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Hands-on Gear Review
Edelrid Zack Review
Cons: Heavy, bulky, not super comfortable
Bottom line: Despite its low overall score, this harness is worth checking out if you want adjustability and a low price.
Weight (size medium) (ounces): 14.6 oz.
Gear Loops: 4
The Edelrid Zack is a very affordable and serviceable harness for all types of rock climbing. It features an extremely adjustable waist belt that always stays centered because you can slide the padding around as needed. While its movable padding and low cost are noteworthy features, it was also the lowest scoring harness in our comparative review. This low score was due mostly to the fact that it just wasn't as comfortable for hanging in or belaying, two critical aspects of a climbing harnesses' performance. It wasn't our favorite, but that doesn't mean it won't work great for you. We encourage you to check it out if high adjustability and low price are attributes that matter in your search.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Much like the Petzl Corax, 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, in contrast to the double buckles found on the Corax. 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 the adjusting the Zack to a very wide range of sizes simpler and more straightforward than the comparable Corax, and yet this harness was 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 wasn't our first choice after having worn and climbed in so many other excellent harnesses.
When considering hanging comfort, the Zack ranked at the bottom of the pile with the Petzl Corax, although for different reasons. We have found that when hanging for long periods of time, roughly 60% of the pressure of a person's body weight will be felt in the leg loops, while the other 40% 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 harnesses like the Best Overall Harness for Sport Climbing, the Black Diamond Solution, 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 felt like we could feel the webbing through the foam while hanging, and this wasn't a very comfortable feeling. In the end, we awarded it 5 out of 10 for hanging comfort.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
Once again, the Zack was found to be not super comfortable for standing around, when considered 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 harnesses like the Arc'teryx AR-395a, and the differences are quickly evident. Much of our complaints have to do with the very stiff, almost cardboard-esque, feel of the slide-able waist belt that limited the comfort we felt 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 felt like this was a reasonably mobile harness, and it ended up with the same score for this metric as our Best Overall Harness for Trad Climbing, the Petzl Sama.
Led by its adjustable and movable waist belt, the Edelrid Zack has some nice features and some that could certainly use some improvement. We liked how all three buckles found on this harness used a sliding bar in the middle that cinches very tight automatically, and stays snug effectively. This system was different but seemed to work a bit better, than the auto-locking buckles found on the Petzl Aquila. We also liked 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 was 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 was far too long even to be tucked away nicely, and dangled in the way of the right side gear loops. Despite these minor complaints, we awarded 7 out of 10 points for the features, which was the same score that we gave to the Black Diamond Solution.
The hard and rigid feeling of the padding on the leg loops, in conjunction with the webbing that connects them to the belay loop, made this feel like one of the least comfortable harnesses for an extended belay session. While the leg loops didn't dig into our crotch creases quite as powerfully as the Arc'teryx AR-395a, it did still gouge us a bit, especially while wearing shorts, and this discomfort was more pronounced than we felt while belaying in the Petzl Corax. 5 out of 10.
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 thought 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. It has slightly less potential uses, but more adjustability, than the Black Diamond Chaos, but wasn't nearly so versatile as the Petzl Sama.
This harness is best suited to those who don't want to spend very much money and desire a wide range of adjustability, especially on the larger end. It would make a good harness for a beginner climber as well. It works well enough for all styles of single pitch rock climbing, whether that's in a gym or out on the cliff, but isn't our first recommendation for multi-pitch or winter climbing.
This harness retails for a mere $50, making it the most affordable harness in our review. For climbers who don't need the highest performance or most versatile harness, this 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 wasn't nearly so uncomfortable as to be considered unusable, not by a long shot. As the lowest scorer in our review, it wouldn't be our first recommendation, but despite that it is a decent harness that is worth checking out if the Black Diamond Momentum or Petzl Corax aren't immediately inspiring to you.
— Andy Wellman
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