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Black Diamond Camalot X4 Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Climbing Cams

  • Currently 4.3/5
Overall avg rating 4.3 of 5 based on 11 reviews. Most recent review: October 21, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $56 - $315 | Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros:  Narrow head gets in tricky placements other cams can't, great holding power.
Cons:  Expensive, heavier than most other cams.
Best Uses:  Aid climbing, free climbing.
User Rating:     
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 (4.0 of 5) based on 10 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (6/6) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ September 1, 2013  
Overview
This is our favorite small cam and wins our Editors' Choice award. All sizes have exceptionally narrow heads with low profiles that perform exceptionally well in pin scars and shallow pods. The X4 is solid in places other cams either won't hold or just barely hold. They are also very flexible which keeps them from walking. The larger sizes with a double axle likely have the best range of any small cam. The is also the Black Diamond Camalot X4 Offset which we highly recommend for Yosemite and Zion aid climbs and any area with pins scars or weird pods.

The Metolius Master Cam were the old Editors' Choice winner and they are still a favorite. They score just behind the X4 but are $10 less expensive, which makes them our Best Buy winner. Once you get to the bigger sizes there is overlap with our top scoring large cam, the Black Diamond Camalot C4.

The X4 does not yet come in and offset model; that is promised in Spring 2014. Until then, the best cam for flared pockets and cracks is the Metolius Offset Master Cam.

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  • Photos
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Tight Placements
This is where the X4 excels the most. It has a very narrow head and it is really easy to get into weird pods and cracks. This has been become Chris Mac's secret Clean Aid weapon. The smallest size goes in really tiny pin scars where it doesn't seem like anything else will. Most importantly…it then holds!

Click to enlarge
The Black Diamond Camalot X4 (left) has a narrow head that gets it into tight placements. Yet because it does not have the extra metal on the ends like the Alien does (right), it doesn't sacrifice stability to get in those tight spots.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Durability
Over five ascents of El Capitan, they have proved to be very durable. They are a little bent, but no more so than most other tiny cams. The lobes feel like they will score above average for durability and the plastic on the clip-in point feels particularly burly.

Click to enlarge
After about 5 El Capitan ascents, the Black Diamond Camalot X4 (left) had some bend to the cable but about the same as most small cams. You can see the cam pulling wires are similar to the Alien (right).
Credit: Chris McNamara

Weight
These are about 20 percent heavier than Master Cams and Aliens in the sizes we have tested so far. Not a big deal, but we definitely noticed the difference.

Aid Climbing and Flared Cracks
For an aid climbing piece, we are big fans of anything that makes it easier to climb safely without using pitons. This cam, especially in the small sizes, does just that. Even though Black Diamond does not offer the X4 in an offset cam (they say they will in 2014), the X4 performs well in flared cracks; maybe better than any other non-offset cam on the market.

Value
These are $70 compared to $60 for Master Cams and $80 for Alien Cams. It's hard to say what is the best value until we factor in how durable they are. But we feel the Master Cam is the Best Buy winner because it performs so well and is 14 percent less expensive (which could be over $100 if you are buying a double set.

Pairing with Camalot C4
The Camalot C4 is our Editors' Choice climbing cam for medium and large sizes. The X4 and C4 overlap in many sizes. We still prefer the C4 in the biggest size that the X4 comes in: green or 0.75. For all smaller sizes that the two overlap, we go with the X4.

Click to enlarge
Black Diamond C4's up top and the X4 down and right.
Credit: Black Diamond

Compared to the C3
While we like the Black Diamond Camalot C3, we don't love it. The X4 appears to address the shortcomings of the C3 which were: only three cams (more likely to walk and less holding power) and a less flexible stem. I have a feeling most people who used C3s will find the X4 a big upgrade. The only advantage the C3 has is a slightly narrower head, but the X4s are almost as narrow and much more stable and solid feeling.

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: October 21, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.0)

100% of 6 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
8 Total Ratings
5 star: 63%  (5)
4 star: 13%  (1)
3 star: 13%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 13%  (1)
Sort 10 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Oct 21, 2014 - 08:18pm
Moof · Climber · Orygun
Took a couple sets of these from 0.1 to 0.5 up on Mideast Crisis, and was very happy. I previously have used Aliens and Master Cams, and these little buggers are just better. The 0.1 makes confident placements with ease in spots where the black alien was fiddly and never confidence inspiring. I noticed less of a difference up in the 0.4-0.5, but by that size it matters a lot less anyway.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 21, 2014 - 03:57pm
For lack of a better alternative, I am now using these as my small cams. Yes, they set better than mastercams. Yes, they bend when you weight them at any kind of angle. I bent one pretty good using it in an anchor on a crack that leaned 20 degrees or so from vertical and having it fully weighted. It bent back and I expect it to continue to hold falls.

My most important comment is that they don't seem to overlap perfectly with C4s. I had C4's down to #0.3 (blue) and I got just the yellow (#0.2) and red (#0.1) X4s. There is definitely a half-size gap between the two lines. After finding a few placements too small for the #0.3 C4 and too large for the #0.2 X4, I got a #0.3 X4 too and now I carry blues in both C4 and X4.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 18, 2014 - 12:16pm
tooth · Climber · B.C.
I'm replacing everything in the small range with the x4's except a few aliens. C3's, the smaller C4's, already sold the rest. They are great because I don't have to re-learn colors on crack sizes, they are sized like the C4's, and they are very comfortable to use with the wide thumb loop, good trigger and strong springs.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 18, 2014 - 11:07am
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Caveat: I only have the .3 X4.

So far, I have taken my .3 on some routes that are funky to protect and the narrow head has been a huge help. The cam is bomber, does it's job, and is a definite improvement on the design of the C4, which was already best in the biz. To top it off, the beads protecting the wire cabling even make me feel like I'm crafting while climbing, so there's that, too…

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 14, 2014 - 02:33pm
gibbon69 · Climber · Stalowa Wola
I have used this gear for a long time, and I love it. My standard free climbing rack is:
  • X4 #0.1 - #0.75
  • C4 #1 - #3
and it is enough :D

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 14, 2013 - 01:28pm
motta.rr · Climber · Rio de Janeiro
Jordan I haven't realized that. Thanks for pointing that up. But the rated strength assumes an excellent placement. So if you're climbing on a place with perfect parallel cracks this difference may be expressive. But if you often find yourself placing gear on shallow cracks and in awkward positions them the rated strength won't be making any difference while the flexible stem and the narrower head will!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Sep 13, 2013 - 02:03pm
 
I haven't ever used these, so this isn't a review, but rather perhaps a useful point of information.

For the 0.5 and 0.75 sizes that overlap with the C4's, I think it is noteworthy that the expansion range for the X4 vs. C4 is nearly identical (0.01" off for 0.5, identical for 0.75). The C4 version are slightly heavier than their X4 versions (91 vs 99 g for 0.5, and 112 vs. 119 g for 0.75). To me, those differences in range and weight make zero difference.

What is substantially different for the X4 and C4 for those two sizes is the strength ratings. The X4's are rated to 9 kN for both sizes, but the C4's are 12 kN and 16 kN for the 0.5 and 0.75 respectively.

So while the X4 has the important advantage of the narrower head, you do sacrifice the strength. Up to you to decide if you prefer narrower or stronger! For the aid climber, the narrower head probably outweighs the strength rating, but if you're planning on taking big whippers, personally I like as many kilonewtons between me and the ground as possible!
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   Jun 26, 2013 - 11:04am
motta.rr · Climber · Rio de Janeiro
My only complain is that on the three smaller sizes they use a wire to connect the trigger to the cam lobes. While on the bigger sizes you've got the Kevlar cable, that is much better in my opinion!
If someone know the reason for that please tell me why!
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Jun 25, 2013 - 02:18pm
 
Grambo · Climber · North Conway, NH
This is not a review, but a quick comment on what I have found to be a problem with the x4 thus far. These things tweak like crazy. Their flexibility is amazing and something I would consider to be a bonus, but on the flip side is that once they are bent around an edge, the stem will tweak and in turn will affect the way the cams engage once the trigger is pulled. You can bend them back, but it is a pain in the ass. I have yet to fall on one of these but only hope that the cam isn't in a horizontal …as I am sure the stem would be tweaked for good. They have nice action, fit in remarkably small pockets and cracks, have a nice range and the finish is typical BD quality. That being said…I am in no rush to dump the aliens or master cams anytime soon.
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Mar 3, 2013 - 11:26pm
 
C Blank · Climber · San Francisco, CA
Not technically a review but figured I'd share what I learned about these guys

Talked to a BD rep and got to toy with these at the Planet Granite Demo last week. He said the offset version would be coming out next spring.

The pull isn't quite as smooth as Totem aliens (which makes sense for their "bead" construction) but is smoother than the CCH or Fixe Aliens.

The head width is freaking tiny for a 4 lobe, just a little more than a C3.

Way more ergo trigger system, as can obviously be seen in the pictures and video. But it's the little touches like this that BD kicks ass at.
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Set of Black Diamond X4's
Credit: Black Diamond
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