The Wild Country Friends takes old single axle, thumb loopless design, and updates this classic to compete neck and neck with modern cams. Available in six sizes, the new friends are vying for a place on your rack with burly anodized aluminum lobes, an ergonomic thumb loop, extendable Dyneema slings, and a size/color scheme that matches other top brands like Black Diamond and DMM.
Wild Country Friend Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Durable, Ergonomic thumb loop, lighter than C4s
Cons: Not as many sizes available as BD, Sling loses 2KN of strength when extended
Manufacturer: Wild Country
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Our Analysis and Test Results
At a glance, the Wild Country Friends seem to be a copy of the classic Black Diamond C4s, but Wild Country as made some tweaks that give these cams arguably superior to the BDs depending on your preferences, most importantly being a slightly more significant range and lighter weight.
A rack of all six sizes of the Friends tips the scales at 31.9oz, beating the heavier Black Diamond C4s by a little over 2oz. How? With hollow axles and slightly narrower stem. The Friends score an additional point in the weight savings by including an extendable Dyneema sling, so you don't need to carry as many quickdraws. The DMM Dragon Cams also have an extendable Dyneema sling, but the same size run weighs 3.7oz more. The Black Diamond Camalot Ultralights have a big leg up on the Friends in the weight game, as the same size run of Ultralights weighs 4.3oz less than the Friends.
Friends, made by Wild Country, have a very similar range to the Black Diamond and DMM cams. Six sizes protect cracks from 20.6mm to 112.1. That's similar to the Black Diamond purple finger size to the Gray fist-sized cam. However, close examination reveals a few variations among the individual cam ranges. Most notably is the gold #2 size, where the Wild Country version covers 42.5mm to 69.3mm, whereas the BD covers 37.2mm to 64.9. This may sound like splitting hairs, but the Indian Creek aficionado can see and feel the difference and might find it prudent to have a few Friends on hand to cover the off-sizes where other cams may be under cammed.
These cams feel equally as flexible as the Black Diamond C4s, and bend to accommodate downward pull in a horizontal placement just as effectively. The Friends have the advantage in Horizontals due to the extendable sling. In a deep horizontal placement, sometimes the biner sits just on the edge of a ledge, which could break or cause the biner to open in the event of a fall. With the option to extend, you can prevent this situation, without having to bring along extra slings.
The Friends have slightly wider head than the Camalots due to where the ends of the axles stick out about a millimeter farther than the Camalots. The lobes are slightly wider than the C4s, Black Diamond Camalot Ultralights, and the DMM Dragon Cams. While this makes it more difficult to fit in pockets and pin scars, it also disperses energy over a wider area and makes these cams better for softer rock, like the sandstone found in Indian Creek.
The Extendable Dyneema sling attached at the thumb loop makes these cams much less prone to walking when extended. However, the sling does not extend as long as the long as the sling on a DMM Dragon Cam, and when the sling on the Dragons isn't extended, it hangs shorter from your harness than the friends.
Many of the same features that make Black Diamond C4s durable are also present in the Friends. A strong steel cable that makes up the stem and thumb loop is encased in durable plastic. The burly trigger wires appear to be just as easily replaceable as the ones on the BD cams. The one concern of our testers is the extendable Dyneema sling, which doesn't seem as durable as the sling on the Black Diamond C4s.
The addition of a thumb loop on the Friends is a boon to aid climbers, offering an easy place to clip aiders, daisies or fifi into, and our testers generally prefer these to cams like the DMM Dragon Cams or the Metolius Ultralight Mastercams, which don't have thumb loops. Regarding pin scars, holes, pockets and other strange placements, the Friends wider head width and more rigid stems can't compete with the versatile Totem Cams, our Top Pick for Aid Climbing.
These are cams are excellent for free climbing, especially the hand and fists sizes. Smooth action, a great range, and a somewhat rigid stem make these cams easy to place on the go when you're gripped. Our testers found the extendable sling a little bit more difficult to re-rack with one hand than the slings on the DMM Dragons, which have a spot on the thumb piece where you can more easily grab a loop, pull it to the correct length, and clip the doubled sling.
These cams are good to go for your next trip to Indian Creek, as the wide lobes are perfect for soft sandstone. They are also durable, meat-and-potatoes hand size pieces for the world's great granite arenas like Squamish or Yosemite. We recommend supplementing a rack of Friends with a set of flexible micro cams like the Fixe Hardware Alien Revolutions for those tight placements and pin scars.
Again, these cams put the pressure on the Black Diamond supremacy, even at the price point. A gold Friend will run you $74.95, same as a Gold C4, but the smaller sizes are about $4 more than, the smaller C4 sizes. These cams are durable workhorses, and if you can find a place to replace the Dyneema slings when they become worn, they should stay on your rack for a long time.
The Wild Country Friends seemed like an upgraded version of the Black Diamond C4, improving on the weight savings without jacking up the price. Though they aren't (as of yet) available in as many sizes as the BD or DMM Dragon Cams, they're a great choice for the backbone of your rack.
— Matt Bento