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Gear

Field Tested: Wild Country Zero Friends

The Zero Friends have one of the narrowest heads on the market, earning a spot on your rack for pods, pin scars and tricky placements.

Pros

• Few plastic parts

• Extendable sling

Cons

• Pricey


Price

$80

Brand

Wild Country


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It’s hard to pin down what we want in a cam, but it’s not a mystery, either. We want them to be reliable, decently light, easy to place and, most important, durable. A full triple set of good cams can cost as much as that beater Toyota Camry your grandmother bequeathed to you after you narrowly graduated college, which means they can be the most expensive thing a climber owns. Hence the need for them to be durable. The new Zero cams from Wild Country are just that.

There is nothing necessarily fancy or avant-garde about the Zeros, but the details add up to earn them a well-deserved spot on your rack. Each Zerofrom .01 to .75, six in totalis a basic four-lobe, single-stem, single-axle unit. They come with extendable slingsmy preferenceand the lobes are quite incut with perpendicular grooves, which, though I’m not a materials engineer, common sense tells me will bite down in slick rock or tight placements. The teeth inspire confidence, and that’s worth something. The pull and feel of the retraction remained smooth after months of use.

As for overall stem flexibility, they land between the BD Z4s, which are “soft-ish,” and the DMM Dragonflies, which are “stiff.” A coiled sheath protects the extended trigger, which means the wires that retract the cam (see photo) are only exposed about an inch below the lobes, a design that minimizes wire deformation. Unlike some competitors which use plastic to save weight, the trigger, cable sleeve and, well, everything is metal on the Zeros except the tube housing the cable where the sling attaches. Across a set, they are not the lightest cams on the market (on average 6-8 grams heavier than some of the lightest), nor the heaviest (can be 20 grams lighter than others), but somewhere in the middle. Lighter is not better, y’all. As with most cams, the range doesn’t easily stack up tit for tat, but, for instance, when set against the BD Z4s, because the Zeros are single axle, the range is a tad less; but again, it depends, since the BD .75’s range is .91-1.66 inches, whereas the Zero range is 1-1.58, yet for the .1, the two brands have essentially the same range.

The Zero cam heads are some of  the narrowest on the market, which means they are excellent for pods, pin scars and tricky placements, just like the Aliens, the latter looking and feeling closer to the Zeros than any other. At $80 a pop, they are more expensive than most on the market, yet the overall feel is that of a burly cam meant to withstand hundreds of pitches. And that’s worth something.