Totem Cams or Totem Basics

Every climber who prefers Totem Brand comes across a common problem.

“Which Totem to buy?”

Totem Cams or Totem Basics.

Many climbers buy both sets, but others may want to collect one set only.

Here, I have provided an in-depth review of Totem Cams and Totem Basic Cams by comparing their features. At the end of this article, you will have the ability to decide which cam is suitable for you.

Totem Cams

Totem Cams are the revolutionary pieces of equipment for aid climbing and big wall climbing.  They work great on shallow and marginal placements. With their four individually loaded lobes, you can get excellent grips in almost all types of placements.

The camming system designed in an excellent way distributes the load equally onto each lobe. This helps in better stability of placement.

The body of Totem Cams is pretty flexible. So, there is less chance of cam walking. You can also use only two or three lobes when you have marginal placement or shallow cracks.

The lobes of Totem Cams are elliptical. Moreover, the lobes have diagonal micro-teeth for additional grip. All in all, these cams have excellent holding power.

Many climbers say Totems are bulkier than other common cams. To some extent its true. They take a bit more space as compared to Camelot or some other common cams. But, this is so ignorable issue. After you climb a few pitches, you will not even notice that.

Totem also has a large range as compared to some cams like Camalots. So, you may need fewer number cams when you carry Totem.

Totem Basic

Totem Basic Cams

Totem Basics are great small-sized cams for free climbing and aid climbing. With all the features that a great micro cam needs, these cams are great to have when you are heading for big wall climbing.

They are the improved version of the well-known David Waggoner’s brilliant Alien design. These cams are lightweight and great for quick-ascents. When you need to repeat sizes, you have Totem Basics Hybrid options available too.

These micro cams can be excellent in big walls and rocks with limited placement options. Many climbers favor this cam to use in pin scars, narrow parallel placements, and flared cracks.

Totem Basics have internal springs for narrow head width. These cams use sheath trigger for maximum flexibility.

Their soft lobes made up of the soft aluminum alloy with diagonal teeth are highly resilient with a strong holding power of 5-11kN.

Totem Basic uses a double sheath on the trigger. The outer sheath can rotate freely which helps in better abrasion resistance.

The updated trigger wires system is something that climbers have highly praised. The wire system is flexible and strong which maintains the right independent camming unit motion. The stainless 5/32” 7X19 wire rope has the capacity to hold heavy loads.

Furthermore, the round edges of the lobes make sure there is a more consistent contact with the rock on irregular cracks.

The company goes through an individually proof testing process to build these CE certified cams.

For people who prefer micro cams with a single stem, Totem Basics can be in their best option. With their flexible stem, there is a less chance of cam walking. So, many climbers use Totem Basics over their rivals like x4, Master cams, and Fixe Aliens.

Major Differences Between Totem Cams and Totem Basics

Totem Cams cover a wide range of crack sizes as compared to Totem Basics. But for those aiming for aid climbing, they just cannot miss Totem Basics. Totem Basics are the best copy of alien cams. They have a narrow head width which makes them suitable in marginal placements and narrow cracks.

But, when we look at the weight, Totem Cams are a bit heavier as compared to Totem Basics. Moreover, they also take more space on your rack as compared to Totem Basics.

The Totem has used 7075-T6 aluminum alloy whereas Totem Basics use 6061-T6 aluminum alloy. So, the lobes of Totem Basics are softer as compared to Totem Cams.

Many climbers who own Totem Cams do not bother with the Basics. It’s because Totems work just fine in the cracks and placements that require Totem Basics. However, Totem cams are not the perfect substitute. So, many climbers own both Totem cams and Totem Basic Cams.

Totem Basics are perfect for those climbs where you need to repeat sizes. And with their hybrids, you can complement your cams.

Totem Cams and Totem Basics Features Comparison Table

NameTotem CamsTotem Basic Cams
ManufacturerTotemTotem
Best UsesAid climbing, Big wall climbing, climb with limited placement options, Pin scars, parallel placements, flared cracks,Aid climbing, Big wall climbing, climb with limited placement options, Pin scars, parallel placements, flared cracks,
Weight24.9 ounces of a full set256 grams of a full set (i.e. 4 pieces)
ProsLightweight, hold better in asymmetrical podsLightweight, hold better in asymmetrical pods
ConsBulky, take a lot of room, expensive, difficult to extract sometimes if stuck, Expensive, difficult to extract sometimes if stuck
Main Building MaterialT-7075 aluminum alloyT-6061-T6 aluminum alloy
Camming AngleUp to 40.7º16º
StemFlexible and dual independent stemFlexible and single
Cam HeadSingle axleSingle axle
Size range13.8 mm - 52.2 mm11.2 mm - 31.6 mm
Number of lobes44
Lobes shapeEllipticalElliptical
Strength6 - 13 kN5 - 11 kN
Head widthNarrowNarrow
SlingDouble LoopSingle Loop
OffsetNo3
Example climbBig walls of Yosemite ValleyBig walls of Yosemite Valley

Variation in the Size

Totem Cam’s size ranges from 0.50 to 1.80. Altogether, there are seven sizes of Totems. They have used standardized color scheme on trigger wires and Dyneema sling to build the different sizes.

Black is the smallest Totem Cam with 5 kN strength and range of 11.2 mm – 17.4. Besides, there are Blue, Yellow, Purple, Green, Red and Orange Totems. Orange colored Totems are the largest piece of 1.80 sizes. They weigh 144 grams and have the strength of 13 kN. They can cover the 39.7 – 64.2 mm range.

Totem Basics have only four sizes. They have three offset sizes as well called as Totem Basic Hybrids. The smallest Basic is 0.50 sized, blue-colored Totem Basic. It weighs only 56 gram but has the strength of 5 kN. It covers the range of 11.2 mm to 17.4 mm.

The largest Totem Basic is 0.95 sized Red Totem Basic. It has the capacity of 11 kN with the maximum range of 19.9 mm to 31.6 mm. The Red Totem Basic weighs 72 gram.

The three hybrids have a size of 0.60, 0.70 and 0.85. Totem has built these hybrids by taking each pair of cams from their consecutive sized Basics. For example, Totem uses a camming unit of 0.50 Totem Basic and a camming unit of 0.65 Basic to build 0.60 HY Basic Cam. Likewise, 0.70 HY consists of each pair of the camming unit of 0.65 Basic and 0.75 Basic.

Totem Cams and Totem Basic Cams size range comparison chart

SizeColorStrength (kN)Range (mm)Weight (g)
0.50 BasicBlue511.2 - 17.456
0.50 TotemBlack611.7 - 18.969
0.65 BasicGreen713.6 - 21.460
0.65 TotemBlue813.8 - 22.575
0.75 BasicYellow916.6 - 26.162
0.80 TotemYellow917 - 27.783
0.95 BasicRed1119.9 - 31.672
1.00 TotemPurple1020.9 - 34.295
1.25 TotemGreen1325.7 - 42.3109
1.50 TotemRed1331.6 - 52.2132
1.80 TotemOrange1339.7 - 64.2144

Summing Up,

The Totem Cams are the revolutionary pieces of cam preferred by many climbers. So, you will see the majority of climbers suggesting Totem Cams. But, that does not mean Totem Basics are less popular. Both these are highly preferred depending on the type of climbs.

The blue, green, and yellow Totem Basics are equivalent to black, blue, and yellow Totems. Although they are not a perfect substitute for their equivalent counterparts, they work just fine.

The difference is Totem Basics have narrow head width which makes it easy to fit them in your racks, and even in very funky and narrow placements. So, you can judge cam retraction better with Totem Basics.

Climbers who love Totem Cams say they are fine with the smaller size Totems; black, blue and yellow instead of Totem Basics. And many climbers buy the specific size of both Totem Cams and Totem Basic Cams to complete their rack.

So, it is up to you to decide which cam is suitable for you?

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