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Yet another 'which micro cams' question

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 Jamie Wakeham 14 Jan 2021

Looking at renewing my rack of cams over the next year or two, and I've been looking in particular at the small end.  I had assumed my default choice would be DMM Dragonflys, but I'm no longer so sure.

Is it just me or do the Dragonfly cams have relatively poor ranges? 

Green DMM: 7.8-11mm            Black Alien: 8-14mm               Red WC Zero: 8.04-13.2mm

Blue DMM: 12.1-17.9mm          Green Alien: 13-22mm            Blue WC: 13.44-22.1mm              Blue Totem 13.8-22.5mm

Looking at percentage expansions (of smallest size) the DMMs score 41% and 48%.  Aliens 75% and 69%.  WC 64% and 64%.  Totem 63%.

On the face of it those figures make me think that a Dragonfly has a lower range and so is significantly less likely to be the correct cam for a given placement.  But I wonder if DMM are just being more pessimistic (or realistic?) about the range of sizes they will fit, and in practice there's not as much in it?

On a side topic: I know DMM and Totem will resling cams, and I know WC cannot (but say they intend to in the future).  Anyone know about Fixe?  I've emailed them but not heard back.

 MischaHY 14 Jan 2021
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

Basically this is due to the camming angle used - less range means greater holding power. 

You can back and forth on this, but having used both I found them very similar to Aliens but with a better build quality. Aliens are awesome but have this odd 'fragile' feeling to them which the Dragonflys don't have. Reslinging is a big advantage as well. 

That being said, I mainly use Aliens and they're excellent. They even hold in horrible slippy lime! 

In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

My take on it: I have the dmm dragonflies. They work. I've had falls on them/seen falls on them. It's nice to support a British manufactured product and the resling service is good.

If you look at the numbers, you might think otherwise, but you're not going to find yourself at a loose end whichever one you buy. They all work and if you think a millimetre or two is going to make a significant difference to your climbing, then you must be climbing some very hard/specific routes, because I've always felt I have the right protection between my dragons and dragonflies.

One exception might be totems on slippery rock. Climbing in a limestone quarry, it did at least seem a better placement, but for everything else I reckon they're just 'nice'.

 Jamie Wakeham 14 Jan 2021
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

Cheers, both.

Mischa - I know the theory that range is inversely proportional to holding power, but then the Aliens (which, as you suggest, have a reputation for high holding power) also have excellent range.  Not sure how this works, or if (as I begin to suspect) they are overstating their range.

Sharpend: absolutely agree on supporting a local manufacturer, and I intend to get mostly Dragons, probably in sizes 7 - 1 or 7 - 0.

I'm certainly not climbing very hard or specific routes!  But if Aliens genuinely do have a range that's a third greater, then it makes it more likely that a given cam fits a given placement.

 beardy mike 14 Jan 2021
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

It will be down to three factors:

1) Camming angle - this is the angle between the surface of the lobe and the rock at point of contact. It describes the logarithmic spiral of the cam. The higher the angle, the more acute the spiral is and therefore the difference in radius from the axle to the point of contact becomes larger across open and closed positions. In theory, if a cams angle is 13.75, it will have the same range as another 13.75 angle cam. 

2) The utilised rotation of the cam. Some cams use 90 degrees of rotation per lobe, others use more than this, infact the maximum you can obtain before you smash the other cam into the opposing wall on a single axle cam is about 112 degrees. The amount you can rotate each cam is however, governed by the position of the trigger wire. If it is badly positioned you are restricted to maybe 90-95 degrees which means you are not using as much range as the lobe can actually provide.

3) How it's measured - with single axle cams this is far vaguer than with a double axle cam which has a mechanical limit of 90 degrees due to the opposing lobes axle running in a slot of each lobe. You Cannot exceed 90 degrees on a normal dual axle cam and the extra range is provided by the axles being offset.

So it could be down to a combination of these things. I started the work on the Zero cams many years before they were released and it was taken over by Salewa and another consultant so I don't know what happened after I was no longer part of the project, but I do know that originally I had been asked to stick to 13.75degrees for the cam angle. It was felt this was inline with what worked effectively across all rock types. However I did also make the suggestion that you could change the angle to 14.5 degrees and this may have been applied - the discussion was felt that this would be the limit from physical testing completed by another design team member. It may be that once Salewa took over the design, they felt they wanted to compete directly with Aliens rather than Dragonflys. Aliens have a very high angle indeed, something approaching 16 degrees. 

Factor 2 is not quite so relevant in small cams as the range difference is quite marginal, but I know that when I turned over the drawings to WC the wire holes were located as best I could. 

Factor 3, who knows - the only way you could tell is by getting a Dragonfly and compressing it to it's fully closed position and measuring it to check and do the same with the others...

In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

Also worth looking at head width?

I assume you have a range of Friends/Camelots/Dragons and are looking to add some diddy sizes in at the bottom?

Looking at head widths Dragonflys are the wider options and Zeros are one of the narrowest. Also the Zeros have consistency on the overlap between sizes.

The reslinging service has once again popped up and I can confirm that it is still in the pipeline, hoping to role it out end of this year early 2022. 

 Jamie Wakeham 14 Jan 2021
In reply to beardy mike:

Thanks, Mike - I was hoping you might pop up.  That all makes perfect sense.

So, who's got two or more of these cams and is bored enough to take some photos (or put them into calipers)?

edit: McKEuan, I'm looking to refresh my whole rack over a period of time.  I'm fairly set on DMM Dragons from size 1 upwards.  If WC can confirm that they are definitely going to introduce reslinging facilities then they'd come back into the mix for me; as I'm an instructor I cannot use kit outside of manufacturers' guidelines and I don't fancy throwing cams away because the sling is out of date!

Post edited at 13:58
 flaneur 14 Jan 2021
In reply to beardy mike:

Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t Aliens compensate for a larger cam angle with softer metal lobes? These stick better for a given cam angle but wear faster. 

Range, holding power, durability: choose two. 

In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

They're definitely going to bring it back just been faffing for ages on where is best to do it.

 ModerateMatt 14 Jan 2021
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

Hey Jamie 

If I were buying again I would get the smaller 2 or 3 totems and definetly the black over any of the other brands of small cam. As they are narrower than a Dragonfly, have more holding power if memory serves and are much easier to places. I had all the Dragonflys but sold the larger sizes as I found them hard to place due to their flexibility. 

Once you get to actual mucrocam sizes I feel like the differences decrease. After spending too much time thinking about it and using a few different types all the mass productions mucrocams work well. If you want a bit more range without sacrifing on the cramming angle Z4s might be a good option and they can be reslung. 

Post edited at 16:48
 beardy mike 14 Jan 2021
In reply to flaneur:

That is a theory. It's actually very difficult to quantify this stuff with any real world accuracy. The tests are analogous but not directly comparable to real rock. The theory is greater mechanical deformation of the lobes can create an interlock between rock crystals and the lobe metal. But this would only really apply to more granular rock or rock with rugosities. The only thing that definitely does increase holding power is a lower cam angle - infact Metolius is somewhere around 12.5. Aliens do work well but they get trashed pretty fast...

 Jamie Wakeham 14 Jan 2021
In reply to McKEuan:

That's very interesting.  Are you an employee at WC/Salewa, or a well informed outsider?

Any chance they might redo the sling on my 1999 Tech Friend 5??  Or will there be an age limit, do you think?

Matt - are you talking about the black Alien or Totem there?

Post edited at 18:25
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:


So I work for the UK distributor for Wild Country,

They're only going to be reslinging Friends and new Zeros.

I can recommend reslinging tech friends with rated prussik cord. My brother did and still uses it!

And p.s. I know it seems fussy but Salewa don't own Wild Country. Saleaa and Wild Country are owned by a group called Oberalp. They also own Evolv, Dynafit and Pomoca. All WC hardware is developed by a WC team based in Italy. They don't share hardware design with Salewa (however much sense that may or may not make!!!)

Post edited at 19:47
 PaulJepson 14 Jan 2021
In reply to McKEuan:

Any idea on the reasoning behind only reslinging certain items? I have a couple of tech friends and some hexes that I'd like reslinging. Like, why wouldn't you resling your hexes? 

In reply to PaulJepson:

Unknown tbh Paul, as it stands they want to get Friend reslinging off the ground as it's the one everyone is asking for.

I'm sure if the service proves popular they will look at adding Rockcentrics and potentially Tech Friends. 

 Jamie Wakeham 14 Jan 2021
In reply to McKEuan:

I have to admit that, whilst I knew Oberalp was involved, I think I thought that they were Salewa!  Thanks for clarifying - both your position, and also that re-slinging for WC is definitely going to happen.

I was being slightly tongue-in-cheek asking about the Tech Friend - I don't really hold out hope that they're going to re-sling (and implicitly re-certify) a 22 year old cam.  My solution is to pass a 30cm 8mm sling through the loop and clip both ends to create a 15cm sling.  A bit of tape holds the sling ends together at the krab.  It works well enough for a device I place about once every six months!

I've been quite vocal on here over the last few years in calling out WC for not re-slinging their cams.  It looks to me like they might now be the pick of the bunch - they definitely have the thinnest heads of all,  they beat Dragonflys on their range ratios (assuming the quoted figures are fair), and they beat Aliens by being re-slingable.  I shall put my money where my mouth is and buy some.

In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

Ye its a huge company! Very old Italian money, climbing wall in the HQ is pretty cool as well!

Glad to hear you're tempted by the Zeros, good bits of kit and also Zero Offsets are coming out this year as well if you're after some specialist bits.

In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

> My solution is to pass a 30cm 8mm sling through the loop and clip both ends to create a 15cm sling. A bit of tape holds the sling ends together at the krab. It works well enough for a device I place about once every six months!

Please, tomorrow, before you do anything else, get this out of the bag and tape the sling closed all the way along so that you can't clip through the wrong opening. Or better, use some cord and a suitable knot. Only then will I stop hearing alarm bells and klaxons.

Post edited at 22:51
 Jamie Wakeham 14 Jan 2021
In reply to Longsufferingropeholder:

I'm very aware of this mode of failure and simply never extend this cam by clipping another quickdraw to it!  On the rather rare occasion that it needs more extension I use a 60cm slingdraw straight into the captive krab.

I also make a huge song and dance about it on the extremely rare occasions I let someone else use it.

In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

I can believe you're aware of it and would never fall for it until it happens, but why build it in? That's like racking a grenade and saying it's ok because I'll tell all my mates to be careful not to clip the pin.

Edit: especially if you're going to buy dragons, which have the double loop sling that you extend by clipping one strand. Which this must look almost exactly like.....

Post edited at 23:07
 Jamie Wakeham 15 Jan 2021
In reply to Longsufferingropeholder:

It doesn't, really: https://photos.app.goo.gl/81ivMGxDb19eA2FQ9

I can't see any way that I could grab that - attached, as it is, to an odd piece of gear that doesn't match the rest of my rack and which I specifically have to choose to get out of my bag - and mistake it for a Dragon/WC double sling.  There's no way I'm not going to see the tape and think I ought to clip below it.

If this was a really commonly used piece of gear I would agree and do something more permanent, but I hate offwidths and this sees the light of day perhaps two or three times a year.  None of my clients will ever go near it!

In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

Admittedly that's not as bad as what I had pictured, but still, there's a non-zero chance of that clipping through itself in the bag... and... just....
I'm having a hard time seeing why you'd bring that into the world and not do something to rule out the obvious. Thought we'd all learned the lessons about open quickdraw slings.

 beardy mike 20:34 Fri
In reply to McKEuan:

On the who bought WC question, it doesn’t help that it was reported here when it happened as wild country being bought by Salewa: https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/press/wild_country_bought_by_salewa-4420

And I can say from personal experience of having worked in both companies, that the people calling the shots in the early days were categorically the same people calling the shots on technical hardware at Salewa. Saying that Oberalp owns both companies is 100% correct, but resources were shared in the first instance. And I can also categorically state That if that had not been the case, WC would quite likely still be running with single axle cams, as that was what a large proportion on wc management felt was the correct solution. A whole raft of other solutions were presented, and we ended where we ended up...

In reply to beardy mike:

Ye, that was bad reporting (sorry UKC).

I get all your points Mike and we've hashed them before a fair few times!

I'd say that I have a better idea of how Wild Country runs nowadays than you do and that's not to say I don't value your experience with the company it's just the way it is.

I think the single/double axel debate is more a commercial argument. Double is the "new" tech so it makes sense to use it rather than single axels which is viewed as "old" tech. We shall see what the future brings but undoubtedly somebody will release a single axel cam that will steal market share from the double axel and it'll all go round in a circle once more.

In reply to McKEuan:

Oh no, cams going round in circles.

I'll fall.

In reply to Prof. Outdoors:

Maybe there's the next big thing! 4 lobes but like a cross/grappling hook arrangement. Perfect only for shot holes. Very niche.

 beardy mike 21:23 Fri
In reply to McKEuan: you are absolutely right, you know how the joint works now, not me. For what it’s worth, I think you are right, the commercial arguments won, there were for certain other reasons to do with the decision maker at the time simply not liking single axle cams and they made the decision and would not be swayed any other way. From my work I know very very well what is possible with a single axle cam, and I know that with the right design, the advantages are minimal. All the issues with single axle cams are solvable...

As for cams going around in circles, my thesis at uni was helping to design the Motolius super cam for HB 10 years before Metolius did it. Alas HB fell on hard times, and mores the shame - Hugh was a true visionary.

In reply to beardy mike:

Yep! Speak to anyone in the industry and they'll say the advantages of Double over Single are negligible. I remember being told that you couldn't overcam a double axel cam. I've got one stuck in a panic! 

Theyre not fashionable right now but give it time! For most companies they'd love to run a single and double axel programme but it's not cost effective.

 beardy mike 21:38 Fri
In reply to McKEuan:

Absolutely, with certifications as they are, it’s tough. And with the market as it is... margins are waaaay too low on tech hardware to really make a hit into it. The cut price mentality we have here in the UK doesn’t actually do the consumer any favours, in my opinion it has resulted in quite a stagnant market with little financial room for error. If you release something it has to fly, so companies in my experience are risk adverse. 

In reply to beardy mike:

Ye, perceived worth of a product is far lower than its actual worth sadly and with the trend of bargain hunting online it's only headed one way. 

In reply to beardy mike:

I was always happy with the sizing and performance of my WC Technical Friends. I would have quite happily stuck with single stem as they seemed lighter.

I think that 5 new double axle cams will probably cover the range of 6 old school cams but I thought that having 6 cams gave more, pardon the pun, flexibility on a climb.

Really like my Totem basics and use Dragons, not because they are double axle but because single axles had become passé and unavailable. DMM are excellent company as well.

Post edited at 22:00
 beardy mike 22:06 Fri
In reply to Prof. Outdoors:

The ironic thing is that the lightest cams were rigid friends... all that steel in the stem means modern cams are somewhat obese. Has definite advantages though.

In reply to beardy mike:

My 3 and 3.5 are rigid Friends. (Re-slung of course) In my opinion the larger cracks and placements for these sizes means that flexibility is less important than in the smaller cams and placements . Care is needed re direction of pull but that is good practice anyway.

The slings are coming up for replacement and short of sending them to USA it will probably have to be a DIY job. The rigids proved to be a talking point last year when a new climber shouted his mates over to look at these "antiques" that this "dude" is using. (I think those words are the right way around)

Post edited at 10:20
 beardy mike 10:45 Sat
In reply to Prof. Outdoors:

Yes, I absolutely agree, in the larger sizes I have never really seen the point of flexible friends, at least not to the extend that I can see in the small sizes. It's very rare that you can't effect a good placement which is secure and if you also installed a gunks tieoff loop, there was really never a placement which would not work well. But you're right, commercial pressures now dictate that we must use bendy ones because we must.

In reply to beardy mike:

Conscious of drifting away from the OP original question but at least cam manufacturers are variations of a similar theme, maybe apart from the Totems. Obviously good design will work in most situations. In the Mountain Bike industry it seems to have become a free for all to make money. Looking at say, bottom brackets or wheel fittings different manufacturers introduce there own ironically named "standard" which are non compatible with anything else and a nightmare to obtain spares.

Anyway, good luck to the OP in his quest. It is a pity that Totem Basics are no longer available as they are excellent although, unlike me, they are very flexible. In micro cams, the smaller extra range in some brand of cams would not be the priority for me.  Pity the shops are shut as a lot could be learnt by the OP by directly handling different brands. (Needlesports, Outside and The Outdoor Shop are excellent sources of feedback)

 beardy mike 13:36 Sat
In reply to Prof. Outdoors:

Kind of, although there are some pretty poor cams out there if you look for them. Sure, the major brands do well, but if you wander around the stands at ISPO you realise how many manufacturers take off the shelf chinese solutions which are just dire. In the UK we are spoiled for choice with the quality of product we see...

I would say if you look to the carabiner market, it is much closer to the bike market, plenty of dross to wade your way through which is readily available. So many variations on the theme and when you consider the totality of the product on the market, the proportion of really good product is maybe 50%? There is really some very odd stuff out  there, some even from well regarded manufacturers which you just think WHY oh WHY! 

In reply to Prof. Outdoors:

> Pity the shops are shut as a lot could be learnt by the OP by directly handling different brands. (Needlesports, Outside and The Outdoor Shop are excellent sources of feedback)

Indeed.  I could wait till I can get back to a decent outdoor shop, but who knows when that might be..?  I think I'll see which of the obvious shops look like they might be cheapest, and ask them to take a couple of photos of the candidates against a ruler!

I think I am fairly set on ending up with Dragons from 0-6, with WC Zeros 0.1-0.3 below them.  And possibly a couple of small Totems as doubles at the smaller end...  

In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

FWIW, I've climbed with all sorts of small cams (pretty much all those mentioned in this thread) over 30 years in all sorts of settings and across the grades and they were all great and have seen some serious action. However, I never liked having a set of mismatched cams on my harness - the result of accumulating and swapping gear on expeds /trips - even though I knew their sizes. I've recently changed to a full set of Dragonflies and they are brilliant - as good or better than anything I've owned before but now conveniently colour coded and perfectly size-matched to one another. I expect I'd feel the same about any full set of modern cams, except perhaps the Totems which I really don't get on with.

I know it's nice to agonise about camming angles, softness of cams, ranges, extendable slings etc. but in the real world I've never found these things have held me back. You may as well get the prettiest or the cheapest ones (of the main players).

 lithos 19:38 Sat
In reply to beardy mike:

i'd love to read a 'dross kit' report with photos and an your honest take - would be fun and educational - of course you may never work again

I have 2 rigid friends left and when weighed them years back was gobsmacked they were lighter, and agree larger sizes (3.5 upwards) seem less important and less wobbly

to the OP;  I have BD C3s which i like but are quite stiff but will supplement with a few small totems (blue+black) as i have a purple totem and really like it. Mate has some small Drafonflys they seem nice when i placed em.

 beardy mike 21:33 Sat
In reply to lithos: I’ll plead the 5th 😂

Now BD c3, just from a purely innovative perspective are great. The mechanism employs lots of lateral thinking and in the right situation they will stick where nothing else will go. Alas for more general use they’re a bit odd...

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