Totem cams


Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 285

They're good and I like them for certain placements even if they're totally irritating to rack, beyond that I can't say I'm otherwise over-the-top religious about them.

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 45
patto wrote: 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.

Outward flaring cracks are quite common in nature. If you're placing your cams in line with the direction of pull (usually down) the flare in an outward flaring crack should be closer to perpendicular to the stem than not--I usually go for about 60 degrees. Or put another way, your cam should be about 30 degrees offset from the wall, which means that if the crack flares out, the lobes will expand to different widths.

If you're not seeing cracks that flare perpendicular to the stem in nature, you're probably placing your cams perpendicular to the wall, which is likely not addressing the direction of pull the cam is likely to experience.

Noah Yetter · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 105
Burton Rosenberger wrote:

BD cams always take them longer to place correctly for the same size they would just throw a totem in and be done with it.

It is a double edged sword as I have had one of them tell me "I really need to lead on cams other than totems just for practice." The new leaders feel really confident with the totems when compared to BD's ...

This matches my (limited) experience exactly.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 285
Burton Rosenberger wrote:

BD cams always take them longer to place correctly for the same size they would just throw a totem in and be done with it.

All cams need to have thought put into their placement. Nothing about the Totems exempts them from that dictum and or otherwise makes them any easier to place 'correctly'.

Burton Rosenberger · · Woodbridge, va · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 100
Healyje wrote:

All cams need to have thought put into their placement. Nothing about the Totems exempts them from that dictum and or otherwise makes them any easier to place 'correctly'.

Of course, I am not saying they don't.

Lets say you have a hand crack, you find a feature inside it which is worthy of protecting. You grab your BD gear place in properly so it indexes only to find out the cams don't sit at the same angle on either side of the stem ... This isn't an issue with totem so long as the unbalanced side isn't tipped out it is fine (of course you should always test your placement to be sure [that was for you internet safety police])

I have a full set of offset BD cams I do not use because the totems can handle those placements just fine less maybe the .1/.2 (gold / red) That is what I mean when I say "throw a totem in there and be done with it."

Since the cam lobes are loaded independently it allows them to handle tricky placements easier than a BD cam would at the same size without having to resort to offset cams. This alone allows for faster cam placement.

Spot a feature, unrack gear, place gear, test gear, sling gear, go.
With me and BD where I climb after placing the gear I have to fiddle with it to get it to sit right nearly every time :/

In my book that is why it is easier to use them vs BD. If you get a chance to use them pounce on it to see what I mean. I am not blowing smoke out my 4th point of contact and I know I am not the only one who has experienced what I am trying to describe.

Mark L · · New York, NY · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Just a heads up, they are almost all available on Backcountry.com right now.  All BASICS and HYBRIDS as well.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 285
Burton Rosenberger wrote:

...so it indexes only to find out the cams don't sit at the same angle on either side of the stem...

Probably need a bit of clarification there - not sure what you're saying exactly (maybe a pic)...

Burton Rosenberger · · Woodbridge, va · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 100
Healyje wrote:

Probably need a bit of clarification there - not sure what you're saying exactly (maybe a pic)...

No problem. I am not sure what terms other people use for this.

Lets imagine two perfectly flat surfaces in any size crack to start. This I would call a "feature less" crack, there is nothing to "index" on. When you place a nut you are trying to "index" the nut into a position / feature on the rock where it will not come out on a fall for example.

One wouldn't simply slide a nut up and down a crack till it sticks but rather pick a "feature" in a crack (in this case a constriction) then pick the nut which fits it and place it so it is "indexed" to the "feature". (that is it fits the constriction in such a way it isn't coming out at the desired direction of pull)

With the two perfectly flat surfaces example above if there was a dimple protruding into, or out-from, the crack on one of the cracks wall I would call this a "feature." This would allow in most cases for a cam to be placed in a crack where it is either wider than the crack on average thus "indexing" it in place similar to a nut in a constriction. Or it could also allow for a cam to be placed so something is in front of it in the direction of pull. I would argue these "features" protect better than a straight feature-less crack for obvious reasons I call "indexing"

When I am out tomorrow I will get some pictures of what I mean and label them if this wasn't explained properly but I have a feeling you get what I mean.

"Features" can be a lip, a flare, a divot, a dimple, a small rail, a pocket, etc. (basically variation in the surfaces which would allow for "indexing" as previously described) This is what I look for in a crack before placing gear.

Typically my process is as follows
1) Look for a suitable crack which would allow for the proper placement orientation desired
2) Look for a "feature" in the crack
3) Place gear in crack and "index" it so the "feature" is used to keep it in place, keep it from moving, and better protect it from coming out in a fall while allowing for it to be removed later.
4) Test gear to ensure placement is good.
5) extend gear if required
6) Clip rope to gear and move on

I am sure we all do this to some extent and it happens rather quickly. I would argue if one skips step 3 and simply places a cam and "slides it around" or "replaces it" in a different location you are doing it wrong and wasting time. This is why I say to the people I teach "find the feature to protect first, then place the right piece of gear for the feature." In some cases the feature isn't protectable with the gear you have and you have to find another feature or move on.

Sorry for such a rambling post :/ 

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25
David Kerkeslager wrote:

Outward flaring cracks are quite common in nature. If you're placing your cams in line with the direction of pull (usually down) the flare in an outward flaring crack should be closer to perpendicular to the stem than not--I usually go for about 60 degrees. Or put another way, your cam should be about 30 degrees offset from the wall, which means that if the crack flares out, the lobes will expand to different widths.

Depends where and on what rock you climb.  I've seen parallel cracks and various cracks that flare up, down, left, right, in and out.  There is a reason why standard cams have even sized lobes because that is most effective most of the time.

Of course in particular areas or particular climbs offsets can be great and preferred.

David Kerkeslager wrote:

If you're not seeing cracks that flare perpendicular to the stem in nature, you're probably placing your cams perpendicular to the wall, which is likely not addressing the direction of pull the cam is likely to experience.

Or not.  I know how to place cams David.

Oh and now that you mention it I do often place cams with the stems perpendicular to the wall.  Because cracks can be horizontal too you know.  In some crags/climbs such cracks are far more common than vertical cracks.

Richard Dana · · Eugene, OR · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 280

FYI Backcountry Gear has most sizes of Totem and Totem Basics (including offsets) in! http://www.backcountrygear.com/totem.html

(beta: coupon code Hotsheetsave10 will save you 10% on the whole order)

CaseyElliott · · Salt Lake City · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 470

Y'all should check out this new site http://www.kailasgears.com/c/protection_0410 as they are selling totem cams to the US. They might have the cams in stock even when Totem themselves do not. 

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 45
CaseyElliott wrote:

Y'all should check out this new site http://www.kailasgears.com/c/protection_0410 as they are selling totem cams to the US. They might have the cams in stock even when Totem themselves do not. 

Yeah, it's been confirmed that these are real Totem Cams made by Totem, but sold under Kailas' brand.

However, they lack the extremes of size (orange on the larger side and black on the lower side) and they're significantly more expensive (for single cams--the full set brings them down to about $75/cam which is more reasonable).

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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