Spring loaded camming devices are an essential part of the modern rock climbing rack. These clever bits of technology allow us to take advantage of parallel or even slightly flared crack placements.
Unlike wired nuts
(which are limited typically to two placement size options) the cams cover a range of crack sizes and shapes – they are also extremely quick to place.
In a position of extremis (imagine: muscles pumping out, hands sweating, legs shaking, eyes bulging, rope snaking below to a distant runner
) you spy an opening in the crack and, quick as a flash, in goes the cam, just in time to save you from oblivion, or at the very least a big whipper!
Funny how, as soon as you’ve clipped the gear, the situation doesn’t seem quite so bad…
The basic design principle behind camming devices has changed little over the thirty odd years since Ray Jardine’s original ‘Friends’
revolutionised rock climbing gear. Nonetheless there have been significant refinements and improvements, particularly in ease of use, strength, flexibility and lightness. Sophisticated modern cams such as the DMM Dragon cam
really are a joy to use.
Most climbers start out with two or three cams, but quickly move to having more when they realise how useful they are. For a typical trad rack we’d actually recommend between eight and a dozen, running across the full size range, from tiny micro cams
, right up to chunky fist crack sized units
If you climb on big sea cliffs like Gogarth
it is not unusual to go out armed with a full double set of cams and use the lot before you’ve reached the belay!
At first glance there appears to be a bewildering range of design choices. Single axle or double? Single stem or double? Three lobes or four? Extendable slings and range finders?
What are the pros and cons of all these variations you might, quite reasonably, ask? Well, it just happens that we have put together a Cams technical article to explain these very design features and help you decide which is the best cam for you: Cams Explained