Black Diamond Camalot X4 Offset Cams
MSRP: $70 / cam
- Double axle (.75/ .5 and .5/.4) and Stacked Axle Technology (.4/.3, .3/.2 and .2/.1)
- Narrow head width and offset lobe design
- Aluminum armor beads protect cable stem
- Symmetric swage and hot-forged trigger bar
- Anodized outside lobes and color-coded Dyneema sling
- [.1/.2] 53 g (1.9 oz)
- [.2/.3] 64 g (2.2 oz)
- [.3/.4] 78 g (3 oz)
- [.4/.5] 86 g (3.1 oz)
- [.5/.75] 101 g (3.5 oz)
- [.1/.2] 5 kN (1,124 lbf)
- [.2/.3] 6 kN (1,349 lbf)
- [.3/.4] 8 kN (1,798 lbf)
- [.4/.5] 9 kN (2,023 lbf)
- [.5/.75] 9 kN (2,023 lbf)
- [.1/.2] 8.4-13.8 mm/9.9-16.5 mm (.33-.54 in/.34-.65 in)
- [.2/.3] 9.9-16.5 mm/12.4-21.2 mm (.34-.65 in/.49-.83 in)
- [.3/.4] 12.4-21.2 mm/15.5-26.2 mm (.49-.83 in/.61-1.05 in)
- [.4/.5] 15.5-26.6 mm/19.8-33.7 mm (.61-1.05 in/.78-1.33 in)
- [.5/.75] 19.8-33.7 mm/24-41.2 mm (.78-1.33 in/.94-1.62 in)
Days Tested: 10
Locations Tested: Eldorado Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder Canyon, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado
Earlier this year, Black Diamond released an offset version of their Camalot X4 line of small cams, available in sizes spanning the entire standard X4 line: 0.1/0.2, 0.2/0.3, 0.3/0.4, 0.5/0.5, and 0.5/0.75.
For this review, I predominantly tested the three largest sizes of the X4 Offset cam, and also racked up with a friend’s 0.1/0.2 on a couple of occasions.
The X4 Offset adheres to the same design and construction as Black Diamond’s standard Camalot X4 line. The standard X4s are compact, flexible-stem devices, offered in sizes from tips to ring locks (or rattly fingers; the largest size has both 0.5 and 0.75 lobes, after all).
In my review of the standard X4s, I concluded that they were an extremely solid small cam option, and in my opinion, preferable to both the Metolius Mastercam and the Black Diamond Camalot C3. My only complaint with the standard X4s was that the smallest sizes (0.1 and 0.2) in the line suffered from an unnecessarily short stem. This caused problems in accessing slightly deeper placements, often threatening to fuse the cam into the rock.
Unfortunately, this stem problem persists with the offset X4s; the two smallest Offsets have the same short stems as in the standard line, the 0.3/0.4 X4 offset has a slightly longer stem, and the two largest sizes have full sized, minimally-frustrating stem lengths.
On the occasion that I climbed with the 0.1/0.2, in Eldorado Canyon State Park, I wound up waging a minor war with the cam while trying to clean it. Its short stem made the cam inaccessible in an admittedly finicky placement, though the longer stem on an offset Mastercam (or slightly larger X4 offset, which would have fit nicely but was sadly absent from my rack) would have made cleaning much easier.
In my review of the standard X4 linked to above, I also mention the fact that the swage on the stem is off-center, and the terminal point of the thumb loop has a small notch that would occasionally catch the stem, keeping it temporarily bent. This problem is non-existent in the X4 Offsets that I tested. The swage is the same on the Offsets but the notch has been stripped such that the stem doesn’t catch at all.
Functionality of Design
As with the standard X4s, the larger and smaller sizes of the X4 Offset cams employ slightly different constructions. The 0.4, 0.5, and 0.75 sizes use the same double-axle head design that appears on the Black Diamond C4 (as well as early-generation Camalot) devices. The 0.3, 0.2, and 0.1 sizes use what Black Diamond refers to as “stacked axle” technology. I cover the details of this design in my X4 review, but the important point here is that smaller sizes don’t quite have the room for two axles, so they have a single axle with internal springs (located inside the cam lobes, as with Fixe Aliens). This difference doesn’t dramatically change the functionality of the smaller cams relative to the larger sizes in the line, but it is worth noting.
The smallest three X4 Offset sizes also have wider heads than Metolius Mastercams of the same size. Additionally, these smaller Mastercams have a little extra room between the trigger and the head, making them easier to work with and less prone to getting stuck than either the X4 or X4 Offset.
The smallest four sizes of the X4 Offset use metal wires to connect the trigger to the lobes whereas the 0.4/0.5 and 0.5/0.75 sizes use fabric-based cables, similar to what is found on Mastercams.
Personally I prefer the fabric cables because they don’t kink or catch on the lobes if they get bent out of shape. Maybe Black Diamond was concerned about the smaller devices bringing the fabric into contact with the rock more often, thus abrading the fabric, but I can’t say I’ve had that problem with the fabric cables on my smallest Mastercams.
One of the best features of the X4 Offsets relative to other offset cams out there is their tapered lobes. This taper is there to move the metal of the lobe back away from the trigger wire so that the wire (or fabric cable) doesn’t snag on the lobe as it is being retracted. This is a really great, simple fix to an irritating problem that I hope becomes a standard feature on small cams.
Most companies’ offset or hybrid cam varieties have a thumb loop that’s one color, and webbing that’s another color to denote the split, offset sizing of a given cam. For example, the 2/3 offset Metolius Mastercam has an orange thumb loop and yellow webbing.
The problem with this system is that when looking down at your harness, you really only see the cams’ webbing. And when I rack offset Mastercams alongside regular Mastercams, it can be difficult to tell which can is the number 2 cam and which is the 2/3 offset cam, since they both have yellow webbing. In those instances, I resort to racking them on different sides, bypassing the visual identification system altogether.
Black Diamond takes a different approach with the X4 Offsets to address this. Unlike regular X4s, or most other cams for that matter, the thumb loop on every size X4 Offset is gray, and the X4 Offsets each have a split-color scheme in their webbing sling. This is a good idea since the webbing is the part of the cam that’s easiest to see when you’re quickly scanning your rack.
The X4 Offsets’ bi-color webbing is sewn with a white bar tack as well, however, that can make the two colors a bit hard to discern at times (a darker color bar tack might be better in this respect). Each X4 Offset cam also has two different colored beads on the string shielding the top part of the stem cable. These beads are the same two colors as the webbing, but its more of an aesthetic detail than a functional one; if you can see those beads, you can see the colors of the the lobes themselves.
Cam angles (and thus, sizes) differ somewhat between all different companies’ cam lines, so comparing the weight of specific devices can seem a bit apples-to-oranges. Even so, it seems that the X4 Offsets are, on the whole, a little bit bigger and a little bit heavier than their competitors.
For example, the 0.4/0.5 X4 Offset weighs 86 grams, while the very-comparably-sized yellow/red Totem Basic and orang/red Mastercam weigh 70 grams and 85 grams, respectively.
One last thought on the X4 Offsets is BD’s strange (in my opinion) decision to produce an offset in the 0.5/0.75 size. I understand that they’re offering sizes in between each of the standard X4 sizes, but I use this larger X4 Offset so rarely I can’t really justify carrying it. Every placement I encountered where that cam would work could also accommodate a standard, non-offset cam. The larger X4 Offset proved too big for all but the most blown-out pin scars.
With that said, while climbing Comic Relief in Black Canyon of the Gunnison, I met a party that swore by the 0.5/0.75 X4 Offset for free climbing. So while I personally think that the 0.5/0.75 is a bit too big to be functional, you may feel differently.
On the whole, I like Black Diamond’s Camalot X4 Offset cams, though I definitely prefer the cam sizes in the middle of the line. As I just mentioned, I question the usefulness of the 0.5/0.75 cam, and I really dislike the short stem used on the smallest sizes—I would pick the offset versions of the Metolius Mastercam, Totem Basic, or Fixe Alien over the 0.1/0.2 and 0.2/0.3 X4 Offsets.
But there is a lot to like about the mid-sized (0.3/0.4 and 0.4/0.5) X4 Offsets. Their design offers the good range, familiar sizing, and durable construction of the standard Camalot X4s.