I’m in the mood for a set of cams, but can’t decide whether I should get units with the greatest range, which are usually the heaviest, or buy cams with less range, but are lighter weight.
—Kenneth via rockandice.com
My wife, too, has moods, and when she’s in one it would be easier for me to grasp oil in my right hand than to deliver a satisfactory answer to her queries. Nevertheless, I’ll take a stab at your question.
At a traditional crag such as Indian Creek, where you jam 80 feet up a 400-foot wall, clip chains and lower, whether a cam has a large or small range is
of nominal importance. What is important is having a butt-load of cams.
You are correct by inferring that expanded-range cams weigh more than regular cams, so it would seem that a “butt load” could add up. But, a Number 3 Black
Diamond Camalot weighs only an ounce more than its closest neighbor, the Number 3.5 Helium Friend from Wild Country, which has slightly less range.
An ounce per piece isn’t enough to sweat your swami over, even when you are carrying a big-wall rack, so move on, please.
The number that tips the balance is range. Cams with greater range are more forgiving of sizing/placement error, adapt better to irregular cracks and pockets/pods,
and fill a range with fewer cams, so, while you might still need 10 cams, you might only have to carry four sizes instead of five or six. This is bueno
because you then have fewer decisions to make, and are less likely to grab the wrong size.
The big daddy of range is the Omega Pacific Link Cam. Hands down. These have gotten a bum rap because they are heavy, and I would like to dispel the myth.
Link Cams in the two smaller sizes, the .5 and .75, weigh about the same as the closest units with the nearest maximum size from Black Diamond and
Wild Country. The Number 1 and Number 2 Link Cams are roughly two ounces heavier, and that is noticeable to anyone who obeys the laws of gravity, so
good point there. Yet for alpine climbing and routes where you mix nuts with cams, and you only carry a few cams, my go-to units are Link Cams. Two
or three of these practically guarantee that you will have something that fits.
When it is all added up, weight versus range is blah! Both are considerations, but bigger factors are ergonomics, whether the units instill confidence, and price.
This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 217 (April 2014).