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When to use what cam?


Original Post
Daniel T · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 35

I am a little confused as to when I should use an X4 cam vs a C3 cam? I understand they have different number of cam lobes so that's not the question. But rather what kind of scenario (pictures perfected) would you want to use a X4 vs a C3 and vice versa?  Also where do Totems and Aliens fit into this category?


TIA

Daniel

cyclestupor · · Woodland Park, Colorado · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 91

C3s have a very narrow head width.   That is the distance from the end of the axle to the other end is small.   That allows them to be used in shallow cracks or pockets where other cams won't fit.   That said, the fixe alien revolution cams, and Totem cams are almost as narrow as c3s.

Max Rausch · · Portland, OR · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 145

Honestly this is something you just have to figure out yourself through trial and error. 


X4's will fit most uniform placements. (Non flaring, with both sides of the crack parallel.) C3's are much narrower and can slot like a nut into odd sized cracks. I carry both, and have whipped onto each. 

Greg Gavin · · SLC, UT · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 766

Aid climbing really helps you in this regard. After which you'll be a much more proficient, and safe trad climber. Go aid a hand full of pitches you'll be glad you did.

Daniel T · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 35

I guess I should clarify my questions a bit more. Lets stay focused on the C3 and X4 for now. I a very new trad climber, I lead my first pitch this past week while on vacation.



Can both be used in vertical placements?

Can both be used in horizontal placements?

When someone says shallow pockets are we talking about depth or length? Depth would be how far from the surface of the rock the cam is placed and length would be how long (left to right or top to bottom) the crack is?


Mobes Mobesely · · MDI · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 865
SeƱor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Daniel T wrote:

I guess I should clarify my questions a bit more. Lets stay focused on the C3 and X4 for now. I a very new trad climber, I lead my first pitch this past week while on vacation.



Can both be used in vertical placements?

Can both be used in horizontal placements?

When someone says shallow pockets are we talking about depth or length? Depth would be how far from the surface of the rock the cam is placed and length would be how long (left to right or top to bottom) the crack is?


If you just led your very first climb you would benefit from just climbing with a fairly simple set of choices and focusing on getting the right SIZE and placing it correctly. You shouldn't be on climbs where your only option is to shoehorn a c3 into a tiny little pocket. 

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 10

I usually just go with the one that fits the best... I'm sure one of the enginerds on here will tell you "Oh these particular cams are best for limestone/granite etc"... That is probably true, but in practice I would rather have a cam that better fits the crack than one that doesn't quite fit but which has softer metal or whatever the enginerds geek out about.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

I think having more cam lobes in contact with the rock is better. If a four-lobe unit fits well, that would be my first choice.

BrokenChairs ~ · · Sultan, WA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 235

My opinion is that if you can get a four lobed cam to fit it is preferable to three lobes.  I use C3 only when I can't get a four lobe unit to fit.  


From the Metolius warning booklet that comes with cams: "Choose the largest unit that will fit the placement and always opt for a 4cam unit over a 3cam unit if it will fit.  If the placement is deep enough to accommodate a fat cam, even better."

https://www.metoliusclimbing.com/pdf/cam-manual.pdf

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 275

Use whichever works the best in all cases with any protection.  

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0

If you are deciding what to buy for free climbing, I think the X4 is generally far more versatile. 

There are placements where C3 will work but an X4 will not, but these are going to be rare.  My thinking is that the flexibility and additional cam on the X4 will often be beneficial, much more often than the narrow size of the C3.

Scottmx426 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 0

Edit: C3s are certainly not MUCH narrower than the X4.  Less than 10%? Put them side by side and you’ll see. Also for flaring placements the X4 is available in offsets.  The X4 stems are flexible single stem and articulate in all planes/directions where the C3s double stem is fairly rigid laterally. I believe the X4s are just newer technology/design.  Handle them together and you’ll learn a lot. Which is better may depend on where you’re climbing as rock types and features differ significantly.

 
Jim Turner · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 305

The difference is bigger in the .2 and .3 sizes.  The C3’s are about 20% narrower than the X4’s.

OP, in general both cams can be used in both horizontal and vertical crack.   The C3 fits shallower vertical cracks, narrower horizontal cracks, and smaller holes.   (By shallower, I mean measured from face of rock to back of crack.  By narrower I mean measured from left to right.)   In shallow vertical cracks, the X4 might have its outer lobe sticking out of the crack and so not touching rock, whereas the C3 sinks all the way in with all of its lobes contacting rock. In narrow horizontal cracks or small holes, you sometimes physically can’t fit the wider X4, but can the C3.  Hope this helps.


Hayden robinson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 90

Ditch those shit C3s and X4s and buy a set of totems. They fit like cam magic in places I have had to hammer in a sawed of angle piton or beak in the past. I used a double set of totems on a thirty hour push of zodiac this fall and they made the crux C3 pitches feel like C2 and they made the leads go so much quicker. I can't explain how they work but they are C1 bomber in the most flared shit pin scars. They are freaking awesome 

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 430

X4's are the more general purpose cam. When you can get one, they are the first off the rack.

When you need a C3 or other x3 unit, you will know because the X4 will not fit.

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 135

I don't carry C3s, but I do have a couple of TCUs.  There are just some placements where the three lobe cams bit better.  I usually try to set a quad first, but if it just does not look solid (one lobe is tipped out, it looks like it might walk...), lots of times the tri will fit perfectly.

Dr Strangelove · · Bend, OR · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 30

Basically if you have a placement where either a c3 or an x4 (of equivalent size) will fit, always go with the x4

Scottmx426 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 0
Jim Turner wrote:

The difference is bigger in the .2 and .3 sizes.  The C3’s are about 20% narrower than the X4’s.

OP, in general both cams can be used in both horizontal and vertical crack.   The C3 fits shallower vertical cracks, narrower horizontal cracks, and smaller holes.   (By shallower, I mean measured from face of rock to back of crack.  By narrower I mean measured from left to right.)   In shallow vertical cracks, the X4 might have its outer lobe sticking out of the crack and so not touching rock, whereas the C3 sinks all the way in with all of its lobes contacting rock. In narrow horizontal cracks or small holes, you sometimes physically can’t fit the wider X4, but can the C3.  Hope this helps.


That’s weird. My .1, .2 and .3 are all the same width... within a millimeter or two. 


geoff georges · · Seattle, Wa. · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 3,917

My 2 cents. 

C3 are still the narrow and smallest cam. I have fallen on all sizes, a couple of good falls on green and purple. I would not want to fall more then a very short fall on the grey. It is very important to place them well on competent rock. they have a tendency to rotate out of a placement, I have yanked them out when they looked ok. As far as horizontal placements, you have to get them just right because they are stiff. I have 2 sets of them and all work for about 15 years. 

I have never bought the X4's, but have a set of them from cleaning off routes and have grown to like them. The red one is a great small cam. The green one is a bit stiff and flops over when pulling trigger.

 I have burned through a set of Metolious master cams and a set of their offsets, all have bit the dust, cams jammed, cords broken in less then 10 years.

I have destroyed all my Aliens in about 15 years, cams degrade, wires break.

I have a set of regular Totems,  Totem Basics and offset Totems- so far these are my favorites, going strong at 5 years.

Daniel T · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 35

I am not in the market for buying cams at the moment.  I am still trying to wrap my head around all the different styles of cams and their uses.


Why is there 4 different styles of cams from BD on the market? Even the aliens have several different types. At least Totem has 2 types of cams available. It makes it a little easier to get started in the mix.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Trad Climbing
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