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.
CAMP Photon Wire Express KS Dyneema Review
Cons: Unprotected wiregates may snag on gear and the rope, several observed issues with biner gate
Manufacturer: CAMP USA
Our Analysis and Test Results
The draw has dual cold-forged wiregate Photon carabiners, and the lower carabiner has a bent wiregate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Chris McNamara