Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post here for all your gear questions, rants and raves. Ask about gear before you buy it and find out what others are using. NOTE: this forum is NOT for gear sales.

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PeterHS
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Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by PeterHS » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:32 pm

I am looking to buy a set of cams (let me know if you have any secondhand that you're willing to sell :)) .

Which are the best? Which do you use? Black Diamond? DMM? Other? What models?

Which sizes do you use most? I am in Cape Town so maybe you have some local knowledge.

Which sizes to buy first if not a full set (mega-expensive)? Where best to buy too?

Let's get a discussion going .....

mokganjetsi
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by mokganjetsi » Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:46 pm

you do keep the forum going.... and i always take the bait :wink:
solid reviews here: http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Climbing- ... d=#compare

imho ->
go for double axle design (bigger camming range) i.e. black diamond c4 or dmm dragon (much of a muchness between the two; shop for best price)
also get some black diamond x4 / aliens / metolius mastercams in small sizes; very useful for narrow slots and shallow / flaring placements due to narrower heads and more aggressive camming angle (sacrifices range to achieve this)

i climb with:
single metolius mastercams: purple to orange (#0 to #3)
c4s - doubles from #0,5 to #1 ; a single #0,4 ; #2 and #3 and sometimes a #4

cape sandstone gobbles up cams; you will generally need less cams up north

SNORT
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by SNORT » Wed Apr 13, 2016 6:00 pm

Aliens small, BD large

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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Wed Apr 13, 2016 7:25 pm

Dragon cams for me. The extendable sling wins over the BD. Master cams for small sizes
Happy climbing
Nic

Warren G
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by Warren G » Wed Apr 13, 2016 9:05 pm

Go climb with them all- the best kind of shopping you get!

Personally I like the BDs from about .75/1 up.I say BD large cams because I prefer the easy placement of the cams, and am willing to sacrifice the extendable sling for it- which I find difficult to use anyway.

I see the new Wild Country cams have the same colouring of BD/DMM, same sizing and have both the extendable sling and Osiris shape. I haven't climbed on them, but they do look interesting.

For the small ones, um, I don't have a clear answer but this one: I have a double rack from my smallest up to 0.75, and recommend the same, if not larger but then weight and cost comes a factor. If you are going for a double rack why not two different sets? I have this with both BD and Aliens and the sizing differences I find most useful- in the same way that having two different brands of nuts is a great idea.

Whatever you do don't get the single axle models in larger sizes, no matter how tempting the price.
Sandbagging is a dirty game

BAbycoat
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by BAbycoat » Thu Apr 14, 2016 2:17 am

Some general observations:

Search the forum. I'm sure this has been discussed at length elsewhere, With Nick, Snort and others making the same suggestions.

Check out the Wild Country Cam Book, understand the tradoff between range and power, understand how double axle cams get range and power. Given the texture of Cape sandstone I'd personally place more emphasis on range. (WC's 13.5 is based on coefficient of friction between smooth Yosemite granite and aircraft grade aluminum. Sandstone probably provides more friction, except maybe Hellfire)

Chris Mac's OutdoorGearLab review is focussed on Aid climbing Yosemite splitters. Take it with a pinch of salt.

In general, I agree with Warren to avoid single axle units. Make exception for Aliens (where the soft aluminum compensates), Super-large (where the range isn't worth the weight) and Totems (which achieve double axle performance through loading lobes directly).

Aeons ago I posted a nice cam range chart on this forum - you should be able to find it somewhere.

Some specific suggestions from personal experience:

Small: Alien.
Medium: Totem if you can get your hands on them. It's unbelievable where they will hold. Otherwise more Aliens.
Large: Dragons for the extender. Cape Sandstone has horizontal cracks, so your placements don't tend to line up vertically.
Mega: Wild Country. Beyond #4 double axle cams become too heavy. Unlikely to be of much use in the Cape.

Other brands:
X4 - just don't have the holding power of Aliens.
Metolious - smaller angle means more power and less range. Not my favourite (though I still have two on my rack)
C3 - Neat for pinscars, but don't match Alien's holding power.
C4 - a close second to Dragons. Some people prefer the thumb loop. Compare to Dragons before buying.
WC - Where it all started. Lack of range is an issue.
RockEmpire - Affordable entry point, but you're likely to outgrow them.

If you're on moderate grades (15-19) a handfull of cams from finger size to fist size should be fine. Start with Dragon green, red and yellow ... and work out from there.

All this being said ... if you don't know what kind of rack you want, you might be better placed getting out there on a few routes people who have the gear and know how to use it. Climb with different partners, different gear, and figure out what works for you. Gear is ultimately a personal choice.

Old Smelly
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by Old Smelly » Thu Apr 14, 2016 8:54 am

The above is good, however- my observation is that X cams do a much better job in terms of engineering then a few of those other brands - so much so that Xcams for the lower Range and C4's for the Upper range are about as good a set of cams as you can get. If you shop around you may end up with more variety but at this point the saving will not equate to the value you will see in getting one type - even if you accumulate them over a period of time - like I did. It just works a lot better if your collection work together - unless you like running a constant comparison as opposed to just picking the next one up or down!

http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Climbing- ... Camalot-X4
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Thu Apr 14, 2016 9:31 am

For me the sling on the Dragons makes them better than the C4s and engineering wise they are essentially the same quality. You don't have to carry more draws or slings in order to extend them. And they are also less prone to walking than the C4s.

I've not yet gotten my hands on the new double axle Wild Countrys. But they have had the opportunity to study the Dragons and the C4s and build their cams to "fix" any "problems" which should mean that they are going to be good
Happy climbing
Nic

Old Smelly
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by Old Smelly » Thu Apr 14, 2016 5:11 pm

Good point. Dmm and Wild Country are class A manufacturers so no question that they are up on the same level.
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

BAbycoat
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by BAbycoat » Thu Apr 14, 2016 6:36 pm

Engineering - BD and DMM definitely first class.

Walking - comes from extending, no? BD doesn't walk much in prefect vertical Zion and Yosemite cracks. Cape Sandstone is a different story.

X4 vs Alien. Personal choice. CCH had a few bad Alien batches, but Fixe seem to have solved production issues now. Alien lobes deform after a few good falls. That's a price I'm happy to pay for the gripping power of the soft aluminum grade. I've had X4s blow on me so many times that I restrict them to last resort or bomber placements. Again, personal preference, but I would never shell out for X4s.

( My previous climbing partner retired his X4s in favour of Aliens. But he works for a Hedge Fund, and can afford to do it).

WC double axle cams ?? what ?? where have I been ?? gotta go gear shopping :-D

But seriously - Totems. I know they aren't retailed in SA. But they've caught my fall in a >15 degree flaring pod, where all other brands wouldn't even place. I've loaded them on two lobes. Amazing. They're the one cam to rule them all. Read the comments on Andy and Chris' articles and you'll see how loyal Totem owners are.

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robertbreyer
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by robertbreyer » Thu Apr 14, 2016 7:03 pm

read this review. old but still currrent.

http://www.climbing.co.za/2013/05/alien ... am-review/
102457_CamalotX4_2-800x302.jpg
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Warren G
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by Warren G » Thu Apr 14, 2016 7:26 pm

I must agree on the Totem cam amazement: I climbed with Chris Hale after his 25m lead out fall, and he showed me the piece that caught him: looked perfectly fine. They place as well as described above, my only problem with them is they are a bit bulky and heavy compared to BD/ DMM/WC

And yes, WC now make Double Axel- you best go shopping...
Sandbagging is a dirty game

mokganjetsi
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by mokganjetsi » Thu Apr 14, 2016 8:07 pm

Nic Le Maitre wrote:And they are also less prone to walking than the C4s.
can't compare because i haven't placed dragons, but i certainly do not have any problems with walking C4s in cape sandstone
the only significant difference imho is the thumbloop vs extendable sling. i'm happy with the C4s short sling for in-line placements and just add a sling for wandering placements. the dragon extension is limited to about 30 or 40cm i'd say (?)
my opinion: dragons or C4s; X4, alien or mastercam - whatever you can get at the best price (although the X4s blowing is worrying, but perhaps the placements are crap :wink: )

BAbycoat
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by BAbycoat » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:43 pm

Funny how all my crap placements are X4s.

Two specific instances come to mind:
  • - P2 of Ozymandias, aiding a thin seam. X4s only held the most solid placement. Aliens and Metolious stuck in more marginal placements.
    - At a trad stance, 2 good pieces, reluctantly placed an X4 in a shallow, marginally flaring crack as my third. As I belayed my second, the X4 blew. No surprise. When my second arrived at the stance I switched the X4 for an Alien which had been placed lower on the pitch. No problems with the Alien in the same placement.
These are close to controlled experiments. Same placements, different gear. X4 fails first in both cases, and I'm sure there are others.

Yes, the placements are suspect. But Metolious and Aliens hold in crap placements. X4s don't. And I want cams which hold in marginal placements, not just in good placements.

It's no coincidence that all my crap placements are X4s. Chris Van Leuven's review lists camming angles.
  • - BD (i.e. X4's) have the largest angle of the 7075 cams, so have the lowest holding power.
    - Aliens achieve a wider range while maintaining their "grip" by using the softer 6061, which means more wear. If you're tradding, this wear is the premium you pay to ensure the placement holds. If you're aiding, Aliens become a consumable.
    - Metolious have the lowest angle, greatest power, and lowest range of the manufacturers. The lack of range is is noticeable.
All of which is why my climbing partner and I reach for Totems, Aliens, Metolious, WC and X4's for hand-width and smaller - in that order.

(To avoid confusion: I'm referring to the lobe-loaded Totem, not the Alienesque "Totem Cam" produced by the same manufacturer)

Dragons vs C4s - it's not just the length of the sling but also its stiffness which affects the cam walking. The double-sewn 18mm tape transfers significantly more of the rope's jitters to the cam. The dyneema on the new Ultralight C4s may partially remediate this, if you're prepared to shell out. I like the concept of "TripleGrip" on the new Dragons, but haven't had a chance to experiment.

Speaking of grip, another plug for the Totems: the innovative diagonal grooves create traction without modifying the camming angle. Clever.

All of which is much more than Pete was asking for. It's a personal choice, mostly a tradeoff between power/range/longevity/cost. If it were me, I'd start with red and yellow Dragons and a blue Totem, see what you like, and build out from there. (But play with Dragons and C4s in the shop to see whether you prefer the thumb loop or thumb stop). As and when you feel you need smaller cams, don't look further than Aliens.

toejam
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by toejam » Fri Apr 15, 2016 2:48 am

Here's an interesting take on extendable slings with cams...

http://blackdiamondequipment.com/en/qc- ... -gear.html

Old Smelly
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by Old Smelly » Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:11 am

I actually must say I also think the extendable sling thing is BS.

I own a ladder style DMM Cam (4CU) - it's a great cam - one of my best, and it has the extendable sling. Sure I extend it but really you are just kidding yourself - clip a 60 and be done with it. Similarly Torque Nuts - what a great product! Does the extendable sling make a massive difference, hmmm a little - it certainly isn't the reason why I bought them over rockcentrics.

What is more alarming though is that the new Wild Country cams seem to defy both what DMM and BD found through experimentation - I would love to see the reasoning behind that.
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

mokganjetsi
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by mokganjetsi » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:47 pm

mmmm see the new WC Friend is really a (new) C4 with an extendable dyneema sling......but the issue of tweaking the thumb loop is then on the cards

Hector
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by Hector » Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:48 am

Old-style aliens are great for small sizes but don't bother with the new alien evo 's. They are plasticky with poorly designed trigger wires (one broke within a month). The webbing has a loose weave which snags on other gear and then unravels. The trigger curves towards the lobes which makes it hard to reach when placed deep. And the extendable sling pinches the cable. All round poor design

PeterHS
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by PeterHS » Wed Aug 17, 2016 12:27 am

Hi all

It's interesting to read back all the great advice above. I've picked up BD C4s mostly, a few BD X4s and some of the old style Dragon MMMs (4CU). The BDs I've bought secondhand for close to half price; the DMMs on sale in England at under half price.

I'm not climbing hard enough grades or leading enough to take heavy falls so the fine degrees of excellence and the laws of diminishing returns don't really affect me - yet - but I'll bear in mind your inputs :).

Ciao,

Peter

Old Smelly
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Re: Cams - which best? Which do you use most?

Post by Old Smelly » Wed Aug 17, 2016 9:04 am

Both of those are GREAT Cams so don't worry about whether you got the ones recommended or not - you have got some quality Cams!

The DMM 4CU's will always work great and their ladder design often works better than a single stem. Any Camalot is a good cam - so notwithstanding what has been said about arbitrary brands like Aliens and Totems :jocolor: you do have some of the best! Maybe not the most trendy...but solid reliable gear...
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

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