From a little company in Spain comes one of the best, if not THE best, SLCD on the market today. Totem takes the best points out of all of the cams on the market and wrap it up in a neat, quirky package that isn't just gimmicky, but extremely functional.
First think you'll notice is that these guys look weird; different from any other cam out there. Wires connect all the parts together, with only a very short stem and axle present. This gives the cam flexibility beyond the offerings of anything else. They are so flexible, I've often found it unnecessary to add a quick draw to avoid walking. The wires also allow you to directly load two out of the four lobes. While this has little application in the free climbing world, it's a great selling point for aid climbers, making two lobe placements much more secure and balanced.
The cam head is where the magic happens. Made out of 6061-T6 aluminum, the head is softer than most others on the market. 6061 is the same material that CCH Aliens were made out of, and the "softness" of the aliens has been praised as one of their strong points. This material bites the rock and seats better than the harder materials used by other manufacturers, giving the placement a very secure feel, even in marginal conditions.
The shape of the head is also obviously different from anything else out there. It is the narrowest on the market (narrower than aliens or TCUs), making those shallow placements a breeze. The lobe shape has been specifically designed by Totem's engineer to apply fall forces to the rock in a different manner than traditional lobe shapes. This design not only works better in all situations, but absolutely excels in flaring placements. There's a 6 page PDF document on the Totem website explaining the science behind their lobe design in comparison to others (pages of mathematical proofs included), so check it out if you don't believe me, or are just a nerd like myself. I've had the distinct pleasure of testing this theory out myself by taking a few falls on the Totems, a 40 footer on a purple being the biggest, and the fact that I'm here writing this is a testament to the fact that they do indeed work!
There are currently 5 sizes available and they range from small fingers to small hands size. Color coded to match the #1 and 2 (blue and yellow) mastercam sizes, and purple-green-red (.5, .75, 1) BD C4 sizes. Makes grabbing these and finding the right size pretty easy.
There are a few drawbacks to the totem cams:
- They're more expensive than your standard go-to brands and their distribution network is still kind of small (although it's growing), so finding them can be somewhat of a hassle. Prices were raised in the middle of 2013, and MSRP is 79.99 USD. That being said, if you order 5 cams off of Totem's website, they knock the price down to $60 each, so they become more in-line with the rest of the SLCD price offerings. Backcountrygear.com is also a distributor and often has 20% off coupon codes you can use to make these more affordable.
- They rack kind of funny. Not a huge deal, but they lay "flat" on your leg instead of perpendicular like C4s and the like. Not an issue when you have a full rack on your harness and are climbing anyway, but some people are weird about that sort of thing, so it's worth mentioning
- They only come in sizes up to 1! I wish they would make larger ones. Maybe someday in the future!
All in all, these are the best cams I have used, period. I've put about 200+ pitches on them this season and I'm incredibly impressed with their performance. I'm so impressed with these that I've completely sold my rack of BD and Metolius cams in these sizes to replace exclusively with Totem cams. Yes, that's right, THESE ARE BETTER THAN C4s! Watch out BD; as Totem grows you're going to have a hard time keeping that #1 spot!