New Kid on the Bloc: Totem Cams

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With so many good camming devices on the market, it’s natural to be a bit skeptical of a new entry—especially one at the high end of the price range. But TOTEM CAMS ($80,, manufactured in the climbing mecca of Spain’s Basque Country, are well worth a look. Totems come in five sizes, from fingertips to small hands. In placement range and weight, these devices measure about the same as comparable sizes of popular U.S. cams. But Totems have some unique features, including a cabling system that applies the load individually to each cam lobe, giving more holding potential in flares and odd-shaped placements. By clipping into one side of the cam, you can finagle secure two-lobe placements for aid climbing—body weight only, the manufacturer hastens to add. The cabling is also super flexible, improving the cams’ stability, though one cam’s cables kinked a bit after it was heavily weighted. The slings, which have two options for clipping in, look bulky, but they didn’t crowd my gear sling. In a wide variety of granite and sandstone cracks, I found the Totems secure and easy to clean, and they seemed to walk less than other units on my rack. Particularly if I were stocking up for a big aid route, I’d definitely consider adding a few to my arsenal. —Dougald MacDonald