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DMM Dragon Cam Review

A good choice for free climbing if you want to carry fewer slings
DMM Dragon Cam
Photo: www.backcountrygear.com
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Price:  $78 List | $58.12 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Good range, extendable sling
Cons:  No thumb loop
Manufacturer:   DMM
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 30, 2018
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 10
  • Free Climbing - 20% 7
  • Weight - 15% 5
  • Range - 15% 7
  • Horizontal Cracks - 15% 6
  • Tight Placements - 15% 6
  • Durability - 10% 8
  • Walking - 5% 8
  • Aid Climbing - 5% 3

Our Verdict

Hailing from North Wales, the DMM Dragon Cam is a solid piece of precision equipment. Our testers' initial impressions were that these cams could handle some mega whippers and then ask for more. Quality control seems to be a non-issue at DMM, and each cam is flawless down to the grooved lobes and the raw aluminum finish on the points that contact with the rock. These cams have an extendable sling that when employed, reduces walking and potentially reduces the number of slings and quickdraws you'll have to carry. These cams were developed where the climbing ethic is staunchly traditional, and natural protection is needed for slick slate quarries and sea cliffs. In these environments, the Dragons are meant to inspire confidence with the "TripleGrip" cam lobes.

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DMM Dragon Cam
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DMM Dragon Cam
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $58.12 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$99.95 at REI
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$79.95 at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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77
74
Star Rating
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Pros Good range, extendable slingSuper light, durable, easy to place while free climbing, great rangeWide range per unit, light, rigid when placing but flexible when placed, narrow head width, thumb loop, smallest unit currently madeDurable, wide rangeLightweight, durable, great value
Cons No thumb loopExpensive, need for potential early retirementNot the most affordable, smaller units lack double axle and aren’t as smooth, trigger wires can’t be replaced at homeHeavy compared to Camalot Ultralights and MetoliusDoesn't have a thumb loop
Bottom Line A good choice for free climbing if you want to carry fewer slingsThese are our favorite cams for all around useOur favorite small cams are a breeze to place and effectively incorporate innovative technologyThese are the perfect workhorse cams for any rack, keeping you off the ground for yearsThese are a great addition to any rack and cover the in-between Camalot sizes really well
Rating Categories DMM Dragon Cam Black Diamond Camal... Black Diamond Camal... Black Diamond Camalot Metolius Ultralight...
Free Climbing (20%)
7.0
10.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
Weight (15%)
5.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
10.0
Range (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
10.0
7.0
Horizontal Cracks (15%)
6.0
6.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
Tight Placements (15%)
6.0
6.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
10.0
8.0
Walking (5%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Aid Climbing (5%)
3.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
Specs DMM Dragon Cam Black Diamond Camal... Black Diamond Camal... Black Diamond Camalot Metolius Ultralight...
Weight (1 inch size piece) 3.63 oz 2.6 oz 2.8 oz. 3.28 oz 2.3 oz
Range (inches) .51-4.48" .61-4.51" .29" -1.66" .54-7.68" .34-2.81"
Sling Length (inches) 5-9" 3.75" 3.75" 3.75" 3.75"
Stem width above trigger
Single or Double Axle? Double Double Double down to .3 Double Single
Extendable Sling? Yes No No No No
Sling material Dyneema Dyneema Dynex Nylon Dyneema
High Clip in for Aid? No Yes Yes Yes No
Cam Stops? Yes Yes Yes down to .3 Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

DMM Dragon Cams are out to make a dent in the Black Diamond cam supremacy that seems pervasive at all American crags. They feature the same size and color scheme as the Camalots, and the same double axle design and camming range. The Dragons are bomber and well suited to parallel placements, with the stems being flexible enough for horizontal placements. However, our testers unanimously preferred Black Diamond Camalot Ultralights because they have a thumb loop and are lighter.

A flock of dragons makes for a durable rack of hand and finger sized...
A flock of dragons makes for a durable rack of hand and finger sized cams.
Photo: Matt Bento

Performance Comparison


These cams hang short and swing on around on your harness less than...
These cams hang short and swing on around on your harness less than other brands.
Photo: Matt Bento

Free Climbing


Instead of a thumb loop, DMM has developed a strong piece of aluminum that accommodates its extendable sling and creates a large, textured surface for your thumb when you engage the trigger. The expandable sling was a hot topic of debate among our testers. Some found it difficult to extend and most found it difficult to rack on the go when following a pitch. With practice by both the leader and the follower, it's not that bad. You need to make sure that you extend the sling by grabbing the sewn part of the sling that won't slide through the holes in the thumb press. Then the follower can equalize the two loop lengths and re-rack the cam with one hand. If you're following and super pumped, you're just going to clip the cam to your gear loops, and it's going to swing around all over the place. Most of our testers still prefer a thumb loop for free climbing.

Weight


These cams are the second heaviest in our review, barely lighter than the same size run of Black Diamond C4s, and almost five ounces more than the Black Diamond Camalot Ultralight. The extended sling could save weight on quickdraws, around 2.8 ounces per lightweight draw, for a total weight savings of 22.8 ounces if you were to extend an entire rack of eight Dragon Cams, which is a fairly significant savings.

Double axle cams have a greater range than those with single axles.
Double axle cams have a greater range than those with single axles.
Photo: Robert Beno

Range


A set of Dragons will protect in cracks from 13mm to 144mm. That's from tiny finger size to big fists, covering almost the same range as Camalots, give or take a millimeter.

Since the stem on these cams is short, it tends to lever on the cam...
Since the stem on these cams is short, it tends to lever on the cam a little more aggressively than a longer, more flexible stem.
Photo: Matt Bento

Horizontal Cracks


Until you get down to the thumb loop(less) zone, the stems on the Dragons are very similar to Camalots and are equally flexible, so unless you load them in a shallow horizontal at 90°, these cams hold well and don't become permanently bent. Place them deep in a horizontal and extend the sling and you'll have a great placement that will load with the supple Dyneema sling (hopefully not over a sharp edge), and the cam won't need to bend at all.

Tight Placements


Again, these cams are so similar in size and shape to Camalots that their performance in pods, holes, pin scars and other tight placements is equivalent. One nit-picky little difference lays in the gray finger size. The stem on the gray BD ultralight is ever so slightly wider than the cam lobes when the cam lobes are retracted as small as they can go. The thinner stemmed Dragon doesn't get in the way, allowing for it to fit in a slightly smaller spot, in a way over cammed orientation potentially making it harder to get out. For most climbers, this isn't a concern.

The Dragon has a longer extendable sling than the Wild Country...
The Dragon has a longer extendable sling than the Wild Country Friend, but the overall length from the cam head to carabiner is roughly the same.
Photo: Matt Bento

Durability


Our testers felt that these cams were as durable as the ones made by Wild Country or Black Diamond. In all likelihood the first thing to wear out will be the Dyneema sling.

Walking


The extendable sling is a great asset in the fight against the dreaded cam walk. Extend each piece, and you'll be less likely to move the cam out of its perfect placement and also reduce rope drag. DMM has put a lot of thought into the design of their cam lobes, all the way down to the micro level. The "TripleGrip" cam lobes have a raw aluminum finish and a crosshatch pattern of tiny grooves to increase friction and reduce walking in slick rock.

Aid Climbing


The lack of a thumb loop makes these cams less than optimal for aid climbing. When every inch counts when trying to get to the next good high placement, it's hard to imagine choosing Dragon Cams over cam with a thumb loop like the Wild Country Friends or the Totem Cams. Since the Dragons have wider heads and less flexible stems, they fit in fewer places than "Alien style" cams, and are more likely to become kinked and bent when loaded in shallow pockets and weird positions.

Value


Dragon Cams retail for roughly average among the selection here in our review. The extendable sling might save you a few bucks, as you may not need as many alpine draws. These are a quality piece of well-made climbing equipment, and the value will have to do with how you choose to use them.

Conclusion


The DMM Dragons are reliable and well constructed. They are a bit heavier than the competition, but if the extendable sling feature peaks your interest, you'll be purchasing some high-quality cams. We prefer cams with a thumb loop though.

Matt Bento

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