The Maxcam is heralded as the first cam with an asymmetrical design (the inner cams are longer than the outer lobes) and floating axles. In theory, the Maxcam’s evolutionary design beats the Camalot’s expansion range, and works better in irregular placements, where the unit’s independent suspension can adjust to radical variations such as flaring pin scars. For these reasons, the Maxcam has a lot of fans. It received an Editor’s Choice from another magazine and is lauded online, though mostly by people who have never used a Maxcam.
While we liked the Maxcam’s syringe trigger action and promising range, the units were seriously unstable in deep, parallel-sided cracks, such as desert splitters, where the units were free to pivot. When the Maxcam was able to pivot, its outer lobes tended to walk up and invert, losing contact with the rock—that is, with a few jiggles the cam could rattle right out of the crack. The problem was especially noticeable when the units were placed at or above 50 percent of their ranges, but the larger sizes tended to invert at just 40 percent of their ranges.
Cam inversion was not a problem in placements that pinned the cams, preventing the units from walking or pivoting. Placements of this type are common in granite, and could explain why some climbers have not had a problem with the new Trango units and prefer them over other cams. Maxcams also fared well in horizontal placements that let the stem swivel up and down, eliminating walking.
Some will contend that inversion caused by cam jostling or “walking” is a problem endemic to all cams that are placed above their mid-expansion points. True. All cams are more prone to inverting at the upper end of their ranges, generally around 75 percent, but can be as high as 90 percent. The fact that the Maxcam is unstable at midrange, however, sets it apart from all others. Trango itself notes in its Maxcam instructions that each unit “must be [placed] in the lower 1/2 of its expansion range,” a point that negates the benefit offered by the extended-range design.
The Maxcams were also tricky to place. When I inserted the cam at an angle to the crack or let the trigger spring from my fingers (rather than gradually, as you should do), the cams inverted. With practice and careful technique I could minimize, but not eliminate, placement error—a blind placement would be a crapshoot. Finally, the common technique of shoving a cam deeper into a placement or pushing it overhead can also invert the Maxcam. (Trango notes this and cautions against using the Maxcam this way.)
For all-around use, Maxcams offered no benefit over Camalots—they aren’t lighter, are up to 4 kN weaker, don’t save you any money, and, even if they did have a greater camming range (Trango overstates the range for four of its five Maxcam sizes), are only one of two cams I’ve ever used that could actually rattle out of a good placement.
|Size||Price||Range (mm)||Cam Ratio||Weight (oz)||Strength (kn)||CE|
|Black Diamond Camalots|