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Gear Review - Metolius Offset TCUs
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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Nov 5, 2007
Artist Tears P3

Metolius Offset TCUs



offsets
offsets

Can you spot the Offset Cams?

On a recent Supertopo.com forum thread a person asked for advice on alternatives to Alien hybrids. Generally the majority of the people posting stated that there were no alternatives and just suck it up and order Aliens.... After my recent experience with Metolius Offset TCU's, I'm not so sure that I fully agree...

From the Metolius web site:
Metolius Offset TCUs are designed specifically for hard to protect flared micro-fissures & pin scars. They use two smaller cam lobes and one larger lobe to accomplish this.

Offset Cams are specialized pieces designed to fit in flaring pin scars, primarily for aid climbing. Cams placed in flaring cracks are far more susceptible to pulling out than placements in parallel-sided cracks. Climbers using Offset Cams should be very experienced in the art of cam placement and thoroughly understand the limitations of cams placed in flaring cracks ...


offsets
offsets

Full set of Offsets

TCU comparison 2
TCU comparison 2

Standard TCU compared to Offset.

Offset Aliens
Offset Aliens

Alien Hybrids (Photo: Chris Miller)
Notice the difference in color coding.

Offset Aliens detail
Offset Aliens detail

Alien Hybrids (Photo: Chris Miller)

Aliens have a well deserved reputation as the most flexible small camming units on the market, and in particular they have always had a strong niche following with aid climbers and thin crack aficionados. The recent concerns about quality control may have had an impact with free climbers, but for body weight aid placements they still are very popular. Last year I tried to buy some hybrid aliens but they were as scares as hen's teeth, so I ended up purchasing a set of offset tcu's instead.

Specifications
The Offsets are designed on the successful ultralight pattern, which are the lightest camming units on the market. The main features include:

  • Direct Axle Technology (DAT) makes Metolius cams the lightest in the world; opens more placement options in bottoming cracks and shallow pin-scars while providing the best visibility of cam lobes in tricky placements.

  • Opposing tube and Dyneema sling colors enable easy identification as an Offset TCU. The color of the sewn sling denotes the size of the two smaller cam lobes; the tubing color represents the large cam lobe size.

  • CNC machined cam lobes from 7075 T-6 aluminum, for the tightest tolerances and greatest strength to weight ratio.

  • 13.25 degree cam angle for more outward force means Greater Holding Power!

  • U-shaped body for greater durability & unparalleled control during placement and retraction

  • Range finder system makes them easier and safer to place. Does anyone actually use this placement aid?

markings
markings

Offset Range FInder System

So how do they compare with aliens. The chart below does a comparison between TCU Offsets and Alien Hybrids. There are 5 TCU's compared to 7 Aliens, with the Aliens covering a wider range.

spreadsheet
spreadsheet


First Impressions
As you would expect from Metolius, the engineering and manufacturing look very professional and of excellent quality. Take one look at these cams and you know they are not going to fail under their stated strengths. The color coding is easy to figure out and at a glance, you can tell whether it is a offset or a standard cam. The color of the sling denotes the size of the smaller cam lobes, whereas, the tubing color represents the size of the larger cam lobe.

offset comparison
offset comparison

Standard compared to Offsets. Can you spot the Offsets?

The head width between the aliens and TCU's is practically identical so I haven't included those settings in the above chart. Using a ruler I can't tell the difference but if you used a micrometer you might see differences in the .000 range. Maybe I need to buy one...

Perhaps the two biggest differences between alien and TCU Offsets are the number of cam lobes and the stem design. You can debate the stem design till the cows come home and I'll leave it up the everyone to argue the pros and cons. In my own findings, bearing in mind that I haven't climbed anything harder than C3 is that the stem hasn't been an issue. I was skeptical at first, but the more I've used them, the more I've come to like the design and understand how it works. I've also started to wonder whether some of my previous understandings about the stem design, where based on fact or fiction.

Some reviewers have stated that U steams when used in placements where the axle of the cam is not horizontal to the ground, can cause the force to be transferred to the head of the cam. I haven't found this to be a problem. The cam has held fine in my placements. By the way the U stem design also allows you to clip the aiders into the stem rather than the sling, gaining a few precious inches.

Another concern expressed to me was that in thin placements, the stem on the outside of the head could infringe on the placement. I haven't run into this problem either. Hopefully, people with more aid climbing experience can add their two cents worth... Like I said above I don't do hard aid.

You would think that three lobes would be narrower than a four lobe cam unit. This is true in the case of Black Diamond C3's, but comparing Alien hybrids and Offset TCU's the widths are pretty much the same. There may be only three cams but the lobes are relatively wide.

You would think that three lobes would be narrower than a four lobe cam unit. This is true in the case of Black Diamond C3's, but comparing Alien hybrids and Offset TCU's the widths are pretty much the same. There may be only three cams but the lobes are relatively wide.

The amount of force that a cam pushes against the sides of the crack is determined by the cams angle, not the width of the cams. Metolius has some of the lowest cam angles in the business and the angle on these TCU's is 13.25 degrees. This angle determines how much outward force is generated (against the rock walls) in a loading event. A smaller cam angle generates more outward pressure, but gives the cam itself less range. A bigger cam angle develops less outward pressure, but actually gives the cams more range. So, it's a compromise between cam range and holding power.

However, the width of the cam face is also important, as it determines how much load is spread out over a given area, thereby reducing the pressure exerted on the rock. For example, take a look at Metolius Fat Cams which are made specificially for softer rock and have wider cams faces. In very soft rock it is possible for very narrow cams to actually trench into the rock and "umbrella the cam open" or pull-out. Something you really don't want to worry about when sketched out above pro!

If you find my explanation confusing check out the following link I found on the Metolius website that does a much better job at explaining this. Cams and holding power

Another nice feature are the cam stops. This prevent creating an inverted umbrella of the cam. Aliens don't have cam stops.

The cams also have the familiar Range Finder system that is featured throughout the TCU design. I'm not sure if anyone actually uses this placement advisory tool, but it's a novel feature to say the least and to new leaders it could be a selling point for new leaders

orange TCU
orange TCU


Yellow/Blue Offset compared with Yellow TCU

Conclusions
Offset TCU's really shine in the finger size pocket and pins scars we see on old aid routes that are now being climbed free or with clean aid. I used the orange yellow unit many times on a recent trip to Zion. It was my go to piece whenever I was looking at a pocket or pin scar that was very flared. Places where in the past I might of fiddled in a two cam unit or a tricam, the offset would slot right in and have good lobe contact. I was so impressed with them that I would start talking to myself about them as I bounce tested them enthusiastically.

At 49.50 each, they represent great value and I have no hesitation of recommending them. If you want to just pick up a couple, go for the Yellow/Orange and the Orange/Red units, as these are the ones that you will be reaching for with pin scars.

I have seen sets online for as low as $185.00. That's about 37 a cam.

Aid Climbing is all about having placement options, and I think the Metolius Offset TCU's do just that in adding another arrow to your quiver. For free climbing areas like Lumpy ridge in Colorado, place a few offsets on a biner and you won't even notice the added weight... The next time to go climb George's Tree, they're come in real handy!

Disclosure:
I paid full price for this set of Metolius Cams.

I hope you're enjoyed reading this review and I look forward to your comments.

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By Ryan Forbus
From Marietta,Ga/Auburn,Al
Nov 5, 2007
Great write up. I've been wondering about these for a while. You answered most of my questions.

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By Jordan Ramey
From Calgary, Alberta
Nov 5, 2007
What was left of the rack when I topped out on the...
Now that's the kind of review I like to see. Thanks.

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By Paul Hunnicutt
From Boulder, CO
Nov 5, 2007
Half Dome
My partner and I recently used these for 2 weeks in Yosemite and they were the best pieces on our rack. Every time we placed one we felt utterly confident in the piece. I like them better than my Alien offsets, which for some reason just don't seem to sit as well in the cracks as the TCU offsets (though I still love my old Aliens). They worked great for aiding on El Cap as well as free climbing routes like the Rostrum and Serenity Crack. I can only imagine they would be incredible at Lumpy Ridge, the Needles, or just about any other crack area. Anywhere the cracks vary in size, are pin scarred, or flaring these will place well (so pretty much anywhere except splitter desert cracks). I actually like the less flexible stem as it makes them really easy to place then the Aliens. Especially when you are high-stepping or gripped free climbing in a difficult position. I don't know who would ever use the range finder except while playing around with them at REI...but I guess that is a plus.

As much as I love BD, these seem to place better and I had more confidence in them than the C3's (which aren't offsets, but just another comparison). My only complaint is that sometimes I find it more difficult to get my fingers properly placed on the TCU trigger than Aliens and C3's. Overall, I would highly recommend them.

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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Nov 9, 2007
Artist Tears P3
I had a couple of errors about the width of the cam and holding power that I've now fixed. I also added a link to the Metolius web site that explains in greater detail about cam angles, holding power, etc.

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By Brian in SLC
Nov 9, 2007
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch
Great review, John.

"I was so impressed with them that I would start talking to myself about them as I bounce tested them enthusiastically."

Methinks you solo aid climb too much... Ha ha.

Been thinkin' I need to pick up a set of these. Big fan of the Metolius cams, especially in Zion sandstone (where they've held a fall a time or two for me, when I thought I was going for the big ride). And, they are light.

Need to put them on my x-mas list.

Thanks!

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By Cultivating Mass
Nov 13, 2007
Leading on the only "fair means" rack.
Thanks for the great review. Helpful, good stuff.

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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Nov 13, 2007
Artist Tears P3
Thanks for the feedback.

Brian,

Yes you're probably right. I've been doing a fair bit lately but climbing will soon come to grinding halt once the snow starts to fly!

Berthoud Pass
Berthoud Pass


Cheers

John

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By Leo Gokovski
From SLC, UT
Jul 12, 2008
Hello .

Thanks for a great review. I own two sets of offset tcu's, and enjoy placing them as they take the bite off of many flared placements.
however, I must disagree with the comment regarding the head width. I've been climbing with both aliens hybrids and offset tcu's, and found that the u - stem design prevent some odd flared placement where the pin scar is too shallow to accept the metolius offset but will accept ( marginally ) an alien hybrid of similar size.
also, in those awkward placements, the flexibility of the tcu's seems to somewhat compromise the integrity of the placement, vs. an acceptable ( for body weight ) placement by the aliens.
on the other hand, aliens are hard to get, and their quality control falls short in comparison to metolius's standards.
to conclude, on those skechy aid pitches I tend to Carry both offsets tcu's and alien hybrids, and feel much more relaxed with a well placed metolius, but still plug a hybrid when all else fail.

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By Dean Cool
From Boulder, CO
Aug 1, 2009
John,
This is a great review! I own a rack of C4's and actually just purchased a set of C3's. I did compare them to the TCU's and felt a little more comfortable with the BD's over the Metolius. Maybe its because I have placed them before and been trusting the BD name over my years of climbing. I also liked that the head was smaller and seemed like I could fit it in more places. I think the price is what attracted me to do my research on the TCU's. I ended up finding a great deal on the C3's and had some extra cash so I got them. Does anyone have an opinion about the C3's? I think my only gripe is that on a big fall they will get a little bent out of shape (if they hold) but assume all smaller cams will do this.

Ps. John that looks like Berthoud Pass

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By Nate Brown
From Wilson, Wy
Aug 12, 2009
mug shot
We used these a bunch on Mescalito, they are awesome. Very aggressive in the pin scars,

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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Aug 20, 2009
I saw that the offset mastercams just hit the local shop. I wonder if Metolius will continue to produce the offset TCUs.

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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Aug 20, 2009
Artist Tears P3
I'm still not sold on the mastercams so I'm still using the offset TCU's and where they don't fit aliens. Although I've lost some trust with aliens they are still my go to piece in difficult placements.

And yes it is Berthoud Pass.

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By Kevin Stricker
From Evergreen, CO
Aug 20, 2009
John,
Have you tested these in the Valley? I think that is really the only place to see a true comparison due to the unique nature of the pin scars there. By that I mean where else can you find a RURP crack that takes a green/yellow(or even a yellow/red!) offset alien. I would mostly be concerned with the u-stem binding below the scar as often even a stopper cable will not sit properly.

I'd love to loose some gear weight for the NIAD days and solos there, but I have a hard time imagining not bringing my hybrid aliens on the Capt'n.

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By no1nprtclr
From Front range Colorado
Aug 20, 2009
I really like the offset TCU's. I used to have non-offset Aliens, and pre c3 bd's. Sold all and use Metolius almost exclusively. I really dig the Supercams, the Mastercams I also like. The only thing is that I do use and old bd 3.5 and 4 cam, along with a new #5 bd, Metolius lacks in the larger cam arena. I wonder what a Mastercam Offset Hybrid would be like, I would hope there would be no lawsuit for design issues.... but...? Are there any reviews of the various hexes out there, I haven't looked super hard, but have yet to come across one. My couple of cents.

Juan

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By Paul Hunnicutt
From Boulder, CO
Aug 20, 2009
Half Dome
My partner and I climbed the NOSE with offset Aliens and TCU's. Both were excellent. I backcleaned those TCU's everywhere so I could have them always with me. I felt more confident on them then the Aliens to be honest...and not because of any Alien QC issues (my aliens are mid 90's) - they just snugged up perfectly into those pin scars. Highly recommended for the Valley.

One thing I enjoyed aid climbing with them was that I found the rigid stem easier to place way above me. Some TCU placements felt so solid I swear I'd haul the bag up on it.

We had the three smallest Aliens and the three middle sized TCU's. We used the blue/green and green/yellow Aliens and the Blue/Yellow, Yellow/Orange TCU the most.

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By John Shultz
From Osaka, Japan
Aug 29, 2009
Above the beautifully positioned routes at Makapuu...
Greetings Folks,

Thanks to John, the original poster for a good review.

I have been really interested in this topic after experience the miracle of alien hybrid cams. Not to muddy the waters, but it looks like the Metolius Master Offset cam is now available. Those look like some pretty sweet units. Any folks out there to review this one?

Right on. Cheers form Osaka,
john

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By Pete Spri
Sep 7, 2009
I've got 3 of the offset TCUs: 1/2, 2/3, and 3/4. These things are incredibly useful for free climbing, cannot speak to aid as I don't do much of it. Unless I'm tackling pure splitters, I'd say these fit better in most situations than normal TCUS (talking about granite and quartzite here). They work better for flares, pin scars, and irregular cracks alike.

My opinion is if you are doubling up on small cams, consider getting a few of these sizes instead of a plain ol' tcu. You'll find yourself picking them more often than the normal ones, imo.

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By Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Jan 5, 2010
Splitter Jams on the Israel/Palestine Security Wal...
Does anyone have experience/recommendations re: offset TCUs v. offset Mastercams?

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By squiddo
From Mountain View, CA
Jan 5, 2010
A fine day at Reeds- Ejesta!
Shaun,

Excellent question on one I was just about to pose as well. How about it peeps, anyone out there have some experience? I'm looking to buy Alien Hybrids but my experience with Master Cams is strong enough my choice might waiver.......

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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Jan 5, 2010
Artist Tears P3
Shawn,

I haven't used the Offset Master cams but I've heard from people that the purple blue is the one to buy. Apparently it works very well in pin scars.

Hopefully, someone will post up a review on them.

Cheers

john

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By Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Jan 5, 2010
Splitter Jams on the Israel/Palestine Security Wal...
Thanks John!

Does your advisory council incline toward Yosemite or Zion? Or are they promiscuous?

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By Robert 560
From The Land of the Lost
Jan 5, 2010
Secret Crag
Shawn, there is a review on this page a little way down from the top.

splitterchoss.com/blog/categor...

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By Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Jan 5, 2010
Splitter Jams on the Israel/Palestine Security Wal...
Thanks, Robert. They sound good.

Still hoping someone can compare head to head. Just wondering if 4 heads with no outside cables sit better in tight flares than 3 cams with the U cables outside. Or the other way around...

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By Darren Mabe
From Flagstaff, AZ
Jan 5, 2010
wham bam hand jam. Wrapping up the final moves of ...
i recommend the hybrid aliens.
mine are whip-tested, mother-approved.

i dont even own normal aliens anymore.

EDIT: besides, consider that you can aid off of two lobes of the alien in a pinch. dont think you would be able to for the Metolius offset TCUs, but possibly with the offset MasterCams....

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By Trevor
From Cottonwood Heights, UT
Jan 5, 2010
Solo Ascent - October 21, 2008 - taken from Scout'...
I have both offset Aliens and Offset Master Cams. I've had the aliens for a few years now and they've held up on several walls. Picked up the Master cams this summer and a few are "bent" after just a few pitches of aid climbing. Aliens - they are far superior when you need the flexible stem as to avoid the "bent-stem-syndrome".

FLAG


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