Hands-on Gear Review
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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.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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Most recent review: October 21, 2014
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