Best Friends

Best Friends

The Friend, introduced way back in 1977, has been completely revamped for the third time in its illustrious history to create

Wild Country Helium Friends

($65 to $75,

). The new units retain the single-axle design of the Technical Friends they replace, but their hot-forged cam lobes are a bit lighter, and each unit has greater overlap with its neighbors—a full set is nine cams, versus the old 11. In the most notable change, the Helium’s stem has grown by as much as 2.5 to 3 inches, for high or deep placements, and the trigger has been repositioned so it’s easy to reach, even when buried in a crack. During many days of climbing, from Indian Creek to the high granite crags of Rocky Mountain National Park, no tester had a problem retrieving a cam. The Helium also adds a big thumb loop for more clipping options, and the trigger system has been re-engineered for much smoother action. If you like your current cams, don’t rush to dump them on Craigslist, but you should definitely consider Heliums when you need to replace or expand your rack. —

Dougald MacDonald