Wild Country Helium Friends Cams

Beyond weighting the cams during routine use, such as when building anchors, etc., I was also fortunate enough to do some “surprise testing” of the cams on one occasion. In this instance, the silver #1.5 placed in a crack just behind a refrigerator block right below some slippery face moves at New River Gorge. I showed up planning to climb despite the fact that it was actively raining—I’m not out that way as often as I’d like, so I figured why not go for it. We found a couple sections of wall that were “mostly dry” and decided to try it out.

Feeling insecure because of occasional wet spots, I guess I wasn’t surprised when I slid right off a smear, but it always seems to quicken my heart rate, regardless. The cam held fine, didn’t move or walk despite not being extended (there’s that slightly longer sling put to good use), and I felt confident falling on it. That, getting back to the mysticism of cams, is a point worth dwelling on for a moment.

I know that these cams are well made, and they are designed to hold these falls. To that end, saying that a well-placed piece did what it has been rated to do doesn’t seem like sufficient analysis. The point behind that, though, is that I trusted it and felt good about it. Considering my inexperience with these cams relative to the rest of my rack, I think my confidence level with them is an unequivocal success on Wild Country’s part.

In general, the quality of the pieces was consistent throughout the range. Small sizes performed as well as the larger sizes, though subjectively I tend to prefer cams with narrower heads (i.e. TCUs) in the finger sizes. If you like the smaller C4 sizes (0.3, 0.4, 0.5), then you will be just as happy with the Helium Friends in those sizes.

Aside from being as good and as user friendly as Camalots, they complement an existing rack of Camalots nicely if you, like many people, bought C4s as your first set. The sizes, while relatively similar, are subtly different, and it is nice to complement an existing set of cams with a set that fills in some of the overlap spaces.

The benefits of this are immediately clear on many Indian Creek cracks that slowly widen (or taper) as you go up. Though any set of cams, because their ranges technically overlap, should be able to handle this, there are still crack sizes (especially in larger sizes, since overlap relative to cam size decreases as cam size increases) where, say, a number 3 C4 is a bit under-cammed but the number 4 is over-cammed and threatening never to come out. Having more than one brand of cam for these situations is ideal.

Dave Alie, Indian Creek, Blister Gear Review
Dave Alie with the Wild Country Helium Friend Cams, Indian Creek.

Bottom Line

The Wild Country Helium Friends cams are a great option for any trad climbing application. The longer stem and sling make deeper placements possible, while the small, single-axle head keeps the bulk down on your rack. As stated above, even Camalot loyalists should think about outfitting with these so as to fill in the size gaps that exist between cams.

Because of the smaller cam angle, you need one extra cam to cover the same range when compared to C4s, a significant drawback from a cost perspective, though this is really only an issue when looking at buying a full set of cams. When looking at individual pieces, they are as solid as anything else on the market and are ideal for filling in gaps on your rack.

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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