Metolius Ultralight Master Cams
Ultralight is the new light, and that puts the Ultralight Master Cams from Metolius at the forefront of hipness. These single-axle cams—the next generation of the Master Cams—are the lightest, both in physical weight and price, four-lobe SLCDs on the market. The 10 units in the series range from 0.34 to 3.05 inches, and a full set only weighs 26.5 ounces.
Compared to the original Master Cams, which Metolius is discontinuing, the Ultralights are 20 percent lighter. Across a double rack, that means the equivalent weight savings of a “12-ounce canned beverage of your choice,” according to Metolius. To cut the weight, Metolius made a number of changes, such as shrinking the sling down from 13mm to 11mm and ditching the thumb loop of the previous generation. The new Dyneema/nylon hybrid sling is threaded directly through the metal thumb piece.
Without the old-model fixed thumb loop, the cams take up less space on your rack, and the sling can rotate through the thumb piece to avoid wear in any single spot, a double plus. I did find the new thumb piece a bit tricky for my fat thumb when I had to really extend to make a placement, but I’m getting used to it.
Also new in the Ultralights is their redesigned “shark fin” tooth pattern optimized for soft rock, according to Metolius. I took that as a challenge and went new routing with the set on soft Maroon conglomerate. Despite crumbling placements, grit and lichen, the smaller units felt bomber, even in shallow cracks. The two new larger sizes, 7 and 8, however, seemed top heavy—their big lobes seem to outsize their flexible stems.
Not new, but a favorite staple of the Ultralights is their narrow head width. A number 4 Master Cam, for example, is a full lobe narrow than most other equivalent size cams. The Ultralight’s slim profile means they can fit in pin scars, creases and pockets that typically accept only TCUs, and it is this feature that gives Master Cams an edge over all other units.
The Ultralights are the only cams in this review that sport single axles. Having one axle lets the Ultralights achieve smaller sizes than dual-axle models—better for small cracks and weight savings. Of course having one axle gives the Master Cams less range per unit than dual-axle cams, meaning you need more cams to fill your rack for a given range. And so goes the decades-old debate: Is it better to carry more pieces of pro or fewer pieces that fit a wider range?