Black Diamond Camalot X4 Review
Cons: Relatively heavy, can kink when loaded in pods and pin scars
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Our Analysis and Test Results
Our testers were divided on these cams. Some liked them because they are stiffer than the other small cam options with flexible stems, making them easier to place, and others thought they were not flexible enough, causing them to permanently kink when loaded in odd positions.
These cams are great for free climbing. Our testers are all very familiar with how each BD size corresponds to how their hands feel in the cracks, making it easy to select the right cam. The thumb loop makes these cams easier to place when you're pumped and give you something soft to gnaw on if you have to hold the cam in your mouth.
A set of X4s from Yellow to Purple is heavier than the corresponding sizes of Metolius Ultralight Mastercams, and that includes an extra cam in the Metolius line to cover the same range. In general, most BD cams are not known for being the lightest, and the heavily metal construction of this cam means that it doesn't top the charts in the weight department.
X4s are available in six sizes covering cracks from 8.4mm to 41.2mm in width. That's sub-tips to thumbs stacks. Our testers are especially fond of the purple (fat fingers), and Green (thumbstacks) sizes because they fit in narrow pods and flexible stems, and have the same feel and familiar range as the corresponding C4 sizes we've been using for years. Experience with the Black Diamond ranges and sizing drew a few of our testers to the X4s, as they didn't need to learn the subtleties of a new brand with different ranges and colors.
These cams handle horizontal placements much better than stiffer models. Their beaded sheath over a flexible cable allows the cam to bend in the direction of pull without permanently kinking like a more rigid stem would. Overall, we found these to be some of the very best cams for horizontal placements, although the lack of an extendable runner means that you may need to extend them with a separate sling if they are set well back from an edge.
Black Diamond X4s have narrow heads that fit and protect where C4s and Ultralight C4s can't go. Pin scars, flares, and narrow pods are what these cams were designed for. The offset sizes are particularly great in these situations.
As previously mentioned, these cams are more liable to kink than more flexible cams when placed in pins cars or any situation where the cam is loaded in a vertical orientation but no in the proper direction of the load. More often than not, this only results in the cam looking a little bent, but not really affecting the functionality of the cam. We feel that the thumb loop on this cam is heavier and more durable than those on the other small cams we compared it to. If you plan on doing loads of aid climbing, this burly thumb loop feels like it will withstand a lot of Fifi hooking and bounce testing.
These cams are relatively stable, but they don't have an extendable sling like the DMM or Fixe cams, making them more prone to walking. Bring along some alpine draws and extend your placements when the pitch wanders, and walking won't be an issue.
Our cams tend to get the most beat up during aid climbs, where every piece gets weighted, often in strange positions pushing the limits of their designs. The beefiness mentioned above makes them great for aid climbing, and the thumb loop lets you clip in higher than cams without a thumb loop. The X4s still don't trump the Totem Cams when it comes to aiding, since Totems unique design allows them to load on only two lobes. We like the fact that these cams are available in offset sizes, which really helps fine tune difficult pin scar placements.
While these cams aren't the most expensive you can buy, you can still expect to pay a fair bit more per cam than regular Black Diamond Camalots, and they are considerably more expensive than our Best Buy Award winners. Because of their durability and range from the double axles, we feel they are a good value.
The Black Diamond X4s have the quality and durability we've come to expect from Black Diamond and complement a rack of C4s nicely. They are an excellent choice for free climbing, especially if you are well versed in the BD color scheme and don't want to have to learn a new one.
— Matt Bento