Whether you’re starting out with your very first trad rack, or if you’re looking to update your rack with some of the best gear out there, a cam set is a really cost efficient way to get what you’re looking for.
Without a doubt, as a beginner, the easiest way to get your trad rack started is to get a cam rack like the one I’m about to show you, along with a full set of nuts and a nut tool.
As for the other stuff:
If you’re an avid outdoor climber, you’ll likely already have a lot of the other standard equipment you’ll need for a starter trad rack. Stuff like prussik cord, quickdraws, slings, locking carabiners and non-locking carabiners can be cannibalized from your existing equipment stash pretty easily.
But anyway, it’s cams you’re after right now, and you’re looking for the most versatile set that doesn’t cost a bomb.
Well, there’s really only one choice. There’s a reason it’s the gold standard when it comes to cam sets, however, most climbers will just say it speaks for itself. I’ll talk all about it anyway, and you’ll soon see why it’s perfect for any trad rack, which is pretty why you need one if you’re starting out with your very first trad rack.
Let’s take a look at it:
The Gold Standard for Cams: The Black Diamond Camalot C4 Cam Set
The Black Diamond Camalot C4 cams are simply the gold standard for “everything.”
To sum it up: the versatile range, light weight, unparalleled reliability and ease of use of these cams are what make them outclass everything else out there. That, and Black Diamond being known for having ridiculously good quality control. Defects just don’t happen with these.
They come in three size ranges: .3 to 3, .5 to 3, and .5 to 4. For a universal “standard rack,” I’d highly recommend getting the .3 to 3 size range, which includes the first seven cams you can see on that size chart right there.
The only exception to this is if you’re looking to make a standard desert rack, which is a bit tricky. You’d be much better off with the .5 to 4 set for a desert rack and supplementing it with some 5 and 6 singles.
Anyway, let’s take a look at what’s so good about the C4 cams themselves.
The thing you’ll notice when looking at that size chart above, is just how much range each of these cams have. It’s just crazy how much they can expand.
The way that they’re able to achieve this is by having a double-axle design.
Yeah, sure, the double-axle adds a small amount of extra weight, but if you think about it, the increased range they offer actually save you weight, because there’s much more overlap between their ranges.
That means you don’t need to double up on anything. Besides, I’ve always taken the stance of using better, more versatile gear over more gear. It’s just so much nicer to have a cam set you can totally rely on to do the job in one way or another.
As for the overall design, the high quality c-loop continuous cable stem is what makes them so reliable. They also have thumb loops that you can hook your aiders into.
Black Diamond says that the Camalot C4 has a life span of over 10 years if used properly, with the exception of the dogbone of webbing needing to be replaced in under 10 years, depending upon the eventual fraying and UV damage that they accumulate over time.
That really just shows you how trustworthy these cams are. If you’re looking for some fancy numbers, then take a look at these tech specs:
Here’s the weights of the .3 to 3 pack I recommend:
[0.3] 75 g (2.65 oz)
[0.4] 83 g (2.93 oz)
[0.5] 99 g (3.49 oz)
[0.75] 119 g (4.18 oz)
 136 g (4.8 oz)
 155 g (5.47 oz)
 201 g (7.1 oz)
And here’s the bigger ones for you desert dwellers who’ll be better off with the six cam .5 to 4 set with some 5 and 6 singles added on:
 289 g (10.2 oz)
 380 g (13.4 oz)
 557 g (1 lb 4 oz)
[0.3] 8 kN(1798 lbf)
[0.4] 10 kN (2248 lbf)
[0.5] 12 kN (2698 lbf)
[0.75-6] 14 kN (3147 lbf)
[0.3] 13.8-23.4 mm (0.54-0.92 in)
[0.4] 15.5-26.7 mm (0.61-1.05 in)
[0.5] 19.6-33.5 mm (0.77-1.32 in)
[0.75] 23.9-41.2 mm (0.94-1.62 in)
 30.2-52.1 mm (1.19-2.05 in)
 37.2-64.9 mm (1.46-2.55 in)
 50.7-87.9 mm (2.00-3.46 in)
And the bigger ones:
 66.0-114.7 mm (2.60-4.51 in)
 85.4-148.5 mm (3.36-5.85 in)
 114.1-195.0 mm (4.50-7.68 in)
For a complete trad set, you’d ideally supplement your C4 set with some micro cams, as well as some offset cams for flaring cracks. Black Diamond’s Offset X4 would be perfect for those.
However, with the Camalot C4 cams you’ll never need anything else for parallel cracks in their size range. They’re almost entirely sufficient by themselves, since you’ll want to avoid flaring cracks if you can anyway.
The only thing is needing those micro cams. If you’re wanting to save money, they you can just use a complete nut set, supplemented with plenty of smaller nuts to replace those micro cams. This is what I’d do if I were starting a new trad rack on a budget.