Cam purchase advice


drock3 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 19
Nick Drake wrote:

Do you not climb granite frequently? I see aliens and C3s out far more often than mastercams/TCUs. Maybe that's just an Index/Squamish thing.

You're wrong on totem weight, it's very much inline BD's linup. Lets look at thin hands:
C4 .75, 119gr
X4 .75, 112gr
Totem 1.25, 109gr
UL C4, 89gr

In the smaller sizes, from a BD x4 .2-.5 size equivalent the weight of racks goes:
Totem 322gr
X4 302gr
UL mc 292gr  *note this includes a 4 red, if you consider 1.04" high enough and stop at orange it would be 217 grams, but I want full coverage in thumb stacks*
Basics 256gr

I don't think I said anything about weight of the totems? Bulk =/= weight.

I climb a decent amount of granite (mostly LCC and City of rocks) and my master cams fit everywhere. I don't notice many folks on C3s.

All the people saying "Totems hold where others dont" how often are you placing marginal gear that regularly pop out? Most climbers I know aren't. Yeah, maybe the totem may technically stronger be stronger, but regular cams are plenty strong in all but the most terrible placement. The benefit from totems is more mental than objective. Do you also build 5 point anchors because they're stronger?

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 478
drock3 wrote:

I don't think I said anything about weight of the totems? Bulk =/= weight.

I climb a decent amount of granite (mostly LCC and City of rocks) and my master cams fit everywhere. I don't notice many folks on C3s.

All the people saying "Totems hold where others dont" how often are you placing marginal gear that regularly pop out? Most climbers I know aren't. Yeah, maybe the totem may technically stronger be stronger, but regular cams are plenty strong in all but the most terrible placement. The benefit from totems is more mental than objective. Do you also build 5 point anchors because they're stronger?

Well unless there was a ninja edit there it looks like I should have had that afternoon cup of coffee.

I've found C3s very helpful at WA pass. Lots of times there is a crystal that just gets in the way of one lobe on a blue alien when a green C3 fits perfectly. In the larger size of a red C3/green alien I find that to be the case far less (and a blue totem is the same head width as a red c3 anyway, albeit a little larger).

I don't place marginal gear, but I do run into many placements where I can't quite find equalized lobes or downward flares. These placements are rare, maybe 5% of the time, but when I find them I'm happy to place a totem. I also prefer the texture on the totem/basic lobes to the smoother finish of other manufactures when the rock is slicker (squamish), although that is likely mental.

I make two piece anchors if it's over a .5, but this is mountain project. Some people on here drag up boat anchors and weave macrame anchors. 

DrRockso · · Red River Gorge, KY · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 326

Kevin, I wouldn't bother with the totems for RRG, x4's are awesome for .5 and smaller.  Mastercams are good for smaller sides too. 

that guy named seb · · Britland · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 205
DrRockso wrote:

Kevin, I wouldn't bother with the totems for RRG, x4's are awesome for .5 and smaller.  Mastercams are good for smaller sides too. 

This might be fine advice if you were to never climb anywhere but RRG.

DrRockso · · Red River Gorge, KY · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 326
that guy named seb wrote:

This might be fine advice if you were to never climb anywhere but RRG.

For the weight and price difference I would never recommend someone buy a bunch of totems as their first rack. Unless OP plans on getting on a bunch of aid climbs or difficult to protect thin crack climbs, I don't think he would see the added utility out of the totems, but I guess YMMV.

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

For the weight and price difference I would never recommend someone buy a bunch of totems as their first rack.

Totems are more expensive, but cam for cam, Totems are lighter than C4s.

This shouldn't be construed as advising someone to buy a bunch of Totems as their first rack, though. As I said upthread, I think having more cams in a broader range of sizes is more important than having the best cams (though I do believe that Totems are the best cams for at least all but the top of their size range).

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

You know, I remember when I met the guys who own Totem- they had this crazy cam design and were wandering around Outdoor Retailer trying to sell it to the big companies there, and no one was interested. The next time I met them, they had decided to do it on their own and they handed me a first run set of them to review. 

I climbed on them for a while and liked them- they're neat, have alot of cool features, but ultimately I shelved them because the problem they were designed to solve (holding in a flared crack) just wasn't a big issue for me. I ended up giving them to another reviewer and never bothered to ask for them back. 

Do I miss having them? Occasionally. Do I think they're a great product? Absolutely. Would I recommend them as a standard piece for a new leader? Eh, probably not. I wouldn't advise against them, but I don't know that they should be the back bone of a standard rack. 

I'm honestly surprised that they have gained such a huge following- I thought the bulk and complicated sling design would keep people away. I'm glad they are successful, though, I really liked Mikel and company. I think that they are brilliant engineers and deserve every bit of their success. 

Matt Westlake · · Durham, NC · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 588

I'd probably second the idea of getting a set of BD C4s from .3-3 and some master cams to fill in, say 00-4. This is a solid workhorse rack, although the new WC cams could easily substitute as better C4s. Totems are great and I love mine but I just keep a single set and mix it up with some aliens and master cams and bigger C4s. For the really small stuff I very occasionally break out C3s and a variety of misc tiny stoppers. There's definitely value in learning sizing in C4s and metolius as they form the basis of comparison for most other brands and are what you will supplement with from other folks racks most often. 

Bottom line though is it depends on what your local rock demands. I do a lot of climbing where irregular cracks are the norm and funky narrow head placements are good to be able to cover. But... I just came back from going further afield and was perfectly happy plugging C4s in parallel cracks. They do bump better than totems for sure. 

Personally I don't like TCUs of any brand anymore (C3s are sort of different) or U-stems in general - too easy to make them walk, too wide, and sometimes hard to see what the cam lobes are doing. 

Definitely worth seeing how the weights of the various types compare and feel in your hand and on your harness. 

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

I climbed on them for a while and liked them- they're neat, have alot of cool features, but ultimately I shelved them because the problem they were designed to solve (holding in a flared crack) just wasn't a big issue for me.

I guess what I don't understand about this line of reasoning is that there's nothing about the Totems' design that prevents you from using them in parallel cracks too. People keep saying they're a specialty piece, but they work in every placement a C4 would work in, so unless C4s are also specialty pieces, that doesn't make sense. Totems are strictly a more general piece than C4s because they work in a wider variety of placements. They work in flared cracks AND parallel cracks. If you can have cam that works in parallel AND flared cracks, and the difference in cost isn't an issue, I'm not sure why you'd choose a cam that only works in parallel cracks. Even if 95% of the cracks you see are perfectly parallel, that other 5% isn't nothing, and sometimes it's important.

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 871
dindolino32 wrote:  As far as placing at your furthest reach, you should place at your waist anyway.  

Do you inspect your placements with your wiener?  

drock3 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 19
Matt Westlake wrote:

I'd probably second the idea of getting a set of BD C4s from .3-3 and some master cams to fill in, say 00-4. 

I find the .3 and .4 C4s too wide and bulky to be helpful. They just don't fit in the pods and cracks of that size as well as an X4/Mastecam

greggrylls · · Salt Lake City · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0
drock3 wrote:

I find the .3 and .4 C4s too wide and bulky to be helpful. They just don't fit in the pods and cracks of that size as well as an X4/Mastecam

Agreed.  I love C4's,  placing in a splitter crack or a horizontal downward facing crack where they have the room they are super confidence inspiring.  I find in the smaller sizes I would often be placing them on 3 lobes in pin scars because of how wide they are.  More narrow cams like MC's don't have this problem.   Also something i've noticed with the single axle design of the master cam is they tent to have a rounder profile when retracted which goes in pin scars better than the longer oval profile of a dual axel cam like a C4 when it's a tight fit.  I notice it a lot with my .75 size.  

Chris Reyes · · Montclair, NJ · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 40
greggrylls wrote:

Agreed.  I love C4's,  placing in a splitter crack or a horizontal downward facing crack where they have the room they are super confidence inspiring.  I find in the smaller sizes I would often be placing them on 3 lobes in pin scars because of how wide they are.  More narrow cams like MC's don't have this problem.   Also something i've noticed with the single axle design of the master cam is they tent to have a rounder profile when retracted which goes in pin scars better than the longer oval profile of a dual axel cam like a C4 when it's a tight fit.  I notice it a lot with my .75 size.  

I'll third this and second the latter point. I've found that when my .75 c4 is a little fiddly the 4/5 MC fits really well and is really confidence inspiring. I picked up .5-3 c4 initially and am glad I did. Some partners aren't into the .3/.4 X4 over their c4s, but I feel like they're slightly more versatile.

This threads inspired me to grab a couple of c3s if anything and go play with some basics.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 478
Chris Reyes wrote:

I'll third this and second the latter point. I've found that when my .75 c4 is a little fiddly the 4/5 MC fits really well and is really confidence inspiring. I picked up .5-3 c4 initially and am glad I did. Some partners aren't into the .3/.4 X4 over their c4s, but I feel like they're slightly more versatile.

This threads inspired me to grab a couple of c3s if anything and go play with some basics.

I'll fourth it, I prefer narrower cams in .5 and below, I always seem to find placements that a C4 can't quite fit width wise in those sizes. 

On the .75 note, that's the largest totem I have and it's head width is narrower than my c4. In alpine climbing it's gone in a lot of awkard placements that a c4 just wasn't quite right. That said I wouldn't run out and buy doubles of totems.

I love having C3s, when my blue alien is just a hair too wide the green 0 has always been perfect. Just sling em a little longer so they don't walk, they definitely don't have the flexible stem advantage of MC/basics. I would not recommend going up to yellow either.

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70
David Kerkeslager wrote:

EDIT: One thing to note when comparing cam sizings is that Metolius reports effective range, while (AFAIK) every other manufacturer reports the full range of the cams, which is misleading because the full range includes ranges where the cam is so undercammed it won't work. Metolius' numbers don't look as good, but that's only because other manufacturers are reporting a misleading upper range number.

Maybe that was the case many years ago, but that has changed. At the bottom of the cams page and on each individual cam model page there is a link titled "Cam Range Chart". In this link you will find Metolius cam ranges in usable and maximum/minimum ranges in inches and millimeters. Very easy to line up what they sell with other brands this way. 

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530
David Kerkeslager wrote:

I guess what I don't understand about this line of reasoning is that there's nothing about the Totems' design that prevents you from using them in parallel cracks too. People keep saying they're a specialty piece, but they work in every placement a C4 would work in, so unless C4s are also specialty pieces, that doesn't make sense. Totems are strictly a more general piece than C4s because they work in a wider variety of placements. They work in flared cracks AND parallel cracks. If you can have cam that works in parallel AND flared cracks, and the difference in cost isn't an issue, I'm not sure why you'd choose a cam that only works in parallel cracks. Even if 95% of the cracks you see are perfectly parallel, that other 5% isn't nothing, and sometimes it's important.

Three reasons:

1) C4's also work in flared cracks, just not wildly flared ones- and even Totems have their limits here. 

2) Totem's are REALLY bulky and are much more complicated than C4s- this is what makes them a specialty piece. 

3) I've climbed several thousand pitches on gear, and I can't remember the last time a Totem would have been the difference between safety and injury/death on a route. Does it happen? Probably. Does it happen even 1% of the time? Probably not.

DrRockso · · Red River Gorge, KY · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 326

Kevin, see what you've started ;) 

Chris Reyes · · Montclair, NJ · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 40
anotherclimber wrote:

Maybe that was the case many years ago, but that has changed. At the bottom of the cams page and on each individual cam model page there is a link titled "Cam Range Chart". In this link you will find Metolius cam ranges in usable and maximum/minimum ranges in inches and millimeters. Very easy to line up what they sell with other brands this way. 

Interesting. I remember hearing about this, but I'd completely forgotten. Was thinking about replacing my x4 .1/.2 with MC equivalents because of the floppiness, but the range difference had me put it off. With some new math it's not as bad.

Mark Paulson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 80
John Wilder wrote:

Three reasons:

1) C4's also work in flared cracks, just not wildly flared ones- and even Totems have their limits here. 

2) Totem's are REALLY bulky and are much more complicated than C4s- this is what makes them a specialty piece. 

3) I've climbed several thousand pitches on gear, and I can't remember the last time a Totem would have been the difference between safety and injury/death on a route. Does it happen? Probably. Does it happen even 1% of the time? Probably not.

It seems the most ardent supporters of new(fangled) gear designs are quite often the least experienced climbers.  

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

2) Totem's are REALLY bulky and are much more complicated than C4s- this is what makes them a specialty piece. 

I acknowledge that they're bulkier, but that hasn't been a problem for me. As for being more complicated, sure, from an engineering perspective they are more complicated, but that doesn't really translate into them being more complicated to use.

Neither of these objections really makes it a "specialty piece" IMO. A specialty piece to me means that it is only useful in a specific situation. By similar logic I could say C4s are specialty pieces because of their weight, but I don't think that's what a "specialty piece" means.

3) I've climbed several thousand pitches on gear, and I can't remember the last time a Totem would have been the difference between safety and injury/death on a route. Does it happen? Probably. Does it happen even 1% of the time? Probably not.

This might be a product of the different rock we climb on, but in uneven cracks or horizontals, it's quite frequent that a placement isn't secure with a C4, but is with a Totem. It's true that there are almost always other placements available, but it's more difficult to find them. It's true that in those cases it's not the difference between safety and injury/death, but it IS the difference between a easy, pleasurable placement and searching for a good placement while the pump clock is ticking.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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