Edelrid Zack Review
Cons: Heavy, bulky, not super comfortable
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Edelrid Zack is most notable for its incredible adjustability. It has auto-locking buckles on its adjustable leg loops and pairs them with a single auto-locking buckle on the waist. The waist belt on this harness is made up of a single piece of very long webbing that allows for an extensive size range per harness. This is accompanied by a single bit of foam padding that can slide around freely on the webbing, back and forth, so that you can center it wherever you like. This feature makes adjusting the Zack to a very wide range of sizes simpler and more straightforward than comparable options that use double waist belt buckles, and yet this harness is also less comfortable, so more difficult for us to recommend. While this isn't a bad option, especially for a new climber or the budget-conscious, it just isn't our first choice after having worn and climbed in so many other excellent harnesses.
When considering hanging comfort, the Zack ranks at the bottom of the pile. When hanging for long periods of time, roughly 50% of the pressure of a person's body weight will be felt in the leg loops, while the other 50% will be dispersed around the hips and lower back by the waist belt. Unlike some of the advanced technology used to evenly disperse weight on the most comfortable harnesses for sport climbing, the Zack employs a simple design of foam padding over a strap of webbing. The problem is, the foam padding is very rigid, not very soft, and not very comfortable. We could feel the webbing through the foam while hanging, and this wasn't a very comfortable feeling.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
The Zack is super comfortable for standing around, in comparison to the competition. Put this harness on in isolation, and you may not notice the differences that we comment on here, but when worn side-by-side with a far more comfortable harness, the differences are quickly evident.
Much of our complaints have to do with the very stiff, almost cardboard-esque, feel of the slideable waist belt that limits the comfort we feel when wearing a massive rack, or when trying to fit the hip belt of a pack comfortably over the top of the harness. That said, due to the adjustability of the leg loops, we feel like this is a reasonably mobile harness.
Led by its adjustable and movable waist belt, the Zack has some nice features and some that could certainly use some improvement. We like how all three buckles found on this harness use a sliding bar in the middle that cinches very tight automatically and stays snug effectively. This system is different but seemed to work a bit better than the auto-locking buckles found on most other models. We also like how heavily reinforced the tie-in points are, and how each of the four gear loops is rigid for easier clipping and unclipping. That said, we found that the huge gap between gear loops is not only unnecessary, but also a bit annoying, and also complain that the rated haul loop is so laughably small as to be unusable. We found it impossible to clip a carabiner through this tiny piece of webbing at all, let alone with the harness on, and don't understand why any company would include an unusable feature like this.
We also found that for our skinnier frame, the super long tail on the waist belt is far too long even to be tucked away nicely, and dangled in the way of the right side gear loops.
The hard and rigid feeling of the padding on the leg loops, in conjunction with the webbing that connects them to the belay loop, makes this feel like one of the least comfortable harnesses for an extended belay session. While the leg loops don't dig into our crotch creases quite as powerfully as the worst offenders, they do still gouge us a bit, especially while wearing shorts, and this discomfort is more pronounced than we felt while belaying in nearly any other harness.
There is no doubt that the adjustability of this harness contributes to its versatility, but unfortunately, its other features don't help it out all that much. While its gear loops are large enough and work well for sport or gym climbing, and even for a bit of trad cragging, we think that its lack of haul loop and slightly smaller than average rear gear loops would limit it for long free routes or alpine rock routes. Combine that with its weight, bulkiness, and lack of ice clipper slots, and we also wouldn't choose it for alpine or ice climbing, or mountaineering.
This harness is incredibly wallet-friendly. For climbers who don't need the highest performance or most versatile harness, it presents a pretty good value. That said, it is easy to get a far more comfortable harness for not very much more money.
The Edelrid Zack is a very affordable and easily adjustable harness that will serve beginner climbers or the very money conscious climber well. Despite being the least comfortable harness in our side-by-side testing, it isn't nearly so uncomfortable as to be considered unusable, not by a long shot. As the lowest scorer in our review, it's not our first recommendation, but despite that, it's a decent harness that is worth checking out if our Best Bang for the Buck winner isn't immediately inspiring to you.
— Andy Wellman
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