Fixe Hardware Alien Revolution Review
Cons: Concerning reports about quality and customer service
Manufacturer: Fixe Hardware
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Fixe Alien Revolutions are a compelling cam for finger size placements thanks to their weight, range, and flexibility. They have an incredibly flexible stem, allowing them to hold better in pods and pin scars where their cams can't be vertically aligned. Six sizes from sub-tips to fat fingers leaves no size gaps, and they're a mere two ounces heavier than the same size run of the very lightest finger sizes available, but still have a thumb loop. These cams are a great choice for doubling up on finger sizes and complementing a rack of BD cams. While Fixe has done away with the larger orange and purple sizes that used to be part of the CCH size range, they still offer a selection of offset sizes, including the green/yellow, the best cam for finger-sized pin scars. Aid climbers will love that these cams come in offset sizes as well.
While we love these cams, and our experience with them has been excellent, we feel we would be remiss not to mention that they have received many reports of issues on what appear to be quality and/or customer support concerns (for example, see here and here and here and here and here and here). We have not seen these kinds of issues ourselves first-hand, and after nearly two years, the Fixe Aliens remain one of our favorite cams for finger-sized cracks.
The ergonomic thumb loop on the Alien Revolutions is awesome for free climbing, making it significantly easier to grab the cam and engage the triggers when you're pumped out of your mind. This gives them a huge advantage over other small cams that lack thumb loops. The flexible stems that allow Aliens to hold so well in pockets, flares and horizontal placements frustrated one of our testers because the stem isn't rigid enough to just shove the cams into cracks without pulling the trigger.
A run of six sizes from black to red weighs in at 11.4oz. Aliens are .4 ounces lighter than the same size run of Metolius Ultralight Mastercams, and (ahem) still have a thumb loop. This makes Aliens the lightest of the finger-sized cams, a compelling reason to add some to your rack.
Comparing cam range can be like splitting hairs, especially when you consider how many cams it takes to cover the same range and how this relates to the overall weight of the rack.
To make things more complicated, the maximum end of a cam's range might be fine for eeking out a bodyweight placement when you're aiding, but not when you're looking at a fat whip. Aliens hold the best (and inspire the most confidence) when the tip of each lobe is just barely starting to overlap. The smallest (black) Alien can weasel into cracks as small as 8 mm (.33 in) and the red Alien will accommodate fat fingers splitter as big as 33mm (1.3 in). Additionally, there is the gray Alien, a cool size in between red and yellow that is similar to the beloved orange Metolius. The offset versions cover the same range plus a bonus Red/Yellow size.
These cams have the most flexible stems, hands down. They excel in horizontal placements where the stem easily bends to be more in line with the direction of force.
This also helps keep the cam from getting damaged. Cams with less flexible stems can bend in the direction of a downward pull, but are more likely to become permanently bent if you take a fall with a lot of force onto them.
These cams have a narrower head than almost any other type of cam, making them especially adept at shallow or flaring placements where you are still trying to get all four lobes into contact with solid rock.
Rigid stem cams don't even come close when it comes to performance in tight placements, due mostly to their propensity to actually lever a cam out of a placement if the stem is weighted against a protrusion of rock lower than the lobes. Flexible stems easily help avoid this problem.
Our testers loved the easy action on these cams that allows for smooth trigger pulls, but with less pressure on the lobes from the springs, these cams are more prone to walking than cams with tighter cam springs, especially when slightly under cammed. This is something to keep in mind, especially on traversing pitches or climbs with roofs. Fortunately, you can buy versions of these cams with an extendable sling option, so you can always extend these cams, even if you run out of slings.
Our aid climbing testers love aliens for their soft aluminum lobes.
They grip the rock well but wear down faster than the lobes of other cams. Aliens don't have cam stops, so they're more likely to open up and umbrella if poorly placed and under cammed or in soft rock. They won't be as durable as cams that are made with a harder aluminum alloy. It's also a bit tricky to repair the trigger wires on these cams, but Fixe does sell trigger wire replacement kits on their website.
Once the king the of the pin scar, Aliens have been dethroned by the Totem Cam, at least in the minds of our testers.
The Totems have independently camming lobes, allowing them to function like an offset. Aliens are still more flexible than any other cam and are available in offset sizes. The thumb loop is also a great clip-in point for adding precious inches to your top step.
While these cams are by no means the most expensive you can buy, they also don't come cheap. The real issue is not the price, but more likely the reliability. In our experience, the soft aluminum lobes break down faster than on other cams, and the trigger wires are more difficult to replace. That being said, Fixe offers a trigger wire replacement kit and provides a great how-to video on their website. If you get many years of solid use out of your Aliens, then they are worth the money without question, but if you are concerned whether you will get those hard earned years, you may consider buying from a more reputable brand.
Fifteen years ago, Aliens were hard to get. A shipment would show up in the Yosemite Mountain shop and they'd be sold out in a couple days. They were also subject to manufacturing inconsistencies and recalls. Thanks to the Fixe Alien Revolution, climbers gained unfettered access a sweet little finger sized cam, with narrower heads and less weight than the original Aliens. While the Fixe Aliens face strong competition today from the DMM Dragonfly, which we frankly consider to be a superior product, they remain a compelling contender for finger-sized cracks.
— Matt Bento