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Big Bros vs Big Cams


Original Post
Greg R · · Durango CO · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 0

Looking for some advice from folks who have used big bros. I rarely place my 4.5 or #5 camalots and hate to carry them. Do the big bros have the versatility that I could do without the cams. 

mountainhick · · Black Hawk, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 120

The great advantage to larger cams is that it is easy to walk them up with you as you go.

Sean M · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 25

My two cents: you really shouldn't be carrying protection of any kind larger than a #3 up routes unless you know you need it. Guidebooks and/or mountain project will *usually* indicate if a #4 or larger is required. It is indeed annoying when you're on a long multipitch and only one pitch requires a #5 or something, but you can always make the second carry it for the rest of the climb. I owned a couple big bros for a while, but never got good enough at placing them one-handed, and eventually sold them. They certainly don't have more versatility than a large cam. They are lighter, and I don't know about expansion range difference, but the crack has to be exceedingly parallel for them to feel secure. My advice would be to keep your cams but stop bringing them up climbs.

Greg R · · Durango CO · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 0
Sean M wrote:

My two cents: you really shouldn't be carrying protection of any kind larger than a #3 up routes unless you know you need it. Guidebooks and/or mountain project will *usually* indicate if a #4 or larger is required. It is indeed annoying when you're on a long multipitch and only one pitch requires a #5 or something, but you can always make the second carry it for the rest of the climb. I owned a couple big bros for a while, but never got good enough at placing them one-handed, and eventually sold them. They certainly don't have more versatility than a large cam. They are lighter, and I don't know about expansion range difference, but the crack has to be exceedingly parallel for them to feel secure. My advice would be to keep your cams but stop bringing them up climbs.

Thanks, I didn't mean to imply I drug them every climb, but rather that they get used rarely, (sometimes only once on a multipitch) when the Climb dictates. My regular partner is a petite "senior" and I try not to load her down with the gear I don't want to carry. So I would be happy to switch to big bros if I could reasonably expect to be able to find secure placements even if they weren't as convenient. The question is more about whether they are a very specialized piece of gear or if with some care a placement can usually be found. 

Petroclimbsagain · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 0

Stick with cams, unless the climb is offwidth, and dictates that you sling tube chocks.  

jay2718 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2009 · Points: 5

I got a purple and later a green big bro for the same reasons. They are easier to carry, don't hang up on the rock as you move, and have a wider range than any given cam. On the other hand, as others have noted, they do not place as easily and securely as cams. Unlike cams, it is not that easy to place them from a tenuous stance, on difficult climbing. They are best when you can get a secure enough stance to use two hands to place, the rock is relatively smooth and parallel, like wide granite cracks. An example of a crack they worked great in is near the top of the wide section of the Open Book in Idyllwild, CA. An example of a crack they were more difficult to place is Arachnid in Red River Gorge, KY. If you look at photos of these two climbs it should give you an idea of where they work well and don't work as well. Overall, I recommend bros for protection on relatively easy wide climbing as an alternative to just running it out. If you are climbing at your limit when you hope to place a piece in a wide section, cams work better, and are worth the extra hassle and weight.

El Gato · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

Big Bros take 2 hands to place as well as you have to make sure there are no "nubb'ns" for them to be placed against decreasing the chance it will stay. DMM is coming out with a 7 and 8 cam in May and there are other options like Merlin and VG's. Think of a big bro as another tool in your tool box to use when needed. I have a few of them (4) and only place them when I don't have a cam in that size to protect a section of climbing. For speed, safety and ease of use cam's will always remain on top. I'd place a 4-6 cam way before I'd place the smallest BB. 

One caveat is VG's do sometimes take 2 hands to place as well while Merlins you can still manage one hand placement when needed. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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