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Metolius Master Cam Review

   
Best Buy Award

Climbing Cams

  • Currently 4.3/5
Overall avg rating 4.3 of 5 based on 11 reviews. Most recent review: April 18, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $45 - $60 | Compare prices at 10 resellers
Pros:  Narrow head, durable.
Cons:  A little stiff, short sling.
Best Uses:  Aid climbing, big wall climbing, trad climbing.
User Rating:     
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 (4.0 of 5) based on 10 reviews
Recommendations:  60% of reviewers (6/10) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Metolius Climbing
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ September 4, 2013  
Overview
The Metolius Master Cam is not only one the best small camming devices for the money, it is one of the best smaller s.l.c.d.'s (spring loaded camming devices) at any price. It wins our Best Buy award because it scores almost as high as the Black Diamond Camalot X4 but is $10 less expensive. That is not much for one cam, but it adds up to more than $200 over an entire set. It also may be more durable than the X4, adding to its long term value. It was the first climbing cam 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.

While the Black Diamond Camalot C3 has an even more narrow head, it also is not as stable or as good in awkward placements. It is flexible, but not quite as flexible as the Wild County Zero. So overall, it does a lot of things well without having any big downsides, which makes it an overall solid cam. Best of all, it is 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

Likes
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 in Aliens. This means that the Metolius cams will likely be more durable. 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 with a Black Diamond Camalot C3 or CCH Alien sets.

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.

Dislikes
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 – time will tell. Anecdotal reports from El Cap are that there are more than a few of these getting fixed with broken Kevlar wires, but we have not seen them.

Offset Placements
The Master Cam does well in pin scars and flared placements. The Metolius Offset Master Cam does event better. We recommend owning both. If you climb in Yosemite a lot, we would have two sets of offset to one set of regular. For areas with sandstone, one offset set is plenty.

Right now the Camelot X4r does not have an offset option, which makes the Master Cam and Offset Master Cam combo the most convenient. It's a bit of a nuisance to mix the non-offset X4 fours with the Offset Master Cam.

Durability
The cam durability has been great. One area that has not held up as well on some cams is the plastic coating on the cable clip and loop. This is mainly just an issue if you aid climb. After a lot of bounce testing, we find this plastic starts to wear away, exposing the metal cable. This is not only a comfort concern (it is uncomfortable on your fingers when pulling the trigger), it also means the runner attached to the cable might be more likely to break in a fall. Again, this is only an issue if you aid climb a lot.

Other Versions
Metolius Ultralight Curve Nut, $15+.
Metolius Offset Master Cam, $60+.
Metolius Ultralight Powercam, $60+.
Metolius Super Cam, $70+.

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 18, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

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

60% of 10 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
10 Total Ratings
5 star: 60%  (6)
4 star: 10%  (1)
3 star: 10%  (1)
2 star: 20%  (2)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Feb 16, 2010 - 02:27pm
crøtch · Climber
These are OK cams if you don't have any aliens, but I am still waiting for a cam that works as well as aliens in all conditions. In a shallow vertical placement, the way the Mastercam stem bends and pulls on the trigger cables is worrisome.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 18, 2014 - 11:31am
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
This review is only for the smaller sizes (blue master cam and below), as those are the sizes that I use. I had started out using the BD C3's as small cams, and those had an unnerving tendency to pivot and either be REALLY bomber or REALLY sketchy. These don't do that, have a very narrow head, and generally are bomber. Solid, durable construction and a very good expansion range make these my go-to pieces for my standard rack, when doubles or triples of tiny stuff are not necessary.

The only complaint I have is likely pilot error, but when throwing in a panic placement (keep in mind i use these for tips and below cracks), the metal area where the trigger wires meet the metal on the stem of the cam, can get stuck in the crack and be a pain in the ass to clean. Again, probably pilot error on my behalf, but still something to keep in mind if for no other reason than to avoid putting your second through that.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 6, 2010 - 04:46pm
msiddens · Climber
I own many of these and ALSO CCH Aliens. In fairness I love the Aliens and wont badmouth them. Having said that, Mastercams are REALLY nice and place/remove easily. As close to an Alien as you can get with proud Metolius QA backing it up.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 11, 2010 - 06:21pm
xtrmecat · Climber · Kalispell, Montanagonia
I have owned and used the heck out of a complete set since they first came out. I am also aware of the complaints of the triggers, and when bent sharply some people have said the can come uncammed prematurely. I have tried to duplicate this scenario in pods, shallow placements, and bent over horizontal edges. I say they are just unable to admit that aliens are the thing of days gone by, totally untrue issues on the problems and complaints. They are by far the shizz. They do not retract or have trigger durability issues that I have found.

They have become the "go to" cams on my wall rack, and the c3's cannot even come close to them. The even beat out the met tcu's on my rack. Hybrids are a must have for any pin scarred route. I will trade c3's to anyone who dislikes their Masters, right across the board.

Bob

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
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   Jan 23, 2010 - 02:39am
Salamanizer · Climber · The land of Fruits & Nuts!
I bought one of these a while back and have bootied a few. I thought they were going to replace my Aliens but was disappointed by their performance. Like all Metolius cams, they are built like a Porsche. Sleek, stylish and well made, but beyond cosmetics they preform like a VW Beetle. Underpowered, overrated but last forever.

I like the fact that they are absolutely bomber in a perfect placement. Like the Powercams before them, they give you a warm fuzzy feeling when they seat well. However, they walk super easily and get stuck as bad as every other Metolius cam out there. The worst on the market IMO. They also gum up quickly due to the fact that they are built like a swiss watch instead of like a Kalashnikov like BD cams. Built tightly instead of with loose tolerances makes for much maintenance.

I've given all my Mastercams away or traded for C3's.
They may work better in different stone, but in Yosemite granite/pinscars… they are my last choice.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 22, 2010 - 09:33pm
Mark Hudon · Climber · Hood River, OR
My only other set of cam was a #1, 2 and 3 Friends. Coming back to "trad" climbing after a 10 year interlude of sport climbing I was amazed at how well built and versatile these cams are. It seems like everywhere I look I can get a bomber piece. I love well built gear and these cams certainly fit the bill.
My only complaint would be that after aid climbing a bit on them and clipping directly into the colored plastic on the wires, the plastic started to wear a bit. Functionally it's no big deal but maybe a harder plastic would be better in that spot.
All in all though, if they all got ripped off tomorrow, I'd be ordering another set the next day.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
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   Jan 19, 2010 - 10:54pm
squishy · Climber
from may 2009

I have a full set of power cams and TCU's, I picked up the 5 and 6 master cam to double the sizes larger than TCU's. I love having a single stem option that matches everything else I have. The green master is the same size as the green powercam and so on. I will continue to double up with these now instead of power cams or TCU's. They need to make a hybrid version to truly be an Alien killer, I still had to buy alien hybrids for pin scars and such. The trigger and action is better on the master cams but the alien lobe design will be hard to beat. I picked up my masters already on sale at REI within their 1st year, a great value and a great all around cam. Not the perfect cam for anything but well suited for many tasks. They are far stiffer than aliens but much more flexible than the tradition U-stem cable cams…

updated - I have a hybrid on order now after reading Chris's review..

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 17, 2010 - 11:40am
Rankin · Climber · Greensboro, North Carolina
These cams work great when new, but they are not very durable. After about three seasons of free climbing as a weekend warrior (about 6-8 months of the year), they're starting to fall apart.

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Brittle plastic/rubber compound on the thumb loop. This started while cleaning the unit, and not from a fall or weighting it.
Credit: Rankin


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Why aren't the trigger cables placed on the sides? The current location makes them vulnerable to damage in a horizontal placement and the plastic sleeves offer very little protection. This cam hasn't lost functionality yet, since the trigger will still retract the cams, but it looks like crap and makes me wonder how much longer it will hold out.
Credit: Rankin


Click to enlarge
Trigger wires, or cord in this case, should be expected to break ever so often if used regularly. With that said, I've certainly had trigger wire last longer than the Master Cams. In fact, the trigger wires on my TCU's are all still original after over 15 years of use. I'm pretty sure this cord is not Kevlar but some sort of inferior cordage.
Credit: Rankin

The worst part about the bad trigger cord is that it really expensive to have it repaired. Metolius charges 8 bucks per cam to repair it, which is not bad, but they charge 10 bucks to ship it back to you. By the time you've shipped the cam to them and paid for these charges, it will cost over 23 dollars to repair the trigger cord on one cam. Of course it would be more cost effective to send multiple cams in for repair, but unless you want to wait for more trigger cords to go, you're out of luck.

I love the action, cam angle, head width, and sizing of Master Cams but it's hard to recommend them because of their lack of durability.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Sep 2, 2010 - 02:51pm
ps · Climber
I've had my set for several months now. I own size 0-6, purple through green. I've whipped on these a fair amount and they've held up very well so far! I'd also like to say that initially I debated whether it was worth "upgrading" from my ultralight tcus to these. After lots of placements, I have come to the conclusion that they are more stable (ie, they don't pivot like the tcus) and the lobes stay in the position that you place them in. They make me feel warmer and fuzzier than my tcus. The trigger cords have zero wear on them, which was the one thing that I was most worried about when buying them because there are very few reports on their durability. With lots of placements and falls on them, they have no issues so far.

My only dislike is the largest size (#6, green). It's really floppy compared to the rest and isn't the best to place if you are pumped out (fortunately it's bomber hand-jam size for me). The next size down (#5, black) doesn't seem to have this problem.

If I were to by them again, I'd skip the largest one. Otherwise, no complaints! They work extremely well and have held many a fall of mine.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Jan 15, 2010 - 12:08pm
 
ericandlucie · Climber · Santa Fe, NM
I do not own one of these but have played with them in stores a few times. One aspect of this design bothers me. I'm curious if others have noticed this as well. I otherwise like the design of these cams and how smoothly they seem to operate… but I feel that Aliens are still a superior design.

It's a bit hard to explain in words so bear with me: my concern relates to relatively shallow horizontal placements of this unit, especially when the cam is near the wide end of its range. The trigger wires are taut enough that in some conditions, when you pull down on the stem in such horizontal placement, the trigger cables to the upper two lobes can come under tension, and actually retract those lobes, causing the unit to pop out. I have only tried this on artificial cracks in the store, and the "rock" was arguably quite smooth. It may not be a problem on more abrasive rock.
Has anyone out there made the same observation?

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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Metolius Master Cam
Credit: mountaingear.com
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