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Black Diamond Camalot C3 Review

   

Climbing Cams

  • Currently 3.7/5
Overall avg rating 3.7 of 5 based on 15 reviews. Most recent review: September 11, 2013
Street Price:   Varies from $45 - $60 | Compare prices at 7 resellers
Pros:  Narrowest cam head of any small cam, durable stem
Cons:  Expensive, tend to walk, not great for flares
Best Uses:  Traditional climbing on thin cracks
User Rating:     
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 (3.6 of 5) based on 14 reviews
Recommendations:  71% of reviewers (10/14) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ September 11, 2013  
Overview
With an extremely narrow head, this Black Diamond cam is one great small camming device at getting in tight spots. It has only three lobes that pack tightly together with no space in between. The good news is that it is easy to get them in tiny pods. The bad news is that these cams tend to walk more than others due to the narrow head and stiff stem. The stiff stem also makes them awkward in weird aid placements where there is more "torquing out." In those applications a more flexible stem is better. It can be nice to have a set of these on El Cap, but we prefer the new Black Diamond Camalot X4 which is only a little wider and has much more holding power and versatility.

I really like this climbing cam in some applications but am not ready to commit my whole rack to them like I have with the Black Diamond Camalot C4 for the bigger sizes. I prefer a four-cam design like the Metolius Master Cam or the X4 that feels more bomber, is less likely to walk, and works in pin scars better. But if you climb in an area with lots of small parallel-sided pods, these may be the best for that specific application. They are more expensive than the rest of the cams but should have above average durability.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
The Black Diamond Camalot C3 has the narrowest head by far, which makes it the best cam at getting in tight spots. It also goes down to a really small size, almost as small as as the Wild Country Zero. When you place a cam that small it can be scary to fall on. However, it is much better than no cam at all and many other cams won't get in spots so small. The stem is durable; you can bounce test these and contort them and they generally hold up well. The trigger is easy to use and has a nice big comfy spot for your hand. This is one of the easiest small cams to clean.

Dislikes
The stiff and burly stem, although durable, makes them awkward in some shallow placements such as pin scars. They can be a little tricky to get in a placement and, when weighted, there is more "torquing out." In those applications a more flexible stem is better. This cam was the mostly likely to walk for four reasons: stiff stem, narrow head, short sling and only three cams. Yes you can always add runners, but it would be nice if this cam had a longer sling. The three-cam design also means that it does not work well in flared cracks where four-cam units do much better.

Best Application
The C3 is ideal for places with small, parallel-sided pods. It is not ideal for aid climbing; better for free climbing.

Value
These are the most expensive small cams we tested, $10-15 dollars more than most small cams, which means they will cost another $100-plus if you want a double set. The best deal is to buy the Camalot C3 Package which can save you 20%.

Video on the Design of the C3:

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: September 11, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (3.6)

71% of 14 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
15 Total Ratings
5 star: 20%  (3)
4 star: 33%  (5)
3 star: 33%  (5)
2 star: 13%  (2)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 14 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Jan 19, 2010 - 01:04am
rgold · Climber · Poughkeepsie, NY
Like Chip, I've used them mostly in the Gunks where they are, by and large, better than Aliens. I've had both on my rack for a while and hardly a climbing day goes by when I can't get an Alien in, and then succeed with a C3. If you climb where cracks are not merely thin, but also irregular and featured, then head width really matters and C3's win on this. I've seen a few climbs whose protection rating goes from R-X to PG depending on whether or not you're carrying C3's.

I also have to say that I have no problem with the strong springs and the relatively stiff stem. It makes the pieces easier to maneuver in tight places and makes them easier to clean, providing some advantages to offset the lack of flexibility. They don't gum up as badly as Aliens and you don't have to worry about them blowing apart when you sneeze.

My one complaint is in the sizing; I feel there's a real gap between the red and the yellow, a gap that is filled by a green Alien, a very useful size back East. If it wasn't for this I'd give 'em 5 stars for the type of climbing I do most.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 15, 2011 - 12:15pm
rhyang · Climber · SJC
For trad I mostly prefer master cams these days, but these are nice as a second set. The stiffness sometimes has its advantages, like when placing them with a reach. I like the thumbloop for use with gloves (ice / mixed climbing). The narrow head width comes in handy sometimes. I also prefer the range of the 00 C3 vs. the 00 master cam.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 11, 2011 - 09:46am
colatownkid · Climber · Alabama
Without a doubt my go-to piece for small gear. I've used mastercams, TCUs, and aliens, and I'm still a fan of the C3 over the rest of the competition.

On first trigger pull, they do seem a bit stiff, but after trying it about two more times, you quickly get over this fact. The stiffness of the stem makes them easier to place, manipulate, and clean in tight spots and I haven't had a problem with not being able to see around the stem to inspect the placement. I have been climbing on C3s for over 2 years and have only had 2 "almost stuck" scenarios. In other words, I've had them walk, but that was almost always due to pilot error and improper application of slings.

I'm a huge fan of the ridiculously small size and the narrow head width. I can find a placement for these in things that would otherwise be unprotectable. I'm no aid climber, so I can't speak to that, but for free climbing, I've got serious respect for the C3s ability to repeatedly save my ass. As rgold stated, they can turn an R/X climb into something reasonable, and I've used them in this application repeatedly. I've whipped on everything down to the 00 (purple). I've found them equally useful on the Southern sandstone and NC granite I climb most often as well as at the Gunks, the Red, the New, Red Rocks, the Black Canyon, and all along the front range.

As noted by others, my only gripe is the sizing between the red and the yellow (the two largest). I feel like there could be one more size just in between these two.

Edited to add: I field-repaired the yellow one over breakfast using a multi-tool in about 15 minutes. They're not that hard to fix if you run into trigger issues. They just take a little patience.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 10, 2011 - 02:43pm
freerider · Climber
on NNL and the Muir these were hands down the most useful pieces of gear, and we carried some aliens too.
they are awesome in very small pin scars that are not too flared.of course the stem could be less bulky.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 8, 2010 - 02:48pm
Captain...or Skully · Climber · Where are you bound?
I'm just not a fan.
I'd seek other cam options first.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 25, 2010 - 12:22pm
sac · Climber · Sun Coast B.C.
Put these on my rack, and took my aliens off to see how they were.
Definately no substitute to Aliens.
Saying that, I found many placements where aliens would not have fit.
Bottom line, as already stated, will fit in placements where no other cam will imo. Good for wall rack w/ other cam designs.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 11, 2010 - 03:34pm
KyleO · Climber · Calgary, AB
Really nice lightweight piece of gear good for aid and free climbing. Its nice to have the wires hidden within the cam and the head width is a relief for those narrow constrictions. Pricey, but worth it.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 10, 2010 - 01:23am
zeta · Climber · Portland, OR
I don't like the stiff trigger at all! I thought I would get used to it over time, but I still find myself preferring to use aliens instead. I also don't like how the plastic casing on the stem makes it hard to see how the head fits…and I often feel like i have to fiddle a bit more to get the placement right…i thought that with time, i'd come to love these, but I probably wouldn't buy another

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 16, 2010 - 04:56pm
le_bruce · Climber · Oakland, CA
Pros: durability, small size
Cons: Cost, tough to see head placement in smaller sizes because of fat plastic casing on stem

I brought sizes 1,2, and 3 on an El Cap route to compliment my friend's set of Aliens. We placed both types a ton. After topping out, the lobes on the C3's still looked 9.5/10, while the Aliens softer metal had taken a beating. Except for this aspect, the Aliens were the better cam in every way.

Though I've never heard this complaint from anyone else, the plastic casing can be aggravating in the smaller sizes while aiding, since you can't easily see how well the cams are seated for placements up above your head.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 25, 2010 - 12:12pm
hoipolloi · Climber · A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
At first I was pretty down on these things, and I guess I still am in some ways. I have come around though and really started enjoying these for various applications..

Yeah, of course they work, and when the crack is perfect and the placement perfect, sure, they work perfectly! But under those conditions any cam will work perfectly.

My biggest issue with these is a little hard to describe and I believe it is due to the extremely wide middle lobe compared to the outer lobes. This causes these cams to perform sub par where there are any irregularities in the rock (protruding crystals, irregular shapes or flares, etc). More than most cams I find that you have to 'fiddle' with these in order to get them right and then they run a high chance of being twisted out of place because of the rigidity.

I have recently discovered the 000 size (small grey) to be a must have for clean climbing. It is so small that it can be placed where other cams do not fit.

So overall I think that these are good cams and they have their issues, like any other. I keep going round and round on how much I actually like them. Sometimes I feel like they are great, and sometimes I curse them and wish I would have just grabbed a go-to piece right off the bat…

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 23, 2010 - 02:21am
Salamanizer · Climber · The land of Fruits & Nuts!
By far the single best cam for tight incipient cracks and pin scars. These things fit where nothing else will. The trigger pull comments are weak as best as it really makes no difference having to pull a tad harder than other cams… Who cares? The stem is a bit stiff and can causes some walking issues if you're not watching your placements. Proper slingage is advised.

I climb in mostly Yosemite granite so I have little experience with them in other types of rock. For the type of thin, pin scarred climbing I do, these things rule. Just a tad better than aliens for free climbing and IMO, walk much less than the Mastercams. These things have saved my a$$ many times and will never leave my rack until something better in invented. So far, nothing else even comes close.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 21, 2010 - 06:50pm
FeelioBabar · Climber · One drink ahead of my past.
I love C3's…the common gripes about the stiff stem are easily negated by smart runnering in my opinion. And in fact, I like the stiff stem for placing…something I don't like about aliens (too floppy). I agree, one more size above(and maybe below) the yellow would be nice. Great units that take abuse well. A bit pricey…but worth it in my opinion.

As to the comment below.."Nazi's that make them?" WTF? What a dooshtool comment.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 17, 2010 - 04:16pm
Bill Becher · Climber · Westlake Village, CA
I have to agree, don't like the rigid stems and they do seem to walk more than Aliens or Metolius Mastercams..

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 11, 2010 - 12:37pm
Chip · Climber · Sittin' Pretty in Fat City
Used mostly in gunks horizontals and the few vertical cracks there. Adequate slinging is a must to prevent pivoting in vertical placements, but overall theses have been a pleasure to use.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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All five Black Diamond Camalot C3's
Credit: BlackDiamondEquipment.com
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