Using Totems with fixed biners


Original Post
mike again · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 0

Curious whether there are any savvy engineers out there for this. 

I like to set up my cams with biners secured in place with an o-ring, like a sport draw. When I got totems, I emailed totem about this and they responded: 

"We do not recommend this configuration because it interferes with the ability to distribute the load onto the lobes, just at the start of the loading process. In solid placements the difference will be negligible."

With emphasis on the second sentence, and continued amazement at how easy it is to get bomber placements with these things, I've been using them as shown (alien for comparison - that sling can move more freely). I can intuit that this could result in uneven pull on the lobes in some situations (assuming that the force of a fall did not easily snap the o-ring). But I would be interested in opinions about how much this should matter in practice, and how seriously totem's first sentence above should be taken, from someone with more physics and engineering than I have. 

FWIW, I haven't yet been doing any aid climbing with this setup, although I would eventually like to. I sort of/sort of don't want to try out the two-lobed placement ability of these things, but presumably I would try to clip the side ring in that situation regardless.  

mpech · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 6

The reply from totem seems spot-on... you want the biner to be able to move to be at optimal point for loading both lobesets...regardless, I assume that a real fall will break the o-ring pretty quickly. 

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 100

So you always clip the rope directly into your cams? Bad idea. Look,there are several reasons this isn't a good idea and really gets back to it being better if folks refrained from attempting to 'improve' or reinvent the basics of what we do. 

Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 25
mike again wrote:

 I like to set up my cams with biners secured in place with an o-ring, like a sport draw. 

Don't.

Baaaad idea.

20 kN · · Hawaii · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,128

For all normal cams, this wouldent be an issue. I could see how it may theoretically be an issue on the Totems. It's impossible to say how more likely it would be for a piece to blow without extensive testing.

Andrew AJ Jackson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

There is a reason why quickdraws have bar tacks sewn all the way up to the rubber that stiffens the biner.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,500

I would say this much- you didn't get that email from some customer support person at Totem, you likely got it from the guy who designed the cams. Totem is a super small company and they are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about their product. 

While you may *like* the fixed carabiner on your cam, there is no reason to do it and a few reasons not to. 

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 107
Andrew AJ Jackson wrote:

There is a reason why quickdraws have bar tacks sewn all the way up to the rubber that stiffens the biner.

This is why you don't do this on alpine draws.  However, look at the geometry of the sling on the Totem; this behavior is less likely due to the length of the sling and how/where it is sewn.

OP, Totem answered your question, and they know far better than anyone on here.  I'd take their advice.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 100
Kyle Tarry wrote:

...they know far better than anyone on here...

It's actually not a question or issue specific to the Totems per se or one which requires any Totem-specific expertise or knowledge. 

It would be the same answer for any make of cam and it's more a case where common sense around the fact no cam ships this way should give one a hint it might not be a good idea.

baffledsloth · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 5

I don't understand why people keep insisting on trying this kind of thing. 

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 107
Healyje wrote:

It's actually not a question or issue specific to the Totems per se or one which requires any Totem-specific expertise or knowledge. 

It would be the same answer for any make of cam and it's more a case where common sense around the fact no cam ships this way should give one a hint it might not be a good idea.

Arguably it is.  Totem cams have a significantly different sling arrangement than other types of cams, and they are functionally a bit different as well.  In any case, OP asked Totem if it was a good idea, and they answered him, so it seems silly to have a forum debate about it.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 100
Kyle Tarry wrote:

Arguably it is.  Totem cams have a significantly different sling arrangement than other types of cams, and they are functionally a bit different as well. 

Nothing about the Totem's sling arrangement matters relative to this question / issue.

Kyle Tarry wrote:

How does OP clip a draw or sling to this cam to extend it?  Seems like a weird strategy, unless they only climb straight splitters.

This is more the real problem with this idea. It means the OP is always directly clipping the cam which is a really bad idea and clipping an extended draw would require clipping the inside loop with the captured biner mucking up the works and possibly causing a gate opening problem.

grog m aka Greg McKee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

Cool idea! But clipping to a cam is a skill in its own right (different than clipping to draws) that you can improve. Don't bother changing the basics of what we do. Instead get better at clipping in to your cams and it will make this 'invention' obsolete. 

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 107
Healyje wrote:

Nothing about the Totem's sling arrangement matters relative to this question / issue.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.  Normal cams (with a simple loop sling) will always load the cam the same, o-ring or not, because the loop can move on the other end.  Totems have two separate sewn loops, so if the biner is installed off-center (or if the load is off-center, which practically will almost always be the case), the two sides of the cam will be loaded unequally (until the biner moves or the o-ring breaks).  Totem specifically mentioned this in their response to OP, which he quoted.  The magnitude of this impact is impossible to know without a bunch of testing or some such shenanigans (as 20kN stated), but there is a fundamental difference between the functionality and sling layout of a Totem vs. a "standard" cam.  If you can't see that, I'm sorry.

Ryan Hill · · Oakland, CA · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 0

In addition to the issues that others have brought up you are increasing the chances of the cam walking on you.  By fixing the carabiner to one spot on the sling it is no longer able to move up and down as the rope acts on it.  This means that any movement of the rope can cause the sling to pull on the cam, increasing drag and the possibility of walking the cam out of its placement.  

To put it bluntly; you are needlessly complicating a simple system in order to solve an issue that doesn't exist.  Wise up and listen to the manufacturer.  

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 30

This is my (probably incomplete) understanding of the situation--I'd love to hear other people's comments on my analysis here, as I'm by no means an expert. There are three problems:

  1. Fixing the biner partially prevents the load from being equalized. Given equalization across the lobes is one of the main advantages of Totems, I'm not sure why you'd give this up.
  2. Fixing the biner transfers more of the rope's movement into the cam, causing it to walk. This is particularly bad when you're not extending, so the rope is actually clipped into the fixed biner. Walking is already a problem with unextended cams, and fixing the biner makes it worse.
  3. The rubber band can keep the biner attached to the webbing even when it has come unclipped, so that they appear fine at a glance but are only held together with rubber. Kyle Terry says above that this is impossible due to the geometry on the Totems, but I was able to reproduce the issue pretty easily with a Helium 2 carabiner on an Orange (1.8) Totem.

With sport draws you don't care about these concerns because there's no equalization on a single bolt, bolts don't walk, and bartacking on quickdraws prevents the unclipping problem. You'd fix the biner on a sport draw to prevent the carabiner turning, which can cause it to unclip in a different way. But this is relatively rare. Equalization and walking are much bigger concerns with cams, and at least in the case where the carabiner turns and unclips, you can tell it's unclipped.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 438

Learn to put a finger in the basket of the biner to locate it if you're having trouble clipping. This is a horrible idea even if it weren't for the delay in loading of each lobe that totem gave you. Ryan's post above is accurate, this is greatly increasing chances of walking. 

Outside of Indian Creek how often are people not extending placements? I may clip direct on about 10% of my placements max (usually in a corner/straight splitter and only near the very end of the pitch in a direct run to the anchor).

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 30
Nick Drake wrote:

Outside of Indian Creek how often are people not extending placements? I may clip direct on about 10% of my placements max (usually in a corner/straight splitter and only near the very end of the pitch in a direct run to the anchor).

On Gunks slabs I'll clip direct quite frequently due to the risk of hitting ledges and flakes.

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 50

Horrible idea for ANY cam, don't do it.   Cams are not quick draws.

Nate Doyle · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

Aside from the extra weight, would small quickdraws help?  

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 100
Nate Doyle wrote:

Aside from the extra weight, would small quickdraws help?  

Your gear shouldn't dictate what constitutes appropriate slinging - the route and rock should. So it's not a case of no draw, this draw or that draw - it's climbing with whatever draws are necessary to properly sling a route. That's why we carry extendable alpine / trad draws - so we can sling placements as required. Are there places where you can get away with not slinging cams? Yeah, there are some, but they are more the exception than the rule. At most crages you're going to want to sling your cams.

Personally I carry a mix of 2/3s alpine draws and 1/3 quickdraws made with loose 7" Metolius draw slings and essentially never clip a cam directly as I like my cams to stay where and how I placed them. This past weekend I recovered an Alien and a Camalot off of a route I was doing that had clearly been clipped directly and then walked badly on whomever left them. Bad idea.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply