My first experience with the cams was on a few straight-in granite cracks in the South Platte, and later on a few moderate trade routes in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado. As expected, the cams performed flawlessly, with the exception of one difficult-to-remove placement near a ripple. This was a “pilot error” instance in which my follower unknowingly moved the cam into a constriction where it became stuck while trying to remove it.
The Helium Friends feel light in your hand, but the weight savings are not enough to tip the scales one way or the other on these things—the total weight saved from a set of Heliums (compared to the same range in C4s) is 40 grams. For reference, a Petzl Spirit carabiner weighs 49 grams. Not really something I could ever blame for missing an onsight….
Behind this small weight difference is the fact that the Heliums are actually heavier in the smaller sizes but noticeably lighter than their BD counterparts in the larger sizes (Helium 3 and 4, etc.). They are also slightly less bulky than their C4 counterparts when racked, which is always appreciated. This is readily apparent in a side-by-side comparison of the #4 Helium Friends and the #4 C4.
While the C4 does have a slightly larger range (66mm-114mm compared to 63mm-102mm for the Helium Friends), the Helium Friends is dramatically leaner, considering these two pieces are roughly analogous. These two factors give the edge to the Helium Friends in the larger sizes (hands and above), whereas the smaller sizes are extremely similar to Camalot C4s.
At any rate, they got some use on a few El Cap base routes, where they performed admirably. I placed several of the cams in blindly when either trying to protect a layback or a step-around, and didn’t have trouble choosing the size or fitting the cam well. I did have to employ some trigger wire trickery in trying to get a few of those blind placements out, however. I got the sense after a few weeks of use that I would have to be slightly more mindful than I am with C4s not to over-cam the Helium Friends, as they seemed more willing to get stuck in finicky placements. My instinct is that the single axle plays a role in this, but to be fair to the Heliums, it should be pointed out that most of these instances were blind or difficult to examine from my placement stance.
After that adventure, I got to take them out for some single-pitch work at the New River Gorge, and they again were awesome. Though I know the range of each device is smaller than on C4s, it’s also not enough to notice a huge difference. I didn’t find myself having trouble reaching for the right size. I had been somewhat concerned about this when moving into a new sizing scheme, but a quick look-through before leaving the ground and a system of racking your cams in some sort of size order eliminates this problem.