Black Diamond Capitan Helmet Review


The Black Diamond Capitan is a durable performance helmet offering excellent protection at an impressive price – thank heavens they didn’t name it Big Dome!

The Black Diamond Capitan helmet is a new ‘entry level’ (their second lowest price point after the Half Dome) climbing helmet from Black Diamond prioritising durability and all round protection over being ultra lightweight. Even so they list the S/M reviewed here as 295g and mine was 292g on the scales – impressive accuracy/honesty on the weight front!

The Black Diamond Capitan is also one of a new breed of helmet which meets the proposed UIAA increased side and back protection requirements. Standards for climbing helmets have always been built around the idea of protection from falling debris – think alpine and winter climbing – and if you look at older helmets this functionality is clear in their design, protection is concentrated on the crown. Manufacturers have started to build helmets with enhanced protection for the type of impacts typically sustained when you swing into a face from a leader fall where you’ll primarily hit the side, front or back of your head. Interestingly the Black Diamond Capitan is also available in a MIPs version with enhanced protection for the brain from rotational forces. The first MIPs helmet was actually an equestrian helmet but this technology probably best known in cycling and motorsport helmets today – my bike helmet from POC is MIPs equipped. Anyway back to the standard Capitan. The enhanced protection is a reflection of the increasing and changing use of helmets for sport and trad climbing, gone are the jaunty bandanas and beanies of a previous generation, with an arguably much more sensible younger generation of climbers opting to wear the latest lightweight and protective headgear.

As already mentioned the BD Capitan helmet does not represent the ultimate in lightness, for that you’d want to look at BD’s new Vapor helmet that comes in at a ridiculous 155g!, but it does strike a sensible compromise between weight and durability. If you’re the sort of climber who might stuff their helmet a bit forcefully into their sac on the walk in to the Ben (mentioning no names…) then the Capitan is ideal as it is unlikely to crack. Likewise strapped to the outside of a sac that falls over it will be fine. Neither of these habits are recommended but they happen and I’ve seen lightweight helmets crack when abused in this manner. The BD Capitan can be stuffed into a sac with impunity, within reason, and likewise is unlikely to suffer disastrous damage if your sac falls over with it strapped on the outside. The robust construction consists of a 2-piece ABS shell that allows for dual colourways (so you can look good!), and a fusion of EPP foam and an EPS foam puck under the crown. It is the sort of reliable, durable all-rounder that you don’t have to ‘baby’ too much when out on the hill. By the way it should be obvious that it is never a good idea to drop or misuse a helmet and if you do so it is quite possible to compromise it’s protective capabilities and if you do crack or otherwise damage a helmet retire it immediately! So with the Capitan you get sensible weight, durability and decent comfort. The harness cradle drops inside the helmet helping to avoid damage during transit and helping it pack more easily or if strapped on the outside of a pack; sit nice and flat. Headlamp security for those alpine and Scottish winter days is taken care of with two low profile clips at the front and a sensible elastic cord at the rear.

This in my opinion is the best set up, you use the elastic to secure your headlamp and then tension the headband forward and slide under the clips – if cold fingers cause you to mess it up your headlamp is still attached by the elastic cord. I memorably watched another climber ping his headlamp into the abyss trying to secure it under four low profile clips at the end of a long Scottish day with a good two hours to go till back at the van…

In Use
I’ve used the Capitan for trad, summer alpine a Scottish winter and been thoroughly impressed throughout. I am the proud owner of three high end helmets that are all lighter than the Capitan yet if truth be told I didn’t notice much real difference in my somewhat ‘average’ use. In Chamonix the temperatures were hitting the mid 30s, and everyone was sticking to rock routes, the Capitan felt totally comfortable. I wasn’t yearning for a lighter or more ventilated helmet, it remained perfectly secure and like all the best kit did its job unnoticed. Likewise in Scotland I appreciated the robust build that let me stuff it into the top of the sac without being overly concerned. On the hill the cradle gave sufficient adjustment to work over a mid-layer hood or beanie and remained secure throughout the usual thrutchings. At the end of the day it was easily stuffed back into the sac with the cradle neatly folding inside the helmet.

To be honest you can’t really go wrong at this price point. Weight weenies may wish to look elsewhere but as a first helmet or as an all-rounder just go buy one!


  • Highly protective
  • Robust
  • Good headlamp clips
  • Decent ventilation


  • Not the lightest

SRP £70.00


Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene reasons and more often they’re in no fit state to return!

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