Small cams scare some people, but not me. It’s the big cams that scare me—the really, really big ones, I mean, because it suggests that I’m about to go on a vision quest up a 5.10++ off width that’s for sure going to be harder than all the 5.11 sport climbs I’ve ever done.
But when I sink home a perfectly placed small cam, it doesn’t move. I like that in my trad gear.
The Black Diamond X4 is a small-cam set that achieves tremendous stability and range in a four-cam head that is actually narrower than most three-cam heads, including the Metolius TCU. The X4 set contains six sizes, but it’s really only the smallest four sizes that shine, in my mind. The two larger larger sizes—the purple .5 and green .75—don’t offer any significant differences, advantages or disadvantages to the regular BD C4 cams of those sizes; they’re virtually identical.
The X4 fits into your hand really well. The thumb loop and trigger bar are well spaced and make it easy to grab and place one-handed. Also the stem’s stiffness contribute to the ease of operation—i.e., the cam doesn’t easily “buckle” when placing it.
Compared to Metolius Master Cams and Aliens, the X4 is a bit heavier not to mention more expensive. It’s also worth mentioning that the X4 does not have cam stops, so you can’t place it like a nut, but this is hardly a big deal to me. After all, if you want a passive placement, place a nut. If you are worried about your cam walking and getting into that open umbrella position, you’re probably placing the wrong piece for that placement.
Bottom line, these things—as well as their offset counterparts—are totally sick. Best of all, racking them up should make you smile, because it probably means you’re not about to climb into some horrible, dreadful off width.
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