Totem Cams – Climbing Gear Review


Performance ****


Value for money***

…in fact Kev was moved to cry out ‘ I bloody love these cams’

Sometimes, with a little luck (that you’ve made for yourself) you get to review a product that is just a little different and new. That’s what happened with the Totem Cams. I came across these in an issue of Vertical, fired off an email and Totem agreed that we could review a set of these great and different looking cams. Now cams have come and cams have gone, there are still plenty of brands out there that try to differentiate themselves from the main 3 big brands: Black Diamond, DMM and Wild Country, all with their own new and updated camming devices. So how can a newcomer carve a niche in such a mature market?

Totem are situated in the Basque country, an area in the North West for Spain home to some of Spain’s best climbers including the Pau brothers. They own their own CNC and testing machines, so can retain control over their QC and when they arrived in the post we could immediately see that they oozed quality and loving care, a lot of time had gone in to developing the hardware and it showed.

They looked very different to any other cams on the market with that U shaped tape and A shaped stems, both of these features proved very useful when we tried them out climbing. The spacer that separated the stems felt comfortable to use with both my thumb tip and the in Thenar (the area where your thumb meets your hand) area, there was a slight issue with gloves on, but the flexibility of the stems did allow the stems to widen out. Further up the stem lead to the trigger which was made from injection moulded plastic, this was ergonomic enough to use with my fingers but if you’ve got fingers like sausages then they could become a little more uncomfortable with prolonged use, flattening out and enlarging the trigger would solve this easily.

There was no sizing printed on the cam but a comparison with DMM 4CUs was as follows:

Colour Totem size DMM 4CU size BD Camalot size
Blue 0.65 0  0.3
Yellow 0.80 0.5  0.4
Purple 1.00 1.00  0.5
Green 1.25 1.5  0.75
Red 1.50 2.00  1.00
Doubled up in breaks-bomproof!

It is important to note that these comparisons are really for racking purposes as the range is much better on the Totem cams than the DMM and is comparible to the Camalots but without the double camming weight. This increased range has been achieved with the design of the cam, it has a flattened and elongated head which has a knurled edge to enhance the friction and ‘bite’ in place. When the trigger is pulled the cam head is pulled down and then pops back into position with the aid of springs. A little Physics here will help explain this, most cams rely on springs to return the cam to the open position once the trigger is released, usually the spring is wound around the axle and attached to the cam but on the Totem cam the spring is located on the stem wires pushing the cam heads back into position; so 4 springs pushing cam heads back making the whole action incredibly smooth, especially in the larger sizes and they were a joy to use on the crag, in fact Kev was moved to cry out ‘ I bloody love these cams’ when using them. We both found them great, easy to place and remove in all the climbing situations we used them on.

Totem Cams - the compact head was perfect for Limestone pockets.

They were superb on Gritstone, simple to use and easy to place. They never overcammed and were in fact next to impossible to overcam as you just couldn’t pull the trigger further than the smallest point of the range; not that they should be used this way as with all cams you need a little play left in the trigger in order to get the cam out. They also worked really well on Limestone where the compact head meant they could be easily placed into pockets, the only rock type I felt a little trepidation in using them was smooth slate where the knurled head didn’t quite feel aggressive enough to keep the cam in the exact place I set it.

The U shaped tape came in very handy when I felt I needed a shorter tape length (low to the ground first runner, or straight off the belay) as I could just clip it into the sewn section above, this didn’t work so well with very small carabiners where the lower sling could interfere with clipping the rope. But the tape was very burly looking and  inspired confidence at all times.

2 cams are better than no cams!

Back to the head, this was where I was a little perplexed as it felt overly technical, there was a lot going on here, the top of the head was showing 8 wires all the thickness of a Rock 1 wire.  I thought that although the action was very smooth there could be a lot of wear at this point; I was also able to pull one of the wires off the head, this did not interfere with the action and the cam but it could be a problem if it caught on spikes when you were trying to remove it.

Kev also gave the cams a good test and he adds… Totem Cams perform well on many rock types and I’ve tested them on everything ranging from perfect granite right through to shaley choss, with everything in between! The thing that strikes me most about these cams is the smooth action, which dare I say it, may be the best of any cam I have used. It almost brings a smile to my face when I place one, which whilst meaning that I probably “need to get out more” they are actually bloody good cams and handle superbly. The large thumb loops add to this and make them feel very sure footed, even when placing them with gloved hands. This makes them ideal for UK winter climbers and also for Alpine use, yes there is a lot going on, wires wise with the trigger and head but it seems to be doing the job nicely.

Totem Cams at home - Grit cracks.

So do Totem Cams have many advantages over other cam units on the market? Well Totem Cams do  everything your standard cam will do. They don’t have the increased range of some of the double axle units out there but they certainly have the ease of use and holding power. What Totem Cams do have however, is an ability to be placed on two cams (yes you can place any cam on 2 cams) in a way where each stem transfers the load to it’s own two cams only. This apparently gives better holding power in such placements and whilst Totem Cams prescribe this as a tool primarily for aid climbing it would certainly be better than nothing when you’re shitting it, way out on some UK trad horror!

RRP £54.95

Available direct from Totem MT


  1. Another innovation is the flexibility and different clipping points on the cams. I finished the climb in the moonlight and was way jazzed as to the performace of the Totem Cams.

  2. Thank you to the review and specially to the comparison table. I´m building my cam rack and intent to take a set of them, I have the camalots 0.5, 0.75, a C3 000 and the DMM 3CU 1 and big cams, My major needs now are the middle pieces (as the camalot sizes 1, 2 and 3). The rocks from my land (Mantiqueira Mountains-Brazil) are poor in cracks but have lots of pockets and channels (or gutter? My english is not so good) where I think the Totem cams will be placed better then any other. Some tip about it?

    1. They’re still working very well, the more I use them the more I like them. I just wish they would make some larger sizes as I’m have to use Camalots 2 and 3 for wider cracks (that’s no dissing for Camalots though, they’re awesome too!)

      Thanks for asking,

  3. I live in the north of Thailand they are all limestone crack. I do sport climbing but I plan to do trad climbing is it safe to use Totem Cams for it?

    1. Unless we experience the rock for ourselves we can’t make any comment I’m afraid. I have used them in Limestone cracks here in the UK and they have been brilliant. Hope that helps, Dave.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.