Well, by now you’ve probably figured out the Black Diamond’s No. 21 Camalot isn’t a real product, as intriguing as the idea of a cam big enough to protect a chimney might be. However, concurrent with their April Fool’s rollout come two new cams that do exist and that went on-sale to consumers on April 1, quietly on BD’s website: the No. 7 and the No. 8 Camalot, sized for wide offwidths on up to squeeze chimneys.
As psyched as we always are to test new gear, social-distancing measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus made it difficult to get out to the rock to test in real-world situations. However, we were able to play around with the cams, ask some questions, and get a feel for their capabilities in order to give you a first look at these mondo pieces of protection.
Like the C4s Nos. 4, 5, and 6, the Nos. 7 and 8 employ the same trigger keeper, to keep the lobes cammed down when the unit is racked, in order to minimize how much space it takes up. This is even more essential with these new, bigger units, which when fully open measure 10 inches (No. 7) and 12.5 inches (No. 8) across. The cam-opening action is snappy when you pull the trigger to release the lobes—it felt as easy to use as with the smaller sizes. Just watch your fingers when the No. 8 is springing open, as that’s a lot of metal in motion!
Given the size of the units, Black Diamond worked to reduce the head weight as much as possible by using cutouts on the lobes. Still, any cam this large is going to be comprised of a lot of metal, so to reduce flopping during placements, BD stiffened the stem by thickening the walls of the stem-tube plastic. The Nos. 7 and 8 also have the longer trigger bar (4 inches) that starts from No. 4 on up, making it easier to activate the larger lobes.
The biggest challenge with creating cams this size was striking the right balance between strength and weight. Simply scaling up the design from the No. 6 Camalot initially yielded prototypes that failed at less than 5 kN, Jeremy Steck, the lead design engineer on the project, said in a press release. “There was clearly something going on that was different for a cam this size,” said Steck. “Turns out it was understanding and managing the buckling of the cam lobes.” At the same time, if the lobes were made too thick, the cams would quickly reach weights that were too heavy to carry while climbing, even for the masochists who love cracks this wide.
As such, as climbing category director Kolin Powick stresses in the video above, it’s important to always place the Nos. 7 and 8 symmetrically, to avoid buckling the lobes—and points out that some of the smaller Camalots in fact have greater strength ratings. (At 5 kN, the No. 8 has the lowest strength rating in the line.) We look forward to being able to get back to the parallel desert cracks and chimneys that are the perfect home for these behemoth cams. Stay tuned to our print and online channels for a more complete review.
No. 7 Camalot C4
- Price: $199.95
- Weight: 1 pound, 9 ounces
- Range: 5.9–9.97 inches
- Strength: 8 kN
No. 8 Camalot C4
- Price: $239.95
- Weight: 2 pounds, 2 ounces
- Range: 7.6-12.65 inches
- Strength: 5 kN
Features on both cams:
- 100 percent of net proceeds from Nos. 7 and 8 Camalot sales during the month of April go to support the Access Fund
- Lighter sculpted lopes optimized for strength-to-weight
- Trigger keeper for compact racking
- Slings are updated visually for easier differentiation when racking
- Double-axle design offers the widest range for each cam unit
- C-Loop continuous cable stem design is strong and durable