Totem Basic Cams

If you are a climber craving for a light but strong micro cam, Totem is the ultimate brand to go.

Totem Basic cam has the design just like the widely popular Alien cam which you can use for big wall climbing and aid climbing.

Engineered carefully, Totem Basic is one of the best cams to use on limited placement options. You can use this cam on places like pin scars, narrow parallel placements, or flared cracks, or placements which are too small to use other cams.

Features of Totem Basics Cams

There are a few exciting features in Totem Basic which have impressed a very large number of climbers. Unlike other cams, Totem Basic uses a soft alloy to build the camming units. So, the lobes with soft alloy are so great in biting into the rocks.

The head of Totem Basic cam has a single axle and four different lobes. Totem has used internal cam springs for narrow head width. The round lobes make more consistent contacts on irregular cracks. Edges of the lobes have diagonal teeth for acquiring a better grip on rocks.

Another amazing feature of this lightweight micro cam is the use of highly flexible stem in the cam. The super flexible stem helps the camming units remain stable and avoid flicking out.

The double sheath trigger helps the cam on acquiring the maximum flexibility. The outer sheath layer can be freely moved for better abrasion resistance. The new flexible trigger wire system maintains a right independent cam motion.

Some of the major features are as follows:

  • Highly flexible body
  • Narrow head
  • Internal cam springs
  • Sheath trigger offering high flexibility
  • Soft lobes of 6061-T6 aluminum alloy
  • Stainless 5/32″ 7×19 steel cam wires
  • Rounded edged lobes
  • Double sheath
  • 4 standard and 3 offset sizes

Totem Basic Major Features

NameTotem Basic Cams
Offset sizes3
Best UsesAid climbing, Big wall climbing, climb with limited placement options, Pin scars, parallel placements, flared cracks,
Weight256 grams of a full set (i.e. 4 pieces)
ProsLightweight, holds better in asymmetrical pods
ConsExpensive, difficult to extract sometimes if stuck
Main Building MaterialT-6061-T6 aluminum alloy
WireStainless 5.32” 7x19
Camming Angle16º
StemFlexible and single
Cams HeadSingle axle
Cams range11.2 mm - 31.6 mm
Number of lobes4
Lobes shapeElliptical
Strength5 - 11 kN
Head widthNarrow
SlingSingle Loop

How it differs from Totem Cams?

Many new climbers may still have the confusion about the difference between the Totem Cams and Totem Basic. Let me put it in a really simple way. Totem Basics have narrower heads and it’s quite easy to judge cam retraction with them. They have a single stem and are a bit more flexible as compared to Totem Cams. Moreover, they are less bulkier as well.

The holding range of the largest Totem Basic, i.e. 0.95 Red is from 19.9 to 31.6. So, climbers use Totem Basics in smaller placements and cracks. But, the smaller sized Totem Cams can somehow work as the substitutes of Totem Basics. The blue, green and yellow Totem Basics are equivalent to black, blue and yellow Totems.

Climbers who prefer a cam with single stem, more flexible body, and small head opt for Totem Basics instead of their equivalent sized Totem cams. Climbers can fit these well-made aliens in tight and funky placements. Among all these differences, the cam head with a narrow width is the most notable feature that makes climbers choose Totem Basics over equivalent sized Totem cams.

Different Sizes of Totem Basic (Hybrid Included)

Totem Basic has four standard sizes and three intermediate offset sizes. Here is the chart of comparison of strength, range, weight, and other important features of different sized Totem Basics and Totem Basic Hybrids.

Totem Basic and Totem Basic Hybrid cams size table

Cam sizeColorStrength (kN)Max Range (mm)Usable Range (mm)Weight (g)Head Width
0.5Blue511.2 - 17.411.82 - 14.925633
0.60 HYBlue/Green513.6 - 17.4-5833
0.65Green713.6 - 21.414.38 - 18.286033
0.70 HYGreen/Yellow716.6 - 21.4-6233
0.75Yellow916.6 - 26.117.55 - 22.36833
0.85 HYYellow/Red919.9 - 26.1-7033
0.95Red1119.9 - 31.621.07 - 26.927233

Totem Basic Hybrids

We call those three intermediate sizes of Totem Basic as Totem Basic Hybrids. The three hybrids have the color composition of blue/green in 0.60, green-yellow in 0.70, and yellow-red in 0.85.

The 0.60 Hybrid Basic cam uses one pair of lobes from the 0.50 Basic and another pair from 0.65 Basic. Likewise, the 0.70 Hybrid takes 1 pair of cams from the 0.65 Basic and 0.75 Basic. Similarly, the largest Totem Basic Hybrid uses a pair of each cam from the 0.75 Basic and 0.95 Basic.

The Totem Basic Hybrids are highly flexible. Like Totem Basic, they have internal springs for narrow head width and an excellent expansion range. Totem’s Basic Hybrids use a double sheathed trigger mechanism with a metal trigger.

Also, they have used the soft 6061 -T6 aluminum alloy to build the head of the cam. Likewise, the rounded lobes have diagonal micro teeth just like Totem cams for the better grip.

With this kind of specialization, climbers find these cams very useful in peg scars and flared granite cracks and openings. These hybrids are the great companion for Totem Cams or Totem Basic.

How Totem Introduced Totem Basic?

Totem is the improvised version of the widely popular Alien built by Colorado Custom Hardware(CCH). After CCH shut down its business, Totem started producing the improved version of Alien with the name Totem Basic. Totem was able to solve the problem that climbers faced with Alien cam.

So, what exactly was the problem with Alien cams that made CCH shut down their business?

Aliens cams had flawed brazing.

So, the heads of those cams with defective brazing had the likelihood of pulling off the cable at lightweight loads.

Those defective units of Alien cams had a small dimple at the bottom of the roundball where the axle goes. Although there was no injury recorded, it was something that made climbers lose their trust in the Alien cams.

After a few years, Totem came with Totem Basic that completely addressed the safety issue of Alien. The most significant improvement is Totem have enhanced the head of the cam. They have drilled a hole at the top of the head for visual confirmation. They make sure the head of the camming unit is soldered all the way up.

Besides, Totem has improved on the camming units. The rounded edge lobes with diagonal teeth have improved the contact with the rock. Also, its highly flexible trigger wires help in smooth functioning even in awkward positioning and extensive use.

Moreover, the old CCH alien was too wide to fit into very thin cracks. So, Totem solved the issue by putting internal springs which significantly reduced the head width.

Totem Basic vs Fixe Alien

Now, there are two brands that manufacture Alien-like micro cams – Totem, and Fixe. Totem named it Basic whereas Fixe preferred calling their product Alien(because they bought the rights to name their cams “Alien”). As you browse through a few cams reviewing sites and forums, you can easily realize that Totem Basic is much more preferred as compared to the Alien of Fixe.

So, what made climbers prefer Totem Basic over its rival?

Well, Totem Basic’s design looks nearly identical to Alien. Totem took everything good about the Alien from flexibility, durability, to 2-lobes functioning, and added more features.

The manufacturing operation goes through the UIAA/CE certified process with proper brazing. The testing follows thereafter. Furthermore, many parts including the trigger wires and internal cam springs are better and well-finished. Although FIXE has good bolts and hardware, they came with a few issues that climbers disliked.

Downsides of Totem Basic

With advantage comes disadvantage too. While adding so many exciting features, Totem Basic still has some drawbacks. The soft alloy lobes mean the camming units wear out faster if you use them extensively in rough rock-types. But, this is an ignorable issue as the lobes are hard enough to survive years of use.

There is also another problem that some climbers have faced with Totem Basic. Due to the flexible stem, sometimes climbers find it a bit difficult to remove the cam from odd placements.

Cons of Totem Basic

  • Soft alloy lobes
  • Hard to remove from fiddly placements(sometimes)

To Sum Up,

Totem Basics are great micro-cams to add on your rack. They have an amazing design and are well-made. These devices just feel better in the hand and you get the confidence when you use them. So, this cam is not just a great option, but the one to use on trickery, harder-to-inspect placements, and narrow cracks.

Grab them, you will be glad for buying them.

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