The Wild Country Friends offer great ergonomics, stability and popular features with testers. Friends stood out for ergonomics and ease of use with their spacious, contoured and featured thumb loop and curved trigger bar. Great stability was provided by the double axle design, non-anodized and square cut cam lobe teeth and patented hollow axles for stiffer axles. The extendable double slings were easy to use and helped add stability and give versatility. While not the lightest cams tested, the Friends offer a lot of features seen on a heavier cam and their biggest drawback may be that they are only available in seven sizes.
The Friends feature great ergonomics and were a big hit with testers, scoring the highest mark in this round of testing. Testers found the spacious thumb loop easy to grab and find good purchase when placing or removing gear. The plastic thumb loop is widened slightly where it meets the stems, giving it more surface area to provide a better grip. The triggers on the Friends are contoured and provide a better purchase when pulling the trigger to place or remove the cam. This subtle feature made the Friends a little easier to use, particularly when in a difficult spot or when desperately grabbing for a cam.
The Friends proved to be the most stable cam in testing, both in the field and during in-house testing. One of the observations made during in house testing was the value in the doubled sling which is stitched loosely into the wide thumb loop, allowing the cam to stay in place when a rope runs through a carabiner attached to the sling. That’s on top of the stability expected from a double axle cam. The Friends also benefit from the non-anodized lobes and the relatively square cut lobe grips. Wild Country along with companies like DMM have color anodized the cam lobes for easy identification but left the lobe surfaces that comes into contact with the rock devoid of color anodizing. They argue that this helps with stability and holding power. While it’s impossible for us to discern which feature on the Friends helped them win the stability category over the other cams, they were the clear winner in both field and in-house testing through a number of cam sizes.
The Wild Country Friends demonstrated good durability during testing. The cam lobes are solidly built and are attached to Wild Country’s patented hollow axles on all but the smallest size. The hollow axles are supposed to be stiffer, preventing damage to the cam. The cam lobes are slightly wider than those on the Black Diamond Camalot Ultralights and held up well to wear and tear. The cable stems are protected by plastic and while not as flexible as those on the Metolius Ultralight Master Cams they held up well and returned to form when placed in a horizontal and weighted over an edge. The trigger wires didn’t fray or break during testing but they be more likely to be damaged compared to the wires found on the Camalot Ultralights or Ultralight Master Cams. But, to remedy that, Wild Country offers a Trigger Repair Kit that includes replacement trigger wires for all sizes and a bending tool, which could be a handy to keep on hand during a road trip.
The Wild Country Friends scored the highest in terms of versatility, tied with the Metolius Ultralight Master Cams and DMM Dragon cams. The extendable slings were popular with testers and made it easier to use the Friends when in a deep placement or wandering pitch of climbing without the need for a quickdraw or sling. In testing they proved durable, showing they are a worthy cam for cragging and workhorse applications making them a solid choice for the backbone of a rack. The double axle design in conjunction with the loose fitting sling in the thumb loop tested to be more stable than any other cam we used. Along with great ergonomics the Friends were popular with testers for everything including desert splitters, aid routes, and long multi-pitch routes. The biggest thing holding the Friends back is that there are only seven, leaving climbers to find other cams to fill in the voids left below and above the sizes offered. So while they may be great for most climbing applications they can’t be the only cam a climber has on their rack.
The Wild Country Friends offer a number of features and one feature a lot of testers loved were the extendable slings. The 12mm Dyneema doubled sling comes standard on all of the Friends and was easier to use than those found on the DMM Dragons because they run through a thumb loop. Hence, while it’s still easiest to clip the side of the sling with stitching and pull it through, it’s possible to clip the stitched side and still make it work. The one drawback to this system is that is reduces the strength of the cam by 2 kN. In real world terms it’s hard to generate a fall of 10 kN but some may scoff at the reduced strength. What you can’t scoff at are the patented hollow axles used on all but the smallest size. Wild Country says it makes the axles stiffer and lighter.
At 88 grams (3.1 ounces) for the size .5 (purple) cam, the Wild Country Friends are roughly in the middle of the weight of the cams in this round of testing. Compared to other double axle cams tested, they are 14 grams heavier than the Black Diamond Camalot Ultralights but 15 grams lighter than the DMM Dragon Cams. Considering some of the features they have, they are relatively light for a double axle cam, in some part due to the patented hollow axles. While Wild Country doesn’t specifically market these as a lightweight cam, as is popular with many companies today, they deserve mention as a modestly light cam that still includes plenty of features.
Sizes Available w/ Strength Rating, Range and Weight:
*Your purchase helps to support the work of Gear Institute.
HOW WE TESTED
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.