Wild Country Zero Friends Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Great individual cam range, very narrow heads, stiff yet flexible stem, extendable sling
Cons: Pricey, not the lightest, soft aluminum alloy in cam lobes can be damaged easily
Manufacturer: Wild Country
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Wild Country Zero Friends
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|Pros||Great individual cam range, very narrow heads, stiff yet flexible stem, extendable sling||Super light, durable, easy to place while free climbing, great range||Wide range per unit, light, rigid when placing but flexible when placed, narrow head width, thumb loop, smallest unit currently made||Durable, wide range||Fantastic design, smallest cam in the world, great strength, extendable sling, flexible stem|
|Cons||Pricey, not the lightest, soft aluminum alloy in cam lobes can be damaged easily||Expensive, need for potential early retirement||Not the most affordable, smaller units lack double axle and aren’t as smooth, trigger wires can’t be replaced at home||Heavy compared to Ultralight C4s and Metolius||Not available in offset sizes, smaller individual cam range, action on smaller cams not as smooth as larger cams|
|Bottom Line||Very fine tuned design that integrates into a rack very well due to matching sizes and colors||These cams are awesome for long Yosemite free climbs and Indian Creek splitters||A Top Pick for smaller sizes due to the widest range and incredible ease of use||These are the most popular cams at Indian Creek due to their great range and durability||Worthy of our Top Pick for small cams due to their excellent design and performance|
|Rating Categories||Wild Country Zero Friends||Black Diamond C4 Ultralight||Black Diamond Camalot Z4||Black Diamond Camalot||DMM Dragonfly|
|Free Climbing (20%)|
|Horizontal Cracks (15%)|
|Tight Placements (15%)|
|Aid Climbing (5%)|
|Specs||Wild Country Zero...||Black Diamond C4...||Black Diamond...||Black Diamond...||DMM Dragonfly|
|Weight (1 inch size piece)||2.7 oz||2.6 oz||2.8 oz.||3.28 oz||2.6 oz.|
|Range (inches)||.32 - 1.62"||.61-4.51"||.29" -1.66"||.54-7.68"||.31-1.11"|
|Sling Length (inches)||3.75" - 7"||3.75"||3.75"||3.75"||5-10"|
|Stem width above trigger|
|Single or Double Axle?||Single||Double||Double down to .3||Double||Single|
|High Clip in for Aid?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cam Stops?||No||Yes||Yes down to .3||Yes||No|
Our Analysis and Test Results
These small camming devices have been newly released in the middle of 2020. They come in six sizes, from .1 to .75, which roughly match the sizing and colors of Black Diamond cams of similar sizes. They have a consistent 17.6 degree camming angle, which allows them to fit in rounded pocket-like placements very well and gives them a wide range per unit. They only come in standard sizes, without the ability to purchase offset sizes at the moment. All-in-all, they are one of the best small cams we have used, and have a very fine-tuned design and functionality.
We love these cams for free climbing, and think they complement other small camming devices well. The wide size range per unit means that it is easier to find the cam you need for the size placement you want it to fit into. Put another way, if you accidentally grab a cam that is the wrong size off your harness, it may still fit in the crack, and the cams allow a bit of forgiveness in selection. They follow the familiar Black Diamond color scheme, so they meld in well with other BD or DMM small cams on the harness. They also have a large and easy to grab thumb loop, combined with an extendable sling, so you can carry fewer runners if you choose. Our testers thought these cams were solid and easy to use for free climbing.
We use the 1-inch size piece, in this case a .5 purple cam, to compare weights across the spectrum of many different camming devices, and found that the Zero Friends are right about in the middle. They are slightly lighter than Z4s, but heavier than Dragonflies, and a decent amount heavier than Metolius or FIXE Aliens. This is understandable when you look at them, because many of the parts are made of metal, including the thick cable and metal spring trigger wire.
The whole range of six cams, from size .1 up to .75, would weigh right around 14.38 ounces, which once again, is slightly lighter than the entire run of seven Z4s, and slightly heavier than the other choices that have six cams in the same range.
The range of these cams is very good. The entire set of six covers almost the exact same range as most other sets of cams, from 0.32 inches on the small end, up to 1.62 inches for a fully extended green .75 cam. The smallest cams made by Black Diamond and by DMM have an ever so slightly smaller bottom range of 0.29 inches and 0.31 inches, but this difference is likely so minimal it will only potentially be realized once in a climbers lifetime, and likely while aid climbing.
The individual units also have a very good cam range, which makes them easier to place in a wider variety of placements. The range of the smaller sizes is very comparable to BD units and quite a bit bigger than Metolius or DMM units. Once the cams reach the .3 size, then BD units have double axles that allow them to have a wider per unit range.
These cams work very well in horizontal cracks. The stem is made of a thick and strong wire cable, and the trigger sheath is made of a metal spring tightly coiled around the stem. This design bends easily over edges, and uses more robust materials than plastic, so it is less likely to break if you take a fall over a sharp edge. They also have an extendable runner, which means that if the cam sits well back from the edge of the horizontal, you can more easily extend the placement over the edge, thereby protecting the carabiner attaching it to the rope.
These are some of the best cams you can buy for tight placements, as they have a head width narrower than all other designs save for the Z4's, which they match. A narrow head means that if the placement is shallow, you are more likely to still get four lobes of contact with the rock. They accomplish this by using the same recessed cam spring design as Aliens and now many others, where in the larger sizes, the cam spring lives in a groove cut out of the lobe itself and doesn't have to be coiled along the axle. The stem of these cams is also quite rigid compared to the competition, making them easier to place and easier to fiddle around to remove once they are inside the crack. Unfortunately, they are not currently being made in offset sizes, so they may not be the absolute optimal choice for pin scars.
We were not able to trash one of these cams during our test period and think the design of the stem and trigger wires is quite durable compared to the competition, which uses plastic or woven sheaths. The sheath used here is a coiled aluminum spring, which is not only stronger than plastic, but can separate around protrusions to minimize damage. That said, the cam lobes are made out of a fairly soft aluminum alloy, which helps them deform slightly to grip into the rock. Wild Country apparently decided that the cam angle necessitated this extra grip, which is welcome. However, when the cam lobes grip and deform, they stay that way, and so accumulated falls over time may eventually mangle the lobes enough to necessitate retirement.
The extendable sling is a nice feature for helping to reduce the walking of a cam without having to carry lots of extra slings and carabiners up a climb for the same purpose. However, compared to other small cams, the stem is somewhat stiff. It still flexes a good deal, and there are advantages to having a stiffer stem, but it also means that it may walk a little bit easier than floppier stems. There is no attribute of these cams that is especially prone to walking, and whether they do so depends mostly on the circumstances you place them in, and how you mitigate rope drag.
The shape of the cam lobes makes them a good fit for use in pockets or in some rounded out pin scars, and the flexible and durable stem means they shouldn't bend or kink when you stand on them a lot. The thumb loop serves as a high clip-in point, a necessity for aid climbing. However, get much above C1-2, and a rack of these will not be anywhere near as useful as racks of offsets or Totems for fitting into funky pin scars, which is mostly what hard clean aid climbing is all about.
These are not the best budget purchase, although they are slightly cheaper in the smaller sizes than in the bigger ones, and also come at a small discount if you buy them in sets of three. They are sold in sets of either the three larger sizes, or the three smaller sizes. Despite the price tag, they aren't really out of line with top quality camming devices, which frankly, are really darn expensive. They are also among the best smaller cams we have used, so we think they present good value.
The Wild Country Zero Friends are, in our opinion, the best version of the "Alien" style camming devices, which include a long trigger sheath and cam springs recessed inside the lobes. They match up sizes and colors to many other popular small cams, so are easy to integrate into the rack, and have a nice wide range that makes them easy to place. We think they are ideal for free climbing, and would be a worthy addition to almost any traditional climber's rack.
— Andy Wellman