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The newly re-engineered Friend cam from Wild Country has taken reign as the king of the double-axle design. Built on the company’s original 13.75° constant camming angle, the new Friends have seen notable upgrades, including weight savings.
I have been climbing on them since they came out last summer and after about 400 pitches, here are my thoughts as compared to others cams in their class:
A breakdown of Wild Country’s Friend
- 13.75° constant camming angle providing the best ratio of expansion to gripping power
- Hollow axles are stiffer while weighing less than the competition
- Raw finished lobes grip rock better over their anodized competition
- 12mm Dyneema extendable sling gives extra extension in deep placements
The new Friends have been redesigned with Wild Country’s patented hollow axles. This equates to a stiffer and lighter camming unit as compared to the competition (see chart below). On average this translates to 16.2-gram weight saving per cam over the Black Diamond C4.
For a rack from .5 to 4, the Wild Country Friends save ~92 grams over the Black Diamond C4s. This savings is equivalent to the weight of a small cam.
Range and lobes
Wild Country has chosen to align with Black Diamond in their sizing and numbering. This makes the dreaded “Frankenstein rack” (mix-matching different brands) a non-issue.
Most of my friends haven’t realized they were using Wild Country or they mistook them for Ultralights. Wild Country said they played with the sizing in order to close the gaps found with BD. This is apparent with the size chart below. (The most notable difference is in the #2).
In an effort to increase placement security, the lobes are wider throughout the cam in comparison to the BD C4s.
Wild Country placed an extreme importances on subtle details of their design. My favorite feature is the extra recessed trigger bar and shorter overall length of the bar itself, which provides a great feel when in your hand. They also contain deeper grooves than their BD counterparts, which make the Friends easier to place.
This topic brings much praise or harsh criticism.
Companies like Wild Country and DMM that use adjustable slings on their cams advertise this as additional weight savings because you can bring less alpine draws … I think this is a moot point.
Since climbing on the Friends, I’ve never once brought less alpine draws because I had the adjustable slings, but I’ve enjoyed having the extra extension for many reasons:
1. Deep placements
- Whether in soft rock like Indian Creek or weird changing granite overlaps, the extra 4+ inches help with rope drag and for keeping the cam from walking
2. When you run out of slings
- On long and wondering pitches, I often find myself out of slings near the end of the pitch. Having the extra extension built into the cam is a nice insurance policy against rage-inducing rope drag.
Summary of Friends’ features
- Hot-forged cams
- Hollow axles
- High friction machined cam faces
- Original 13.75° camming angle
- Wide rock-friendly cam lobes
- Advanced lightweight short termination
- Trigger stops
- Ergonomic floating trigger design
- Injection molded ergonomic thumb stop
- Thumb loop
- 12mm Dyneema extendable sling
Room for improvement
It’s hard for me to come up with suggestions for improvement.
In a side-by-side comparison with the Friends’ main competitor, the Black Diamond C4, you realize that at the same price you are getting a lighter product with more functionality.
The Friends are lighter than both the BD C4s and DMM Dragon 2s, but the Black Diamond Ultralights are still the clear winner in weight savings. Will Wild Country try and compete in the ultralight market? I sure hope so.
With a new .4 size coming in 2018, this will surely help extend the current range offering. I really hope we will see a .1-.3 size in the future, as Wild Country already has the lockdown with my favorite wide pieces (the 5 & 6 Tech Friends).
Note: I specifically did not compare these to the BD ULs because the Dyneema that they are made of has a useful life of 10 years. Heavy use further reduces that. The Ultralights would win in a weight competition, but the Friends easily win on an economic and functionality basis.
Also, Wild Country did not give these cams to me. I bought them with my own money because they kick ass.
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