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DMM Dragon Cam Review

   

Climbing Cams

  • Currently 3.8/5
Overall avg rating 3.8 of 5 based on 11 reviews. Most recent review: December 23, 2012
Street Price:   Varies from $70 - $75 | Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Good range, lightweight, extendable sling.
Cons:  Not cheap, no high clip-in, thinner cam lobes.
Best Uses:  Free climbing.
User Rating:     
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  • 5
 (4.2 of 5) based on 10 reviews
Recommendations:  88% of reviewers (7/8) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   DMM
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ November 8, 2010  
Overview
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

Likes
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.

Dislikes
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.

Best Application
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.

Value
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.

Other Versions
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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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: December 23, 2012
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.2)

88% of 8 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
7 Total Ratings
5 star: 14%  (1)
4 star: 71%  (5)
3 star: 14%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
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   Nov 12, 2010 - 01:22am
sos · Climber · nyc
I have climbed with a set of Dragons since mid-summer. I liked them so much, I went back out and bought doubles from purple to yellow — which surprised the hell out of me since I've been climbing with just a single set of Forged Friends since way back when. (Plus passive pro, a size 5 tech friend which rarely even makes it into the car, and some microcams). Weight savings are minimal vs. C4 in the smaller sizes, but appreciable in blue and gray. The extendable sling is very, very nice — it allows me to leave slings behind on straight routes, and carry less on wandering routes. Even when not extended it seems as though when I clip directly to the Dragon's Dyneema sling that I get less cam walk than I do when clipping to short, stiffer, nylon sling on a C4. I haven't actually set the two side by side and tested this though. The extendable sling is also key when you want to extend but find yourself in tenuous territory and would rather not futz for more gear. I also prefer the shorter length stems of the Dragons which are reminiscent of both forged and technical friends and work well against either my thumb or palm. The C4s are too large for me to palm comfortably. As far as aid climbing goes, if clipping in an inch closer to the piece is crucial, tie knots in the slings before you head up (do not take a static fall on this, use dynamic cord instead of a daisy, and its still probably not recommended by DMM). If I were buying cams primarily for aid or for alpine, I think I would rather have something lighter than either the C4 or the Dragon. However, for short-approach, multipitch trad, which is mostly what I climb, I really like this product. They are well thought out and very well made.

I am curious to see how they will compare against WC's new hot forged tech friends which I contemplated waiting for. On the spec, the WC has the same problem for me as the C4: too much length between the bottom of the thumb loop and the trigger, making it uncomfortable for me to palm. However, I'm interested in buying some larger size cams (Tech Friend 5 and 6 (Red and Green) and am not keen on accepting the double axle weight penalty for that size range, so I'm really hoping WC will add those sizes to its range.

Also, the previous poster is dead wrong about needing to re-sling these cams every two years. The Dyneema slings are spec to five years, exactly like every nylon sling on the market. Compared to nylon, Dyneema is more abrasion resistant, has vastly superior UV resistance, provides excellent cyclic loading response, and is less susceptible to chemical degradation. As a climbing sling, 8mm Dyneema has been in the field for 5+ years with (to my knowledge) only one failure report and the sling in question, which was girth hitched to another spectra sling (not a recommended usage), evidenced cutting with a sharp object (as in a knife, not repeated wear over an edge) at a point beyond the knot, not breakage in the knot under load as would be expected with materials fatigue.

And I forgot: my regular climbing partner liked my Dragons so much that he bought one in yellow to replace an old Camalot from his rack that went missing.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
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   Nov 9, 2010 - 01:26am
Bad Acronym · Climber · Little Death Hollow
Christ, how about a real review.

I've taken a set of #1-5 out to play and have only positive things to say. Love the extendable slings, same as on the 3CUs except 8mm dyneema instead of 11mm. The bar tacks are shrink-wrapped in plastic like the join on a BD stopper. They rack in harmony with c4s: same length, same color coding. Springs on the axles have a bit more resistance than c4s, but the lobes can still be operated independently. Like 3CUs, the strength ratings across sizes are uniform: #1=14kn, #5=14kn.

If you're happy with c4s for free climbing, you'll be happy with dragons. Nylon or dyneema, cam slings inevitably need replacing. Pricewise, ST's shopping links are poor suggestions. Buy them in a set for roughly $60/cam with a free set of color-coded Phantom biners thrown in from The Gear Co-op.com (Phoenix,AZ).

Impressed by the lack of any hands-on reviews here. It ain't a "first look" if you haven't taken em out for a spin.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Apr 29, 2012 - 11:56am
 
WindRidfter · Climber · Wyoming
Gotta love the hot forged cams, have been impressed with the lack of deformation so far, this is a BIG difference between any other manufacturer.

Can't say these handle any differently than thumb looped cables, the width of the hot forged stem fitting provides a fumble free base (unlike C2 Camalots and Tech Friends), with better contact surface area than a loop. The stem fitting design has the flexibilty to choose using either the thumb tip (ala the Tech Friend) OR the base of the thumb much the same as a loop. Makes using gloves a snap.

In addition to the weight savings of an extendable sling, i.e. the weight and clutter of a quickdraw, it is much simpler than having to reach down and grab a draw, clip it and then clip the rope. It IS important to unclip the correct strand (the non-bar tacked one), as the bar tacks will not pass through the eyelets. I have placed marking tape over the plastic sheath on the bar tacks to help me quickly identify (and remind me) which strand to unclip.

EDIT--Do NOT use rubber bands or O rings with open slings.http://www.ukclimbing.com/videos/play.php?i=20

Extendable slings can be a bit of a finger puzzle when one is working with one pumped hand, so I'd strongly suggest practicing and refining that technique. Then it is quick and second nature. I push that strand through using my thumb on the biner back, my ring and pinky on the biner bottom and my pointer and middle fingers on the dyneema strand in a 'pinch unclip'. The key is to have the non bar-tacked strand closest to the gate and the bar-tacked strand closest to the biner back when one is racking up, this simple trick makes a HUGE difference.

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Strand alignment and pinch unclip
Credit: WindRidfter

Another benefit of the sling and eyelet design is that I have found that even when not extended, the sling pivots more easily and freely than any other cam I've used. It is longer than most even when not extended.

The shorter stem also seems to reduce the stem's leverage on the cam head, thus further reducing walking.

A huge plus is how small these are in your pack, a BIG plus in the backcountry.

Nice to be able to buy good gear that is NOT made in China.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Nov 16, 2010 - 03:02am
 
TobyA · Climber · Helsinki, Finland
I've just finished doing a 'competition' style review for UKClimbing between the Dragons and Camalots, it should be on that site soonish. But very briefly I think between Dragons and C4s it is six of one, half a dozen of the other - they are both great. You won't got wrong with either style unit and having some of both might work nicely if you carry double sizes.

I'm interested in where this research is about the skinny dyneema slings only lasting two years? I'm a bi of a gear geek, read lots of reviews and articles and haven't heard that. Could those making that claim, which DMM doesn't agree with as far as I am aware, point us towards that research?

When reviewing them I did think a bit that both DMM and BD may well have had home markets in mind when designing their respective cams. Aid climbing is simply not an issue for 99% of British climbers, so the clipping into the thumb loop issue just isn't very important. Likewise, no one leads the soft sandstone that there is in the UK, so thinner cams on the Dragons are perhaps less of an issue than for BD who would have had US desert climbers in mind when redesigning the Camalots.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 23, 2012 - 02:47am
phillipivan · Climber
I think these cams have copped alot of unreasonable flack. The lack of thumb loop makes little to no difference in use, and you have the added option of palming them like a U stem cam. Equally the fuss over the thinner lobes is much ado about nothing. I took a micrometer to a C4 and a Dragon and at the rock interface there is only a small difference. My take away from that is that if you are really worried about using them on soft rock, don't use C4s either, stick to Fat Cams and Hexes; but I can't imagine a rock where I would feel safe using C4s but not Dragons. Same goes for the camming angle really.

The strong springs and extendable skinny sling mean they are less prone to walking, which I like.

The extendable sling can help cut down on the amount of draws needed. It is not so hard to extends or retract either. Fixing the racking biner to one of the loops, near the stitching, can make it easier still, though depending how you do it there is a potential saftey issue similar to using Petzl Strings on open slings.

If you do alot of aid climbing you might be really bummed by the lack of a thumb loop, or you could tie a knot, and get a really high clip-in point.

A good unit.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 30, 2012 - 06:00pm
Toerag · Climber · Guernsey, British Channel Islands
I bought a size 1 to replace a tech friend I'd lost. The big advantage with the dragon in this size is the narrower head width which makes it fit in a lot more pockets and uneven cracks than any other SLCD in the same size range. I couldn't care less about weight and thumb loops, I want a cam that'll fit the biggest number of placements!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 16, 2010 - 01:38pm
msiddens · Climber
TobyA- thanks and looking forward to your review. I own both units and although I have more experience with C4's I still remain impressed with Dragon's. I appreciate the slings and extension capabilities but found the comments on longevity concerning. Same interest in hearing more.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
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   Nov 10, 2010 - 09:00pm
Delphine · Climber · California
Handled it in a store and like the feel a lot, but want more info before I buy. Thinking about this as a gift for my climbing partner, looking forward to the full review.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Nov 8, 2010 - 08:21pm
 
Gene · Climber
"Wales based DMM dropped its Dragon Cam this year to much fanfare."

Does 'dropped" mean discontinued or "dropped" into the market? Ambiguous to me in light of the rest of the review. The Dragon Cams are still being promoted on the DMM website.

g
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Nov 9, 2010 - 03:25pm
 
JLP · Climber · The internet
I only played with these in the shop. I noticed while they are supposed to be slightly lighter than C4's, they are also slightly smaller than a C4 in a few sizes. So much for weight savings. They're nearly exactly the same design and both made out of Al, so go figure. Set them side by side yourself and see.

The thing that bothered me the most and prevented me from buying some is the unclean flashing on the lobes from the hot forge process showing. It's messy. It's similar to the stamped look of the old u-cable Camalots - ie, kind of cheap looking with lots of contact surface irregularities. It's not a machined nor accurate surface profile. The C4's, OTOH, are machined.

In general - nice idea, but not made as well as the C4's. I like the sling design, but it's a trade-off for a clippable thumb loop. I'm left with zero reason to buy these things, especially at a steep price premium.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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DMM Dragon Cams Sizes 1-6
Credit: www.backcountrygear.com
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