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DMM Alpha Trad Review
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By mattm
From TX
May 25, 2012
Grande Grotto
Quick Version...

Alpha Trad is out and it is nice. Is it the new "King of Carabiners"? Nope. It has the usual quality and polish I expect from DMM but I don't think it improves on the WC Helium.

- The Clean Nose is wider than the Helium. DMM didn't flatten the wire gate at the nose like the Helium so the Alpha Trad nose is slightly wider than the Helium's already wide nose.

- AT Wire Gate isn't as stiff as WCH. I remember when the WCH came out that I thought it had a stiff gate. I've since grown to love that stiffness. The AT returns to a softer feeling gate that I don't like as much.

- AT Wire Gate bends are more asymmetrical. What I mean is the two side are not "in line" or in the "same plane" for as much of the gate length. This means that there is less of a flat feeling surface to push on. The WCH does this better. See pictures. Hard to describe.

- Kinked Back. This might be a really personal thing (like shoe fit) so take this one with grain of salt but, I DO NOT like how the kinked back feels in my hand. Its shape combined with the gate shape makes the AT feel like it's slipping up and out of my fingers. Like I'm trying to grip a triangle a bit to far towards the narrow point. Look at the pictures. The AT spine doesn't sit as parallel to the palm of my hand. It seems to angle down and away from it making it feel less secure. The WC spine sits flat against my palm. It's hard to illustrate in pictures mind you. I also have big hands so this might not be an issue for others. The WCH just feels more stable to me.
EDIT: As I think about this more, it may be that the spine of the AT is still pretty flat against my palm BUT, changes the angle of the GATE in my fingers to be steeper... See last photo

- Gear Racking Biner. Again, the shape and gate kinks of the DMM AT make it more awkward to use this as a cam racking biner. I face my gates out btw. You end up having to cock your wrist more to grasp the biner and remove it from your harness.

So, overall, I'm sticking with Heliums (and Nitros) as my go-to biners for racking and bolt side clipping etc. That said, I DO THINK the AT will make a really nice ROPE SIDE biner on a QD. Like a more polished version of the BD Livewire (Neon Green Wire Gate). Note sure it's worth the nearly $5 difference with the Livewire though...


WC Helium and DMM Alpha Trad (in Gunmetal).  Nearly the same size...
WC Helium and DMM Alpha Trad (in Gunmetal). Nearly the same size...


Nose Width Comparison.  WC is slightly thinner.  <br />WC= 11.5mm <br />DMM = 12mm
Nose Width Comparison. WC is slightly thinner.
WC= 11.5mm
DMM = 12mm


DMM AT Gate Kink is a bit Asymmetric.
DMM AT Gate Kink is a bit Asymmetric.


Another angle of the DMM AT gate.
Another angle of the DMM AT gate.


Helium Gate is flatter...
Helium Gate is flatter...


Wire Nose profile comparison.  WC is Polished, DMM is Dark Gray.
Wire Nose profile comparison. WC is Polished, DMM is Dark Gray.


Spine seems like it wants to slide UP and out of my hand.
Spine seems like it wants to slide UP and out of my hand.


Flat spine of the WC sits more securely in my hand.
Flat spine of the WC sits more securely in my hand.

AT gate angle is steeper than WCH when both spines are parallel (flat on the table).  Please note the camera angle can make this look different so I did the best I could.  YMMV
AT gate angle is steeper than WCH when both spines are parallel (flat on the table). Please note the camera angle can make this look different so I did the best I could. YMMV

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By Dobson
From Butte, MT
May 25, 2012
Super informative. Thanks.

In case it hasn't been mentioned, the Helium is now available in color coded racking packs.

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By ethlogo
May 25, 2012
I've been using a few of these on the rope end of my long sport draws.

I own several of the alpha clip (solid gate variant) and was interested in seeing how the wire gates compared.

My personal view point - better for the rope end than heliums. I like the softness of the gate, you can basically drop the rope into them. The depth of the basket ensures that the ease of the gate isn't an issue.

I strongly feel that they are the kings of wire gate biners. I love the gate action.

My only concern is that they are slightly smaller than I would prefer, they don't fit in my hand as well as larger biners.

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By Tristan B
From La Crescenta, CA
May 25, 2012
Hanging out on Royal Arches
What about the Alpha light biner by DMM?
dmmclimbing.com/products/alpha...

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By mattm
From TX
May 25, 2012
Grande Grotto
Tristan B wrote:
What about the Alpha light biner by DMM? dmmclimbing.com/products/alpha...


Not yet available AFAIK. I suspect I would like it even less since its smaller size wouldn't do well with my oven-mit hands. I don't like the "little brother" versions of the Helium (Astro) and Spectre 2 (Phantom) for example.

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By Simon Hatfield
From Oakland, CA
May 29, 2012
Me placing a cam at the crux - photo courtesy G. Helm
mattm wrote:
Its shape combined with the gate shape makes the AT feel like it's slipping up and out of my fingers. Like I'm trying to grip a triangle a bit to far towards the narrow point.


Great review, I especially like this description - it makes total sense in my head

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By Top Rope Hero
From Was Estes Park, now homeless
Jun 12, 2012
WHAT THE HELL IS HE BELAYING WITH!?!
"Spine seems like it wants to slide UP and out of my hand."




My comments:

Yah…I see what you’re saying with the kinked back and all. But your illustration is ‘biner sans gear. I’m wondering if’n a little weight holding that ‘biner down wouldn’t help counteract that slip-up-outta-the-hand feeling you’re describing. Sounds like an overly technical point, perhaps. But I’m betting a chunky cam on there would make a difference. (I’ll letcha guys know as I’m planning on buying a couple of the light versions when they come out.)

ALSO: The picture, where you’re critical of the Alpha’s grab-a-triangle-slide-upedness. You’re grabbing the ‘biner thumb against the spine. Which is cool, all cool. But you yourself say you rack gate OUTwards. Which means you’ll actually be grabbing that ‘biner thumb on GATE, not against the spine as you’re demonstrating. (Unless you have triple jointed wrists…)

My point is that your criticism here might fail on the above two points. Used as pictured, yah, maybe the Alpha wouldn’t handle so well. But it seems as though you’re not testing this ‘biner in any real-world application sense. And maybe you have; maybe you’ve hung gear onnit and tried grabbing it thumb on gate. But your picture here could suggest otherwise.

Me, myself, I don’t much care for the Heliums, and this specifically because of the pinched wire head you mention (pictured above.) I too rack gate outwards, and trying to position my fat thumb on the wire gate usually (always?) sees the Helium rolling away, leaving me fumbling and groping for gear.

That alpha offset gate looks…tricky. But like I say, I’m gonna give a couple ‘biners a try and see how they perform for me. Full confession: I already own the solid gate Alpha quickdraws and can’t love a piece of gear any more.

Thoughts? Comments? Wails of grief?

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By Martin M.
Aug 21, 2012
Hy mattm,
This review is partial, biased and it's not helpfull at all. It completely neglects the positive sides of Alpha Trad(shape, grip on the back) and misleads on the arguments for WCH.
The truth is, WCH gates are the same as DMM's trad, not flatter, as it sais. It seems like Trad wants to slide out, because the post make it seem so...
Everyone reading this "review" must know that it is made with a purpose to favorize WCH.

- Wild Country Helium is actually made by DMM for Wild Country.

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By mattm
From TX
Aug 21, 2012
Grande Grotto
Martin M. wrote:
Hy mattm, This review is partial, biased and it's not helpfull at all. It completely neglects the positive sides of Alpha Trad(shape, grip on the back) and misleads on the arguments for WCH. The truth is, WCH gates are the same as DMM's trad, not flatter, as it sais. It seems like Trad wants to slide out, because the post make it seem so... Everyone reading this "review" must know that it is made with a purpose to favorize WCH. - Wild Country Helium is actually made by DMM for Wild Country.


Sorry you feel that way. A bit strange you joined up just to comment on this review...

I have absolutely NO bias towards DMM. In fact, the vast majority of my 'biners and nuts are DMM. EVERY cam racking biner I own is a Dmm Spectre or Spectre 2. I have closely followed the Alpha Trad since it's first announcement years ago and was probably one of the first people to buy them in the USA. If anything, I was WANTING to like this biner more than the WCH.

The WCH Helium has been around for a good length now and is widely regarded as one of the best biners made for various reasons. I choose to use that biner as a comparison because 1) I felt people looking at the AT would own WCHs and appreciate the comparison 2) The Helium is what the AT is competing against (to some degree) so comparing it seemed fair.

I stand by my review. The gates ARE different as is the shape and feel. As I get more time using them, I'll update it as I see fit. I do agree with one poster above that the "sliding up" feel might change with cams attached. If that's the case, I'll view the AT as a close second to the WCH. As it is now, I think it's a GREAT biner but best suited for rope end duties.

Your mileage may vary of course. I post my reviews and I'm critical when I see fit. There are FAR TOO MANY "Fluff" reviews out there where the reviewer MIGHT lightly critique one silly thing but, for the most part, gives a positive view of EVERYTHING they test. That's BS in my opinion. There products out there that are CLEAR market leaders and others that are terrible. Most just middle around in the pack somewhere. I believe in calling a spade a spade and informing those that seek our and wish to find an honest opinion, whether they agree with it or not.

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By shoo
Aug 21, 2012
Rock wars, Red River Gorge
For what it's worth, I agree with mattm's assessment in general, and particularly about the awkward shape of the spine. It's just kinda awkward to hold.

I will hold back opinions on the gate comparison, as I've noticed some stickiness of the gates on my older heliums (at least two of which that I remember I could have kept propped open before I lubed 'em). Maybe the alpha trads' gates are a little more robust. Who knows.

The alpha trad might be negligibly nicer for the rope end of quickdraws for some people that prefer the bent spine shape, but we're talking REALLY small stuff here and more opinion than solid fact. The helium makes a substantially nicer racking and general use carabiner.

Frankly, I would rather have the heliums any day. Like the spirits, they have withstood the test of time, are simple, are practical, work DAMN well, and are the gold standard by which all new gear should be judged.

And before we sling claims of bias, my regularly used 'biners are a mix of DMM, WC (yes, I use lots of heliums), Petzl, BD, and Metolius. If I were making a brand new rack and everything today and I could pick only one brand for some reason, it would DEFINITELY be DMM, but I doubt I'd grab more than a couple alpha trads, maybe none at all. I CERTAINLY won't be picking any up since I already have the heliums. The alpha trad is just fancier than practical. The rope-end sport version, however, is dreamy. . .

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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Aug 21, 2012
Martin M. wrote:
This review is partial, biased and it's not helpfull at all.



Hmm. I found it quite helpful actually.

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By Cultivating Mass
Aug 22, 2012
Leading on the only "fair means" rack.
I'm trying to get the vacuum tubes in my Marshall JCM 800 guitar amplifier biased. Could MattM help with that, too?

Lame musician joke.

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By OldManRiver
From Cottonwood Heights, UT
Sep 21, 2012
Red Rock, Cannibal crag
isn't the bent spine designed to minimize cross-loading and feed the hanger/rope to the strong load point of the biner (the long end)?

BD livewires have a similar spine profile, fwiw.

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By funkyicemonkey
From Colorado
Oct 30, 2012
Same parent company, both made to excellent standards in Britain with staff that get a living wage and lot of them climb. Would not be surprised if they came off the same production line. Personally Ive always felt DMM was a bit more industrial in their products as well as a bit more radical and WC was a bit more elegant and evolutionary. Liked the review and love the heliums, light but not too small in your hand and very hard wearing.

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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Oct 30, 2012
tanuki
funkyicemonkey wrote:
Same parent company, both made to excellent standards in Britain with staff that get a living wage and lot of them climb. Would not be surprised if they came off the same production line. Personally Ive always felt DMM was a bit more industrial in their products as well as a bit more radical and WC was a bit more elegant and evolutionary. Liked the review and love the heliums, light but not too small in your hand and very hard wearing.


Are you sure that this is still true? I thought (and could be wrong here) that WC moved almost all of its operations to china a few years ago. WC actually had a page on their web site where they were trying to sell their old manufacturing building in Wales. More recently, I believe that WC was purchased by a sporting goods conglomerate. To the best of my knowledge, DMM is still independently owned. I also remember reading an article that was linked on Supertopo about WC and DMM , and how the two companies had VERY different philosophies on domestic manufacturing vs outsourcing / offshoring production. DMM stayed in Wales, WC moved offshore.

I know that this is a little off topic, but was curious if anyone had the inside scoop on the ownership of the two companies and how they are related.

BTW, the Alpha Trad looks awesome. I played with one a the store and it would be my wire gate carabiner of choice if I was in the market.

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By Jim Titt
From Germany
Oct 30, 2012
Wild Country is owned by Salewa and is part of the Oberrauch group of companies.
DMM is not.

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By bearbreeder
Oct 30, 2012
gimme the WC nitro anyways, budget priced, a minimal notch youll never notice on trad, light, durable, and .... made in china ;)

if yr a decent climber the carabiner should not be holding you back, especially in trad

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By mattm
From TX
Oct 30, 2012
Grande Grotto
bearbreeder wrote:
gimme the WC nitro anyways, budget priced, a minimal notch youll never notice on trad, light, durable, and .... made in china ;) if yr a decent climber the carabiner should not be holding you back, especially in trad


While Bear and I often have differing levels of gear love, I have to back this 100% The Nitro is my GO TO "regular biner" for all things not Color Coded or notch less. You can't beat it's value.

Now where's that Nitro color pack....

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By Ray Pinpillage
From West Egg
Oct 30, 2012
Middle
bearbreeder wrote:
gimme the WC nitro anyways, budget priced, a minimal notch youll never notice on trad, light, durable, and .... made in china ;) if yr a decent climber the carabiner should not be holding you back, especially in trad


Just bought 10 more Nitro's for $6 each. I use them for racking and alpine draws. Half the price of Heliums.

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By bearbreeder
Aug 19, 2014
companies are now using MP forum reviews to sell sell sell on fbook ;)


from fbook
from fbook

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By pokey
Aug 20, 2014
FWIW I completely agree with OP's review. What sealed the deal for me when comparing alpha trads to heliums was that the heliums have more basket space so you are less likely to get your finger caught if your finger goes into the carabiner while clipping. If you open the gates, the distance between the tip of the gate and the depth of the basket is shorter on the alpha trad.

Also, the alpha trad is marginally heavier and it seems to flip around more frequently when used on the bolt side of draws for some reason (possibly due to the kinked spine shape).

By my experience, wild country heliums are still easily the best wire gates... disappointing considering they were released more than 10 years ago!

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By mattm
From TX
Aug 20, 2014
Grande Grotto
Heh - Blast from the past.

Today, I'd still lean WC Heliums with the caveat that I wish they'd update the narrow side to accommodate slightly wider webbing. WC Heliums came out during the "skinny webbing" craze of 8-10mm stuff and it's evident that the narrow end.

Later biners like the DMM Spectre 2 address this a bit better. Honestly, if the Helium and Spectre 2 had a child, it would likely be the perfect all round biner.

Curious to see the upcoming DMM Chimera - looks promising.


DMM Chimera
DMM Chimera

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By i.reynaud
From Long Beach, Ca
Aug 21, 2014
Claim Jumper
Incase anyone is interested. I am selling 6 slightly used 15cm WC Nitro draws for about 11.50 each. Sorry for the plug. :/

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By Billcoe
3 hours ago
First, thanks for the great review Matt. I was thinking that the bent back on the DMM was to get a longer opening for the gate so you can cram more rope and other crap in like when you're on a wall and use the larger gate openings when I came up short after reading this:

pokey wrote:
What sealed the deal for me when comparing alpha trads to heliums was that the heliums have more basket space so you are less likely to get your finger caught if your finger goes into the carabiner while clipping. If you open the gates, the distance between the tip of the gate and the depth of the basket is shorter on the alpha trad.


Interesting Pokey. Both DMM and WC make great product, I own a lot of Heliums, nice to see that as a gear whore, I'm not obligated to switch to DMM's just because.....LOL.

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By Pontoon
From Minneapolis, Minnesota
2 hours ago
I use alpha lights. They're awesome and 1gm lighter than Heliums.

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