Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Great range, bomber, relatively light.
Best Uses: Trad climbing, big wall climbing.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Black Diamond Camalots are likely the most widely applicable and quality cam on the market, winning them our Editors' Choice Award. Their double axle design provides a good range, making each unit suitable for a wide range of possible placements; plus we found them to be the one of the best cams we tested for shallow and awkward placements. The flexible stem helps cut down on the cams’ walking and the thumb loop at the end of the stem makes the cams easy to place while simultaneously providing a high clip-in point for aid climbing. The sling is made of durable nylon as opposed to skinny Dyneema, ensuring a longer lifespan of the sling itself. Couple that with the high durability of the metal parts and these cams will last you a long time. We find Camalots to work equally well in almost all rock types, though for really, really soft sandstone, you may want a cam with a slightly wider cam lobe such as Metolius’ Super Cam or Fat Cam (not reviewed). Not the lightest cam out there, also not the cheapest, but in our opinion, the most reliable and bomber camming unit you can buy. If you need a super light cam for a back country adventure, or just prefer the U-stem design, we recommend Metolius Ultralight Powercam. For a cam the with the biggest range try Omega Pacific Link Cam.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
In many peoples’ minds Black Diamond Camalots have become the gold standard for camming units. Their double axle design allows each cam to have a good range, increasing the chances that you’ll find a piece that fits on the first try. Camalots used to have the biggest range on the market, but with the advent of Omega Pacific Link Cams and Metolius’ Super Cam, Camalots now land about in the middle of the pack. That said, we found that Camalots are one of the best cams we tested to fit into awkward and shallow placements commonly found in granite climbing areas. There’s a reason BD Camalots seem to be the most widely used cams in Yosemite.
The thumb loop design of the flexible single stem makes these cams easy to handle and place, while also providing a higher clip-in point to get those extra inches when aid climbing. The stem is flexible, allowing for horizontal placements and also making the cams more forgiving in terms of walking. While most cam manufacturers are moving toward skinnier Dyneema slings, the limitations of the thumb loop have kept Camalots with a more durable nylon webbing sling. (The Re-sling Black Diamond Camalot C4 and C3 page has a photo essay on why Camalots use the slings and cables they do.) The trigger action is smooth and easy to operate and once placed these cams just look, feel, and are bomber.
AS mentioned before, the nylon sling on Camalots is more durable than the skinny Dyneema slings on many cams today. The cam lobes are more durable than other cams we tested and the stem is less subject to deformation when weighted in an improper placement.
Not much to gripe about here. The only real complaints that we have are that Camalots are not the lightest cam and are also not the least expensive. They stand at about the middle of the pack in both regards. We also wouldn’t mind if there was an extendable sling on these as it is a convenient feature for free climbing. However, the limitations of the thumb loop make it likely impossible to incorporate an extendable sling into the design.
Free Climbing, Aid Climbing, Big Walls, Alpine.
The C4 is priced in the middle. They are not a bargain cam but not too expensive until you get to the larger sizes, where they get spendy fast. Since they are so durable, I consider them a good value.
To get your most bang for your buck, buy the Camalot C4 Package.
— Chris McNamara and Robert Beno
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: April 18, 2012
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