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Metolius Ultralight TCU Review

Metolius Ultralight TCU
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Price:  $60 List | $44.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  light, narrow stem
Cons:  not great for pin scars, walks easily
Manufacturer:   Metolius
By Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief  ⋅  Feb 7, 2010
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70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Flared cracks - 15% 5
  • Horizontal Cracks - 10% 6
  • Tight placements - 15% 5
  • Walking - 15% 7
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Aid Climbing - 5% 5
  • Free Climbing - 10% 7
  • compactness_lightweight - 15% 10

The Skinny

The Metolius Ultralight TCU is 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.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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 22, you will have the lightest possible climbing rack.

Metolius Climbing color codes its cams to help you gauge the quality of a placement. They call it the Range Finder system. The green dots against the rock mean a bombproof placement. 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