Metolius Ultralight Master Cam ReviewMay 15, 2018
- Visual cue in fitting the right fit
- Durable components including Kevlar trigger wires
- Ten sizes
- Less stable than the double axle cams tested
- Less friendly ergonomics
- Less versatile for aid climbers
The Ultralight Master Cams are sleekly built units with a slender profile that fit well in narrow cracks. The lack of a thumb loop is a drawback for many but instead Metolius uses a thumb piece that has a lot of surface area and is surrounded by an 11 mm sling to help provide purchase when racking or placing. The trigger bar is the narrowest trigger bar of the cams tested and proved more difficult than other cams to use. The above factors caused the Ultralight Master Cams to score lower than many other cams for ergonomics.
We thoroughly tested the Ultralight Master Cams in the field and during in-house testing for its stability and resistance to moving or walking after being placed and had mixed results. In comparable placements the Ultralight Master Cams were more likely to move than its double axle competitors. This movement was more pronounced on the bigger cams and careful use of extended slings or quickdraws was key to keep the cam in good position. But the Ultralight Master Cams weren’t the least stable cam in our testing and particularly during in-house testing we were able to observe the freely moving stem of the cam that allowed the cam lobes to stay in place while the stem moved as rope was pulled through a carabiner attached to the sling. All cam stems will move once placed but the Ultralight Master Cams had a more freely moving stem than other cams tested. Additionally, Metolius used a new “shark fin tooth pattern” on the cam lobes to help the cam lobes find purchase in the rock and ideally increasing the holding power of the cam during a fall. This tooth pattern is found on all but the smallest two cams and presumably helped the cam stay in place.
The Ultralight Master Cams proved to be a durable and tough cam, scoring second only to the DMM Dragons in terms of durability. The flexible stems held up well despite when being loaded over edges in a horizontal placement. The trigger wires are made with Kevlar, thus avoiding the fate of metal cables used in most trigger wires which became frayed and broken with extensive use. The trigger bar retracts an upper trigger bar but the cables connecting the two are protected by plastic. The cam lobes are solidly constructed. All of which combined to create a cam that held up despite extensive testing in the field and during in house testing.
The Ultralight Master Cams offer a lot in the versatility department owing to their lightweight and the ten sizes available in the set, allowing climbers to fit from tiny cracks that are less than a fingertip to larger than hand size cracks. The camming range with the single axle design on the Ultralight Master Cams is smaller than the double axle cams but that difference is diminished with the smaller you go in cam size. By the time you get into the finger size and below is negligible or hard to notice. Having ten cams in the set allow climbers to have a full run of cams to provide consistency on a rack and the weight of the Ultralights are some of the scantest out of cams tested. Hence, they can be a good option for climbers on both single and multi-pitch as well as more far flung adventures in the alpine where weight is key. One drawback is the lack of a thumb loop, which aid climbers may scoff at as it prevents the ability to clip in short when moving in aiders.
The Ultralight Master Cams have a number of features that may pique the interest of shopping climbers in addition to their lightweight. Metolius’ Range Finder system is included on sizes 2 through 8 in which colored dots along the edge of the cam lobes provide visual guidance for good or poor cam placement. Red dots indicate a placement that is too tipped out or open to be effective, yellow dots are in the middle and the green dots show the prime placement range for the cam. While the Ranger Finder feature is less helpful for climbers experienced with traditional gear, it may be beneficial for newer climbers or those getting a feel for proper cam placements. Anyone who has broken a trigger wire on a cam during a long climb can attest to the value of the durable Kevlar trigger wires that during our testing proved to be long lasting. The downside is that they aren’t suited to DYI repairs and will require most users to send them into Metolius to do a like for like replacement. One note on the color coding for the sizes of cams that’s neither good nor bad and up to the buyer to decide: Metolius’ cams don’t copy the color coding popularized by Black Diamond.
At 65 grams (2.3 ounces) for size 3 (orange), the Ultralight Master Cams are some of the lightest cams tested. With ten sizes offered, climbers will benefit from significant weight savings when carrying a full rack of Ultralight Master Cams. According to Metolius, the Ultralight Master Cams are twenty percent lighter than the original Master Cams. For a full rack of Ultralight Master Cams that’s over 5 ounces in weight savings. When doubling or tripling up sizes, such as for a desert splitter, the weight savings becomes more significant.
Sizes Available w/ Strength Rating, Range and Weight:
00 – 5 kN – 8.5-12 mm (.34-.47”) – 45 grams (1.6 ounces)
0 – 5 kN – 10-15 mm (.39-.59”) – 45 grams (1.6 ounces)
1 – 8 kN – 12.5-18 mm (.49-.71”) – 52 grams (1.8 ounces)
2 – 10 kN – 15.5-22.5 mm (.62-.89”) – 55 grams (1.9 ounces)
3 – 10 kN – 18.5-26.5 mm (.74-1.04”) – 65 grams (2.3 ounces)
4 – 10 kN – 23.5-33.5 mm (.93-1.32”) – 75 grams (2.6 ounces)
5 – 10 kN – 28-39.5 mm (1.01-1.56”) – 85 grams (3 ounces)
6 – 10 kN – 32.5-58 mm (1.28-1.89”) – 96 grams (3.3 ounces)
7 – 10 kN – 40-57.5 mm (1.57-2.26”) – 112 grams (3.9 ounces)
8 – 10 kN – 48.5-71.5mm (1.91-2.81”) – 129 grams (4.5 ounces)Continue Reading
These cams went through a number of in-house tests for controlled and measurable metrics and were used by a number of climbers in the field with varying experience levels and interests. Their feedback provided the information to best understand how each cam performed. We spent a lot of time climbing single pitch cracks but an equal amount of time climbing multi-pitch routes in the mountains or in the desert. We paid close attention to how cams handled when being placed or cleaned and by various climbers to gain a sense of each cam’s ergonomics and ease of handling. We looked for signs of walking and stability when placing cams in various cracks of all different sizes.
Schneiter is an AMGA-certified guide, founder of Glenwood Climbing Guides, and very quick on his draws.