Hands-on Gear Review

CAMP Photon Wire Express KS Dyneema Review

Photon Wire Express KS
By: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief  ⋅  Jun 29, 2015
Price:  $19 List  |  $14.21 at MooseJaw - 25% Off
Pros:  Lightweight and full-size
Cons:  Unprotected wiregates may snag on gear and the rope, several observed issues with biner gate
Manufacturer:   CAMP USA
54
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Unclipping - 25% 6
  • Ease of Clipping - 25% 4
  • Ease of Handling - 15% 4
  • Ease of Grabbing - 15% 3
  • Portability - 20% 9
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Our Verdict

The CAMP Photon Wire Express KS Dyneema is a lightweight, full size quickdraw built for multi-pitch and alpine environments. With the largest gate opening of any of the draws we tested in our review update, the Photon Wire Express is easy to handle even with gloves on, and you'll shave a pound off your rack if you use them instead of a heavier sport climbing draw. One of the downsides to the CAMP Photon Wire Express KS Dyneema is the unprotected wiregate, which can snag on your gear. We experienced some issues with the Photon biner which you see fully described in the CAMP Photon Wire Straight Gate carabiner review. Since this quickdraw relies on that same carabiner, those same issues are relevant.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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Hands-On Review


The draw has dual cold-forged wiregate Photon carabiners, and the lower carabiner has a bent wiregate.

Performance Comparison


Brent Armstrong high up La Cierta Edad  another Red Rock classic. The lightweight Photon Wire Express won't weigh you down on long routes.
Brent Armstrong high up La Cierta Edad, another Red Rock classic. The lightweight Photon Wire Express won't weigh you down on long routes.

Ease of Unclipping


Our testers found that the Photon Wire Express Dyneema did not always unclip easily, as the notch in the unprotected wiregate can snag on gear or the rope. Other lightweight draws that we tested solved this issue either with a hood protecting the gate, like the Black Diamond Oz Quickdraw, or by burying the notch in the nose of the carabiner, like the Wild Country Helium. On the other hand, this full-sized draw was easy to unclip from the harness with gloves on, which is crucial if you are ice climbing or on a big wall.

The notch on the wiregate can get stuck on the rope or you gear.
The notch on the wiregate can get stuck on the rope or you gear.

Ease of Clipping


The bent Photon Wire carabiner on the bottom of the draw has a 29mm opening which is great for building anchors; you can throw a clove hitch into it very easily, or clip in several different rope anchor points at once. The gate tension on the Photon Wire carabiners seems to be on the soft side of medium, and our testers found it easy to clip this model.

However, as we mentioned above, we observed several gate issues in the carabiners which are covered in detail in the Photon Review.

These Photon Wire carabiners all became "manuals" with a year's time. This carabiner is only rated to 9 kN with an open gate  compared to 21 kN for a closed gate. Please see our carabiner review for a full report on this issue.
These Photon Wire carabiners all became "manuals" with a year's time. This carabiner is only rated to 9 kN with an open gate, compared to 21 kN for a closed gate. Please see our carabiner review for a full report on this issue.

Portability


The CAMP Photon Wire Express KS Dyneema is ultra-lightweight; only the Black Diamond Oz, CAMP Nano 22 Quickdraw, and Metolius FS Mini Quickdraw are lighter by a fraction of an ounce. A rack of twelve of these draws is a full pound lighter than the Black Diamond PosiWire Quickdraw or the Petzl Djinn Axess.

The Photon Wire Express quickdraw is one of the lighter quickdraws that we tested.
The Photon Wire Express quickdraw is one of the lighter quickdraws that we tested.

Ease of Handling


The first version of the CAMP Photon Wire Express KS Dyneema that we tested in this updated review did not have a bottom carabiner positioner. The sling was sewn tight around the bottom carabiner, but not tight enough to stop it from shifting, creating the potential for the sling to rest over the gate or spine. CAMP updated the Express Dyneema in 2014 with a Karstop-Evo sewn-in rubber retainer, but the draws we tested, which were purchased in 2014, did not have these new positioners, as suppliers still have a backlog of the older version. If you order these draws, make sure you are getting the updated version with the rubber positioner. Because the Kartsop Evo retainer is sewn in, if you have an older version and want to update it you have to replace the entire sling. They are available from CAMP for $4-5 depending on the length.

We then ordered the new slings separately and tested them out, and they are indeed a big improvement over the older sling. The Karstop Evo retainer is actually a combination of an interior and exterior positioner. The rubber piece is not bartacked into the sling like on the Black Diamond draws. Instead the sling is threaded through two holes in the rubber before being sewn together, and the rubber piece houses the carabiner on the inside and wraps around the outside of the sling. We actually like this design a lot, as even if you remove the carabiner (which you can) there is no room for user error when replacing it like on the Petzl's String Positioner. And unlike the Black Diamond setup, which is only internal, the Karstop Evo also provides some outer protection against abrasions.

The new Karstop Evo retainer keeps the bottom carabiner in its proper orientation and protects the sling against abrasions.
The new Karstop Evo retainer keeps the bottom carabiner in its proper orientation and protects the sling against abrasions.

Ease of Grabbing


The 11mm wide sling on the CAMP Photon Wire Express KS Dyneema is not made for grabbing. Like the Black Diamond Oz and Wild Country Helium, these are light and fast draws not well-suited to sport or aid climbing tactics. If you are looking for something that's easy to grab, the Petzl Spirit Express was designed with this metric in mind.


Best Applications


The Photon Wire Express was created for any type of climbing where lightweight gear is crucial to success, such as long multi-pitch or alpine routes, or speed big wall ascents. They would also work for ice climbing thanks to the dual wiregates and full-size carabiners that are easy to handle with gloves on.

Value


This product is one of the least expensive of the lightweight models tested; however, given our concerns with the gate function of this product, it may be wise to just go ahead and invest in a draw like our Top Pick for Lightweight, the Wild Country Helium.

Conclusion


CAMP's Photon Wire Express initially scored well on many of the tests that we performed, and when we found out that we were testing an older model without the updated carabiner retainer we went out of our way to re-test it with the newer sling. But when we heard from one of our gear editors about his gate tension issues, and then noticed the defect in the one we tested, our ratings for this model began to drop. When we brought these issues to CAMP's attention and we were impressed with how well they answered our questions and addressed our concerns (read the full story in the CAMP Photon Wire Straight Gate review). The company obviously stands behind its climbing gear, which we should mention, they've been making for quite a long time! Just about all of our testers who climb have at least one piece of CAMP equipment in their quiver of gear, which is certainly a testament to the company. That said, we can't ignore the issues that we observed in this quickdraw, and the carabiner it relies on, and with these concerns in mind, we have a hard time recommending this draw at this point.

CAMPS's Photon Wire Express Dyneema quickdraw in its element.
CAMPS's Photon Wire Express Dyneema quickdraw in its element.

Chris McNamara

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Most recent review: June 29, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (2.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 50%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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