Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Narrow head, durable.
Cons: A little stiff, short sling.
Best Uses: Aid climbing, big wall climbing, trad climbing.
Manufacturer: Metolius Climbing
The Metolius Master Cam is not only maybe the best small camming device for the money, it is one of the best smaller s.l.c.d.'s (spring loaded camming devices) at any price. It is the first climbing cam in years to seriously challenge the CCH Alien for the title of "best cam for shallow and awkward placements." It has a narrow head, which makes it easy to get in pin scars, and it comes with all the other benefits of a single stem unit.
For a long time I didn't have a single Metolius cam on my rack. But after years of only using the CCH Alien for small placements, I am now embracing more Master Cams and they are becoming one of my favorite pieces of climbing gear. I still keep a set or two of Aliens because they get in some placements better. But overall Master Cams feel more bomber and are much more durable. While the Black Diamond Camalot C3 has an ever more narrow head, it also is not as stable or as good in awkward placements. They are flexible, but not quite as flexible as the Wild County Zero. So overall, they do a lot of things well without having any big downsides which make them an overall solid cam. Best of all, they are affordable and relatively easy to find (not always the case with Aliens).
View our complete Camming Device Review to see how this climbing cam compared to others. Also, see our Camming Device Buying Advice for what to look for when choosing cams.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Metolius Master Cams have a very narrow head width. In some sizes they are even narrower than Aliens. This means they are more bomber in really shallow placements. Also, the metal in Cams is harder than than that of Aliens. This means that the Metolius cams will likely be more durable. That said, part of what makes the Aliens stick so well in little placements is the soft metal, so there is a pro and a con there. The Master Cam stem is flexible but more rigid than other single stem cams like the Wild Country Zero or Alien. This means the cam is a little more stable in the hand and easier to retract, especially over time when the cams get more sticky. The sling is very small and thin. This means that on a big wall rack with 3-4 sets of cams, you have a lot less bulk than a Black Diamond Camalot C3 or CCH Alien.
Metolius uses a unique "Range Finder" color coded system to help you know if the cam is bomber or not. If the green dots are touching the rock, the cam is bomber. If the yellow or red dots are touching, it's not. This is very useful for beginning leaders. I didn't use it much but it is a good reminder about optimal cam placement.
Most of my likes have their own drawbacks. For example, the more rigid stem on this device means it is more likely to walk when the climbing rope moves and it does not bend edges as well as the Aliens or Zeros. More importantly, the stem width a few inches below the cams is a little wide (there is a slightly bulky piece of aluminum there). In certain placements, this keeps the cam from being placed as deeply as you could with an Alien.
The shorter sling on the unit is great for racking, but it means that the cam will walk more and therefore you are more likely to need a quickdraw than with units with longer slings and more flexible stems. I would prefer it if the sling were another inch or two longer.
Not sure if this is a like or dislike
The cam "wires" are made of Kevlar. Metolius says these are much stronger than typical wires. However, time will tell if they are more durable. Anecdotal reports from El Cap are that there are more than a few of these getting fixed with broken Kevlar wires.
— Chris McNamara
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: April 10, 2012
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