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Black totem craze?


Original Post
Sam Sala · · Denver · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 40

Just wondering what is so goddamned special about black totems that there have been people on waiting lists for months to get them, and it seems like the second they pop up anywhere, they are snatched off the market.

I read a brewer's quote once from GABF a few years ago...when asked his opinion on the most overrated beer at the time, he said something along the lines of "the one you have to wait in line longer than 5 minutes to get". Can't help but think the same here. Maybe I'm climbing the wrong routes, but are black totems actually that magical?!

Sam Cieply · · Venice, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 20

They're pretty super. I have 2   

Far more confidence inspiring than a TCU or c3 (less likely to walk), grippier than an x4/Alien, and you can load 2 or 3 lobes or use as an offset cam if you're feeling saucy.


Everett · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 25

I'm curious why, if people are selling them for $100 a pop here, Totem isn't squeezing them out faster than the other cams.

Anthony L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 25
Sam Sala wrote:

Just wondering what is so goddamned special about black totems that there have been people on waiting lists for months to get them, and it seems like the second they pop up anywhere, they are snatched off the market.

I read a brewer's quote once from GABF a few years ago...when asked his opinion on the most overrated beer at the time, he said something along the lines of "the one you have to wait in line longer than 5 minutes to get". Can't help but think the same here. Maybe I'm climbing the wrong routes, but are black totems actually that magical?!

I think it half has to do with totems being amazing and half having to do with modern-day consumer bullshit. 

Sam Sala · · Denver · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 40
Max Supertramp wrote:

yes.  they give a real feel of security in placements that I would not otherwise attempt.  the craze is pretty wild though, I will give you that  



If you don't want one, don't buy one?


Wasn't ever about not wanting one. Just curious about why there are months long waiting lists for them...guess I better find a partner with one to climb on so I can experience the magic first-hand.

Cameron Saul · · San Francisco · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 10

Totems in general are amazing.  I wish I could replace all my cams with totems.  They make offset cams almost obsolete.  Compare a #1 totem with a #1 c4 and the totem is better, but not by a huge amount.  Do the same between a black totem and a Mastercam, x4, or c3 of the same size - there's no contest.  

Just after I got one, I was climbing with a partner trying to push his grade.  We were using my gear, and I gave him a serious look - "don't fall on the black one, OK?"  he laughed.  Of course he fell on the black one.  He took a big old whip on it.  I think it was unintentional.  Maybe.  I was pretty miffed until I cleaned the cam - placed in a wonky pin scar - good as new.  Alrighty then.  

YMMV, yer gonna die, etc. 

Mike Hazard · · Ballston Lake, NY · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 300

They just feel super bomber for their size compared to something like a yellow x4. I have both but I always save the Totems for the crux. 

Sam Sala · · Denver · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 40
Cameron Saul wrote:

Totems in general are amazing.  I wish I could replace all my cams with totems.  They make offset cams almost obsolete.  Compare a #1 totem with a #1 c4 and the totem is better, but not by a huge amount.  Do the same between a black totem and a Mastercam, x4, or c3 of the same size - there's no contest.  

Just after I got one, I was climbing with a partner trying to push his grade.  We were using my gear, and I gave him a serious look - "don't fall on the black one, OK?"  he laughed.  Of course he fell on the black one.  He took a big old whip on it.  I think it was unintentional.  Maybe.  I was pretty miffed until I cleaned the cam - placed in a wonky pin scar - good as new.  Alrighty then.  

YMMV, yer gonna die, etc. 

Good feedback. Thanks for that!

My first gear fall was onto a purple TCU in a manky horizontal crack...I guess I have a different appreciation for (or maybe trust in?) TCUs than some. But I'm also a heathen who uses a non-belay-specific locker on my grigri, definitely YGD in the making.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,649
Anthony Lubetski wrote:

I think it half has to do with totems being amazing and half having to do with modern-day consumer bullshit. 

Nailed it.

Colonel Mustard · · Sacramento, CA · Joined Sep 2005 · Points: 1,186

If you don’t want to complete the set then you don’t exist.

Caleb Schwarz · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 115

So I don't have a famed black, but I do have most of the other colors.

I was incredibly skeptical about totems as a whole. I thought they were gimmicky and overpriced. After getting a good deal on them and taking them out a few times, I am incredibly impressed. They place just about anywhere. If you ever get the chance, I highly suggest walking around the base of a crag with totems and other cams of the same size (c4, X4, mastercams) and find the weirdest placements you can find ground level and you'll see how inspiring they are. I hate needless hype and overpriced gear, but I have been so far very impressed with them.


(edit: all of this being said, there's a reason C4's and TCU's have been so popular for so long. They really do work for 95% of placements. Totems just happen to work in 99% and feel stronger in each.)

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480

I have a whole set, black-orange, and every placement feels bomber. You gotta try them out and decide for yourself.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 195
Colonel Mustard wrote:

If you don’t want to complete the set then you don’t exist.

Gotta catch ‘em all!

In all seriousness, totems live up to the hype, especially in slick/funky rock, and so most people want a full set.  For some reason, those seems to be the most outstripped in terms of supply vs demand, but the rest of the sizes sell out rather quickly as well, especially if there’s a sale.  They’re a small Spanish company and everything is handmade, so there’s only so many they can make.

Brad Johnson · · Charlotte, NC · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 0

You guys carrying doubles, or use c4 for the doubles? 

Live Perched · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

After waiting on list for a few months I got one.  The one negative is being small and all black/ dark grey they are a bit tough to eyeball in a placement.  That said the do seem to fit better in spots where a 1# Metolious or Green C3 fits. 

Anybody take a fall on one yet?

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 124
Brad Johnson wrote:

You guys carrying doubles, or use c4 for the doubles? 

I can't speak for everyone, but I carry doubles.

Don Ferris III · · Eldorado Springs · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 175

I definitely prefer the black totem over all other similar sized cams that I've used.  I still don't want to fall on it but if I'm gunna fall on a tiny cam the Black Totem is it!

Cameron Saul · · San Francisco · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 10
Live Perched wrote:

After waiting on list for a few months I got one.  The one negative is being small and all black/ dark grey they are a bit tough to eyeball in a placement.  That said the do seem to fit better in spots where a 1# Metolious or Green C3 fits. 

Anybody take a fall on one yet?

My climbing partner took about a 35ft fall on one.  No visible damage to the cam; lobes fine, cables straight.  Probably 100ft of rope out, so the fall factor was low.  10/10 would whip again. 

Caleb Schwarz · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 115
Brad Johnson wrote:

You guys carrying doubles, or use c4 for the doubles? 

C4 and x4 doubles

Jake Thomson · · Yosemite · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 5

they're pretty cool,

for some reason though if I'm climbing with someone who has them asking if we should bring a rack of totems I still don't know how i feel about it. something in me still just feels like I'm at home sinking in a c4....maybe I'm just dumb about it, i don't know. I guess in my opinion for 98% of free climbing you'll be fine sinking a blue or green alien instead of a black totem (the black totem does fit in between those two sizes as well which is convenient sometimes). but it does "feel" bomber for sure. my buddy always swore on taking a black totem on every climb we did, i did seem to always find a spot for it. i wouldn't replace my rack with them or buy a rack just because they're the new hottest thing, and that goes for the black as well, but for aid climbing they're SUPER handy though. if you need a set of offset cams anyways, get em and you have a set of both normal and offsets. 

that being said, i think the only reason we are having this debate is because the "scarcity marketing" bullshit they are pulling does definitely create a frenzy among climbers, and its hard to tell if that frenzy is a result of their marketing scheme working, or the product actually being legit. and i think its a good thing that some people are hesitant to this. I'd really like to see totem start actually producing them in sufficient numbers and stop playing this game, its starting to grow old. 

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 486
Brad Johnson wrote:

You guys carrying doubles, or use c4 for the doubles? 

I use basics for doubles to loose fingers for weight saving and C4 for thin hands. Personally I'd rather have more overlap of sizes in fingers and smaller. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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