Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Amazing Range, Awesome Crux piece
Cons: Heavy, expensive, Complex
Best Uses: Free climbing crux piece, Any place with deep bottomless cracks whether in Yosemite or Indian Creek.
Manufacturer: Omega Pacific
The Omega Pacific Link Cam camming device is revolutionary in design and is an awesome free climbing crux piece for those "Oh sh*t" moments. The range provided by the tri-sected cam lobes is amazing allowing each cam to fit in a lot of placements. If you’re gripped with a case of Elvis leg and need a piece now, reach for a Link Cam as you’ll have the greatest chance of getting a fit. We found that the Link Cams work pretty well in flaring cracks and work just as well as any other cam in parallel sided cracks. The flexible single stem helps cut down on walking and allows for good functionality in horizontal placements. We also noticed that the trisected lobes increases the amount of cam lobe touching the rock creating a more solid and stable placement making the Link Cams one of the least liable to walk of all the cams we tested. Although the link cams have an amazing range and can fit into a lot of placements, the extra materials and complex design needed for the tri-sected cam lobes adds a lot of weight to each unit. They are by far the heaviest cam that we tested. With no high-clip in point and the extra weight, these cams are not going to be your first pick for aid and big walls or for any other scenario where traveling light is key. Additionally, while the added complexity to the cams’ design makes it possible to fit Link Cams in a wide range of placements, the design makes using these cams more, well, complex. There are a lot more moving parts and areas of weakness to take into account. Omega Pacific emphasizes that proper placement in line with the direction of pull is critical for placing Link Cams. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, as we should be concentrating on proper placement for all camming units, we feel that some other cams are more forgiving of marginal diligence in placement than the Link Cam. Link Cams also carry a hefty price tag so be prepared to shell out for these guys. All in all, the Link Cams are an awesome specialty free climbing piece. They come in super handy for the “need it now” scenarios and they are awesome for setting anchors. If you are looking for something lighter and more suited for aid climbing, check out Black Diamond Camalot C4. And for the lightest cam on the market try Metolius Ultralight Powercam.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The most obvious advantage of the link cams is the incredible range that each unit can fit. The innovative tri-sected lobe design makes the range of each of these cams significantly larger than any of the other cams we tested. This increased range makes Link Cams an ideal crux piece: reach for these when you’re gripped and need a piece fast that is sure to fit. The tri-sected cam lobes also provide an advantage when trying to stick a cam into an awkward placement. These things work miracles in flaring cracks and awkward placements. Backcountry adventurers will appreciate the increased range in that it might eliminate the number of "im not sure if I'll need this" pieces that you have to lug around: one link cam could cover 2 of your "maybe" pieces.
In designing the tri-sected lobes for the Link Cam, Omega Pacific uses machined steel for the first two sections of each lobe increasing durability and strength. The outer section is anodized aluminum, but we typically found ourselves placing these cams with one of the first two sections contacting the rock so we appreciated the extra durability.
Once placed, the link cams’ lobes typically have a lot of surface contact with the rock increasing stability and cutting down on walking caused by the movement of the rope. These cams work well in horizontal and vertical placements, but as emphasized on Omega Pacific’s website, it is critical that the cams be properly placed in line with the direction of pull. The complex design of the lobes is susceptible to breaking when tweaked and torqued due to improper placement, so while these are ideal for those crux placements, make sure that you are making good placements.
The biggest obvious drawback to the link cam is that with the increased range, and steel sections of the cam lobes, comes increased weight as well. Though not any bulkier than a traditional cam, Link Cams are by far the heaviest cams that we tested. The idea is that because they have such a great range you will need to carry less pieces and so the weight evens out. We found that if we need 8 pieces for a pitch, we need 8 pieces no matter what, even if one of those pieces would have fit in any one of the 8 placements.
Also with the increased innovation in the design comes increased complexity and fragility. As mentioned above, link cams are highly prone to damage or failure when not placed properly and loaded not in line with the direction of pull.
Last but not least, a big problem that we had with the Link Cam is the price tag. These are the most expensive cam that we tested and for a climber on a budget, they are not a great option.
Free climbing crux piece: if you’re pumped reach for one of these, place it and move on. Anchor setting.
Pricey, pricey, pricey. With the cheapest unit costing just shy of $100 these are the most expensive cam that we tested.
— Robert Beno
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Most recent review: September 18, 2013
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