While the lauded strength of the C4 Camalot line will continue to be the main design tenant, Black Diamond saw room to improve, especially for fast-and-light missions. Long trad routes in the Wasatch often require a double rack (or two full sets of Camalots), including the larger cams sizes. This takes a lot of space, weighs a ton and was identified as a key area to address. When asked who inspired the new changes, Kolin replied “almost everyone — sales reps, dealers, friends, my wife, our user-employees, customer feedback, athletes and of course myself. We use this stuff all the time and feed the things we learn back to the design team.”

While the design process is a collective effort, it’s far from chaos. Kolin aggregates and distills all this information into a product brief, which outlines the features of the product including functionality, size, weight, strength requirements, sizes, colors, costs, packaging, certification requirements, and a timeline. Once complete, the brief is passed to the design team and development begins – a process that takes considerably more time than most people would guess. When I asked about the general design process, I was shocked. “It starts with the initial concept, then design, prototypes, development, sampling, lab testing, field testing, iterations and more iterations, final design, fabricating samples, certification and production. The majority is testing,” said Kolin. “The sheer volume of testing Black Diamond does is mind blowing.”

As I wandered around the facility, I quickly started to understand why. The variety of testing equipment in the lab is astounding. Functional testing, ultimate strength testing, corrosion testing, thermal shock testing, cold weather testing, fatigue testing, durability testing, misuse testing and on and on. There’s an entire room of Frankensteined machines built with the sole purpose of pushing Black Diamond prototypes to a breaking point. The facility tests both individual components and finished goods. Kolin admitted that “there are no standards for a lot of these tests; our crew of climber engineers developed each machine over time, as we’ve learned the critical failure points of each product.”

After a prototype passes all of the lab tests, it’s sent into the field to be tested by employees, athletes, professional guides and a designated team of field testers. Once approved, the product heads to certification testing, commonly called CE. And still, when it passes CE, more testing. As products move into mass production, there is an entirely new team tasked with maintaining the requirements set out during the design phase. These tests include raw material testing, work-in-process testing, proof testing, destructive batch testing and quality inspection. To be honest, I found it hard to wrap my head around the process fully. Kolin summed it up by saying “any product that leaves Black Diamond and has been put through the absolute ringer.”

The new Camalots are no exception. Through rigorous testing and dozens of iterations, the design team improved the C4s top to bottom. New sculpted metal lobes, leveraging lessons from the Ultralight cams for a 10-percent weight savings. They also have a new tread pattern, variable stiffness stems and notably, a trigger keeper on the larger cam sizes that holds them in a retracted position, minimizing the amount of real-estate they take up on a harness.

Despite the detailed nature of the work, what struck me was the intense passion around the office. It’s a team of opinionated tinkerers, who want the best gear for everyone. At one point, Kolin said to me, “I don’t think I’ve gone climbing once in the last 16 years when I haven’t been testing something, and most the people here do the same.” That insatiable passion translates to Black Diamond making some of the best gear out there.