Canada’s trad climbing season is nearly in full swing, with popular crags like the Smoke Bluffs, Back of the Lake and Val David getting spring temps. Trad climbers have access to countless classics thanks to their gear-placing skills. Be sure to have the proper training and experience before attempting to trad climb, because there’s a lot more to it than just getting cams and nuts into cracks. Below are some of the best camming devices on the market for spring 2021.
The Metolius Ultralight Master Cam is a single-stem unit with a good cam angle for increased holding power. The flexible cams is 20 per cent lighter than the originals. The shark fin tooth pattern on the lobes gives excellent bite in any soft rock, from limestone to sandstone. The 10 sizes range from 00 to 8, and sizes 7 and 8 are very light for their size. The slings are replaceable, and should be replaced every five years or earlier. They are colour-coded and 11 mm long. The “range finder” system assists you in choosing the best size for the feature you’re protecting. They’re CNC machined for more precision than stamped or extruded cams. Despite being so light, they’re very durable.
The Metolius Ultralight Offset TCU is one of the lightest offset micro-cams on the market. They’re the as the same tried-and-true TCUs with offset cam lobes to fit tricky flaring cracks and pin scars. They have two smaller lobes and one larger lobe. Furthermore, they come in five sizes that range from 00/0 to 3/4 and have colour-coded 13 mm slings. There’s always a learning curve with offsets, so if you’ve never used them then be sure to get some practice on a route that’s not pushing your grades. Adding these to your rack will add some versatility for free and aid lines. Another pro is that they’re less expensive than comparable brands.
The Wild Country Friend is the original camming device, and over the last four decades it’s remained one of the best on the market. The modern Friend combines classic features with stiffer hollow axles, wide lobes that give secure grip and a new 12 mm dyneema sling. In terms of weight, 0.4 is 75g, 0.5 is 88g, 0.75 is 102g, 1 is 123g, 2 is 142g, 3 is 192g and 4 is 260g. The Friend is the most affordable set of cams you’ll find at your local climbing shop, and they’re in the top-three cams out there.
The Wild Country Zero is designed to fit into cracks too small for Friends. The narrow heads are perfect for thin or shallow cracks, pockets and ancient pin scars. The extendable slings reduce the likelihood of walking and let you protect meandering routes with fewer draws. The spring armour over the cable protects the stem from abrasion while keeping it flexible. To engage the trigger is a big thumb loop. The slings and cams are colour-coded for orderly racking and quick selection. They are sized 0.1 to 0.75.
The DMM Dragonfly has been on the market for the past few years and has become one of the must-have micro-cams for thin cracks. The six colour-coded units cover placements from 7.4 – 28.3 mm. Production of the size 1 Dragonfly was a notable achievement as the smallest certified climbing cam. This versatile protection for narrow cracks and small pockets use the same proven 13.75° camming angle as Dragons – the optimum combination of holding power and range. These single axle cams with a flexible stem feature a narrow head width and compact trigger bar to allow full-depth placements. The extendable 11 mm Dynatec sling on the thumb loop has a compact stitching pattern allowing the user to clip either strand. TripleGrip lobes with a ‘raw alu’ finish and grooves to increase surface texture interaction boost the holding power.
The DMM Dragon are a top choice for many rock types in Canada. They lock into place on granite, more than almost any cam we’ve ever used. The many grooves on the lobes grab the small quartz crystals and don’t let go. On the softest limestone, weighting the cam pushed the bite points in and sheared off flakes. It seemed the rock would go before the cam slipped out. On sandstone cracks, like those at Pass Lake in Ontario, the carved grooves bit into the sandiest of cracks. Other bonuses are the single stem and dual axle that give the Dragons 360° flexibility. Instead of a thumb loop, a big hot-forged ergonomic thumb-press reduces fumbling. The eight-millimetre Dyneema sling extends and can eliminate the need for a quickdraw. They come in sizes up to 7 and 8.
The Totem cam, built is Spain where few splitter cracks exist, is not as well-known as other cams, but they’re a great option for aid climbing and winter mixed. What makes them great for aid is the ability to engage only two lobes at a time, allowing for a variety of placements and clip-in points. They work great in pockets and holes where other cams won’t fit. They have long lobes that give a strong camming action. Furthermore, they’re easy to use with gloves on thanks to the big thumb loop. We recommend having a rack of these to compliment your current set(s) of cams if you plan on going big walling.