Totem Cam Review

totem cam review

Picking a right climbing cam can be a difficult task.

There are so many cams brands out there with hundreds of options for climbers.

And those cams come with different features, weight, size, camming range, durability, and with a common goal- to hold you from a fall.

Totem Cam is perfect for those climbers who are looking for a camming device that works great in shallow and marginal placements. Many other cams out there in the market are not great when it comes to flared cracks and climbs with limited placement options.

But, Totem Cam remains as the single and unrivaled cam for such climbs with its some key features.

Totem Cams Major Features

NameTotem Cams   
Best UsesAid climbing, Big wall climbing, climb with limited placement options, Pin scars, parallel placements, flared cracks,
Weight24.9 ounces of a full set
ProsLightweight, holds better in asymmetrical pods,
ConsBulky, take a lot of room, expensive, difficult to extract sometimes if stuck,
Main Building MaterialT-7075 aluminum alloy
Camming AngleUp to 40.7º
StemFlexible and dual independent stem
Cam HeadSingle axle
Size range13.8 mm - 52.2 mm
Number of lobes4
Lobes shapeElliptical
Strength6 - 13 kN
Head widthNarrow
SlingDouble Loop
Example climbBig walls of Yosemite Valley

Totem Cams have four individually loaded lobes that are great for excellent grip in almost any kind of placement. Their camming system distributes the load equally onto each lobe for better placement stability.

Totem Cam’s body and double stems are highly flexible. So it takes the probability of cam walking during marginal placement or dragging during a fall to zero. Likewise, you can use two lobes individually by clipping them onto one of its double stems. This feature can be extremely useful while you come across shallow cracks or marginal pockets. The narrow head further helps it fit in even the smallest of pockets and cracks.

Its elliptical lobes have the expansion range of 1.64:1. Highly regarded for the massive holding power, Totem Cams are great even in downward-flaring placements. The diagonal micro-teeth on its elliptic lobes offer additional grip without impacting the holding power.

There are seven different sizes of Totem Cams. Like many other cam’s brands, Totem has used the standardized color scheme to build its different sized cams. Instead of coloring the whole body, Totem has used color on trigger wires and Dyneema sling only.

Black, smallest 0.50 sized cam, has the range of 11.7 mm to 18.9 mm. Likewise, the list goes on ascending order as Blue, Yellow, Purple, Green, Red to Orange. Orange Totem Cam sized 1.80 is the largest one with 39.7 mm to 64.2 mm range.

totem cam

Totem Cam’s Unique Design

No more a traditional design!

Totem cams have departed from the traditional cams design to give climbers something with unique and equally effective design. It has elliptically shaped lobes that have more contacting points with the rocks. Likewise, it has U-shaped tape and A-shaped stems for more efficiency.

Totem Cams work in a quite different way than many other cams. In Totem Cams, you can clip into different sling positions. The cam then transfers the load onto the wires. Unlike other cams, wires transfer the downward force onto the lobes and not the axle. The transferred weight then opens up the lobes for a tight grip on the rock cracks and placements. So, this unique design is not a gimmick, but carefully crafted and intentional design for enhanced efficiency.

Totem Cams Weight

The weight of a full set of Totem Cams is 24.9 ounces(707 gram). The smallest one which is the Black Totem weighs 69 gram whereas the biggest one weighs 144 gram.

When you compare the same sized cams of other popular brands, Totem Cams are usually lighter than most of them. This is an advantage of using Totem because every ounce of the weight counts while you are on for a big wall climbing with a heavy rack.

Totem Cams Range

totem cam

There are altogether seven Totem cams covering the range from 11.7 mm to  64.2 mm. The size ranges from 0.50 to 1.80 and their strength ranges from 6 kN to 13 kN. The 0.50 sized Black Totem Cam and 1.80 sized Orange Totem are the recently added ones.

SizeColorStrength (kN)Range (mm)Weight (g)
0.5Black611.7 - 18.969
0.65Blue813.8 - 22.575
0.8Yellow917 - 27.783
1Purple1020.9 - 34.295
1.25Green1325.7 - 42.3109
1.5Red1331.6 - 52.2132
1.8Orange1339.7 - 64.2144

Totem Cam’s Applicability

During the Aid/Free/Big Wall climbing Totem Cams are most effective. These cams have flexible double stems that allow you to load each side separately. So, when you come across a shallow placement, you can load the cams with just two lobes contacting the rock.

Also, the independent sides of Totem cams mean each cam has an excellent counterbalancing capacity on them. So, these Cams are excellent at holding flares and fitting at awkward pods. I have not found any other cams that have better flares holding capacity than that of Totem.

Also, these cams have low and high clipping points; one for a better reach and the other to prevent the cam walking. All in all, no cams beat Totem cams when it comes to aid or big wall climbing.

You can use Totem Cams for different purposes like:

Tight Placements

The totem cam’s heads are narrower as compared to most of the popular 4 lobed cams. This indicates they can be the perfect cams to use in tighter places and pockets. Even if those spaces are oddly shaped, its independently loading lobes ensure security. Its lobes shapes are elliptical which means the lobes have more contact points to the rock.

Flared Placement

Totem has designed its cams in such a way that you can place these cams in flared placements. Not just that, you can also place this cam in those cracks or even slippery corners that you would not dare to put other cams in. With its unique way of functioning and individually loaded lobes with micro-diagonal teeth, you can use this cam in flared cracks and slick rocks as well.

Using two/three lobes

With Totem Cams, you can just hang on its two lobes. But, you have to be careful about how and where you are placing the lobes. Totem provides the guide for loading two lobes.

If the outer parts of cracks are wider than the inner ones or if the marginal hole does not accommodate all the four lobes, then you have to be extra careful while placing your cam. If you fail to place lobes in the right way, then there are chances of lobes rotation resulting in a cam walking out.

To avoid rotation, try to find the location on cracks where the inner parts of the cracks are wider than the opening. You can also counter rotate the cams head slightly before placing the cam.

The three lobes placement gives climbers a better grip as compared to two lobes placement. You can get a much more secured placement with three lobes. But, you have to be careful about the way you place the cam. While placing three lobes, make sure the outermost lobe of the three lobes contacts the rock well.

Cam Walking Prevention

Totems have a flexible stem which decreases the chance of cam walking. Moreover, it uses strong springs which provide a strong outward force to cam and give a strong hold. Those springs have higher resistance as compared to many other cams’ springs. This prevents the cam from slipping out.

Downsides of Totem Cams

There is no any significant downside of Totem Cams. However, some climbers complain that the full set of Totem Cams somehow looks bulkier than the rack of some other slim-lined cams. But that’s an inferior issue which you can get used to pretty fast.

Totem Cams have only seven sizes at the moment. We hope that they make more sizes to use in bigger cracks.

Besides, some people also grumble about the price tag for Totem being a bit more expensive as compared to other traditional cams. But, there is a whole lot of additional benefits that you get with this cam. And when it comes to safety, you cannot compromise on the quality of your cam.

To Sum Up,

Totem really revised cam with its unique and efficient design. It took them more than 8 years to come with different designs, time and again, to finally provide one of the finest cams to the climbing world.

Totem Cam is the excellent cam which you can use in different kinds of climbing. Its intentionally crafted unique design makes it the most versatile camming model in the market which justifies its price tag. This cam is the perfect option for aid climbers, trad climbers, and big wall climbers.

Its major features like its narrow head, individually placed four lobes, the option of using 2 or 3 lobes, and the flexible stem makes it the most prominent option for tight and flared placements.

So, are you interested in adding these amazing cams in your gear list?