Totem Cams

The best addition to your rack!


Last updated: Aug '15

Test environments: ON limestone, WV sandstone, NH granite

FEATURES

  • Each set of lobes can be loaded evenly and separately, allowing for tighter and more reliable aid placements
  • Asymmetrical lobe design creates more outward force than other cams on the market - an asset for (s)limestone

Loading only one pair of cam lobes

To load one set of cams, you have to clip into one of the loops by the thumb catch instead of the sling. After some vigorous bouncing and bodyweight tests on various placements, the cams held up well without weird shifts or cam deformation.

When this orientation was tested on lead, they were a little awkward to place so shallow, but worked well enough. (psychological protection +1) I didn't do a test fall, since they're not officially rated for that, and I didn't want to risk destroying them. It's worth noting that Totem states that cams placed in this manner are (officially) only good for body-weight. If anyone wants to donate a cam though..... I'll take a whip for science.

Under-cammed & flared Placements

The asymmetrical shape of the cam lobes really instills confidence - you could really see where the lobes were biting into the rock. Even when under-cammed, they still seemed to exert enough power to stay put. None of the placements I tested blew out, unless it was placed in a completely ludicrous manner. Again, I didn't fall on these - I only tested them with bounce-testing and body-weight.

 Potato-quality photo on the lead.

Potato-quality photo on the lead.

Placements in less than ideal rock

Ontario has a lot of slippery and hollow limestone. I'm sure many of us have heard horror stories about seemingly perfect cam placements blowing out. While the Totem cam isn't magic, it does provide added security- again, the asymmetrical lobe design comes in handy. I had a chance to try this on an aid-line by placing the Totems in slippery nooks where I normally wouldn't place other cams. I was quite pleased to see them holding! If the bumps on the rock aligned with the edges of the lobes, it held. For smooth featureless rock, I didn't experience any slippage after some aggressive bounce tests. 

A reminder that this was my personal experience - please remember to exercise some common sense, these aren't miracle units.

 tight and weird placements

The cam head size is comparable to the Metolius Mastercams, and about a lobe size smaller than the Black Diamond C4's.

During testing, I found it hard to gauge the quality of my placements in weird places. Sometimes the cam would hold bodyweight when I didn't expect it to, other times it would pop out. I did notice though, that most of the failed placements were due to rock failure when rock contact was poor. 

If you have to use the Totem in a tight pocket or a weird space, I'd highly recommend a sharp vertical tug, along with some lateral ones, to make sure the cam isn't in a fragile position.

Ease of use & DUrability

The cams take some getting used to, as the stems are more flexible than most on the market. The cams will be more stable, but more difficult to place - not that it's hard or anything.

For durability, I found that the cam lobes were dented in some areas(though not severely so) after a couple uses. I suspect the lobe design exerts larger amounts of force to smaller areas, causing the damage, or a softer alloy was used on the lobes for biting power. 

After slings, wires are usually the first to go on my cams. I was happy to see that the Totem wires are nice and burly, with many of them covered up completely with plastic or springs.


Conclusion

I almost always rack these cams now whenever I decide to climb on local (s)limestone. They inspire a lot of confidence, and will often fit in places my other cams won't. The unfortunate side-effect of owning these cams is that they make other cams feel... less safe? When presented with ideal placements (granite and desert splitters), perhaps leaves these cams in the car - they're a little heavier, bulkier, and appear to be less durable. For anything else, they're pretty much my go-to and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them.

Climb climb climb!