The best small cams?


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Trad climber
Lee, NH
Jun 10, 2009 - 03:12pm PT
If I understood correctly, several other cam makers have looked at the Aliens and concluded that
because their assembly is complicated, they could not produce a similar cam themselves, but with
higher quality control, and sell that at a competitive price.

Trad climber
Chatham N.H.
Jun 10, 2009 - 03:13pm PT
Take a Mastercam,place it into a vertical crack of your choice,real or simulated,90 degrees to the wall,pull it downward,like a fall,and watch the top cams retract.Way bigger issue than misdrilled cam lobes.
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
North of the Owyhees
Jun 10, 2009 - 03:15pm PT
I run the gamut, mostly.....I've got aliens, offset aliens, zero's(Which I like a lot, very useful), TCU's(both Metolius & Bliss)......all have a proven place in the rack.

Big Wall climber
A cube at my soul sucking job in Oregon
Jun 10, 2009 - 03:55pm PT
I love my aliens, but wish someone would buy CCH and fix the damn place. Aliens work great, but the company is just shady.

I sent ~20 cams back for testing at the beginning of this year. They came back with stamped "tensile tested", and one red alien was clearly redone with a new cable, new swage, but the old plastic cover on the thumb loop (sort of like they were hoping I wouldn't notice). For a life support widget I would have hoped for at least a note telling me WTF happened with that unit.
Greg Barnes

Jun 10, 2009 - 04:04pm PT
Actually Moof that makes me feel a bit better about the ones I sent in for tensile testing (in the original recall period) - at least you can be sure they tested the sucker, and it failed.

Even before aliens issues, my rack was 00 and 0 TCUs, green-red aliens, then doesn't much matter. My blue alien got super gummy/tweaked in only a few years, and even when it was new I liked the 0 TCU better (black aliens didn't come out until I already had my 00 TCU, which was new then too). But green-red aliens just fit where nothing else does, it's really too bad that they don't have their act (even close to) together.

Mountain climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 10, 2009 - 04:12pm PT
I am shocked they don't professionally address all the concerns I read on the interwebs. If anything I think they should speak to it, but I don't see it...that's what makes me the most hesitant, I can't tell if all the rumors are true are not, maybe they hope their silence will discredit what people are saying, but there's so many saying it now, it's scary...

Sneaking up behind you...
Jun 10, 2009 - 04:20pm PT
C3's are the shizzle.


Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Jun 10, 2009 - 04:25pm PT
Aliens/hybrids Mandatory in areas that have pin scars/flares. That being said, Metolius TCU's are great too.

Metolius master cams (Spitting image of Alien) Totally suck, they walk too much, are too stiff, and generally don't hold a placement as you move up even with a shoulder lenghth runner. They are now in the Aid Bin at home.

Trad climber
philadelphia, pa
Jun 10, 2009 - 04:31pm PT
Quote Aint no Flatlander:
"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. "

I'm not sure what you're basing that opinion on, but I suppose you're free to think what you like about the testing I did. I assure you however that it had absolutely nothing to do with generating controversy and traffic and absolutely everything to do with calling attention to the fact that obvious manufacturing defects were found out in the wild. In fact several more defects were found in the additional cams tested at Rock&Snow and I'm hoping to finally have those results out tomorrow. I'm curious though... What about the testing standards did you find lame? And besides the obvious CCH shill who posted both on RC and SP, who did I flame for questioning the results? I seem to recall being quite patient with everyone. I also don't seem to recall you participating in any of the discussions, so why bring your concerns up here rather than one of the threads discussing the testing either here on ST or any of the other 6 sites I say it reposted on?

Anyway, my vote would go to Aliens if it weren't for their complete lack of QC and process control. I have a set of Zeros and like them plenty.


Ain't no flatlander

Jun 10, 2009 - 04:34pm PT
Squishy, CCH is in a lose-lose situation. If they respond to the witch hunt, they give it validity. If they ignore it, the rumor-mongers keep trying to scare people into buying inferior products. Before the thread got way too long, there were some very reasonable questions about the testing that were shouted down by a vocal few. So far, there appears to be no real-world incidents outside of the recalled units. Instead, there are thousands of climbers happily using Aliens and wishing another company would finally introduce a superior product.
mike m

black hills
Jun 10, 2009 - 04:45pm PT
HB made some nice small cams back in the day. They work well in the Needles(SD) as many of the cracks there are highly flared and highly irregular. The advantage the HB's had is that they have a longer stiffer cable which allows you to place it much deeper and gives you many more options. They also had a noe finger trigger which keeps your fingers out of the way when it gets tight. Anyone know if they are still made? Mike

Trad climber
Jun 10, 2009 - 04:59pm PT
HB went bust in 2005, some of their ideas were bought by DMM but not their cams.

Seattle, WA
Jun 10, 2009 - 05:01pm PT
Between my girlfriend and I think we have most of the cams listed apart from zeros.

We climb mostly free at Index, wa where it is comon to cary tripple of quadruple sets of small cams for single pitch free climbs. All of my regular partners and I fall on small gear fairly often. My preference is for more metal in contact with the rock. I do not find head width to be as big an issue as many on the internet.

My favorite small cams in order:

C4's .5 and up. Feels solid as a new bolt.

Pre-ultralight metolius FOUR cams in purple and blue...these are the perfect cams for slipping into almost imperceptible pods in thin nearly parallel cracks...we get a lot of these at index and you generally need any pin scars/big pods for your fingers. Feels solid like an old bolt.

Master cams...these a little bit narrower and have a single stem. I like them well enough but wish the lobes were a little thicker and the sling a bit pretty much have to clip them with a quick draw. Bought recently and may buy more if they stand the test of time. I really like the yellow and bigger where the lobes feel like they have some mass to them.

NOTE: Who the hell places cams with the stem pointing 90deg out? That is suicidal with U or solid stems and marginal at best with single stems. Maybe important for aid climbing but not a big issue for me.

Aliens ... I still have a lot of these on my rack. The lobes on a few of them are pretty mushroomed from holding a lot of falls (i don't aid climb unpurpose) so I guess I trust them but I will not be buying more. I find myself reaching for the other cams first. The green one is my favorite, though the blue fcu's and master cam have been replacing it recently.

Modern metolius ultralights ... these are okay but the stem is too short to wiggle them into solid placements like the old ones (cable is same length but the head attachment is much shorter). The sling is too short as well.

Tcus...okay but I prefer the redundcey of a four cam...a buddy of mine destroyed the inside lobe on a purple one taking a long fall (same fall snapped a fixed pin). I've definitely wiped on a friends blue but on the whole I find my FCU's just as good.

C3's ...combination of too stiff and super narrow head makes them more prone to walk then any other cam...slinging is a must so i save them for placing off good stance... they stay at home most trips. The red one is okay but I have yet to bond with the girlfriend got them while working at a gear shop and i doubt either of us would buy more.

Trad climber
Jun 10, 2009 - 05:08pm PT
"Squishy, CCH is in a lose-lose situation. If they respond to the witch hunt, they give it validity."

You're kidding, right? When that one poor f*#ker broke his alien, and posted sequence pictures of the thing actually failing as he fell on it, CCH logged on to accuse him of falsifying the photos.

During the last debacle, it appears that CCH logged on under an avatar to astro-turf.

Frankly, most of my unwillingness to buy Aliens now has to do with the staggering incompetence, misjudgment, and idiocy that CCH has displayed in this process from the recall to the current debacle. My guess is that that's hurt their reputation a good deal more than the actual failures. Every company has failures-- everyone has a QC issue or a recall at one point or another. The question is how the company responds.

Trad climber
Chatham N.H.
Jun 10, 2009 - 05:34pm PT
I place cams 90 degrees out when that is all I can arrange,and it happens once a weekend or so.Try it and see what happens.Aliens are un-affected,Master cams the top set retracts.

Trad climber
philadelphia, pa
Jun 10, 2009 - 06:16pm PT
Dammit, he caught me. It _is_ a witch hunt.

And I did all this with acid and a pair of pliers... Never did find the top of the one second from the left.

The actual details, left to right:
1. Used Black, mid-1990's, pulled from fixture at 55% rating, head of stem failed when tested separately at 147% rating.
2. New Black, 4/08, pulled from fixture at 64% rating, head of stem failed when tested separately at 80% rating. Some porosity in the braze.
3. Used Orange, mid-1990's, sling broke at 73% rating, retested and pulled from fixture at 71% rating. Plenty of porosity in braze, but held 117% rating when tested separately.
4. Used Yellow, 10/03, braze looked perfect but stem pulled from head at 78% rating.
5. (lower pic) New Clear, 5/08, Pulled from fixture at 90% rating, buckled lobe measured 23 on the Rockwell B hardness scale, the others were HRB52, 53 and 55 (which is where they should be for the 6061T6 they claim to use).

Mountain climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 10, 2009 - 06:36pm PT

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Jun 10, 2009 - 06:46pm PT
Another vote for aliens, especially if you're into aiding.

And if you're scared about their quality control, do your own QC before you put them to use - i.e. visual inspection, bounce testing, funkness device, etc. Are all aliens defect free? I don't care ... as long as mine are.


Seattle, WA
Jun 10, 2009 - 07:19pm PT

Sorry if I came off as a jerk but that is not safe. 90 deg placements might hold body weight for aiding but I think there is a good bulk of evidence that they are way sketch as lead gear.

Years ago I caught a 40' foot tumble past the belay fall when an inexperienced friend pulled two hand sized u-stem cams that had been placed stem straight out in pockets in a broken verticle crack. Examining the cams afterwords it was clear the stems had acted as a lever and popped them out.

The alien design is a bit better in this situation because the single stem reduces the amount of leverage the stem can put on the head but a fall can still produce forces the cam is not designed to withstand... particularly if the top of the head rest on a constriction as would be common in shallow 90deg placements.

This has been implicated in two single stem cam failures I am aware of (one yellow alien failure and swage and one red link cam lobe failure).

In fact, CCH specifically warns against using aliens in that way:

I believe OP, BD, Metolius and most other cam manufactures include similar warnings in their cam instructions as well now.

If you or anyone else regularly FALLS on cams placed in this manner I might change my opinion but I generally find I can get properly oriented gear in shallow cracks just fine if I keep my eyes open and fiddle it in...this is one area where narrow head width is a real plus (offset nuts too...don't have any offset cams).

Greg Barnes

Jun 10, 2009 - 07:51pm PT
adatesman - I missed the last point previously (I haven't gone through your posts on other sites), so let me get this straight (not being a metallurgist):

the hardness test pretty much proves that the metal in one out of the 4 cam lobes is not what they claim it to be - as in the same metal but not hardened, or totally different?

5. (lower pic) New Clear, 5/08, Pulled from fixture at 90% rating, buckled lobe measured 23 on the Rockwell B hardness scale, the others were HRB52, 53 and 55 (which is where they should be for the 6061T6 they claim to use).

So they get aluminum blocks from China or wherever and machine them, but at least one block is not the right alloy - is that the basic scenario?
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