A relatively old product that continues to be a very versatile protection system. The ''tripod'' configuration guarantees a remarkable strength and stability in many types of placement: parallels cracks, flares, horizontal cracks, holes and pockets.
Camp Tricams are certainly very interesting pieces of protection. Although looking weird at first glance, Tricams are amazingly versatile, and can be the last resort in certain situations. I used to carry a set of Wild Country Rocks or DMM Wallnuts and some Hexes in the larger sizes but have substituted now the Hexes with Tricams. Normally (limestone cracks), Tricams will work just as good as Hexes, plus they are about the only pieces of protection you can put into holes like you find them frequently in the Dolomites. I don't know, however, how well you can use Tricams in granite since I mostly climb limestone and dolomite type of rock.
Tricams are a great substitute for spring loaded camming devices. They are extremely versatile once you learn how to use them. Tricams can work as a cam in parallel sided cracks and can be used as a passive piece like a nut in a flaring crack. This is nice because if you have to bail of the route, it is much easier to part with a $15 dollar tricam than a $50 dollar SLCD. Another advantage they have is they weigh less than SLCD's.
There are downsidesides however. It can be kind of hard to judge their placements in both parallel and flaring cracks, but it's not that bad. Also they take a little more time and thought to place. This makes trying to place them from really strenuous positions difficult if not impossible.
I recommend tricams to anyone who is interested moderate trad or alpine climbs. They are very versitile and worth the money if learned how to be placed properly.
Still getting used to these things, but the more I use them, the more I like them. They are bomber in flaring cracks and in places where nuts just won't hold. My favorite (like most) is the pinky. I don't have the entire set, just a few of the smaller mid-sizes. Try them, you'll be surprised at how solid they are.
These things definitely have there place on a trad climber's rack, but none of the reviews have mentioned the biggest drawback. They can be a bear to clean, and if you fall on them they have a good chance of becoming "fixed". For moderate terrain they can be a cheap way to expand your rack and they definitely work in places where nothing else will. In general, the more granite you climb, the less useful you will find them, they are more popular in sandstone and limestone areas. If you ice climb, they are one of the few pieces that will work in icy cracks, although it's very difficult to know if they are anything more than "pysche" pro in that situation.
This is not a product I would recommend to everyone, but Tricams certainally have their place.
In parallel sided cracks, they set pretty well rotating to the side. As other reviewers have mentioned below, Tricams take more time and effort to place than a nut, hex, or especially an SLCD. You should practice mock placing it with one hand, until it is second nature to you. I would strongly recommend giving a mighty yank on the piece after you have clipped, to set it really well. I have had these things walk in vertical cracks.
I would strongly recommend against using them in flaring cracks, because if rope drag walked it back into the flare, this piece would no longer protect you. (I have had this very thing happen) Nuts and Hexes are the best things for flaring cracks, not Tricams or SLCDs.
The traditional use for the Tricam is in pockets. The pink #.5 and red #1 tricams fit really well in there. If you will be climbing in an area with lots of softer stone like Sandstone and Limestone, definately bring some tricams for the pockets you will find. I've found quite a few in Granite as well. SLCDs are usually too long along the axis, and nuts and hexes cannot be used unless it is a flaring pocket. Tricams are usually the only way to protect them.
Another placement that I've found works well is in shallow horizontal cracks. Nuts and hexes usually won't fit, and SLCDs will be exposed to a 90 degree load on their shaft that they are not designed to support. A tricam slots beautifully, and is not exposed to dangerous loading conditions.
Overall a great product. I know of several people that refuse to carry them because they can be harder to clean after a fall, and are harder to place, but I like them a lot. They are lightweight, inexpensive, and can be used where nothing else works. That's good enough for me.
The other reviews here are already excellent; but I'd just like to emphasize one point.
In my opinion, Tri-Cams are the best protection for horizontal cracks. I climb a lot in the 'Gunks in NY. Lots of horizontal cracks. I find them to be indispensable for these situations.
In general though, I don't use them much in parallel or flaring cracks. I use them in passive mode for constricting crack placements, in the active and passive modes for horizontal cracks, and (as other people mentioned) in holes and pockets where almost nothing else will fit.
I've never had one fail on me in these situations. I have had them walk out of parallel cracks when I tried to use them in active camming mode. I now stick to SLCDs in these types of placements.
These belong on any climbers rack. I don't have anything to add except that REI pulled these from their racks some time last year because they found cracks in the smaller sizes where the pin holds the webbing. The largest four sizes are unaffected.
REI is returing these to their shelves as I write this review so any you buy from now on are good.
As far as what you should do with your older tri's? As far as I can tell there is no recall on them even though Camp has changed their design a little. If you are inspecting them well after falls then I would feel safe continuing to use them. Of course it costs very little to replace them.
I would recommend doubling up on the three smallest sizes because if you are like me and my friends you will end up using them the most! My buddy jokes that some days he thinks he could just climb with the pink tricams!
My friend used to be a complete sceptic about the tricam - untill we went to Franken Jura, where Wolfgang Gullich some years ago put up 'Action direct'. The area is renowned for its finger pockets, making most nuts and cams useless. My friend now owns 5 pink tricams. He still fails the crux on action direct though. (action direct has actually been bolted).
More seriously, the tricam has its unique uses. In particular the smaller sizes. In longer cracks, they are rivalled by nuts and cams. Nuts feel more bomber and cams are easier to set. Tricams somehow fall in between both in ease to set, price and weight.
I find that it is best to set them with a tuck, which works best in limestone or other softer rocks. I do not like them if the cracks have smooth surfaces.
All in all I give them 4 stars. This is because they are not perfect - only a supplement to nuts and cams, and because the larger sizes are too heavy.
I am torn about tricams. Being a poor grad student learning to lead in the Mid-Atlantic USA, I placed tricams left and right finding them about the best protection for horizontal cracks and shallow pockets. Now that I'm a relatively well-to-do post-doc in Colorado, I use them hardly at all. Is it the rock? Or is it all the shiny SLCDs adorning my rack fulfilling much the same function?
In any case, the smaller tricams, from the indispensable pinky (0.5 size) to the less-used brown (1.5 size) are cornerstone members of my trad rack. I have a few of the medium sized ones as well (2, 3) but the biggest look simply ludacris and unuseful. If you're going to lug something that big around, spend the extra money and make it an SLCD or big-bro.
Tricam placement is a tricky thing, but a bomber placement is as good as anything else out there. Oftentimes, they'll sink where other gear simply won't fit. Part of this is their unusual shape, and part is that they can be placed in either major (camming) or minor (passive) modes. Removal is an even trickier proposition and many a second has wailed and shouted when faced with a wedged tricam. If you fall on a tricam, it will save your hide, but it will be wedged for ever!
Carry some tricams as specialty peices. They're cheap and useful, especially in the smaller sizes. But in some desperate lead, it's a lot faster to just fire in a cam and move on than to fiddle with a confusing bit of metal and webbing.
Old timers always told me how great these were and I always kept three on my rack that I was given from way back, but was like yeah, yeah...we have so much more modern pro today. When all my gear was stolen in Vegas and I replaced everything, I opted not to replace these tricams. Then I was on the joy route of Mount Indefatigable with a partner who had them and found about 4 shallow placements on slab that only really took these tri's. Will be getting my old ones replaced.