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billcoe

Totem Cam review (short version)

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You mean you "pass" on the review? Or, the cams "pass" the review?

 

Pass = don't waste your money. Went out and tried some placements in comparison with a Silver/Red Alien to the Purple Totem. The Totems are well made, no worries. However, the Silver/Red offset Alien would stick places the Totem cam couldn't. The Totem cam never stuck anywhere that the Alien couldn't - this includes trying to get only a single side (only 2 of the 4 cams) to stick in a shallow bombay flare.

 

Win = Alien offset. Given the price of the Totem's, $80 each and then some, just buy some Wired Bliss or Metolius for a very comparable cam with less bulk on your rack but much cheaper, or get used offset Aliens off Ebay for tricky aid.

 

There, that's the medium length version.

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Borrowed bills totem cams for some free climbing this weekend. They are terribly difficult to place on lead. I could see them being good for aid only. Getting them off your rack and your thumb on that stupid thumb trigger is dificult and time consuming. Wont purcahse them. But they did place well once they were situated in my hand propperly.

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agree - it's nice the colors match the approximate size of bd camalots, but they're no lighter than c4s, the triggers are wierd, and its pretty rare to just need 2 lobes engaged in cracks that wide (the smallest 2 sizes of totems are about yellow alien to red alien - guess they're not making anything smaller, though that seems to be frequently where the hard aid is?)

 

the super flexibility of hte cam is cool, but not enough to justify the added expense i reckon

 

so, the work just fine if someone has them on their rack, but i wouldn't go tracking them down to buy.

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Who in their right mind would still buy Aliens?

Who indeed? They significantly outperform the Totems on marginal aid placements.

 

Who indeed?

____________________________________________________________________

 

Thanks Bill. Good to know. I did hear that you can use just one side of the cams for aiding in super narrow placements. Did that work at all?

 

No. Not like I wanted anyway. That is the selling point of Splitter Cams as well, ie, that they will hold on a single set of cams. In this case against the Totems, the Aliens will also hold in a bombay flaring shallow placement on only 2 of the 4 cam lobes, and better. Same placement, Alien holds and the Totem pulls. I particularly tried to see if the Totems would perform as they say they should Steve: ie, the selling features that they say out perform other cams are holding at a larger angle - I think they even mentioned 40 degrees (which would be pretty damn rad), and holding with a single set of cams, 2 of the 4. Nope. They do not outperform an offset Alien. I had thought, from the marketing hype, that these would outperform in those marginal aid placements. They don't. Not against an offset Alien. They'll stick places where a Wire Bliss will pull though. I need to get the Mastercams out to do the heads up comparisons - and the C3s and the Zeros out as well. But against only an offset Alien, it's damn disappointing. Sorry. That's it.

 

Nope nope nope.

 

 

Now I have 8 of these. 2 blues, 2 golds, and the rest of the set. Shit.

 

Don't get me wrong, they're not trash. They are a high quality unit. IMO perhaps not as good as a Camalot. However, at $80 a unit, you have something that a high end free climber like Powerhound, as he says above, won't want to try and make work mid crux, and a hard-assed aid climber like Ivan, who weighs 250 something and climbs hard and strange aid, won't want to pay for as well the first time his Totem pops and he rides, then he sticks the Alien in the same spot and walks the route.

 

I mean, if an offset Alien will hold his big ass, but a Totem will fail, why deal with the increased bulk and initial cost of the Totem? Seriously? WTF? Interesting that Wired Bliss are made with T6061,the soft grabby aluminum that Aliens use to use before they went tits up, but they don't perform as well. U need to do the full comparison still. ie, vs c3's, Mastercams, Zeros, Splitters: etc etc.

 

Plus for the Totems vs an Alien....better range. That's about it. I haven't looked at them vs a Camalot. They have the narrower head, dead nutz the same width as an Alien. They do not fit a pin scar like a single stem Alien or Mastercam, more like a TCU, as there are cables on both sides. I suspect that if 100 people were to look at a Camalot, Wired Bliss or Metolius Mastercam unit vs the Totem: 99 percent would pick something other than a Totem.

 

They need a lot of real estate on your rack to start with.

 

They will be much easier to destroy. (A quick look at this as an aiding piece will confirm that this is a piece you NEVER want to loan to the 250 lb Ivan for aiding LOL!)

 

They are more labor intensive to grab and plug.

 

They do not stick, stay, or grab better, they slip out of placements an offset Alien sticks like glue in. And that's the #1 reason to pass on them.....Sadly! Hopefully, I saved someone a buck. If anyone local wants to borrow mine to see what they think, just ask. Right now, Powderhound has the larger 4 (Yellow and Purple and up) and I have the little 4, 3 of which just came in. Anyhooo, I do not value them like I thought I would before I had them in my sweaty little hands.

 

 

I guess we're working into the long version here:-) Jon and Porter have the full meal deal. We can add this and tweak and it will be all there for all of you to see...and ....to bitch at:-)

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I'm planning on a new set of DMM cams but am now hesitant with the slings on them. I'd been holding off on a new set of BD cams, waiting for the DMMs to come out. Now that they are out, I'm torn if I want cams I know the slings will need to be replaced much sooner than the BDs would. At least I can scratch the Totems off the list...

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This is Mikel, designer of Totem Cams.

 

I do not want to persuade everybody to buy Totem Cams, but to give a honest opinion of them as climber and as designer.

Some questions arose in this forum and I will try to give my point of view of them:

 

Pass = don't waste your money. Went out and tried some placements in comparison with a Silver/Red Alien to the Purple Totem. The Totems are well made, no worries. However, the Silver/Red offset Alien would stick places the Totem cam couldn't. The Totem cam never stuck anywhere that the Alien couldn't - this includes trying to get only a single side (only 2 of the 4 cams) to stick in a shallow bombay flare.

 

Really, I do not have hybrid Aliens so I can't compare them directly. It's possible that an hybrid Alien can hold in a placement where a Totem Cam can't but I really doubt about it. Maybe the fact is that in some cases you would be more careful with Totems 2 lobes loading to achieve a holding where with an hybrid Alien would be more intuitive/easy. However, the aim of Totem Cams is to be a general use cam with added aid capabilities. Have you taken into account the guidelines offered in "Learn more about two lobes loading" in our web site? I suspect that probably in this Silver/Red Alien placement you did not choose/set properly your Totem. See the sizes. The equivalent to Silver Alien is the Yellow Totem so where Silver/Red Alien fits you should place a Yellow Totem with two lobes loaded. The Purple could not be introduced so deep in this shallow crack.

 

...the selling features that they say out perform other cams are holding at a larger angle - I think they even mentioned 40 degrees (which would be pretty damn rad), and holding with a single set of cams, 2 of the 4. Nope. They do not outperform an offset Alien. I had thought, from the marketing hype, that these would outperform in those marginal aid placements. They don't. Not against an offset Alien.

 

I should admit that I have tested the aid capabilities much more deeper in limestone than in granite. However, I confirm that you can get a body weight supporting placements with Totem Cams where an Alien could not (being hybrid or not, see some pure two lobes placements in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrn_CUEkE20).

 

They will be much easier to destroy

 

The Totem Cam have more parts so do not expect a longer lifespan than a BD C4. I can only say that Totem Cams are constructed with the better materials possible and the design looks for the durability. Have you destroyed them Bill? If so, let me know where have been damaged to improve them.

 

...They are terribly difficult to place on lead...

 

I can only understand this opinion if you usually operate a cam supported on your hand palm. Otherwise, you have a loop for your thumb! Just like in another widely used cam brands.

 

Finally I add a short review appeared at issue #99 of Klatring (Norway). They compare to BD C3. More reviews are upcoming on next Climbing Magazine and Vertical (France-Europe). I never know what are they going to say.

 

Yet another camming device? From a small Spanish company nobody has heard of? Can that be good? Oh yes! Totem Cams are a small revolution. There's no stem, and the force is going directly to the cam lobes through the wires attached on the inside of each lobe. This leads to a significantly greater force against the rock sides, resulting in higher friction and in the end that you as a climber are even better protected. When the manufacturer also promises placements impossible with other cams, like loading only two lobes and hold in 40 degrees downward flaring cracks it's not only the engineer that is fascinated!

 

When the Spanish postal service was finally done with their siesta eager unpacking revealed five cams, with sizes about as Camalots 0.3-1. The weight and quality are also similar to these classic cams from Black Diamond. However, the cam heads are much narrower, a red TotemCam is as narrow as a violet C4. The smallest TotemCam is about equivalent to a yellow C3, but has four lobes.

 

One thing is what the manufacturer promises, another is reality.

Reality can be very hard, especially if one falls too far. So there was only one thing to do; fall! Getting ready to take a fall on the smallest TotemCam my heart was racing, as a couple of reference falls on the yellow C3 had resulted in the cam popping twice! My worry turned out to be unwarranted, and the C3 is hereby retired from my rack! The TotemCam held as glued to the rock in the small uneven crack, even if it's theoretical maximum holding power is 2kN less than the C3.

 

The TotemCams are very flexible, walk little and are easy to place. You have to take care that the wires on the back side of the lobes do not get into contact with the rock, but this is surprisingly easy to avoid. Placements on only two lobes are not meant to protect against falls, but does easily hold the bodyweight of two persons.

 

So what is not good? The price; including shipping and customs it is a 1000NOK (130EUR) a piece - also the mechanism seems somewhat more complex and vulnerable than in traditional cams. Having earned a position as part of my standard rack the durability question will soon be answered. As of now two thumbs up and big grin for TotemCams!

 

Five sizes with weight 75-132g, covering cracks from 13.8 - 52.5mm.

 

 

Edited by mapeze

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...They are terribly difficult to place on lead...

 

I can only understand this opinion if you usually operate a cam supported on your hand palm. Otherwise, you have a loop for your thumb! Just like in another widely used cam brands.

 

 

mike the flaw in the thumb design is that your thumb is pressing against a soft material, and its hard to figure out how to position your hand when the stem flares out at the end where the sling is. I have placed and led routes with pretty much every cam out there, using the thumb methtod. I will say that your cams place very well and seem to have great holding power in what other cams might have marginal placement. However, I cannot see using these until they have a better thumb rest for placing quickly on lead.

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This is Mikel, designer of Totem Cams.

 

I do not want to persuade everybody to buy Totem Cams, but to give a honest opinion of them as climber and as designer.

Some questions arose in this forum and I will try to give my point of view of them:

 

Really, I do not have hybrid Aliens so I can't compare them directly. It's possible that an hybrid Alien can hold in a placement where a Totem Cam can't but I really doubt about it. Maybe the fact is that in some cases you would be more careful with Totems 2 lobes loading to achieve a holding where with an hybrid Alien would be more intuitive/easy. However, the aim of Totem Cams is to be a general use cam with added aid capabilities. Have you taken into account the guidelines offered in "Learn more about two lobes loading" in our web site? I suspect that probably in this Silver/Red Alien placement you did not choose/set properly your Totem. See the sizes. The equivalent to Silver Alien is the Yellow Totem so where Silver/Red Alien fits you should place a Yellow Totem with two lobes loaded. The Purple could not be introduced so deep in this shallow crack.

 

I should admit that I have tested the aid capabilities much more deeper in limestone than in granite. However, I confirm that you can get a body weight supporting placements with Totem Cams where an Alien could not (being hybrid or not, see some pure two lobes placements in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrn_CUEkE20).

 

Hi Mikel: I appreciate you passion and love for them. I'm sure you have a lot invested in the Totems, time and money. It is a new design. We as climbers all benefit from this.

 

I have good news and bad news. I did give an honest opinion. Furthermore, as you don't have any Alien offsets, I would RUN, do not walk, RUN and go get some. I will send you a loaner if you need. The Silver/Red Alien Offset is the Purple Totem size. Get one and compare and you will be shocked to see this thing sticking where the Totem won't. Not saying that in standard cracks your's doesn't work well, it does. I'm saying in very marginal placements -the ones most people would not stick a cam into if they could avoid it, and when they do place it are almost peeing their pants in fear: Offset Aliens stick better. I only stuck it in basalt. I wish we had some limestone handy, but we don't. I have an extra Silver/Red offset if you can't find any, let me know. I'll send it over and if you don't trash it too bad send it back to me. :/ Last spring they were selling for over $100 on ebay: used. Currently they are unavailable except used, although the price has dropped for now: it should be interesting to see what they sell for next spring when wall season opens.

 

You may in fact be blessed beyond belief. Mostly because you do not have to compete in the marketplace, for now, with Aliens - they are out of business and not producing them any more.

 

Here is the story. See, unlike your cams and everyone else's for that matter, which appear to be of consistent high quality, Aliens, despite being a superior design, were often shoddily and poorly made. If you do a search, you will find evidence of people tearing their hair out and agonizing over this very point. Misdrilled holes, inconsistent cam angles, and worst of all they occasionally would just fail in what appeared to be well below where they should have: just fall apart under little more than body weight. People got hurt. Climbers with Aliens got discouraged and started selling their cams. CCH offered to test anyones cams if they would send them back. I sent mine in and they all came back except for one: the Green one. The Green one they sent me a brand new one -with no explanation. They all came back stamped "tested". I was feeling pretty good about this until one of these "tested" cams fell apart on somebody. Then I was like.....crap. See, they were really the best designed cam in the small size range. Metolius tried to make one, and it's good, but not as good. Now yours come out, and they are good, but not as good. Metolius quality, unlike the Aliens, is superb! They have an awesome reputation of near perfect production. So lots of people had chosen to sell their Aliens and get the Metolius Mastercams. Although they are arguably not quite as good functionally, it's a huge plus that due to the awesome Metolius quality they are not falling apart either.

 

Here's the important part coming up. My preliminary look shows that Alien offsets DO outperform your cam in marginal placements. They DO outperform Mastercams (Which are very good cams)...and everything else too. It's not me or my placement ability. I've climbed for 37 or 38 years, it's just that they are better. In basalt anyway.

 

Hopefully you are still listening cause this is the part you need to read. Dave Waggoner, the former owner of Colorado Custom Hardware, the company who made the Aliens) passed away and the widow is - or was, selling the business. Buy it. Buy the business. Make Aliens of higher production quality than before, of consistent quality, and we will all be thanking you.

 

Here's is the contact information of the widow, who is (or was) looking to sell.

Nadia Waggoner

production/office manager

Colorado Custom Hardware

115 E.Lyon Street

Laramie, Wyoming 82072 http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1132391&msg=1137223#msg1137223

 

I am no relation. I will gain nothing if you buy it. Be apprised that at least Trango and Metolius have been rumored to have chosen to NOT buy the business. Also, with the dollar dropping vs the Euro, it would be cheaper for you to buy it anyway. If she is still selling the shell of the old company, and you eventually take a trip to Wyoming, bring your climbing stuff as Wyoming has some great climbing in the state. Some of the best in the US with the Tetons, Devils Tower, the Wind River area and a bunch more.

 

Good luck! Let us all know if you pick up this quest and need anything which we can help with. Perhaps do an internet search to get you started. LINK TO START YOU ON YOUR MAN OF LAMANCHA QUEST

Warm regards

 

Bill

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...The Silver/Red Alien Offset is the Purple Totem size...

Bill, the Silver Alien and Yellow Totem Cam are almost equal in size (see the photo). The Purple Totem Cam is almost equal to Red Alien. Where you placed the silver sized lobes of the Silver/Red hybrid Alien, most probably the yellow Totem Cam lobes would fit better than purples. So, as general rule: where the Silver/Red Hybrid Alien would fit try Yellow Totem Cam with two lobes loaded.

 

PA040005c.JPG

 

The hybrid cams are specifically designed for flared cracks where fit better than regular cams. Are not “better” cams. Otherwise they would usually be the main cam set of climbers rack, and are not.

 

Totem Cams are all around use cams and outperform Alien hybrids and all other cams in some placements (see the video). However, I'm sure that you could find a placement where the inverse would happen.

Edited by mapeze

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Thanks Mikel, I just saw your response. The Silver/Red Alien and Totem Purple visually appear to be close in size. The CCH web site shows the range for the Silver/Red cam (I converted they had listed in inches .61-1.3") to be 15.5 - 33.00mm which compares to the purple Totem at 20.9 - 34.2mm.

 

When If I get them back from Bryan I will check the Alien and the Yellow Totem head to head/placement to placement. Actually, Plaidman (Scott Peterson) appears totally enamored with them, and it looks like he's going to pick mine up from Bryan and take them over to the local climbing shop Climbmax, so they can evaluate if they want to carry them. At some point I want it remembered that these are my cams though. :lmao:

 

Anyone wants to join in this comparison trek to the rock to see for themselves first hand how the Silver/Red stacks up against the Yellow Totem cam (Totems published range of the Yellow 17-27.7mm), let me know and we'll organize something or a time and make a parade out of it.

 

Scott's review can be read here: http://blog.oregonlive.com/climbing/2010/10/climbing_gear_review_totem_cam.html

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WOW Bill. Awesome review. I have to say that I have never used any hybrid Aliens. So my comments on the Totem Cams was not a full out comparison. Not like yours for sure. I really didn't try them in marginal placements. Cause I really don't like marginal placements to start with. So my comments were just a straight up: would I use this cam. The answer was yes. The fact that I could use them in horizontal placements and the over construction of the cam were the features that I liked most. The fact that the cables go all the way through the lobe of the cam with a ball socket end was ingenious I thought. As I have had trouble with some of my cams where the wire just breaks over time.

The strength of the spring I thought was good too. In the pin scars in Yosemite the Totem Cam was awesome. I am repeating myself as I wrote this up in my review on my blog.

All being said I am not an authority and really didn't do a side by side comparison of all the different other cams cause I don't have a lot to compare to. I have one Alien(yellow), one Rock Empire TCU(blue),and one Pacific Omega link cam (purple .3 to .5 range for BD sizes. Then all the rest of my cams are BD C4s. So I was comparing The Totem Cams to what I have and my experience with the type of climbing I do. Heck I still love TriCams. Pinks rock and the new black and white are awesome. I digress. A lot.

In my humble or not so.... That is all.

 

Bill Rocks! Thanks Bill

 

Plaidman

Edited by Plaidman

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Bill - Send your set up to Seattle so that we can try them in actual stone, rather than Oregon "rock".

 

I don't really see how you can compare the alien off-sets with the totem cams. Very few climbers climb with the offsets on a regular basis. Usually people either aid with them, or have a couple that they get out for very specific placements on routes that they've got uber-wired. I think to actually compare them, you'd have to try onsighting routes near your limit and see which go in easier, and which you trust more.

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Very few climbers climb with the offsets on a regular basis.

True. I think that has been due to a mindset many of us have carried which was that offsets were for Yos pin scars. I've found that is not true around here in basalt. Once I started carrying offsets out at the Farside in the Gorge and other spots, I realized that they really worked better than anything else most of the time. Better even than regular Aliens. Sadly - of the 30 some odd routes I fa'ed out there, I had these damn Alien offsets on my rack many many times, which kind of screws any bros who might not have a set of them. That's why I am of the mind that anyone who follows one of those routes, if they think it needs a bolt, talk it over with those who are active at the area, those who have done the route in question, and if you get agreement -just put the %$#* bolt in. Make sure you don't piss off the regulars or someone who feels that the Metolius offset is a bomber piece and would be offended, and don't screw it up, do a good job and put in a solid stainless steel bolt(s) and hanger(s).

 

In either case, as said above, I want to put the Yellow to the test. I have the blue and yellow Totem, which gets it in the range of the Black Diamond C3's which I'll include the #2 c3 (14.2-22.6 mm, 0.56-0.89 vs 13.8-22.5 for the smallest Blue Totem)- some 16 cams total - on a biner that I cam haul out and folks can try every combo in any placement that they find. 1 caveat, I got old and fat and I really need a high mileage day where I get some laps in and I don't want to be screwing with stuff like this till I am totally yoinked and beat.

 

If not, or better yet, lets plan to all go bouldering up at the top of Rocky Butte Tuesday after work and play around with the stuff in the shallow placements on top, looking at how different cams fit in different placements. Lets plan on that. Anyone want to see all this and stuff them in the cracks yourself, come up to the top of the Butte after work Tuesday. Bring your shoes and do the traverse too. Don't need chalk, it's easy climbing so leave it at home.

 

If anyone I know, especially any 250 lb giants *cough* Kenny* cough* Ivan* cough * Benny* cough, wants to aid any steep shallow Indian Creek or Beacon type of cracks in the 3/8"-1" range, let me know, I have your rack right here:-) I'd really want to hear that feedback as well. Want the cams back by Tuesday is all, we can meet at the Butte after work.

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I am up for the Tues. thing. It sounds like fun. I love gear. :moondance:

Maybe we can solo that crazy hand jam crack on the corner at the bottom of the stairs too.

Good call on leaving the chalk at home. You know that Harvey Carter says that it is aid.

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Harvey also said he had one cam and tried not to use it. He is a real bad ass. Now that is old school.

Edited by Plaidman

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Thanks Mikel! I'll print them out and bring them along for folks.

 

I have a couple of Splitter cams on the rack. Their claim to fame is that they say that they are optimized for just 2 cams in placements like in the Totem drawings. Anyone want to join in, the more the merrier, the ground is flat and there's lots of room for everyone. http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/982933/GEAR_WHORE_ALERT_PDX_after_wor#Post982933

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I'm not sure that consensus was reached even amongst each individual:-) For instance, although I felt that Splitters generally hold poorer than everything else we had in acceptable placements: it was interesting that Scott found a placement where ONLY the Splitter cam would hold on 2 lobes that NOTHING else, I mean nothing as in: Totem, WCZero's, Alien, Metolius Mastercam, Wired Bliss, Metolius offset tcus, Alien and offset aliens would hold. Nothing held but that single Splitter. (It was too large for the c3 to fit, but I feel certain it would not have held either.) Go figure.

 

Overall, as far as the Totems went, certainly taking the smaller Yellow Totem along to fit in those smaller spots on the narrow end of the spectrum where the Purple did compare to the Silver/Red Offset Alien was a good idea as Mikel suggested. Yet in my mind nothing outperformed the offset Aliens....They'd stick in fairly fast and consistently, but if you worked and fiddled we always (except once) got the Totem to stick if the Offset Alien stuck. For stickablity, it often came down to the individual placement. Occasionally one cam would whomp, fit right in, and the next ones wouldn't...then, bam, next placement they would reverse. I might rate the cams best to worst, but I'm not sure how fair that would be because as noted, Splitters would be on the bottom and then there's the instance where the damn Splitter is the only cam that held.

 

The moral of the story is that if you are going to head up say...El Cap: don't take doubles of the same cam, or triples of the same cam. Take 2 (or 3) differing brands so that if the C3 doesn't stick, then the Zero doesn't stick, the Mastercam will, or the other way around. In fact, the Splitters, which I wouldn't want on my rack for freeclimbing, would go higher on the list for aid, especially pin scars. The issue is further complicated in that the largest C3 stops at a fairly small size, while the Totems are more of a full spectrum size range cam.

 

I'm heading down to Red Rocks at the end of the week, taking the Totems of course. Partner coming out from Colorado insisted and I'm not into disappointing buddies. Frankly, Totems are a nice cam with a real good range. I would not expect them to the best seller out there. For myself, Metolus cams rock, when you plug them in they stick and hold your ass. Camalots are sweet too and the price is right for these cams. I'm looking forward to Vegas and need to get on the easier routes. When I can get up it at all, I've been getting my ass handed to me on steeper stuff at Smith and Trout Creek last 2 weekends.

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