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Black Diamond Zone Review

This light and versatile harness is a great choice for all single pitch climbing disciplines
Black Diamond Zone
Credit: Black Diamond Equipment
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $100 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Lightweight, comfortable, more than just a sport climbing harness
Cons:  Not a good choice for hauling
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 16, 2022
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80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 14
  • Hanging Comfort - 35% 7.0
  • Standing Comfort and Mobility - 20% 9.0
  • Features - 20% 8.0
  • Belaying Comfort - 15% 9.0
  • Versatility - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

It's easy to get in the zone with the comfortable and feature-laden Black Diamond Zone harness. This harness is perfect for sport climbing with its supportive and lightweight leg loops and low profile waistbelt, but a rear haul loop and dual ice clipper slots allow this harness to go from the crags and into the mountains with ease. Any dedicated climber who's looking for a workhorse cragging harness but is curious about other climbing disciplines should take a hard look at the Zone. Aside from big wall climbing, this harness is sufficient for an array of vertical endeavors.

Editor's Note: This review was created on August 16, 2022, as the BD Zone was tested for the first time.

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Black Diamond Zone
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award   
Price $100 List
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Pros Lightweight, comfortable, more than just a sport climbing harnessPerfect set of features, lightweight, comfortable, affordablePerfect feature set for any style of rock climbing, most comfortable harness for belaying, affordableGreat arrangement of functional features including gear loops, very comfortable design for hanging and belaying, versatile, relatively affordableUnrivaled comfort while belaying, hanging, or chilling, super light, affordable
Cons Not a good choice for haulingNot the most comfortable for long belay sessionsNo ice clipper slots, not the lightestHeavy and bulky, more annoying to wear while walking than lighter harnessesGear loops are small for carrying a large rack, not very versatile for other styles of climbing
Bottom Line This light and versatile harness is a great choice for all single pitch climbing disciplinesAn excellent harness for any style of climbing, and the best quiver of one you can buyA high performing harness at an excellent price makes for great valueThe optimal choice for long free routes, or anytime when carrying a large rackWithout doubt the most comfortable harness you can buy, and our favorite for sport climbing
Rating Categories Black Diamond Zone Edelrid Sendero Petzl Sama Petzl Adjama Black Diamond Solution
Hanging Comfort (35%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Standing Comfort and Mobility (20%)
9.0
7.0
5.0
3.0
7.0
Features (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
9.0
5.0
Belaying Comfort (15%)
9.0
6.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
Versatility (10%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
Specs Black Diamond Zone Edelrid Sendero Petzl Sama Petzl Adjama Black Diamond Solution
Designed for these disciplines Sport, gym, trad, alpine Sport, lightweight alpine, trad Sport, indoor, trad Trad, multi-pitch, mountaineering Sport
Weight (size medium) 10.8 oz 11.6 oz 13.7 oz 15.8 oz 12.3 oz
Gear Loops 4 5 4 5 4
Haul Loop Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adjustable Legs? No, elastic Yes No, elastic Yes No, elastic
Self-locking buckle? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ice Clipper Slots? Yes Yes - 2 No, but works with Caritool EVO No, but works with Caritool EVO No
Waist Belt Construction Fusion Comfort Technology Soft frame construction with 3D mesh padding Double webbing strips padded with EndoFrame technology EndoFrame Technology: wide waistband to reduce pressure points Fusion Comfort Construction: Three bands of webbing, breathable mesh, EVA foam insert

Our Analysis and Test Results

Billed as the ultimate sport climbing harness, the Black Diamond Zone proves to be just that and a bit more. Its 2.5” wide leg loops and 2.5” waist make it plenty comfy for hanging all over your project or counterweighting your partner as they boink their way back to their high point. However, its light weight and additional haul loop make it suitable for alpine adventures and even multi-pitch traditional climbing. There are more comfortable harnesses on the market, and a few that are more suited to scraping up offwidths, but if you’re looking to level up from an entry-level harness and you want to climb it all, the Zone is a solid choice.

Performance Comparison


Black Diamond Zone climbing harness - steep featured granite is rare, but it's one of our favorite...
Steep featured granite is rare, but it's one of our favorite climbing styles and this harness kept us comfy and safe whip after whip.
Credit: Matt Bento

Hanging Comfort


Since this is a sport climbing harness, we mainly evaluated it as such. That means a lot of time hanging while working out beta on climbs at our limit of difficulty. For this application, we have no complaints about the Zone. Its fusion comfort leg loops are very similar to the design of Arc’teryx leg loops, and they provide a lot of support while remaining light with minimal padding.


Most of our testers liked where the waistband sits against the low back once you’ve weighted it, and no one experienced any chaffing or kidney crushing. The same goes for multi-pitch. While hanging belays are never comfortable, this lightweight harness performed as well as many heavily padded models. We draw the line at hauling though, and would trade the Zone in a heartbeat for a harness with a thicker, more heavily padded waistband, as this harness left marks on our hips after a few pitches of hauling. This isn’t a problem if you’re blasting walls in a day.

Black Diamond Zone climbing harness - this harness was plenty comfy for hours of hangdogging.
This harness was plenty comfy for hours of hangdogging.
Credit: Matt Bento

Standing Comfort and Mobility


We have no problem standing around all day while wearing this harness. The leg loops aren’t adjustable, but they do have enough stretch to accommodate thicker pants and athletic climber thighs. Those who are diligent and never miss a leg day should look for a harness with adjustable leg loops. The unpadded waist belt sits flat against your hips, so it’s still comfortable to wear with a pack, though the molded gear loops are fairly rigid and could be annoying depending on how your pack fits.


The infinite belay loop doesn’t have the traditional ridge from bar-tacked stitching, so it rotates freely, and we never noticed it shifting when hiking around. This harness is by no means ideal for glacier travel, so folks who do a lot of mountaineering will go with a dedicated light and flexible harness. If your glacier travel is limited to once a year or just short jaunts on your way to splitter alpine granite, the Zone will be adequate.

Black Diamond Zone climbing harness - fit is important; the leg loops on this harness have a good bit of...
Fit is important; the leg loops on this harness have a good bit of elasticity, so they'll accommodate more leg sizes.
Credit: Matt Bento

Features


The Zone has a few features that make it more than “just for sport climbing”. This most recent iteration has an ample loop in the rear to clip a tagline or additional gear like a lightweight puffy or a wind jacket. It has two slots for ice screw clippers; while dedicated ice climbers may want four, the occasional ice climber or mountaineer should find them sufficient.


This harness has four pressure-molded gear loops. They are semi-rigid and stick out for easy clipping and unclipping. Since they stick out a bit even with a full rack on, it's especially convenient for “gates out” folks. The Infinite belay loop feels very different from the traditional, stiff bar-tacked loop. It’s soft, supple, and thin, and initially made our testers a little nervous. After a season of climbing, rappelling, and catching plenty of falls, there are no signs of wear.

Black Diamond Zone climbing harness - there is adequate space for a double rack on this harness and the...
There is adequate space for a double rack on this harness and the molded gear loops are quite durable and easy to clip.
Credit: Matt Bento

Belaying Comfort


Karma dictates that if you’re spending a long time working out the beta on your dream rig, you’re going to need to pay it back, and that means lots of belaying. Fortunately, the BD Zone is up to the task. The seamless belay loop eliminates any carabiner snags. While not necessarily safer, you’ll never experience the unsettling feeling of the biner catching the ridge where the traditional belay loop is sewn together and shifting before taking the full weight of you and the climber. Again, our testing didn’t reveal any durability issues with the belay loop, despite the thin appearance of this life-saving piece of nylon.


For steep climbing, sometimes you need to aid your climber as they “boink” back up the route before getting back on the wall. This requires the belayer to pull in slack and take a mini fall as the climber pulls on the other end of the rope and thrusts their hips skyward. This process is awkward and really tests the belaying comfort of a harness. We’re happy to report that even with repeated “boinking” the leg loops remained in place and didn’t cause any pinching or discomfort.

Black Diamond Zone climbing harness - an ill-fitting harness makes belaying a pain. fortunately, the zone...
An ill-fitting harness makes belaying a pain. Fortunately, the Zone fit our lead tester well, so long belays were mostly pleasant.
Credit: Hannah Lily Hall

Versatility


This model is very versatile. While billed as the ultimate sport climbing harness, we don’t hesitate to call it the ultimate cragging harness, as it's great for all disciplines of single pitch climbing thanks to its low profile rear haul loop and ice clipper slots. We also enjoyed this harness for multi-pitch outings, though if you’re fortunate enough to be spending all your time on longer climbs, we’d suggest a model with a little more padding and bigger gear loops, especially if you’re hauling.


Value


While the Zone isn’t dirt cheap, its versatility makes it a pretty good value. Our lead tester has used it over the last three years, and it shows no sign of wear on critical points like the belay loop or the gear loops. It costs much less than similar offerings from Arc’teryx, and while it may be a bit expensive for someone who is just beginning their climbing journey, it's a great deal for rock climbers who occasionally venture into the alpine.

Black Diamond Zone climbing harness - the placement of the gear loops relies a lot on personal preference...
The placement of the gear loops relies a lot on personal preference. We like these since the rear loops are easily accessible.
Credit: Matt Bento

Conclusion


If you’re primarily climbing single pitch routes (the majority of climbers are), then we suggest you check out the Black Diamond Zone. It's very versatile and allows you to branch out into winter and alpine climbing. It's light in the pack and has features useful for multi-pitch. Don’t be dissuaded by its “sport climbing” marketing push — this harness can do a lot more.

Matt Bento
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