- Offsets are composed of two small lobes and one larger lobe
- 13 mm (0.51″) Monster Sling webbing (36% Dyneema/64% nylon)
- Range Finder tells you at a glance if you’ve chosen the right size cam for the placement
- Optimized cam angle for more outward force
- Wider cam faces for more grip
- U-shaped body for greater durability and unparalleled control during placement and retraction
- Machined cam stops
- Color-coded sewn slings and tubing
- CNC machined for much greater precision than stamped or extruded cams
- 7075-T6 aluminum
- Sizes #00/0-#3/4
- Hand built, inspected and individually proof tested in Bend, Oregon
Days Tested: 15
Test Locations: Castle Valley, Utah; Eldorado Canyon and South Platte, Colorado
Years ago when I first saw an offset cam (a CCH Alien, to be exact) hanging off someone’s harness, I remember being surprised by its existence, wondering how one might place such a device. Without ever using them, I quickly wrote them off as a niche piece of gear with an impractically narrow application.
For those who haven’t run across them yet, offset cams—also frequently referred to as “hybrids”—are cams with lobes of different sizes on the same device. It is perhaps easiest to picture offset cams as straddling between the normal sizes in a product line. Consequently, offsets with four lobes (such as the Alien, Basic, or Mastercam) have a pair of lobes in one size on one side of the head, and the lobes on the other side of the head in an adjacent size. TCUs, or Three Cam Units, have only three lobes, one in the larger size, and two in the smaller size.
Having lobes of different sizes is the defining characteristic that makes the cams suited for flaring or uneven placements. In cracks that taper rapidly as they recede from the surface of the rock, regular cams might have the two deepest lobes appropriately retracted while the outer pair of lobes sits uselessly open, unable to reach the rock that has opened up away from them.
Even in less extreme examples, where all four lobes are at least making contact with the rock, having a dramatic difference in the extent to which the lobes are retracted is less than ideal at best, and extremely dangerous at worst.
Offset cams are designed to solve this problem. The smaller inner lobes fit the narrower part of the crack while the larger pair of lobes makes good contact in a wider part of the crack. As such, all the lobes are retracted to a similar extent. For this reason, they’re fantastic at protecting flares or pin scars (the only cams that will, in many cases), but not really suited for the parallel-sided cracks that your garden-variety cam is built for. As a result, offset cams are usually thought of as being made for aid climbers hoping to tackle tricky clean aid, without offering much to the free-climbing community.
In the years that followed my initial double take, I’ve moved to Colorado and spent much time climbing in Eldorado Canyon and the South Platte region, where flaring cracks or pods are quite common. This experience, combined with a handful of climbing trips to North Carolina (horizontal eyebrows, anyone?) re-opened for me the discussion about offset cams.
I’m hardly the first climber to be driven to offsets by the nature of the rock at their home crag. The offset cam market, once ruled by the Colorado Custom Hardware Alien, has seen the arrival of offset versions of both the Metolius TCU and Metolius Mastercam, the Fixe Alien (a reincarnation of the CCH version), and the Totem Basic.
Having learned traditional climbing alongside older generations of the Metolius TCU, I was familiar and comfortable with them, so the hybrid TCU seemed like a reasonable place to begin my search for the ideal offset cam.
The Metolius Offset TCU is at first glance a carbon copy of Metolius’ Ultralight TCU. The overall size of the Offset TCU, the head design, trigger, length, sling, etc. are all identical to their counterparts on the Ultralight line. For this reason, this review touches on these design elements only when they are relevant to the discussion about offset cams. I’ve left a lot of the general discussion about the Metolius Ultralight TCU design for another review.
Functionally, the different-sized lobes are the only things that separate the Offsets from the Ultralight TCU. This is helpfully noted by the color scheme on the thumb loop and sling. Where Ultralight TCUs have a colorful plastic cover around the U-shaped base of the stem that matches the color of the sling in order to denote the size of the cam, the offsets use two different colors to indicate the two lobe sizes. As an example, a blue/yellow Offset (with one larger lobe from a yellow TCU and two smaller lobes from a blue TCU) will have a yellow band around the stem and a blue sling. This scheme is, of course, consistent throughout the line: the smaller size present on the hybrid is indicated by the color of the sling, while the larger size is indicated by the stem.