In preparation for the climbing season ahead, Hati talks us through how to clean your cams for rock climbing.
Pumped out of your mind, slightly regretting your choice of warmup and acutely aware that your last runner is closer to the ground than you are, you fumble around your harness for the right piece. The little silver cam, that’s it! You pull the trigger, shove it in the crack, and release…
But nothing happens. Irked at your neglect, the little lobes have gone on strike to teach you a lesson. You vow to clean your cams the moment you get home, then you quickly forget about the incident and watch The Crown with a takeaway instead.
It’s time for a spring clean! But rather than cleaning our homes (no matter how much they need it), we’re cleaning our climbing gear ready for a new season and the world opening up again.
When to clean your cams
You put quite a lot of stock in your cams performing: your life, in fact! So you should get into the habit of a seasonal clean and inspection to keep them working nicely. If you expose your cams to salty air (by climbing on sea cliffs, for example), you should try to give them at least a rinse fairly regularly as salty water is particularly corrosive. You should also wash your cams before inspecting them.
Sometimes your cams will tell you they need a clean, they might do this by:
- Making noises (ie, grinding)
- Not performing – that is, not opening and closing as fully and smoothly as they should, or seizing altogether.
- Their mechanisms feeling sticky, gritty or slow.
What you need
- A clean bucket, basin or pot.
- Clean warm water
- Mild detergent like washing up liquid
- A toothbrush or bouldering brush (the thin Metolius M-16 brushes are quite good but not cheap; grimy, chalky and balding bouldering brushes aren’t so good)
- Somewhere to leave your cams to dry (ie. On a newspaper/cardboard
- A lint-free cloth
- A suitable lubricant (DMM recommend Henkel Superlube, 3-in-1 oil or Duck Oil. Metolius Cam Lube also works well. Avoid graphite
How to clean your cams
If your cam lobes are seized, you’ll first need to apply lubricant to the cam axle and leave it for a while – preferably overnight. You might need to do this a few times to get it really smooth. Avoid getting lube on the sling.
DMM have made a handy video (with an excellent soundtrack) to take you through the steps. For more detail read the instructions below.
- Rinse the head of the cam in warm water with some mild detergent in. Open and close the lobes whilst submerged.
- Lightly clean dirt away from the metal part of the cam, particularly around the lobes. Be gentle! You don’t want to dislodge the retraction springs from the cam lobes.
- Rinse your cam with clean water. (It should now feel lovely and smooth, but if not repeat steps 1 and 2). Dry off any excess water with that lint free cloth and leave to dry completely (away from direct heat).
- We’d recommend doing this bit over a newspaper or some cardboard so that you don’t drip lubricant where you don’t want it. Apply lubricant to the cam axle (where it passes through the lobes). You can work the lube in by operating the lobes with the trigger. Avoid getting any lubricant on the sling: it’s worth wrapping the sling with a plastic bag or newspaper to be safe. Your cam should definitely have a smooth action now, but if it doesn’t then you’ll need give it another round of lubrication, and maybe even another clean.
- Wipe off any excess lubricant with a rag so that you don’t get it everywhere.
And there you have it, cams cleaned and ready for the season ahead!
The next step is to inspect your cams. All cams are different, so use the manufacturer’s guidance for this stage. If in doubt about the safety of your cam, don’t take the risk – contact the manufacturer for their guidance.
If all this talk of climbing, cams and bits of gear has sparked your interest, you’ll probably enjoy rock climbing. We offer Introductory, Intermediate and Learn to Lead level Rock Climbing Courses here in the Peak District. You can find out more or book a course here.
Beyond the Edge Ltd is based in Sheffield two hours by train from London and within easy travelling distance from Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and other Northern towns and cities.
We are one of the UKs most experienced providers of climbing, walking, scrambling, mountaineering and navigation training courses.
Most of our courses are run in the nearby Peak District National Park which has some of the finest climbing, bouldering, walking and hiking in the world.