Review by: dingus, 2006-12-06
Surprise! Link Cam Review
By Dingus Milktoast
We put a lot of stock in first impressions don’t we? In the world of business, on first dates, tasting some weird ice cream, first impressions are often a make or break situation. And yet… we all know that often enough, first impressions can be deceiving.
When I first became aware of Link Cams from Omega Pacific, I must admit I did not have a positive impression. In fact I literally thought, “there’s someone’s college design project gone wild.” It almost seemed like a 3-bladed razor, ya know? To be quickly superseded by a 4-bladed one, then 5. A marketing ploy if you will.
Know what I found out? Those 5-bladed razors work pretty damn good! Best shave ever, I almost hate to admit it; so much for first impressions. I own two 5-bladed razors now, one for home, one for travel. 3-blades? Bah! Stone age sheet!
When my new Link Cams showed up in the mail I took a hard look at them. The first of several surprises; I expected well-made. Omega Pacific makes good gear after all. But just looking at them, hefting them, working the trigger, they feel exceptionally well-made, like a fine watch or a sturdy clock. No slop in the throw, no hitches as the cams retracted, smooth as butter in fact, but with a solid, Mercedes-sort of feel.
The trigger assembly is very well designed too. I like the trigger wire material itself, never seen anything quite like it. The swivel points on the attachments make them very smooth too. I reckon the X-pattern increases the throw, very necessary considering how far the cams have to travel.
Further, the intricate shapes of the cams are a thing to behold. Watch the interaction of the lobes as the cams retract, it’s quite beautiful. I subsequently learned the design is based on a patented Greg Lowe concept. It seems wonderfully executed, reminds me of the multiple jaws coming out of that Alien creature in the SciFi movie.
I purposely avoided all available literature prior to my using the cams. I didn’t even read the user’s manual, sorry god. I wanted to evaluate them ‘untainted’ by the opinions of others. I avoided spec sheets, marketing claims and the opinions of other reviewers and testers. You’re getting my unbiased bullshit here.
I also wanted to solicit the opinions of my partners. I didn’t talk them up either, for the same reasons. I wanted their untainted opinions. I just asked them to try em out.
Rack-em up, they hang like Camelots. The gold one is the same outer size as a gold Camelot too, for reference purposes. That had to be on purpose and good for them, Goldilocks, as we like to call the gold Camelot, is a time-honored 3-generation standard for many folks, that great hand crack piece eh? Hang about the same length too.
When you try to grab one off the rack, the distance between thumb and trigger fingers takes some getting used to. I have big hands and I still had to open my hand pretty wide to ‘get at em.’ Specially the gold one. Also, I sometimes had difficulty getting my thumb though the webbing loop to push against the trigger. I think the flange on the end of the stem could stand to be just a tiny bit wider, to hold the webbing a little bit more open.
They are heavier than other cams, no getting around that. They’re especially top-heavy, so to speak. A floppier stem would have them floppin around all over the place. The stem seems *just stiff enough* to keep it from happening though. Still flexible for all that.
Place em, ohjeez these babies are out of this world! Within their size range they seem to fit almost any crack configuration, from flairs to pods. Those dreaded thin cracks that expand as they get deeper? SLAIN! Offset crack? DONE! Hand to finger potential? ONE PIECE. Flair? We don’t care bout no stinkin FLAIRS!
I commented to Angus after a my first lead up a nice finger and hand crack,
“This is the All-Time Panic Piece” Angus.” Seriously, you can rip one of these bad boys off the rack and slam in that hand to finger crack and pretty much expect the thing to find its own home. Keep the trigger pulled and drag it down the crack, presto it will stick somewhere!
Couldn’t get them irretrievably stuck either and I tried. Now I’m sure some rock and some cracks will snag them, but on the bullet-hard volcanic cracks I was climbing, full of inner rugosities and tenuous warts, I failed to put them in a position of no return.
Also, when you do get a good deep placement, you often also get an enormous cam surface contact, far more than with any other cam I ever saw or imagined. Its mind boggling, the more narrow and deeper you place them the more cam surface there is to catch. If the piece starts to pull, it has all that surface contact to resist and adjust.
I don’t know how these things behave in a hard fall, didn’t take any. Funked em pretty good but took no serious falls. We used them in flint-hard columnar volcanic cracks and in textured and sometimes grainy alpine granite.
I was totally surprised! I went from ‘marketing gimmick’ to GENIUS! On one crack lead, blew me away! My partners put em to use and had similar comments, observations and surprise. Each of them expressed doubt, till he used them. Then they were all,
“Chyaaaaaaaaaahhh!” Seriously, they were.
Angus placed two of them on his ballsy first ascent of Crack-a-dile Hunter, both flaired granite pods where no other piece would fit. Scuffy used them a couple of times, again in places where no other cam had a hope of fitting. Miwok slammed in a few as well. The main point with all three men, each having climbed more than 20 years, is that when these pieces were on the rack? They got used, inevitably. And they received good marks in the process.
Design features touted by Omega Pacific include the greatest expansion range of any cams on the market, constant cam angle throughout, full-strength holding power, a unique trigger wire arrangement including the ‘swivet’ attachments and cross-cabling.
Omega Pacific cites several benefits of these features including increased surface contact in small sizes, reduced tendency to walk, offset capability, less time to find the right piece, and the crack-jumaring already mentioned.
So as you can see, my untainted observations matched up almost point-for-point with the marketing hype. Definitely not hype in my opinion, these Link Cams, from Omega Pacific. I think they rock.
I see many of the same potential roles as suggested by OP too. Crack jumaring, check. They were BORN for crack jumaring. Supplement a single rack of cams, instead of taking halves of the next set, take two Links and one larger one and yer prolly good2go. Might take 5 or 6 additional pieces otherwise. I can totally see them augmenting a rack of hexes for the great alpine rack… hexes for lead pro, cams for the belays, or whatever.
I figured they’d end up in the bottom of my aid box, to be blunt. Little did I know, they ended up on my primary lead rack, lol. And like I said to Angus, they are the All-Time Panic Piece, best ever in that category. Since I climb scairt a lot I should know.
Now if you’re one of those list-makers (you know who you are… you checked it on the master after all), my review will leave you feeling less than satisfied. You’ll be wantin numbers bygawd, charts and shit. Done tole yall, I don’t do lists. You wanna compare specs, sorry, I’m not doing your OCD for you.
Infer your own list conclusions. Or better yet, just try em out yourselves. BTW, I never did compare their strength to the competition, or size-range to size-range. I’m an analog climber damnit. They seem strong enough to me and I know they have a wide expansion range, know that for a fact. Why fret numbers (cept the $$$, they aren’t cheap) I’ll promptly forget anyway? I don’t really get my bowels in an uproar over that end of the bidness.
But you can do it yourselves here… easy as pie.