Tricams vs hexs

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 beardy mike 21 Jun 2022

So I'm pondering about tricams. Personally I love them - they have saved my ass many times in winter when I find that they will sit in weird placements which make a normally difficult/impossible placement, become at least feasible, if not bomber. I've never been a massive fan of hexes, partly because of the cowbell, and partly I've just never really gotten them. But as a designer I can recognise that lots of people really love them so there must be something that draws people to them. So my question is this. Why are people MORE drawn to hexes/rockcentrics/torque nuts than tricams? I don't see a huge difference in complexity of placement etc and there are definitely placements you can make with a tricam which would be a no go with hexes. Any ideas? Is it weight, availability, the fact that nobody else carries them so they must be rubbish?

cb294 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

A tricam fits (often) or it does not, but a hex can be bashed in with your ice axe!

However, tricams and especially cams are so much more convenient to place that my hexes have been pretty much relegated to alpine and winter climbing.

 Graeme Hammond 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

Although I rarely carry hexes I personally think hexes are best in the sizes larger than standard nuts (DMM/WC No 11) and are super simplistic to place in their most basic orientations making them perfect for larger cracks. I think tri cams come into their own on small pockets in the smaller sizes which is much more rock specific and usually at higher grades. Larger Tricams are heavy and often a modern narrow headed cam will do the same job or not big enough compared to the largest hexes/Torque nuts. 

In a nut shell tricams are too complex and specialist for most people where a standard nut will do the job for most placements in the smaller sizes and hexes or cams in the larger sizes.

Post edited at 11:08
OP beardy mike 21 Jun 2022
In reply to Graeme Hammond:

So there's a couple of things here to unpack - yes, the pink. I have to confess to having had a pink once and it got lost on its first outing as a second who hadn't used them before didn't know how to get it out. But I have on and off carried up to the green one which is roughly the size of a yellow BD cam and have found them really useful. In the large sizes they are actually easy to take out because you can get to them easily. Like you say, small, narrow microcams are now probably easier to place instead of the pink so I would suggest that the idea that it's the small ones which are useful is no longer valid. 

Lets take the weight factor out - lets say some genius came up with a tricam which weighed the same as a hex. I am specifically thinking about probably easier routes where you are trying to par the weight down to a minimum, when you might opt to take hexes rather than cams. Are they really that hard to get your head around? I must say most times I've tried using hexes, I've found they are a PITA to seat well, maybe that's due to climbing mostly on limestone? 

 henwardian 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

I can't comment about winter but on trad routes hexes or tricams take more time to place, are more fiddly (problem when you are pumped and fingers are not working properly), you have to get the exact right size for the placement and are less versatile in terms of placements than cams are. In my experience.

I had hexes when I started out climbing and they are great for easier routes with big cracks. But very few medium to harder routes in the UK have the sort of big cracks that take hexes galore, it's always just easier and quicker to stuff a cam of about the right size in and keep on trucking.

I do have a few tricams but I have very rarely (if ever?) placed them on the lead. I can see the utility of tricams on very hard routes and on some routes where the route description might say there is a crucial tricam whatever in some placement or another, but too specialist for a standard rack imho.

cb294 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

Ahh the pink! You HAVE to carry oneby law, after all there is no other piece of pro with its own ode singing its praises.

Ballad of the size 3 BD offset stopper?

No, didn't think so either!

 BuzyG 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

I find there are places Tri Cams will fit that other devices simply don't.  Smallish shallow pockets come to mind.  I don't carry any Hexes. I find large cams are much quicker and easier to place, if some times less bomb proof. But then you can usually place a second piece of gear.

 Cobra_Head 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

I've never seen anyone with tri-cams, so hard to make any choices.

Hexes are quite useful and offer a number of seating options, though I don't use them much on routes either, usually for belays. I bought a full set a couple of years ago, and they've not been out with me on any trip.

I've not bothered with tri-cams, mainly because I can get by with the gear I have and don't really want to spend more money on stuff to carry.

 galpinos 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

Hexes give access to protection in cracks bigger than a nut at a cost more amenable than cams so are popular when starting out. This makes them more known/acceptable/seen out in the wild so become a more standard staple of a rack.

By contrast, tricams are not a "beginner purchase" so then become regarded as a specialist bit of kit and are relegated to hard ascents/the racks of those who think they are superior because they own a tricam.

Climbing a couple of classic routes in Wales (Main Wall and Gambit Climb) the weekend before last we took a slimmed down ack and I really regretted not having hexes, hey would have gone in all over the show. At no point did I regret a lack of tricams. This is the area, low - mid grade classic rock, where most of us are operating which explains the hexes' popularity.

 TobyA 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

14 years ago!

I did carry them for a bit after the review but found myself basically never placing them so stopped. The micro ones I sent to Franco as he was looking for some protection on some ridiculous Moors project back when he was a just a wee slip of lad with no money. Franco is still around so I presume he never used them or they turned out to work!

I'm getting too lazy for carrying torque nuts also these day, except in winter.

In reply to beardy mike:

Hexes on wire are great, I just treat them like big nuts, particularly useful on classic Rock and winter routes. Hexes on cord are just a massive faff and I've always struggled to get on with them. Small tricams are useful but I'd have thought you could place a cam faster and easier than a bigger tricam. 

 SnayBoot 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

As a new-ish trad climber, I think familiarity and availability of sets to borrow is a big thing over here. 

Love/hate hexes, almost everyone has a set knocking about somewhere - so as a newbie it's easy to try them to see if you like them or not before investing in a set. I know when I invested in building my rack, I tried to borrow other people's stuff, I tried a couple of different types of cams/nuts to see which ones I liked before spending my own money on stuff. But nobody I've climbed with has had a set of tricams, so I've never tried them. No idea if I'll like them, so I don't feel like investing in a set. 

Slightly tautologous answer, but they're not as popular because they're less popular. 

 Toerag 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

It's because hexes are best thought of (and most often used as) giant nuts (which can be used as cams in some situations), whereas tricams are best thought of as cams and used as such.  People learn with nuts, thus hexes get bought as giant nuts. Tricams have a reputation for being fiddly and slow to place, thus people buy cams instead.

Pink tricam goes wherever your thumb does, and there are lots of thumb holes too narrow for microcams. I have a krab with pink, small white, and small black tricams, a set of brass offsets and set of imps as my 'get me out of trouble' gear.  Our rock has lots of thin cracks, so micros get used all the time.

 rsc 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

I’m a recent convert to tricams after decades of ignoring them but always carrying hexes. 
I think hexes are seen as easy, intuitive - you *know* when one is bombproof. This makes them attractive to beginners (as well as the low cost). Cams (the spring loaded sort) are perceived as technical (this is climbing, not biking!) so you feel smart having them on your harness- surely you’ll climb harder now. Tricams get lost in the middle; not straightforward, but not reassuringly expensive either.

 I’m certainly not using them on hard, esoteric routes (I wish!). Contrary to galpinos’ experience it’s Welsh mountain low grade rock  - specifically Lliwedd and Glyder Fawr Upper Cliff - where I’ve found they go where nothing else is available. I still find them a fiddle but now wouldn’t go into the mountains without a few.

 Ryan23 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

I carry torque nuts and tri cams in winter but don't bother with them for rock climbing. I find the tri cams bite in some icy cracks where regular cams are useless. Torque nuts are great for bashing in with your axe and again often work in icy cracks. 

Tri cams are too much of a faff to place and remove to bother with for rock climbing, and regular cams work fine. Don't  tend to climb on rock with narrow pockets. I do have a couple of hexes on wires that stay on my rack just because  they don't weigh much and add a couple of bits of big gear.

In reply to beardy mike: Brilliant in boreholes

 Alkis 21 Jun 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

I've always loved tricams and find they work better in pockets than anything else. That said, these days they stay on the ground unless I'm climbing something >E1 and I think the rock may take them.

Amusing N=1 anecdote, placed the pink in a vertical placement that was unbelievably terrible, flaring in the wrong direction, only one side properly touching etc. I was off balance and I couldn't easily remove it so I just placed a nut half a metre lower and continued. Took a fall and it somehow held!? Not in a million years would I have expected it to, I thought the force would pop it outwards even with body weight, let alone a (small) lead fall.

 Martin Hore 22 Jun 2022
In reply to Toerag:

> It's because hexes are best thought of (and most often used as) giant nuts (which can be used as cams in some situations), whereas tricams are best thought of as cams and used as such. 

That's certainly how I see mine. If I want passive gear above size 10 (Rock or Walnut) then I'll carry hexes every time. In fact I don't own large Rocks/Walnuts. Hexes are lighter than the equivalent sized Walnut, have 3 placement orientations as opposed to two, and can be slung on tape or cord, so need less extension. (Actually I find hexes on wire prone to joggling out).

I know you can place hexes as active protection, eg in parallel sided horizontal cracks, but I've hardly ever done that since the advent of Friends (so that's for the last 40 years!). 

I own a few tricams, bought in Boston for use at the Gunks - they went well in the fabled "Gunks horizontals" - but I barely ever carry them in the UK. Personally I find them fiddlier to place and less re-assuring than cams, though they are, admittedly, cheaper.


In reply to beardy mike:

I used to carry tricams when I was young and impressionable and believed everything Andy Kirkpatrick wrote in High Magazine.

Back then there weren’t anything like the number of quality micro cams on the market. 

They we’re okay but very unstable compared to cams and hexes. Stability is super important in bigger gear. It’s for this reason I can’t even see myself using the big super light wires that have recently been released. 

I sort of see Tri cams as a bit of relic, like thread back buckles on harnesses and solid gate krabs. They still work, but other better stuff (Totem Cams) are available.

I really rate Hexebtrics and Toruqe Nuts (Wild Country Rockcentrics are a poor design IMO) for winter, especially as you can pound them in with an axe. It’s rare that I carry them rock climbing these days. 

Does BD have the patent on making cams with plastic coated dyeneema stems?

OP beardy mike 22 Jun 2022
In reply to Tom Ripley Mountain Guide:

Bahaha - I remember you WERE young and impressionable Still AK does say stuff worth listening to on occasion. I don't know if I agree about larger ones being unstable, I've never particularly found that to be honest and have always valued them for belays etc. 

Ref the big superlights, I think you are missing a trick - I've been using them since they were released and now don't even carry normal nuts. I find they seat extremely well, often deeper and in more secure positions, and the offset placement IMO is more secure than the DMM offsets. I promise - they are worth a look! I would assume you'll be able to use a shiny discount to get them cheap so worth a punt in my view. As for thread back buckles, well it depends on the buckle - I remember those buckles on the Blue Ice Choucas 2 when it cam out and how they auto undid. And I still like a buckle which comes undone but which is still a secure zip up one so you can put your harness on over clothes easily, my Arcteryx harness is like this and love that feature.

BD Patent exists, it's surmountable but the question is would it be worth the bother as I can't imagine they sell that many...

 Toerag 22 Jun 2022
In reply to Tom Ripley Mountain Guide:

> They we’re okay but very unstable compared to cams and hexes.

Surely their tripod configuration is inherently more stable than anything else (like a 3-legged stool is)? Or are you not yanking them into place hard enough?  I often find hex placements grip the hex in one place and allow them to pivot.

Post edited at 16:22

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