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Totem cams

Original Post
thomas.w · · Denver, CO · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 5

Hey MP Totem cam users,

What has been your experience with these cams? Not to be confused with the totem - basic (alien). What do you or don't you like about them? I was thinking of picking a few of them up to fill in a primarily free (non-aid) climbing rack, although I see myself venturing into big-wall soon. Worth it? I saw there are some older threads on the topic but I thought an end of 2012 review might be good for the community looking at these cams, as they seem to still be developing the technology.

Oh and MP trolls, please go waste time on another thread. Thanks.

ParkerKempf Kempf · · atlanta, GA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 280

Totem cams have changed climbing for me.
I do alot of bigwall/aid climbing and there is nothing that even comes close to the abilities of the totem cam. It is super flexible and does not get all manky (like an alien) or kink so bad it cannot be used (metolius). the head is super narrow and can fit into very awkward placements/pinscars (unlike black diamond).
Its holding power in flares is honesty unbelievable. I have used the 2 lobe placement method often. I do not think they are bulky on your harness at all, they tend to stream line after being body weighted a few times. My only issue i could possibly have with them is if i was free climbing and had a desperate/deep placement where i was pushing the stem with my finger. They are so flexible that the stem tends to bend instead of staying rigid.
As for durability, my totems have seen well over 15 walls, solos of el cap, free climbing all around the country, i have fallen on them, i have slept on them, and they have prevailed.
get these will not regret it

thomas.w · · Denver, CO · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 5

Good to hear guys, thanks for the feed back! It sounds like I will be adding these to my rack in the next week or so. What are your experiences with the two lobe loading?

Phill T · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2008 · Points: 80

similar experiences here, I have the smallest 3 (blue,yellow, purple). They hold in flares/pin scars really well. not sure what it is exactly, but they are super confidence inspiring. My go to small piece for free climbing or aid for sure. The only downside is the relative bulk, they are roughly the same weight as comparably sized cams, but they are a bit bulkier.

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

I've used a set on two recent El Cap routes and loved them.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

I've been using them for a year or two now and agree---the best thing there is in the sizes they come in. The narrow head means they go places other cams don't. I find the theoretically superior holding power comforting, although I can't claim to have done anything that would be a realistic test. They seem to walk less than other cams.

It is true that they can be a little noodley to place sometimes, although it has never amounted to a problem for me. I think the real issue, if there is one, will be durability, but mine have held up very well so far.

Josh Higgins · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 60

I don't think that durability will be an issue. I was trad climbing on these from before they were released to the public, and mine are in excellent condition. I haven't even needed to lube them yet. In addition, not one person has reported durability to be an issue yet.

I agree with other posters, as an experienced trad climber who puts his gear to the test, these things are the best option in the sizes they come in. My experienced partners who climb with me think the same thing.

I wrote up a long review over two years ago, and my opinion of these cams has solidified that they are an amazing innovation that improve safety and open up placement options that were previously unavailable.

My review: Totem Cam Review


bearbreeder · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 3,065

how about falls ...

i fall on my gear quite a bit because im a weak azzed climber ;)

how do they take multiple falls, notably the smaller sizes ...

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25

I agree with all the comments here. They are the best cams on the market. I've been using mine for over a year.

Glass Tupperware · · Atlanta · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 50

Has anybody heard if they're coming out with smaller sizes anytime soon?

Ryan Williams · · London (sort of) · Joined May 2009 · Points: 1,280

Some VERY experienced climbers here giving a lot of praise to the Totem cams. I don't think I'll be in the market for new cams any time soon, but when I am I'll remember this thread.

Nice to see a new product on the market that stands up to it's claims, which many said were bogus in the beginning.

Finn the Human · · The Land of Ooo · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 108

While I haven't used them, I've read a fair amount of reviews, and the only complaint I've heard is that they are relatively large cams compared to cams from other brands that cover the same range.

caughtinside · · Oakland CA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,470

Wow, some dazzling reviews. As a guy who got burned by Link cam junk, I've shied away from the latest and the greatest. I haven't even seen a totem in person yet. Would like to give them a try!

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25

Totems had over a decade in development and testing. For quite some time the inventors struggled to bring it to the market. But their passion and belief in their own product drove them. And it seems that they are being quite successful. (Though with plenty more room to grow.)

While being a significant change in the physics of operation Totems cams are largely no different in use to regular cams. With very good range, holding power and excellent behaviour in flared cracks these are a massive technical improvement.

In practice and the use I've put them to they do seem slightly 'more solid' in placements. Though in almost all of my uses a C4 would have performed similarly. Of course in narrow pockets, shallow cracks, flares or slippery rock a Totem may be solid where almost any other cam would not hold.

mattm · · TX · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,390

After using them for a few months I came to the same conclusion as others on here; They're the best cams out there in their size range. I'm seriously contemplating selling off the other half of my rack and just doing doubles on Totems. I think above the Red the narrow head benefits are less needed. I would take a "Gold" size though but probably just one. I think the numerous small cables limit how small they can make them so I doubt you'll see a smaller size. You never know though...

Totem basics or X4s below size "Blue" should be a perfect compliment.

Everyone that's used mine has had nothing but positive things to say as well. They really are that good.

brenta · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 75

Another vote for the Totem cams.

David Allfrey · · Las Vegas, Nevada · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 50

I am with Josh. I have 2 sets and use mine for everything, but their uniqueness shines when aid climbing. I have used mine on 25+ walls (15-20 El Cap routes). The newer set and the older set look almost identical, it is incredible. I thought for sure I was going to destroy these things.

I absolutely love them.

I wrote a pretty extensive review...…

aaron hope · · Walnut Creek, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 295

It sounds like a lot of folks like these cams in flares. How would you say they generally compare to the holding power of offset cams (metolius or aliens) in pin scars? The same, better, or a matter of circumstance and personal preference? This is all great info. Thanks!

John Shultz · · Osaka, Japan · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 45
aaron hope wrote:It sounds like a lot of folks like these cams in flares. How would you say they generally compare to the holding power of offset cams (metolius or aliens) in pin scars? The same, better, or a matter of circumstance and personal preference? This is all great info. Thanks!
Good question. I am wondering the same.

Are they as good in lateral flares as they are in vertical flares? That is, can we skip offset cams with these babies on moderately beat out trade routes?

Cheers from Osaka...

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25
aaron hope wrote:It sounds like a lot of folks like these cams in flares. How would you say they generally compare to the holding power of offset cams (metolius or aliens) in pin scars? The same, better, or a matter of circumstance and personal preference? This is all great info. Thanks!
You are comparing apples with oranges here.

Totem cams are on paper the best cams on the market in terms of "holding power" (ie the outward pressure on the rock crack) and flared crack performance.** Real world performance confirms this. Offset cams do not have improved "holding power" over regular cams. They do however have the ability to work in situations where the lobes of regular cams may not engage properly due to differential expansion.

Totem cams have decent range so if the offset is not too great then they'll be superior. If you compare the offset range of Metolius mastercams it is barely greater than Totems. Offset Aliens have bigger range but significantly less holding power unless the rock is particularly course.

  • **Flared cracks, as far as Totem and I are concerned, refer to cracks which flare in the direction of the stem. Offsets address cracks that may flare perpendicular to the stem, this is a far less common natural occurrence and is a different problem to what Totems directly address.
aaron hope · · Walnut Creek, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 295

Sorry, maybe 'holding power' was the wrong choice of words. I'm just curious about overall performance. For those experienced in using both offset cams and totems in pin scars, do you have a preference? Why?

If I understand Patto, Totems are generally preffered in flares perpendicular to the stem while offsets are preferred in horizontal flares (i.e. pin scars). Do others agree?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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