Wild Country Helium Friends Cams

Field Testing

My first experience with the cams was on a few straight-in granite cracks in the South Platte, and later on a few moderate trade routes in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado. As expected, the cams performed flawlessly, with the exception of one difficult-to-remove placement near a ripple. This was a “pilot error” instance in which my follower unknowingly moved the cam into a constriction where it became stuck while trying to remove it.

Dave Alie, Eldorado, Colorado, Blister Gear Review
Dave Alie, Eldorado, Colorado. (Photo by Pete Garceau)

The Helium Friends feel light in your hand, but the weight savings are not enough to tip the scales one way or the other on these things—the total weight saved from a set of Heliums (compared to the same range in C4s) is 40 grams. For reference, a Petzl Spirit carabiner weighs 49 grams. Not really something I could ever blame for missing an onsight….

Behind this small weight difference is the fact that the Heliums are actually heavier in the smaller sizes but noticeably lighter than their BD counterparts in the larger sizes (Helium 3 and 4, etc.). They are also slightly less bulky than their C4 counterparts when racked, which is always appreciated. This is readily apparent in a side-by-side comparison of the #4 Helium Friends and the #4 C4.

Wild Country Helium Friends, Black Diamond C4, Blister Gear Review
Wild Country Helium Friends (top) and Black Diamond C4.

While the C4 does have a slightly larger range (66mm-114mm compared to 63mm-102mm for the Helium Friends), the Helium Friends is dramatically leaner, considering these two pieces are roughly analogous. These two factors give the edge to the Helium Friends in the larger sizes (hands and above), whereas the smaller sizes are extremely similar to Camalot C4s.

At any rate, they got some use on a few El Cap base routes, where they performed admirably. I placed several of the cams in blindly when either trying to protect a layback or a step-around, and didn’t have trouble choosing the size or fitting the cam well. I did have to employ some trigger wire trickery in trying to get a few of those blind placements out, however. I got the sense after a few weeks of use that I would have to be slightly more mindful than I am with C4s not to over-cam the Helium Friends, as they seemed more willing to get stuck in finicky placements. My instinct is that the single axle plays a role in this, but to be fair to the Heliums, it should be pointed out that most of these instances were blind or difficult to examine from my placement stance.

After that adventure, I got to take them out for some single-pitch work at the New River Gorge, and they again were awesome. Though I know the range of each device is smaller than on C4s, it’s also not enough to notice a huge difference. I didn’t find myself having trouble reaching for the right size. I had been somewhat concerned about this when moving into a new sizing scheme, but a quick look-through before leaving the ground and a system of racking your cams in some sort of size order eliminates this problem.

4 comments on “Wild Country Helium Friends Cams”

  1. Excellent review! You did a great job of explaining the cam itself, as well as comparing it to the C4, which is the logical competitor (as opposed to TCU). Would have been nice to see some comparison to MasterCams, but I’ll live. I have a few older tech friends in my rack to fill in some gaps between Camalots like you mentioned — notably between #2/#3 and #3/#4, so it seems like I might benefit from upgrading to the Helium Friends whenever I decide to further augment my rack.

    The other thing I would love to see is an overarching comparison of smaller cams: Wild Country, Totem (CCH), BD, and Metolius. But that will get expensive quickly…

    • Zak,

      Glad you liked the review and thanks for the feedback. You make a great point about the comparison to Mastercams as they are an obvious competitor in the lower sizes (the Mastercams only overlap with the first half of the Helium range). I own exactly 1 Mastercam, and while I like it a lot, quality and function aren’t always the same across an entire cam line and I would have to try some of the other sizes before feeling confident that I wasn’t missing anything.

      The other factor that made me balk at including them was that they (Mastercams) are very clearly trying to fill the gap left behind by CCH’s departure from the business. For this reason, I ultimately decided that they’d be better served in review that, exactly as you mention, included other small cam lines such as Totem/Fixe/CCH, Wild Country Zeros, C3s, and on and on. Your request for a small-cam-deathmatch review is spot on and it’s in the works. I just need to log some air time on a few other those other brands and we’ll be good to go….

      Thanks again for reading and for the constructive ideas. Ultimately, we want to be reviewing what the climbing community feels would benefit them the best, so any thoughts you have on comparisons that your interested in seeing are important to us.

  2. I know I’m late the party but a great review. Although I must say I think you understate the weight savings of the Heliums over the Camalots. True, there may be only 40 grams saved over the set, but a set of Heliums include an additional cam. In reality, a Camalot can a lot more if you’re a weight weanie like me. For instance, a 2.5 Friend weighs 4.13 oz, and a roughly equivalent #2 Camalot weighs 5.47 oz. That is an increase in weight of over 25% for one piece, and well over an ounce (38 grams I believe). Considering that people are counting grams on their biners these days, such a difference is not trivial for one piece. Regardless, they’re both great cams, but the Heliums are much lighter in the hand sizes and larger, which is where most of the weight is anyway. Still a great review, and thanks for it!

  3. Hi,

    Great review and glad you took time to explain the cam angle between cams. My one comment is that you reference BD C4 range for the #4 Cam (66 – 114 mm). BD seems to give their cam range as fully cammed (66mm) to fully open (114mm). If you measure the cam lobe distance as one would actually use it, you’ll see it has a much smaller range and closer to that of the Friend #4.

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