on Amazon

Contest

Long time readers (and my wife) know I need a steady supply of the best foot deodorizer on the planet, Friendly Foot. The folks at Friendly Foot have re-stocked my supply and I’ll be raffling up a bottle of this on most of my gear reviews this Fall. You can earn multiple entries and discover how well this stuff works by clicking the Rafflecopter link below! Good luck!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Montem Diadema 18L Review
Friendly Foot 6 oz Bottle, the best damn foot/shoe deodorizer ever made!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

This product was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links help support the content created on this blog at no additional cost to you.

Gear Review: Cassin X-Dream Ice Axe

The leaves are starting to turn high in our notches so I find myself starting to anticipate another great ice climbing season in the Northeast. Last season I had the opportunity to demo the CAMP/Cassin X-Dream Ice Axes and while I shared my positive impressions of them with dozens of climbing partners I never got around to a full detailed review. With the ice climbing season quickly approaching what better time than now?

Cassin X-Dream Ice Axe Review
The author on Black Pudding Gully, WI 4+, photo by Brent Doscher

If I had to describe these tools in one word it would easily be…

versatile

There is more custom-ability in this model then any other ice axe I have ever used! Let’s start with my favorite feature of the Cassin X-Dream’s!

Buy at REI              Buy on Amazon         Buy on Backcountry


The Handle

By simply loosening one bolt you can pivot the handle into a “dry-tooling” setting appropriate for high level mixed climbing and competitions. This setting will align the handle/pick in a configuration quite similar to the Petzl Ergo Ice Axe. I don’t personally climb in competitions or send overhanging mixed sport routes in the winter so I only tested these in the “ice” setting which was the perfect angle for comfortable swings on steep grade 4 and grade 5 waterfall ice routes, and is quite similar to the alignment of the Petzl Nomic. If you’ve never demo’d a tool with a handle angled like this it’s hard to explain how much of a difference it makes on steep ice allowing your wrist to stay in a much more natural position and facilitating the relaxed grip that is so crucial on grade 4+ ice.

CAMP/CASSIN X-Dream Review
Ergonomic handle allows for relaxed grip in steep terrain- photo by Brent Doscher

Micro-adjustable trigger finger ledges can be adjusted in multiple ways. With a small phillips head screw driver you can swap the main trigger finger ledge from the included “X-finger small” with an “X-finger large, sold separately, $6”. My medium sized hands preferred the smaller less obtrusive setting.

For those with very small hands you can snap in the X-Rest handle height insert (sold separately, $8) which raises the height of the handle interior by about 3 mm.

The X-Trigger pommel (included) attaches to the shaft for an optional third ledge and can be slid up or down to your preferred spot. I liked mine just above the X-Grip 2 friction tape that is also included on the shaft.

Finally the entire handle can be swapped out with the recently released X-Dream Alpine Grip, a feature that greatly improves security when topping out an ice route and switching back to piolet canne.

Cassin X-Dream Ice Axe Review
Original X-Dream Grip (included) next to X-Dream Alpine Grip, sold separately $79.95 ea.

The Picks

There are three picks designed for the Cassin X-Dream Ice Axes and they come stock with the “Mixte” pick which I found worked as well as any ice pick I’ve used across the major manufacture brands. All three are T-rated which adds confidence when torquing or utilizing The Stein Pull. I plan on buying a set of the ice picks this season as I think the addition of the small hammer will add a nice touch of head weight and help this tool step even closer into the alpine environment (occasional testing of pitons, tool tapping to gently set a pick on thin ice, etc).

CAMP/CASSIN X-Dream Review
Author samples the sweets on Black Pudding Gully- photo by Brent Doscher

Buy at REI                    Buy on Amazon         Buy on Backcountry


UPDATE: Soon after posting this review CAMP USA let me know that they just released two more compatible accessories that further add to the versatility of this tool. A new “Total Dry” pick designed for over-hanging hooking and competition. This brings the pick options on this axe to four! Also, and more exciting in my opinion is the new available head weights. I will be trying these out with a new set of ice picks this winter!


The Shaft

Cassin combines a T-rated aluminum shaft with a chromoly steel head that passes both CE and UIAA certification. Total weight is 1 lb 5 oz, 610 grams and the swing feels very natural and balanced. I did not find any need to adapt my swing to these like I have with some comparable models from other companies. With the included X-Grip friction tape and “third ledge” pommel I’ve found no need to supplement the rest of the shaft with after market grip tape. During placement the shaft dampens nicely without noticeable vibration and provides reliable feedback with each stick.

CAMP/CASSIN X-Dream Review
Balanced natural swings- photo by Brent Doscher

Summary

With a high degree of customization and optimization for steep ice, mixed routes, and competition climbing this Italian made ice axe should become a common sight on the steep ice drips around the world. If you lead or follow grade 4 and up waterfall ice you should try to demo a pair of these! While outfitting them with the new X-Dream Alpine Grip puts them in the running for the most expensive set of tools when it comes to waterfall ice axes sometimes you get what you pay for.

Buy at REI              Buy on Amazon         Buy on Backcountry

CAMP/CASSIN X-Dream Review
Author on Drool of the Beast, Grade 5- photo by Brent Doscher

Thanks for reading! See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

This product was provided for the purpose of review. All opinions are that of the author. Affiliate links support this blog.

Gear Review- Petzl 2017 Sirocco Climbing Helmet

The arrival of the updated ground breaking Petzl Sirocco this summer may be my most anticipated piece of gear news this year! I enjoyed hundreds of days climbing rock and ice along with a decent amount of ski mountaineering in my original Sirocco that I reviewed back in 2013 here. Needless to say I was pretty stoked to get my hands on a media sample of the 2017 model earlier this Spring and have since enjoyed over 30 days of both cragging and alpine climbing in this new model and I can say with complete conviction that Petzl has taken something great and made it even better!

Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review

Buy on Backcountry.com

Buy on Amazon.com

Earlier this Spring I explained some of the basic differences between the outgoing model, the new 2017 Sirocco, and the current Petzl Meteor III helmet in this video:



Now I would like to dive into some of the details that make this the ultimate climbing helmet in my opinion, starting with the most obvious specification…

Weight

Anyone that reads my gear reviews knows I can obsess a little about weight. I love counting ounces and trimming weight in every category I can. The original Petzl Sirocco was indeed a game changer weighing in at only 6 ounces (170 grams) for my M/L size. My home scale shows the new model weights 6.125 ounces (172 grams). The closest competitor in regards to weight is likely the Black Diamond Vapor Helmet which comes in at 7 ounces (199 grams). But weight should really be secondary to…

Protection

This was actually what sold me on the first incarnation of the Petzl Sirocco, the fact that it exceeds EN-12492 certification and meets UIAA-106 standards! In fact Petzl helmets were the first climbing helmets that meet this higher standard!

Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review

Whoa… wait a minute… what the heck does all that mean?

Let me break it down.

Simply put, Expanded Polypropylene (EPP), the main material used in the construction of both the outgoing and the new 2017 Petzl Sirocco helmet has an excellent “energy absorbing” quality to it along with being quite rugged and durable. Essentially the difference is this helmet will transfer less energy to your melon (and neck) in the case of a hard hit.

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The EN certification most helmets meet puts that amount of force at 10 kN but the Petzl Sirocco is tested to only transfer 8 kN. This is roughly 450 pounds less in force. This could mean the difference between suffering a more serious injury in a hard hit than when wearing a helmet that might “feel” more durable but transfer more force to the climbers head and neck. Skip to 1:20 in the below video to see this stress testing in action. (video is of 2013 model but physics point are the same)


 


In addition to the reduced impact force Petzl helmets are tested for “side impact” as well… something not yet required to pass a more general CE standard. As a climber, Wilderness First Responder, and Mountain Rescue Service member, I have seen a fair share of head injuries, some minor, some quite major, I can say that the entire head deserves protection… not just the top!

Finally in terms of “protection” one should note that the new design covers 2-3 cm lower on the back of the head… a common spot of injury in both ground falls and “rope behind the leg” leader falls.

Bottom line is the new 2017 Sirocco offers greater protection to your head than the previous model without gaining a single ounce!

So what about the next important consideration in a climbing helmet?…

Durability

Originally essentially a “one material” build Petzl has made to significant structural changes to the Sirocco design. The first is found inside and is an crown injected with expanded polystyrene (EPS).

Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
Injected Polystyrene Liner

This material adds some ruggedness and durability to what at times could feel like a fragile construction material (the expanded polypropylene that some folks assumed was “Styrofoam”). While expanded polypropylene has excellent protective qualities it could show wear after a few seasons of hard use. My 2013 model has quite a few dings from random ice hits and possibly packing it in my pack a little too close to sharp crampons. Despite the dings I never felt the performance of the helmet was compromised, but the addition of a denser material under the crown makes it feel like this construction will have a longer life than the original Sirocco. Further research actually indicates that EPS actually has even higher energy absorption properties than EPP and is less durable than EPP, which is probably why Petzl added…

Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
The author at work in his office

Durability x 2!

Petzl also added a poly-carbonate crown on the top of the helmet, the same great material that covers the whole shell of the popular Petzl Meteor III helmet. This hard yet light plastic will certainly fend off small hits of ice and rock and increase the service life of the helmet.

Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
Poly-carbonate protective “crown”

Having considered the most important considerations like weight and durability it’s time to look at some other performance characteristics… like…

Breath-ability

The 2013 Petzl Sirocco was the most ventilated helmet I’ve ever owned, and the new 2017 model is no different. The design of the ventilation holes have drastically changed but by my estimate the ratio of material to “open space” is roughly the same. The 2013 model had 24 ventilation holes and the new model also has 24. As you can see from the comparison photo the older model had longer thinner vents and the newer model has wider more square like vents. If one was to measuring the difference in actual performance between the too I imagine it would be a pretty close tie. This brings us to some more “stylistic” changes…

Profile/Color

The 2013 Petzl Sirocco had a noticeable “dome” shape. That combined with the (offensive to some) orange color probably steered quite a few potential Sirocco wearers from donning this lid. Petzl has managed to drop the “peak” of this lid by one full centimeter. They’ve also changed the design to have a nice taper and removed the “dome” aspect all together.

Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
Shape matters
Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
Petzl 2013/2017 Sirocco Helmet Shape Comparison

We also now have the option of two colors, white and black! My sources say the white color will not be readily available until late Fall but that black model is available on Backcountry and Amazon along with our local climbing shop International Mountain Equipment!

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To be honest I never minded the 2013 shape or color… but I do like the look of the new model more! There is just a couple other things to mention before we wrap this up…

Minutiae

Worthy of mention is the wider helmet/goggle strap. The 2013 model could easily accommodate ski goggle straps up to about 2 inches in thickness. The new headlamp/goggle strap can accommodate a 3 inch goggle strap.

Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
Headlamp/Goggle strap can accommodate

Not a big deal in my opinion because none of the goggles I have ever owned have a strap wider than 2 inches but maybe some out there have goggles with really wide straps? More noticeable is the orientation of the helmet strap is now reversed with the elastic cord latching towards the bottom vs the top like on the 2013 model. This is a small but welcome improvement as I often fumbled with fixing a headlamp or ski goggles on the helmet while I was wearing it, to the point where I usually resorted to just taking my helmet off (adding risk) to attach my goggles or headlamp… this change for the 2017 Petzl Sirocco model allows me to easily add a headlamp or ski goggles without removing my helmet… this is actually important minutiae!

A small update has been made to the innovative magnetic chin strap clip… the magnet can be removed for those who climb in areas with high iron contents. Care needs to be taken that the magnet does not attract too much “magnetized dust” as if it get’s gunked up it can impede its function… With the magnet removed the chin strap functions like a traditional clip.

Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
2013 Petzl Sirocco Chin Strap Buckle vs the 2017 model

The thin harness straps are still super adjustable and allow the helmet to fit just about any head shape out there. The small mesh/foam pads inside are still removable for occasional washing… I tend to throw them in the wash once or twice a year to get some of my “grime” out of them…

Summary

I’m not sure what more I can say here… I love this helmet. Seriously my only complaint is that Petzl decided to keep the same name. The 2013 Sirocco was great. The 2017 Sirocco is even better and pretty drastically different. Constructed of three materials instead of just one, totally different profile/shape, different ventilation scheme… it just seems like this re-design would have been worthy of a new name, or at-least a (Plus or Two) added to the name similar to the GriGri legacy… which by the way I reviewed in detail the newest Petzl GriGri+ here if you are interested.

Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review

If you are in need of a new climbing helmet or looking to upgrade, might I highly endorse this helmet for you? You can purchase it from the retailers below and doing so will help support my efforts at provided detailed reviews like this for years to come!

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See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Petzl 2017 Sirocco Helmet Review
Author having a great day in the mountains… photo by @alexanderroberts



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