Camming Devices: A Deep Dive into Active Protection Gear

Overwhelmed by the challenge of choosing the best camming devices for your rock climbing pursuits? Trust me, I’ve found myself in that precise dilemma. Through thorough research and firsthand experience, I’ve compiled a great deal of knowledge regarding these crucial elements for traditional rock climbing.

In this blog post, we’ll demystify camming devices, explore their advantages, factors to consider when choosing them and offer tips on their proper usage. Prepare yourself for a comprehensive deep dive into active protection gear!

Key Takeaways

  • Camming devices are essential tools for rock climbers, providing secure and reliable protection in cracks and crevices on the rock face.
  • There are different types of camming devices available, such as power cams, flexcams, and camalots. Each type has its own unique design and functionality to cater to various climbing situations.
  • When choosing camming devices, factors like size and range, weight and portability, durability and quality, as well as ease of use should be considered.
  • Proper placement techniques for different types of cracks include assessing the crack or crevice thoroughly before placing the cam, correctly sizing the cam to match the width of the crack, and understanding how each type of crack requires specific placement angles.

Understanding Camming Devices

Camming devices are essential tools for climbers, as they provide secure and reliable protection in cracks and crevices on the rock face. They work by utilizing spring-loaded mechanisms to expand and grip the inside of a crack, creating an anchor point for climbers to protect themselves against potential falls.

With various types and sizes available, camming devices offer versatility in different climbing situations and can be adjusted to fit a range of crack sizes.

How camming devices work

Understanding the workings of camming devices is crucial, particularly for rock climbers wanting to ensure their safety. These ingenious pieces of equipment expand in response to force or load, gripping the sides of a crack or crevice within a rock face.

Like a squeezing hand inside a hole, they provide an anchor point when you’re climbing. The design is such that the greater weight applied, the more robustly they grip – an essential feature for secure falls and climbs! It’s this smart combination of physics and engineering that makes them fundamental components in active protection gear for trad climber kits.

Different types of camming devices

There are several different types of camming devices available for climbers, each with its own unique design and functionality. One popular type is the power cam, which features a single stem and flexible lobes that can fit into irregular cracks.

Power cams are known for their versatility and can be used in a wide range of placements. Another common type is the flexcam, which has a dual-axle design that provides increased stability and range.

Flexcams are ideal for climbers who want reliable protection in both horizontal and vertical cracks.

In addition to power cams and flexcams, there are also camalots, which have double axles like flexcams but feature a wider lobe surface area for added stability. Camalots are often preferred by climbers due to their durability and ease of use.

Finally, when it comes to used climbing gear, you may come across reslung trad gear that includes used climbing cams or nuts. It’s important to thoroughly inspect any used gear before using it to ensure it is still safe and functional.

Regardless of the specific type of camming device you choose, make sure you understand how each one works before heading out on your climb. Familiarize yourself with the different sizes available as well as proper maintenance techniques for keeping your gear in top shape.

Benefits of using camming devices for climbing

As a passionate climber, I can’t stress enough the benefits of using camming devices for climbing. These active protection gear are essential for any trad climber who wants to stay safe while pushing their limits on the rock.

Camming devices offer versatility and security by providing reliable placements in various types of cracks and crevices. With different sizes and ranges available, you can find the perfect fit for each crack or fissure, giving you peace of mind as you ascend.

The lightweight and portable design makes them easy to carry on your harness without weighing you down. Plus, the durability and quality ensure that your camming devices will withstand the rigors of rough terrains and keep you protected for years to come.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Camming Devices

When choosing camming devices for climbing, it is essential to consider factors such as size and range, weight and portability, durability and quality, as well as ease of use.

Size and range

When choosing camming devices for climbing, size and range are two crucial factors to consider. The size of a cam refers to its width or diameter, which determines the crack size it can fit into.

It’s important to have a variety of sizes in your rack to accommodate different cracks you may encounter during your climb. A wide range of sizes allows you to cover a greater spectrum of crack widths, giving you more options when it comes to gear placement.

Having cams that offer a good range means fewer gear changes and less weight on your harness. So, make sure to carefully assess the crack sizes you’ll be climbing, and choose camming devices with appropriate ranges to ensure maximum versatility on the rock face.

Weight and portability

One important factor to consider when choosing camming devices for climbing is their weight and portability. Generally, lighter camming devices are preferred as they help reduce the overall weight of your climbing gear and allow you to carry more equipment without feeling weighed down.

This can be especially beneficial during long climbs or multi-pitch routes where every extra ounce counts.

In addition to weight, portability is another crucial aspect to keep in mind. Camming devices that are compact and easy to pack into a small space can greatly enhance your overall climbing experience.

They should fit comfortably on your harness or rack without getting in the way or causing any inconvenience while you climb. Opting for lightweight and portable camming devices ensures that you have the flexibility and freedom to navigate through challenging terrain with ease.

Overall, choosing camming devices that strike a balance between weight and portability will not only make your climbs more enjoyable but also contribute significantly to your performance on the rock.

Durability and quality

When it comes to choosing camming devices for climbing, durability and quality are essential factors to consider. You want gear that can withstand the harsh conditions of the outdoors and provide reliable protection.

Look for cams made from high-quality materials like aluminum or steel, which are known for their strength and longevity. Consider brands with a reputation for producing durable and well-constructed camming devices.

Investing in top-notch gear ensures your safety on the wall and gives you peace of mind during your climbs. As a climber myself, I prioritize durability and quality when selecting my camming devices because I understand how crucial they are to my overall safety and performance on the rock face.

Ease of use

Using camming devices should be a seamless and intuitive experience for climbers of all skill levels. The ease of use is an essential factor to consider when choosing your gear. Look for cams that have user-friendly features like color-coded sizing, clearly marked trigger wires, and comfortable thumb loops.

These design elements make it easier to select the right size cam and quickly manipulate the device during placement. Additionally, opt for cams with smooth action and reliable triggers, allowing you to deploy them smoothly in various crack sizes without getting stuck or jammed.

When climbing, having camming devices that are easy to handle gives you confidence in their performance and allows you to focus on your technique and ascent.

Tips for Proper Placement and Usage of Camming Devices

Assess the crack or crevice thoroughly before placing the cam, ensuring it fits securely and doesn’t move when weighted. Size the cam correctly to match the width of the crack, using small cams for narrow cracks and larger ones for wider cracks.

Employ different placement techniques depending on the type of crack, such as camming diagonally in parallel-sided cracks or using a cam with a curved axis in flared cracks. Regularly maintain and inspect your camming devices to ensure their reliability and effectiveness while climbing.

Assessing the crack or crevice

As a climber, one of the most crucial aspects of using camming devices is assessing the crack or crevice where you’ll be placing them. This involves carefully examining the rock surface to determine its suitability for placement.

Look for solid, clean cracks with parallel walls that can firmly hold the cams in place. Avoid placing cams in loose or fractured rock as they may not provide reliable protection. Additionally, paying attention to any irregularities such as flaring or tapering cracks will help you select the appropriate size and type of camming device for a secure fit.

Assessing the crack or crevice accurately ensures that your cams will offer strong and dependable protection while climbing.

Correctly sizing the cam

Choosing the correct size cam is crucial for a safe and effective placement. Each crack or crevice will require a specific range of sizes, so it’s important to have a variety of cams in your gear.

When selecting the right size, consider the width of the crack and how it tapers. You want the cam to fit securely without being too loose or too tight. It’s also essential to check that the lobes are fully retracted when placing the cam to ensure proper expansion once it’s loaded.

Remember, using an improperly sized cam can compromise its holding power and put you at risk on your climb. Always double-check your sizing before making any placements on your route.

Placement techniques for different types of cracks

In my experience as a climber, I have found that the key to successful camming device placement lies in understanding the different types of cracks you may encounter. When it comes to placing cams, cracks can vary greatly in shape, size, and orientation.

For parallel-sided cracks, it is best to select a cam with lobes that fit snugly against all sides of the crack. This will provide optimal stability and prevent any unwanted shifting or walking of the cam.

In flaring cracks, where the crack widens as you climb higher, it is crucial to place the cam at an angle that matches the flare of the crack. This ensures maximum contact surface area between the lobes and the rock for increased holding power.

Additionally, horizontal cracks require careful consideration when placing cams as they tend to be more susceptible to movement due to rope drag or upward pull. To combat this issue, try linking multiple cams together with slings or quickdraws so that they act collectively to distribute load evenly along the length of the crack.

Regular maintenance and inspection

Maintaining and inspecting your camming devices regularly is crucial for their longevity and reliability while climbing. To ensure that your cams are in optimal condition, it’s essential to clean them after each use, removing any dirt or grime that may affect their performance.

Additionally, inspect the functioning of the trigger mechanisms and springs, ensuring they operate smoothly without any signs of wear or damage. It’s also important to check the slings and stitching for any signs of fraying or weakness.

By keeping up with regular maintenance and inspection routines, you can have peace of mind knowing that your camming devices are safe and ready for your next climb.


In conclusion, camming devices are an essential piece of equipment for climbers looking to protect themselves on traditional routes. With their ability to expand and grip into cracks, they offer a secure anchor point that can make the difference between a successful climb and a dangerous fall.

By considering factors such as size, weight, durability, and proper placement techniques, climbers can ensure they have the right camming devices for their specific needs. So whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned trad climber, investing in high-quality camming devices is crucial for staying safe and confident on the rock.


1. What are camming devices and how do they work?

Camming devices, also known as cam or camming units, are a type of active protection gear used in rock climbing. They consist of metal lobes that expand outward when placed into cracks or crevices in the rock, creating a secure anchor point for climbers.

2. How do I choose the right size camming device for my climb?

Choosing the right size camming device depends on various factors such as the crack width, shape, and features of the climbing route. It is essential to understand how different sizes correspond to different crack dimensions and to have a range of sizes available to accommodate varying types of cracks.

3. Can I trust camming devices to hold my weight while climbing?

When properly placed in solid rock and following correct placement techniques, high-quality camming devices from reputable brands can provide reliable protection for climbers. However, it is crucial to regularly inspect your equipment for wear or damage and follow proper usage guidelines to ensure their reliability.

4. Are there any maintenance tips for keeping my camming devices in good condition?

To maintain your camming devices’ performance and longevity, it is important to clean them after each use by removing dirt or debris with a soft brush or cloth. Regularly examine all moving parts for signs of wear or damage and lubricate as necessary using manufacturer-recommended products. Additionally, store them in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent degradation of materials over time.

Calvin Rivers

Hey, I’m Calvin Rivers, a climbing veteran with 10+ years on crags and walls around the world. I can’t wait for you to explore our site and fall in love with the outdoors just like I have.

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