By Lizzy Scully
I’m not a gear head, by any means. But put a new cam (aka spring-loaded camming device) or carabiner in front of me, and I’ll automatically pick it up and play with it until someone takes it away from me. Absentmindedly, I’ll pull the cam’s trigger over and over again, or I’ll flip the gate of the “biner” open and let it clink shut again and again. I love the feel of the cold metal in my fingers; it reminds me of the best days of my life, most of which were out on granite walls and sandstone cliffs. So, when Senior Sales Associate Jon Jonckers invited me for a tour of Omega Pacific’s factory, I jumped at the opportunity.
The tour started with an exploration of the life of a carabiner. They begin as huge spools of coiled aluminum, are cut into pieces, straightened, and then put through various machines that bend and stamp them. The tooling and machinery are all made at the facility, by the way, which means most everything Omega is made in America, and they are in total control of quality every step of the way.
In fact, their technology is unique to the climbing industry, and biners are cold-forged at room temperature with barely any waste or excess. Says Jonckers, “We pride ourselves on our commitment to US manufacturing and American innovation.”
I then watched the biners being pierced, buffed, heat treated, and even broken. My favorite part of the tour was seeing a big locking steel biner stretch and then violently explode, sending shrapnel into the protective plastic shield. Cool.
Another big highlight of the tour was learning how Omega Pacific makes Wedgies—their equivalent of the climbing nut (hehe). Beginning as extruded bar stock, Wedgies are made from aircraft-grade aluminum rods that are not molded, but rather pushed or drawn through a die of the Wedgie cross section. This enables Omega Pacific to create a very complex yet uniform cross-section, Jonckers says.
Finally, I got to caress a lot of purple Link Cams—hundreds of them in fact. The folks at OP had just finished up a big batch of #.5s—an Indian Creek climber’s wet dream (if you have fat digits or love ring locking in off-finger cracks, that is). The afternoon excursion—my first to a climbing gear company’s factory—gave me a new understanding and appreciation for my equipment.
Omega Pacific is currently celebrating its 30-year Anniversary. Interested in learning more about this rad American company? Check out this great Adventure Journal article. And, if you’re looking to buy some gear, you can get it from Mountain Gear’s website.