Twice a year I attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, which among other things showcases all the latest and greatest climbing gear. And every show I struggle to find new climbing products I’m excited about for my day-to-day climbing. The Black Diamond Ultralight Camalots are an absolute exception—the minute I heard that BD was coming out with a freshly designed cam I booked it right over to their booth to check them out.
In the early stages of development the word was that these were going to be a specialty product—something only for light and fast ascents in the alpine, not for everyday cragging. After they were released I ordered a set, and figured I’d save them for my version of light and fast climbs, you know, not use and abuse them on every Indian Creek excursion, but rather save them selectively and carefully.
banner photo: A set of Ultralights (minus the .4) after three seasons of use.
But I ended up not doing that—for each and every trad climb I rack up for I’ve had these on my harness. And after three full climbing seasons I’ve plugged these in everything from granite alpine climbs to first ascents in The Creek.
The weight difference in the Ultralights is 25% less than the previous version of the Camalot. To put that into perspective the Ultralight #1 weighs about as much as the old .5 Camalots (3.56 oz/3.49oz respectively). On paper the 25% doesn’t seem as dramatic as when you compare a full rack of Ultralights (they are available in sizes .4 to #4) to a full rack of the regular Camalots. The difference is incredible. Try it next time you get your hands on some.
I was expecting some noticeable wear and tear by how much I’ve been using the Ultralights, but other than some roughage around the stitching of the webbing, they seem to be holding up just fine. We’ll see how they look five years down the line.
I’ve also developed a technique for how I lead with the Ultralights. I try to place all my regular cams first and save the Ultralights for later, ensuring that the weight on my harness is as light as possible near the top of the pitch. Often while racking up for a long Creek pitch I’ve wished all my friends had racks of these as well—the difference on a climb where you often need 6-12 pieces of the same size would be staggering!
There are a couple notable sacrifices to the Ultralights. The first obvious one is the price: they are on average around 25% more expensive at retail. The second is that they are not as strong as the previous version of the Camalot. For comparison a #2 Ultralight is rated at 12kN (2698lbf) and a #2 Camalot is rated at 14Kn (3147lbf).
Bottom line: the best camming device ever made. I already want to get a double set of these, and I want my friends to as well. That said, I hope they expand and make Ultralight versions of the #5 and #6, the sizes where you often don’t haul them up a climb because they’re so heavy. Put them on your holiday gift list right now, or get one for someone you love!
Black Diamond Ultralights on Backcountry.com:
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