Climbing in Rifle is apparently not at all like riding a bike. Last month I visited my former home crag after three years away. I was stoked to visit friends and hopefully clean-up some old projects. Instead of picking-up where I left off, I had start back at the bottom. Literally, I had to rework the aptly-named warm-up, Bottom Feeder. Bummer.
As I received this typical Rifle smack-down, I felt strangely comforted thanks to the new Black Diamond Zone Harness, which made all that hanging much easier on my back, if not my ego.
The Zone is Black Diamond’s latest top-tier sport-climbing rig. In my opinion, they’ve hit the elusive sweet spot of low bulk, low weight, and plenty of support. The waistbelt and leg loops are built with Fusion Comfort Construction, which sandwiches 3 bands of webbing into a thin layer of foam to distribute forces with engineering precision all while maintaining low-profile flexibility.
While climbing I barely noticed the Zone. It moved with my body and didn’t bind or pinch. While hanging, which was often, I was comfortable taking my time to recover, work out moves, or call up the friggin’ stick clip.
On the belay, the Zone bore the brunt of my taking, boinking partner—who was also getting his own flogging by the cryptic slopey sidepulls. I have an old back injury that can flare up during intense belays, but the Zone inspired confidence that this pesky condition wouldn’t cause me a problem on my vacation. The harness spreads the weight evenly between my leg loops and waist belt, so I never got sore or cranky, at least not from the belay.
The only minor drawback to the Zone is that the rise felt a tad long for my squat build. Women’s harnesses are generally designed with more height between the leg loops and waist belt to accommodate our curvy hips, but I felt like my waistbelt sat about an inch higher than I’d like. The men’s Zone is sized the same as the women’s but has a slightly lower rise, so I’d recommend hanging in both versions to see which fits your body best before making a purchase.
Although the Zone was designed for sport climbing, the low weight (10.2 ounces) and compact, packable design and ample support make it an ideal harness for longer routes as well. The leg loops aren’t adjustable, but they have enough stretch to accommodate thicker pants. I’ve also loaded it up with a heavy rack of cams, and it does okay for an occasional day of trad climbing. If you’re totally dedicated to crack climbing, check out the Zone’s beefier sister, the Solution, made with the same technology.
I wore a size medium, which is exactly what the size chart recommends, and it was spot on.
As for other features, the Zone has all the essentials—four gear loops, and two ice-clipper slots along with a self-locking buckle. At $99 it’s hard to beat the Zone for value. (It’s currently on sale at Mountain Gear for $75.) It’s amongst the lightest harnesses on the market. I find it more comfortable than the Petzl Hirundos, and it’s every bit as high quality as more expensive options from Arcteryx.
I’d highly recommend the Zone for anyone who wants a versatile, all-around harness, that’s perfect for redpointing or punting on your old warm-ups at Rifle.