The best small cams?


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Mountain climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 10, 2009 - 01:28pm PT
Lots of choices, what do you guys think are the best all around small cams?

C3's, Zero's, Mastercams, TCU's, Slitters and Aliens...

Trad climber
Jun 10, 2009 - 01:31pm PT
the C3's have a stiff trigger bar, but once you get them placed actually i find them to work the best. They are also truly 'narrow' since they are single stem rather than U-stem (no swages on the sides like the TCU's). Used WC zeroes, too wide for the smaller sizes - with most small cams I'm using them in pockets and seams and the three cam style always works the best, the odds are highest that they will fit.

Haven't used the master cams but i suspect they would be similar to the aliens, which I like only slightly less than the C3.

Get C3's, they are light, small, and hold really, really well. That, and you won't have any problems finding them...

Big Wall climber
Jun 10, 2009 - 01:31pm PT
Guys are gonna piss and moan, but I still prefer the Aliens to all the other small cams. Actually, the majority of the climbers I know still do. I use nothing else, up to a red alien.

Social climber
the ass-end of nowhere
Jun 10, 2009 - 01:41pm PT

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jun 10, 2009 - 01:41pm PT
aliens and alien hybrids

Trad climber
Jun 10, 2009 - 01:46pm PT
Zero cams are useless, far to big and they don't inspire confidence.

sounds dumb because I know they are well made but you need to feal good about the gear you use and I know a whole bunch of people who don't feal good on the suckers.


Lake Tahoe
Jun 10, 2009 - 01:50pm PT
I love Aliens but since most of them appear to be defective, I'm not sure I'll ever use them again. Due to inconsistencies in the locations of the axle holes, they are unpredictable.


Jun 10, 2009 - 01:51pm PT
Aliens, aliens, aliens, and hybrid aliens. Blue-Red then Camalots.

I have a 00 TCU and a tiny WC Zero which I like.

The new single stem Metolious is not a god of the pin scare liek the alien.


Trad climber
Boston, MA
Jun 10, 2009 - 02:03pm PT
I used to say Aliens, but will do so no longer. Now, I dunno.

Maybe Metolius TCUs? They seem okay. I've used Zeros, hate 'em.

Ain't no flatlander

Jun 10, 2009 - 02:03pm PT
After trying the rest, here is another vote for Aliens. I'm convinced the bashing on is more about generating controversy and traffic than any real issues. Lame testing standards done to achieve a desired outcome and then flaming anyone who questions the "results" doesn't really appear to be a "safety" issue.

Trad climber
A place w/o Avitars apparently
Jun 10, 2009 - 02:04pm PT
I've always used Metolius TCU's. I am interested in the new Master Cams as well. Never used the C#'s but I thought I heard they were heavy?


Trad climber
Boston, MA
Jun 10, 2009 - 02:05pm PT
Oh, and before you commit to the new Metolius MasterCams, make damn sure you're comfortable with the trigger wire setup, and how it'll work over an edge. Scares the sh#t out of me, but ymmv.

John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
Jun 10, 2009 - 02:09pm PT
I've had problems with some of my c3's. The trigger mechanism has become twised while aid climbing on them and the action has been affected. The cams no longer snap back into position.

I was hoping BD would be able to fix it, so I contacted them and they told me that the trigger mechanism was unrepairable. And also it wasn't covered under any warranty since I damaged them by climbing with them.

Hence I've gone back to using aliens for clean aid and c3 for free climbing.

Greg Barnes

Jun 10, 2009 - 02:11pm PT
Even die-hard Aliens fans like me are thinking twice now. Can't even drill the friggin axle hole even close to the right place?!? Incomplete brazing even of some of the very old ones? Lying on the internet about it instead of fixing the problems? Seems like they are only one interested lawyer away from being sued out of existence, and maybe even setting themselves up for criminal prosecution.

I admit that I'm using my old TCUs for key pro and avoiding using Aliens, even having bounce-tested them. Reaching for the Alien, then pausing and grabbing anything else - not a good sign, and I know i'm not the only one.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Jun 10, 2009 - 02:15pm PT
I got used to Metolius TCUs early on. The C3s seem beefier and more stable, but there are places (with narrow openings) that Metolius, which has the thinnest cables, fits better. For that reason the 3 smallest TCU sizes (silver, purple, blue) are on my default "light rack."
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Jun 10, 2009 - 02:22pm PT
my thoughts for small cams for walls:

in summary, Aliens but with Greg's concerns

Aliens are the best for pin scars because of their narrow head profile and soft aluminum cams. The downside of the soft metal is that they wear out fast. So if you are like me, you often end up with a lot of Aliens that have "mushy cams" that need two hands or even my teeth to retract. Another downside to Aliens is that they have had reliability problems.

The Metolius Master Cams have a similar design to the Aliens but the harder metal they use for the cams means they dont hold as wall in flared pin scars. The upside is that they dont wear out as fast. However, the trigger cables are rumored to wear out pretty fast.

The Black Diamon Camalot C3 is another popular small cam. With only 3 cams, they walk a little easier than the Aliens and their more rigid stem does not work as well in contorted placements. However, they are a good option if you are scared about the quality control of the Aliens.

Overall, my recommendation is that if you are doing just a couple walls like The Nose or Half Dome, go with the Metolius or Black Diamond because those are cams you will want to have on your regular trad climbing rack. If you are doing a bunch of Yosemite walls, buy a couple sets of Aliens to augment what you currently have.

i put more wall gear advice here and here

Trad climber
Ouray, CO
Jun 10, 2009 - 02:22pm PT
"Zero cams are useless, far to big and they don't inspire confidence.

sounds dumb because I know they are well made but you need to feal good about the gear you use and I know a whole bunch of people who don't feal good on the suckers."

shut up, Magnus.
this guy wears a pink helmet while climbing, and schoeller pants while waiting tables. GO BACK TO RC.COM!

I have taken falls on a purple metolius TCU and it worked just fine. Bomber placement in a pin scar though.

hehehe, just messing with you Magnus, how is Utah?
Ottawa Doug

Social climber
Ottawa, Canada
Jun 10, 2009 - 02:28pm PT
Aliens and alien hybrids are the best to place. When I need to be sure that the piece will not fail I reach for a C4.


Mountain climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 10, 2009 - 02:49pm PT
good stuff in here guys, thanks for the input...How about the worst small cams? Are those Aliens as well?

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Jun 10, 2009 - 03:06pm PT
Everything I hear about aliens is negative, but they comprise the majority of my rack. It's very hard to give up something with such a superior design even if the manufacturing process is flawed. Somebody needs to step up to the plate and create an adequate alternative or fix the CCH process definitively.
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