The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Wild Country Zero Friends: Incredibly Light and Flexible
Posted on: December 7, 2007
Wild Country claims their Zero Friends to be the "smallest cams in the world but the biggest dogs on the block." After putting them to the test this past summer, I must say that I agree. The Zeros are the lightest, smallest, and strongest cams of their size on the market.
I had the opportunity to test the Zeros in three sizes: #2 (green), #3 (gray), and #4 (yellow). When I first got my hands on these, I let out a sigh of relief. Weighing in at 32 grams (1.13 ounces), 44 grams (1.55 ounces), and 50 grams (1.76 ounces) respectively, I barely noticed their weight on my harness or gear sling. Combined with their relatively surprising strength, I could now confidently make tenuous moves on climbs that offered only microscopic cracks for placing protection.
The #1 and #2 Zeros are technically intended for aid climbing and not free climbing. However, I'd rather place a Zero on a free climb than run it out. The cams test out to hold 4-6 kN, and because of this, I would have no problem trusting several equalized Zeros placed in a cluster if I found myself in some tricky terrain on a climb.
While I took my Zeros on all my climbing trips in the Tetons this summer, fewer of the routes demanded their use than I would have preferred. In addition to placing them at every opportunity, whether or not I needed them, just to get used to their trigger and stem motions, I ended up experimenting with them extensively on the side by hanging my body weight on them and performing bounce tests. For being as small and flexible as they are, they held up to the tests and I trusted them quickly.
The Zero can be placed in both vertical and horizontal cracks. When placed vertically the stem should be angled in the direction of fall. If lined up correctly, most force goes straight to the cams lobes. If placed in a horizontal crack, the stainless steel spring covered stem bends easily and does not compromise the placement. In fact, I've never seen such a flexible stem on any other camming device.
My singular concern with the Zero is that the cables have the potential to twist. If the trigger bar becomes twisted, the cables begin to twist around each other. I am not sure if there are any scenarios where this can naturally occur on its own, or if the twisting compromises the integrity and strength of the cam, but I noticed that the Black Diamond C3 cams have a beefy sheath on the stem that helps to keep the cables from twisting. On this same note, though, the Black Diamond C3 is slightly heavier and less flexible than the Wild Country Zero.
Overall, the Wild Country Zero is revolutionary for lightweight camming units. With my three Zeros, I feel like I've added extra security to my climbing rack for little weight—only 126 grams (4.44 ounces)! The Zeros now have a permanent home on my rack, and I can't wait to give them a go on some longer granite Yosemite routes in the future.
Pros: Lightest on the market; strongest for their size; well functioning flexible stems.
Cons: Spring-covered stem allows for an unnerving twisting motion.