The Best Climbing Camming Device Review

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Credit: Robert Beno
We took the 17 best spring-loaded camming devices (usually just called climbing cams) and put them in head-to-head competition in hundreds of placements.

We scored them on how well they did in parallel cracks, flared cracks, tight placements, horizontal placements, free climbing and aid climbing. We also scored them on how prone they were to walking and how durable they were. After months of tests we picked our Editors' Choice for small cams for aid climbing and free climbing.

Check out our complete climbing Camming Device Buying Advice to learn about how to buy a climbing cam. Also check out our Best Rock Climbing Rack and Gear List

Read the full review below >

Review by: and Robert Beno

Top Ranked Climbing Cams Displaying 1 - 5 of 17 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Black Diamond Camalot X4
Black Diamond Camalot X4
Read the Review
Video video review
Black Diamond Camalot C4
Black Diamond Camalot C4
Read the Review
Video video review
Metolius Master Cam
Metolius Master Cam
Read the Review
Video video review
Metolius Offset Master Cam
Metolius Offset Master Cam
Read the Review
Video video review
Wild Country Zero
Wild Country Zero
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award   
Street Price Varies $52 - $315
Compare at 9 sellers
Varies $45 - $120
Compare at 9 sellers
Varies $45 - $60
Compare at 9 sellers
Varies $45 - $324
Compare at 8 sellers
Varies $60 - $65
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score 
100
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88
100
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88
100
0
85
100
0
83
100
0
78
Editors' Rating
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User Rating
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100% recommend it (4/4)
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93% recommend it (13/14)
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60% recommend it (6/10)
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100% recommend it (4/4)
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83% recommend it (5/6)
Pros Narrow head gets in tricky placements other cams can't, great holding power.Great range, bomber, relatively light.Narrow head, durable.Great for tiny placements, narrow head, durable, solid stem.Very flexible, extendable sling, stable
Cons Expensive, heavier than most other cams.None.A little stiff, short sling.Tend to walk a little, hard metal doesnt "stick" as well to rock.Expensive, can feel a little flimsy
Best Uses Aid climbing, free climbing.Trad climbing, big wall climbing.Aid climbing, big wall climbing, trad climbing.Big wall climbing, aid climbing, cragging.Traditional climbing in general. Especially useful in horizontals like you find in the Gunks.
Date Reviewed Sep 04, 2013Sep 18, 2013Sep 04, 2013Sep 17, 2014Jan 28, 2010
Weighted Scores Black Diamond Camalot X4 Black Diamond Camalot C4 Metolius Master Cam Metolius Offset Master Cam Wild Country Zero
Flared Cracks - 15%
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
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7
Horizontal Cracks - 10%
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
10
Tight Placements - 15%
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
Walking - 15%
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
Durability - 15%
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
5
Aid Climbing - 5%
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
7
Free Climbing - 10%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
Compactness Lightweight - 15%
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
Product Specs Black Diamond Camalot X4 Black Diamond Camalot C4 Metolius Master Cam Metolius Offset Master Cam Wild Country Zero
Range
Tested size 0.75" 1.45-2.5= 1.05 0.75" 0.75" 0.75"
Weight (SuperTopo Scale) 3.1 oz 5.5oz (#2) 2.5 oz 2.8 oz 2.5 oz
Head Width 1.28" 1.28" 1.44"
Length (from top to bottom of clip point) 6.8in 7.6" 7.6" 8.2"
Sling Length 3.75in 3.2" 3.2" 7.0"
Stem width above trigger 0.42" 0.42" 0.33"
Single or U-stem? Single Single Single Single Single
Single or Double Axle? Single Double Single Single Single
Extendable Sling? No no no no yes
Sling material Dyneema Nylon Dyneema Dyneema Dyneema
High Clip in for Aid? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cam Stops? No Yes
Strength 8-14kn

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Metolius Master Cam
$60
100
0
85
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Totem Cam
$70
100
0
75
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  • 5
CCH Alien
$62-69
100
0
75
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  • 5
CAMP Tricam
$23-67
100
0
67
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  • 5
Wild Country Zero
$60-70
100
0
78
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  • 5
CCH Hybrid Alien
$62-69
100
0
78
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  • 4
  • 5
Metolius Ultralight TCU
$55
100
0
70
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  • 4
  • 5
DMM Dragon Cam
$75-80
100
0
78
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  • 5
Black Diamond Camalot C3
$70
100
0
75
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  • 4
  • 5
Omega Pacific Link Cam
$98-108
100
0
68
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  • 5
Metolius Ultralight Powercam
$62.50
100
0
72
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  • 5
Metolius Super Cam
$70-90
100
0
70
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  • 5
Wild Country Technical Friend
100
0
69
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CAMP Dyneema Tricam
$24
100
0
67
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Rock Empire Robot Cam
$40-50
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We score both bigger cams and smaller cams in the review. We feel most climbers should not worry about what single set of cams to get. Instead, you should think about what set of small cams you want (sizes .33-1.25") and what kind of medium/big cams you want (sizes 1.5-5+").

Flared Cracks
Flared cracks usually come in the form of pin scars in Yosemite and Zion. However, they are found just about everywhere to some extent. By far the best cams for flared cracks are offset or hybrid cams. The Metolius Offset Master Cam narrow head width scored the highest. For pin scars, it is pretty awesome, especially because the flexible stem helps it get inside deep "boxed out" scars.

The Camalot C4 and the Totem Cams performed the best of the medium sized cams. Neither has offset lobes but both had relatively narrow heads and flexible stems to help the cams grab.

Horizontal Placements and Awkward Placements
Cams with flexible stems and narrow stems did the best in horizontal cracks or weird pods. The Wild Country Zero had the most flexible stem and narrowest stem and did the best. It's the Gumby of cams it cam bend to get in just about any orientation. The Totem Cam also performed very well as it was the most flexible bigger cam. The Master Cam was stiffer and had a piece of metal in the stem that held back its performance just a little. Cams with stiffer stems caused the cam to be more levered out. They also got more battered when either weighted or fallen on. For example, when bounce testing TCU's, their cables got warped faster than other cams. All cams get a little worked when you bounce on them, but flexible stems did better.

Tight Placements
Cams with the narrowest heads got in tight placements the best. A clear standout is the Black Diamond Camalot C3 that was 10-40 percent narrower than the rest of the small cams. In spots like The Nose's Great Roof, you can really shove them up in tiny little spots and feel secure. Second place was the Master Cam and Offset Master Cam. The TCU's were the widest and really didn't get in tight spots that well. The Wild Country Zero was one of the wider cams in bigger sizes. However, it was also the smallest cam in its smallest sizes. You really need to hold in your hand the smallest sizes to believe just how tiny they are.

For the bigger cams, the Camalots, Totem Cams and Dragons all performed about equally as well.

Walking
The clear winner in this category for small cams is the Wild Country Zero. Not only does it have a very flexible stem, it has a sling that can be extended. Of course you can always attach a runner to any piece, but having this sling means it is much faster to make the piece safe (and you have to carry fewer draws and runners). The C3 and TCU, with only three cams, stiff stems and short slings walked the most of the small cams.

For the bigger cams the clear winner is the Totem Cam. It is way more flexible than any other cam. Another high scorer is the Dragon Cam because it has a single stem and an extendable sling built in.

Durability
All cams eventually get beat up, but the Aliens showed the most wear the fastest. Their soft metal caused the cams to lose their teeth and become difficult to open. Their stems, however, were well protected with a protective sheath and even after a ton of bounce testing the stems usually stayed in shape. The Wild Country Zero stems, on the other hand, are much more delicate with their exposed cables; you really had to take care of them. Most other cams were about the same for durability. The TCU was the most burly because it had a beefy cable and lasted the longest. The Master Cams have a very durable stem and cams but their Kevlar cam "wires" are still of unknown durablility.

Editors' Choice: Medium and Large Cams
The Black Diamond Camalot C4 is the clear winner. These cams are awesome. We found them to be the most versatile and reliable cam that we tested. Free climbing, aid climbing, anchor setting, you name it. These cams will get the job done for you in good style. Their double axle design gives them a good range, though not the greatest, and we found them to be a top performer in awkward placements. All in all, these cams are just bomber; durable, confidence-inspiring and easy to handle.

Editors' Choice: Small Cam
The Black Diamond Camalot X4 barely edges out the Metolius Master Cam. It got into tricky placements incredibly well and has great range and holding power.

Best Buy
The Metolius Master Cam is by far the best value. It scored high in every category, was bomber, durable and also one of the cheapest cams. In fact, it won our Editors' Choice Award in 2010-2012. It's tricky to decide how many offset pieces to carry versus regular models. We usually carry two sets of regular cams and one set of offsets in most applications. However, on a wall we would bring two sets of offsets and two sets of regular, especially in the small sizes.

Top Pick
We give a Top Pick award to the Metolius Offset Master Cam. It is our favorite small cam for aid climbing. Free climbers should also carry a set or two of these if they climb in an area with lots of pin scars (Yosemite or Zion).

Recommended
Most other cams we tested had something they were best at:

DMM Dragon Cam - lightest and best for alpine rock and ice.
Wild Country Zero - smallest cam and best for horizontal placements.
Black Diamond Camalot C3 - best in tiny spots.

Chris McNamara and Robert Beno
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