Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Good range, lightweight, extendable sling.
Cons: Not cheap, no high clip-in, thinner cam lobes.
Best Uses: Free climbing.
The DMM Dragon Cams are a serious contender for Best Climbing Cam to the Black Diamond Camalot C4. Overall we prefer the C4 because we like the trigger action, price, and the ability to use the C4 it for aid climbing. But if you love a built-in extendable sling and are obsessed on weight, the Dragon Cam may be right for you.
This is one of the lightest cams out there. But if you take fewer carabiners because you have an extendable sling, it is definitely the lightest cam. That, along with the Dyneema sling that absorbs less water than nylon, makes this the ultimate alpine rock and ice cam.
The double axle design is highly reminiscent of Black Diamond's units, and Dragon cams feature a similar flexible single stem. The main difference between the two is the Dragon Cams have a different trigger and long extendable sling that cuts down on weight and rope drag. Dragon Cams are also 5-10 percent lighter than C4's, making them ideal for those obsessed with weight. In general, we think that the Dragon cams are an awesome free climbing piece. They are bomber, easy to place and clean, and have a good range. The lack of a high clip-in point does not make them ideal for aid climbing where every inch counts. As mentioned in another review, I think that DMM designed these cams with their local climbing in mind (not a lot of walling to be done in Wales). Though the actual lobes of the cams held up well, durability becomes a bit of an issue with the super skinny Dyneema slings, so expect to replace these slings more often than on a cam that has wider nylon slings.
NOTICE: DRAGON CAM RECALL FOR #4 and #5
Here is a head-to-head SuperTopo Forum Review of the Dragon Cam vs. Black Diamond Camalot C4
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Dragon Cams are Wales-based DMM's offering in the double axle cam design. They compliment BD Camalots from #.5-4 and are even colored the same. They are bomber and easy to place, with a slightly shorter stem than Camalots. Despite the shorter stem, the units have a longer sling and rack at just about he same length as Camalots. Their double axle design gives them a wider range than most cams, making it more likely that you'll find the right piece when you're gripped.
The biggest standout feature of the Dragon Cams is the nice long extendable Dyneema sling. It's like having a quickdraw already on your cam, making extending placements simple and quick. While Dragon Cams are only 5-10 percent lighter than Camalots, you save even more weight if, like us, you bring fewer quickdraws and extra carabiners to mitigate rope drag.
Instead of a thumb loop, DMM has developed a beefy metal end piece with two loops that the sling is threaded through. DMM touts that they developed the metal end piece because the 8mm extendable Dyneema sling could cut through a cable thumb loop. (The Re-sling Black Diamond Camalot C4 and C3 page has a photo essay on why Camalots use the slings and cables they do.)
Despite the lack of a thumb loop, we found that the Dragon Cams were easy to place. The large metal end piece on the stem has ridges and is ergonomically designed to aid in ease of handling. The stem is slightly shorter than on other cams that we tested, though we didn't find this to be a problem in any way (actually appreciated it when packing them in our pack), and the Dragon Cams Rack at about the same length as BD's Camalots. Dragon Cams are slightly lighter than Camalots owing to the shorter stem and the design of the forged cam lobes that are narrow in the middle.
We really like the extendable sling for free climbing, but the lack of the thumb loop makes these not appropriate for aid climbing. Every placement leaves you about three inches lower than you would be with a Camalot which is not okay on a serious big wall. For us, we love Yosemite big walls so this is a HUGE deal. For most climbers that don't aid climb, it probably doesn't matter.
The downside to a cam with an extendable slings and no thumb loop is they take up more space on the rack, which makes finding your right piece harder. In addition, they are pain in the butt for the follower to clean. It usually requires two hands to "de-extend" the sling. Unless the follower is on a stance, it is hard to do this. Usually the only option is to clip the cam to your harness or gear sling fully extended. This means the cams will hang low and really swing around and get in the way.
These cams are best suited for free climbing, especially alpine climbing where you want to move light and fast. We could not think of a better cam for the Sierra. The extendable sling makes it easy to add a little length to your placements to cut down on walking and to help out with wandering pitches.
These guys are a little pricey. Ranging from $75-$80 per cam, they are definitely not a bargain. They are roughly 20 percent more expensive than a Black Diamond Camalot C4. This is not a big deal if buying one cam, but becomes hundreds of dollars if buying a few sets.
Looking for other gear from DMM? Check out the DMM Peenut, DMM Wallnut, DMM Brass Offsets, and DMM Offset Nut.
— Chris McNamara and Robert Beno
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Most recent review: December 23, 2012
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