First Look: Black Diamond's New Z4 Cams and Approach Shoes

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The head of the new Black Diamond Z4 cam, which will be available in February 2020.

The head of the new Black Diamond Z4 cam, which will be available in February 2020.

The Climbing staff recently had the opportunity to preview Black Diamond's upcoming gear for fall 2019/early 2020. Of the many, many new items in the line, we were most excited about a revamp of their small cams and a new line of approach shoes. The new cams—Z4s—will replace both the X4 and C3 lines, and also includes a full range of off-sets. Perhaps the most exciting innovation is the new RigidFlex stem system. According to Black Diamond's climbing category director Kolin Powick, the new stem design is flexible when placed, but more rigid when the trigger is pulled—the former to reduce walking once the cam's placed, the latter to allow for easier placements when setting the piece. Inspecting the Z4s in our office, we could see the difference while holding the trigger. The Z4s also maintain a narrow head width in a four-lobe design, even down to the smallest sizes, which should further prevent walking. In fact, the no. 0 Z4 is Black Diamond's smallest cam to date. Climbing is now testing the new cams, and we will share our impressions once we've had a chance to make some placements and take some whips.

Also of note: Black Diamond showed us their upcoming line of approach shoes. They'll enter the market with four designs, divided between two lines: Technical Perfomance and Performance Lifestyle. All shoes will be available in men's and women's versions. The Technical Performance shoes are designed for climbing, while the Performance Lifestyle shoes are for around-town wear. The shoes use a proprietary rubber, Black Diamond's Blacklabel. The Technical Perfomance line features the stickier Mountain rubber, and the Performance Lifestyle line uses the more-durable Street rubber. Checking them out in our office, the shoes felt and looked great. We'll post a review once we've had time to put some mileage on them.

The below information was provided by Black Diamond:

Black Diamond Z4 Cams

The .3 Z4 cam, with dual twisted cable construction.

The .3 Z4 cam, with dual twisted cable construction.

Born from a heart-to-heart with our top trad-climbing athletes Hazel Findlay, Carlo Traversi, Sam Elias, and Babsi Zangerl, the Camalot Z4 is the realization of a dream: to have a single-stem cam that stays rigid in-hand, but flexes once placed. Behold—the patent-pending RigidFlex stem. Thanks to the independently floating trigger wires, the Camalot Z4 doesn’t bend while under tension and retracted, but once placed allows the stem to move, ensuring a placement that stays put and doesn’t walk when pulled directionally. The stem on the larger sizes also utilizes dual twisted cable construction, which provides uniform flex in all directions, while single cable construction is implemented on smaller sizes to avoid buckling when pulling hard on the trigger and to reduce trigger profile. Featuring a similar head-width as our old Camalot C3 design, but with four lobes that are sandblasted for better holding power, the Z4’s are not only an upgrade, but are also available in smaller sizes—starting from #0, our smallest cam ever made, and ranging to .75, allowing you to dial in the rack, whether you’re gunning for a tips crack in the desert, or going light and fast in the Bugs.


Black Diamond will introduce a new stem sheath for the Z4 line.

Black Diamond will introduce a new stem sheath for the Z4 line.

  • RigidFlex stem stays rigid in-hand for easy placement, but flexes once placed to reduce walking
  • Dual twisted cable construction for uniform flex on larger sizes; single cable construction on smaller sizes to avoid buckling and reduce trigger profile*
  • Narrow head width for tight placements
  • Sandblasted lobes for better holding power
  • Lightweight yet durable Dynex sling with a unique color scheme for easy identification from other Camalots: 0-green, .1-red, .2-yellow, .3-blue,  .4-gray, .5-purple, .75-green.

*The double-cable cams are rated for passive placements, while the smallest, single-cable  sizes are not.

The Z4 cams will be available on February 1, 2020.

Black Diamond Approach Shoes

Technical Performance

The Technical Performance Line includes the Mission LT and Technician shoes.

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A. Toe shape and upper construction ideal for technical climbing
B. 3-D Wrap Construction: free-floating compression fit
C. Purpose-built lasts
D. EnduroKnit: one-piece breathable, durable knit upper
E. Sock-like bootie fit
F. Tuned EVA midsole for stiffness and comfort
G. Black Diamond BlackLabel–Mountain rubber: high performance sticky rubber
H. Rubber Toe Protection

Performance Lifestyle

The Performance Lifestyle line includes the Session and Circuit shoes.

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A. One-piece breathable, durable knit upper
B. Tuned EVA midsole
C. Low-rise collapsible heel*
D. Easy on/off slip fit
E. Black Diamond BlackLabel–Street rubber: sticky yet durable
F. Rubber toe protection

Note: The Circuit offers a collapsible heel, but only the Session includes the elastic heel strap for easy on/easy off.

The full line of Black Diamond approach shoes will be available 12/1/19 exclusively at REI, and 1/1/20 worldwide.