Top Gear – Black Diamond Ultralight Camalots

Top Gear - Black Diamond Ultralight Camalots

Black Diamond Camalots have been my gold standard spring loaded camming devices (or commonly called cams) for a long time.  I have used plenty of others, but for some years  Black Diamond were the only company offering twin axle devices and as soon as I tried them I was sold on their holding power and increased camming range per unit – if each device can cover a wider camming range you can carry less to cover the same range of crack sizes.

Now there are other companies offering twin axle cams (DMM’s Dragon Cams are a superb alternative) but you often end up defaulting to tried and trusted equipment and so I have stuck with Camalots for personal use although as a business we use a lot of DMM cams too.  I like the strong nylon sling Black Diamond use and they have always proved to be durable and reliable.  I also think they have the smoothest trigger action on the market. 

Recently Black Diamond brought out a variation on the standard Camalot range and over this autumn we’ve been trying some out.  Their Ultralight Camalots offer the same size range for slightly reduced strength (typically about 2kn reduction in strength) and a major reduction in weight.  They are genius.

The weight savings are significant. While the smallest sizes offer less saving with the smallest #0.4 being 22 grams lighter than its predecessor, the largest #4 actually saves as much off the original as the 0.4 itself weighs!  Over a full set of #0.4 to #4 the weight saving is 25% which is a fantastic achievement given that the standard models weights already stacked up well against the opposition.

Black Diamond have achieved the amazing weight reductions in various ways.  The cam lobes have had more metal removed (there is more metal to remove on the larger sizes which explains the bigger weight savings for these units), they have changed the clip in tape to lightweight Dyneema and the stem is formed from encased Dyneema cord rather than metal cable.  

Ultralight Camalots operate in exactly the same way as the originals and the sizing and colour coding are the same.  This means you could potentially mix a set and choose the standards in the smaller sizes where the weight saving is less and then splash out on the Ultralights for the larger and therefore heavier sizes.

The Ultralights may not be quite as long lasting as the standard models depending on how rough you are with your gear, but for fast and light ascents I am sure a lot of people will be happy with that.  They are also more expensive, but again you might feel that is a price worth paying.  I certainly guarantee you won’t be disappointed if you do choose them – they are light on your harness, light in your hand, have a great expansion range per piece and have what, as mentioned above, l reckon to be the smoothest trigger action out there.  If you are in line for some new cams do have a look at Peak Mountaineering Top Gear choice #19 – Black Diamond Ultralight Camalots.

Posted by Paul