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Metolius Ultralight TCU Review

   

Climbing Cams

  • Currently 3.8/5
Overall avg rating 3.8 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: September 9, 2010
Street Price:   Varies from $44 - $60 | Compare prices at 9 resellers
Pros:  light, narrow stem
Cons:  not great for pin scars, walks easily
Best Uses:  big wall climbing, aid climbing, cragging
User Rating:     
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 (4.5 of 5) based on 4 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (4/4) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Metolius
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ February 9, 2010  
Overview
The Metolius Ultralight TCUis is the lightest camming device we tested. It has a time-tested design and maybe the oldest small cam design out there. It is also one of the best values for a camming device. For situations where every ounce counts, it is hard to beat.

For most applications, I would choose the Metolius Master Cam instead because it is more versatile and feels more bomber for big walls and trad climbs. The TCU is 25 percent lighter than the Master Cam, but I still find the master cam plenty light as the difference is only about a half ounce. You will notice the difference only if you are going for the ultimate light rack. If you are mostly doing alpine routes, rock and ice routes or are on a strict budget, it is hard to go wrong with the time-tested Metolius TCU.

View our complete Small Camming Device Review to see how this product compared to others.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
This cam used to be called the Metolius TCU. They then found a way to lighten the fitting at the axle which they now call: Direct Axle Technology (DAT). This reduced the weight of the cam by 27-33% depending on the cam size. That is the only main change to design of the TCU from the old TCU. As a small change, Metolius now uses a Nylon and Dyneema mix for the sling instead of old 100% nylon sling.

This is the lightest cam we tested and maybe the lightest camming device currently made. If you combine these with the Metolius FS Mini carabiners or CAMP Nano 23, you will have the lightest possible climbing rack.

Metolius Climbing uses a unique "Range Finder" color coded system to help you know whether 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 find I used it much but it is a good reminder about optimal cam placement.

While this is not my favorite climbing cam for aid, one advantage it does have is a high clip-in point. This means that you get about an inch more reach than with other camming devices.

Dislikes
The head width is so wide it does not work nearly as well in shallow pin scars as the Metolius Master Cam or CCH Alien. Also, the stem does not bend as well as a single-stem cam. When used for big walls, the lack of flexibility means the cam will not hold as well and seem to walk more. Also, if you bounce test it in certain positions it bends the cables, which throws off the alignment of the two cables and makes them difficult to retract. In bottomless cracks this cam works great, but in the awkward scars and pods you find in Yosemite or Zion, it does not work as well. Also, with only three cams, this device tends to walk more than four-cam units.

Best Application
This is best suited for alpine climbs and anywhere with a big approach where every ounce counts. It is ideal in clean-cut cracks you find in alpine granite or splitter cracks in sandstone. It is not as good for flaring pin scars. For those placements a single-stem unit like the Metolius Master Cam works better.

Value
These are among the least expensive cams on the market. Considering how long mine have held up, they are a great value. That said, they are not that much less expensive than the Metolius Master Cams which scored much higher in our tests.

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: September 9, 2010
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 4
  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.5)

100% of 4 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
5 Total Ratings
5 star: 60%  (3)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 40%  (2)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 4 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Sep 9, 2010 - 10:55am
bearbreeder · Climber
they are the lightest and cheapest … always a plus

on the other hand the u stems can lever themselves out of shallow vertical cracks in my experience …

i prefer the C3s if money is no concern … theyll fit most places a TCU will

for a leader on a budget though the TCUs work quite well

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 27, 2010 - 11:55am
ps · Climber
Couple things:
  1. These are LIGHT! You have to compare them to understand how much lighter they are than the competition. It's best to hold a full set up to get a feel for how much weight they save you. Compare them to a full set of another brand up to the same size ranges covered and you'll see the difference.
  1. I use these for free-climbing, so I can't talk about aid that much, but they are excellent for free climbing, easy to place, easy to get out. You'll either like the U-stem, or you wont. Best to borrow these to make sure. I find them much easier to remove than any single stem cam, especially when they are buried deep (you can use a nut tool to pull the trigger bar back).
  1. Made in the USA, priced right, durable as all get out. I love these things.


Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 25, 2010 - 09:00am
hoipolloi · Climber · A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
In regards to the small sizes (Grey - Purple - Blue):

I am surprised the editors bagged so hard on these things. I think that the Ultralight TCU's in sizes grey, purple and blue are an ABSOLUTE must have for any wall climbing in the valley. They have a way of sticking in placements that other (small) cams do not. The fact that they have three lobes instead of four allows them to 'slot' into V-ed placements far better than other cams, in my experience.

As good as CCH Aliens are, I find that in the smaller sizes these are definitely my first go to piece. There is truth to the fact that they U-Stem causes them to get bent and tweaked, but even with hard testing I have yet to bend or tweak one of mine to a truly destroyed level.

When discussing cams I think it is very important to keep in mind that there is no one piece of gear to do it all, variety is king. There are times where these won't work as well as a four cam unit, or even another three cam unit (ie. BD C3's). However, I think these are a must have on the wall rack…

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 11, 2010 - 08:39pm
Hummerchine · Climber · East Wenatchee, WA
These things freaking ROCK! They have been around nearly forever, have stood the test of time and keep getting better. The light weight, especially in the larger Power Cams, beats every other device on the market. This advantage, along with how compact they are, tends to be under-rated! As an example, let's compare to BD. Sure, their cams are also awesome…but I can carry pretty much 1.5 times as many Metolius cams for the same weight and girth. In certain circumstances the Metolius units are better, in others the BD. Even if you find more places you like the BD units better, I am completely convinced that 1.5 times more cams just blows away the competition for the overwhelming majority of trad climbs! But that's just me, and as a disclaimer, I must admit that I place plenty of gear. For the super bold out there, BD just might be better…

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Metolius Ultralight TCU
Credit: Metoliusclimbing.com
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