Metolius hit a homer with this departure from their usual U-stem cam design. The Master Cams are four-cam units with single stems and narrow heads, and are the first units to go toe-to-toe with the popular CCH Aliens. Available in eight sizes, the Master Cams protect the gamut from .34 to 1.89 inches, compared to .33 to 2.3 inches for a full set of 10 Aliens.
As usual, Metolius applies a “safety first” ethic to their product. In this case, the Master Cams sacrifice some range by using a less-aggressive (13.25-degree) cam angle than that of other units, including the Aliens and their 16-degree-angle cams. Metolius says that their lower cam angle increases the outward force the cam exerts on the rock. Since this force is what actually gives the cam much of its grip, a force increase should result in greater holding power. Metolius declined to specify how much additional force their cams apply.
The loss of range is most noticeable on the tiniest Master Cam, but as the units get larger, the Master Cams tend to narrow the range gap. And because each size of Master Cam has less range overlap with its larger and smaller brethren than the Aliens, a full set of eight Master Cams actually has a broader range than an equal number of Aliens. Aliens can argue that their generous overlap increases the chances you’ll have two cam sizes on your rack that will fit the same placement; Master Cams can argue that their system lets a full set of cams fit in more placements. You decide.
I used the Master Cams extensively for several months on both sandstone and granite, and they held up really well, thanks to savvy engineering and stringent quality control. For example, while the trigger cables might bind against the edges of a crack in a horizontal placement, they are oriented to flex out of the way as soon as the cam is weighted. I took half a dozen whippers on the # 5 placed in a sharp, horizontal flake and the wires still look new.
Functionally, the Master Cams feel snappy, and their longish stems facilitate placement in tough-to-reach crannies such as the back of deep, narrow flares. The Master Cam’s narrow head width (just 1 3/8-inches for the largest, the #6) slips in four cams where many units only get two or three, and is competitive with the narrow head width of the Alien. The Master Cams are also 23 grams lighter as a set, saving 2 to 11 grams per unit, and $5 per unit lighter on the pocketbook.
I’ve used Metolius cams since the early 1990s and have always been impressed with their durability and strength. My only beef has been that my big hands just don’t fit their other U-stemmed cams. Now, with the Master Cams, Metolius not only fills the narrow-head-cam niche near perfectly, but puts out a unit that fits Papa Bear just right.