Wild Country’s latest cam offering, the Helium, is a new and different take on the Friend. The first thing you might notice is the name. “Helium” replaces “Technical Friend,” and with a change like that you would expect these cams to be lighter. Indeed, some units weigh less than the Technical Friends they have replaced, but some weigh more. On the whole, a set of nine Heliums (0 to 4, with half sizes) weighs 39.75 ounces, compared to a set of nine Technical Friends of the same range, at 40.4 ounces. As you may note, there’s been no big change in weight.
But, actually, there is. Gone are the 1.25 and the 1.75 quarter units, which collectively weighed 7.2 ounces. Getting rid of those redundant units simplified the line, and the remaining nine Heliums have a healthier overlap. You won’t miss those quarter cams, and will find that you are more likely to grab the correct size the first time.
The astute observer will note that the Helium seems to be challenging the Black Diamond Camalot—the stem and triggering are quite similar. The Camalot still has more range, but a set of nine Heliums weighs about the same as a set of eight Black Diamond Camalots. Unit for unit, the Heliums are lighter than the Camalots.
As mentioned, the Heliums have a new stem and trigger. A nice thumb loop has been added and the trigger itself is more ergo. The stems are a bit longer, too, netting you an inch or so more reach, depending on the unit. Color coding is nice and sometimes lines up with the Camalot. The 3.5 Helium (blue), for example, approximates the 3 Camalot (blue), yet the 2.5 Helium (gold) most closely aligns with the 1 Camalot (red). I wish all cam companies would get together and standardize color coding, as having some match up and others not is a bumblecluster.
Cam head width is about the same as the old, and close to that of the Camalots. The action is snappy, although the smaller units, the .5 and under, quickly became sluggish when exposed to fine desert dust. Keeping them clean will be important.
For finish and craftsmanship, the Heliums are as slick as it gets—up there with the hot-forged artistry of DMM—and that’s no minor statement.
In a nutshell, the Heliums are easier to use, fewer in a set, have more overlap and are more nicely finished than the old jobs. Friends of Friends,
About the Rating: Four stars with a one-star deduction because the smaller units easily jam with dust.
•New Friend design with thumb loop.
•Sizes 0 to 4, with half sizes. Nine units.
•Set range: .55 to 4.01 inches.
•Weight per set of nine units: 39.75 ounces.
•More cam overlap in new units than in old ones.