Wild Country Zero Friend cams

Best Buddy for Small Cracks: Wild Country Zero Friend Cam Review

High quality, wide range, and a narrow head — Wild Country launches a formidable small-crack weapon.

Wild Country created the modern spring-loaded camming device (SLCD) in 1977, calling the active protection “Friends.”

Today, the British brand continues the evolution with the release of the new Zero Friend, a single-axle design destined for smaller cracks. We’ve been testing pre-production samples on a handful of outings to a local granite area for this first look review.

In short: The Wild Country Zero Friend benefits from about 40 years of history and modern engineering advancements. These cams possess a “just right” stem rigidity for ease of deployment and resistance to walking.

Wild Country’s chosen cam angle results in a wide range, and the Zero Friend’s narrow head width aids challenging placements.

Wild Country Zero Friend Cam Review

Wild Country Zero Friend Cams on climbing rope

Right away, the Zero Friends emanated high quality. I immediately noticed their lack of plastic; only the thumb loop’s cable has a vinyl coating. Otherwise, the entirety of the unit is metal.

And other than the swage fitting, all of the anodized aluminum bits that could come in contact with ravaged hands have pleasantly radiused edges. Meanwhile, the cam lobe edges that contact the rock are textured and devoid of anodizing.

I also noted the narrowness of the heads compared to other quad-cam units. The 0.1 and 0.2 measure only 28.1 mm wide while the larger sizes check in at 29.9 mm. I had Black Diamond Z4 cams (also new this season) and Metolius Ultralight Master Cams on hand, and comparisons between corresponding sizes indeed proved the Zero Friends are narrower.

The Zero Friend stems gain rigidity from metal coil springs. In the hands, the amount of stiffness felt great — enough to assist placement in uncooperative gaps but flexible enough to bend around corners and absorb the forces of rope drag and help prevent walking.

Wild Country’s color coding matches that of the Camalots, and each Zero Friend has a matching, extendable Dyneema sling. The Zero Friend set includes sizes 0.1 red, 0.2 yellow, 0.3 blue, 0.4 silver, 0.5 purple, and 0.75 green. The three largest Zero Friends overlap the smallest three Friends in range.

Wild Country Zero Friend cam in crack woman climbing

And at $80 per cam, the Wild Country Zero Friends are more expensive than the corresponding offerings from some others, like Black Diamond or Metolius.

Technical Details

Wild Country chose a new cam angle for the Zero Friends. Whereas the original cam had a 13.75-degree angle, the Zero Friend offers up a broader 17.6-degree angle, contributing to its improved range. Wild Country also claims this angle ensures a better distribution of force throughout each cam’s range.

The range for each Zero Friend is on par with the Black Diamond Z4 units but greater than the corresponding range for Metolius Ultralight Master Cams or Metolius Ultralight TCUs.

The chart below outlines the Zero Friend cam sizes, ranges, and head widths. I’ve also included a verified weight breakdown from my testing (note: I did not receive test samples of the 0.1 or 0.4).

Wild Country Zero Friend cams spec chart

Wild Country Zero Friend Cam Weights

  • 0.1: Sample not available
  • 0.2: 1.8 oz.
  • 0.3: 2.5 oz.
  • 0.4: Sample not available
  • 0.5: 2.7 oz.
  • 0.75: 2.8 oz.

 

Wild Country also states that the cams on the Zero Friends are made from a softer alloy than the original Friends, offering improved purchase.

Zero Friend Cams Tested on Route

Wild Country Zero Friend cam lobes

Placing the Zero Friends reinforced how they felt during unboxing. The stem rigidity provided by the spring hit the sweet spot for ease of placement and compliance when required to resist walking.

The tactile feel of placing the Zero Friends was, well, familiar. For me, the thumb loop design is much more recognizable by feel than other designs, and the amount of cam spring tension produced equally identifiable sensations. The action of the cams was snappy and smooth, even in the smallest sizes — but the cams were new.

The extendable slings were a nice touch. I found it convenient to have both a short and long option.

The Zero Friends never encountered a lead fall while testing, but they did see a hefty amount of top-roping falls serving as the anchors for novice trad climbers. Other than surface scratches, the Zero Friends suffered no damage in this setting.

Small-Crack Cams: Wild Country Zero Friend

Wild Country Zero Friend cams

The Wild Country Zero Friends proved worthy of consideration for protecting smaller cracks. These cams’ spring-assisted stems delivered a great combination of stiffness and compliance while the feel and ergonomics instilled confidence through comfort and familiarity.

Although the price might be higher than some, the Zero Friends’ extensive range and narrow head may offer placements in desperate moments that otherwise might be hard to gain, potentially offsetting concerns over price.

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Seiji Ishii
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Seiji Ishii has enjoyed a lifetime of outdoor adventure and sports, from participant and competitor to coach and trainer, and finally as an editorial contributor. His interests have spanned cycling, climbing, motorcycling, backpacking, trail running, and the training involved for all of it. He has also designed outdoor and off-road motorcycling gear. He lives in a wildlife refuge in Wimberley, Texas, with his daughter, itinerant dirt bags, a dog, and a cat. Read more of his musings at seijisays.com.

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