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DMM Dragon Cam Review
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By Evan Sanders
From Westminster, CO
Mar 7, 2011
Flaming Pumpkin

I know the DMM Dragon isn't exactly new on the market. But I've read enough flaming comments on the Dragon cam and its comparison to the Camalot that I decided I would do my own review.

I own a set of #2-6 Dragon Cams (couldn't justify the #1 expense) and a set of .5-3 BD C4s. I've taken a few of the comments I've read about the possible negatives of the Dragon cam in comparison to the Camalot and tested them out on both sandstone and granite.

One of the first comments I read was the dislike of the obvious lack of a thumb loop. Many people said they would never use a cam without a thumb loop. My opinion: I love my thumb loops, but the metal endpiece on the dragon is so large that I think a thumb loop wouldn't have made much difference (in terms of how easy they are to handle, I'll touch on aid climbing preferences in a minute). There is also a slight indentation in the endpiece that makes it quite ergonomic to hold that the pre-C4 single stem Camalots didn't have. One can also have the option of palming the cam stem, but I don't do that much. See picture for thumb piece comparison.

Dragon Cam thumbpiece vs BD Camalot thumbpiece
Dragon Cam thumbpiece vs BD Camalot thumbpiece


Another problem most people had with the Dragon cams' lack of a thumb loop was the inability to clip high while aid climbing. This was a quick fix with an overhand knot near the thumbpiece after extending the sling, and I actually found myself being able to clip in about an inch to an inch and a half higher on the Dragon due to the shorter stem and my knot being higher than the bottom of the thumb loop would be.

Overhand knot with an extended sling to clip in higher than with a Camalot
Overhand knot with an extended sling to clip in higher than with a Camalot


Yet another problem people had with the Dragons were that they thought the way DMM shaved weight off of the cam was to make the lobes thinner, which would increase the force on the rock in a placement. This is both true and untrue. It is true in the sense that, yes, the lobes are thinner, but untrue in the sense that they are not thinner on the outer portion of the lobes that contact the rock. The thinness comes for the middle of the lobes (where most companies would punch holes in the metal to cut weight. The lobes are the same thickness on the outside but thinner on the interior, meaning the same force is exerted on the rock with respect to the thickness of the cam lobes(not taking into account the cam angle just yet, I'll talk about that in a little bit)

Lobe thickness
Lobe thickness


I read on a couple websites that some people were concerned that with an extended sling a lot of the weight would focus towards one side of the cam because of the twin holes in the thumbpiece. I initially had this concern, but when I got my Dragons and extended the sling for the first time I saw how this problem was solved. Due to the way the sling is inserted through the thumbpiece to avoid girth hitching, the sling goes in one hole and exits another, equalizing the force. See the picture to know what I'm specifically talking about, it is a little difficult to explain.

Sling spreads the load between the two holes when extended
Sling spreads the load between the two holes when extended


Now for the practical application. One point that DMM says really shines in their cams is the extendable sling. Now I found this to be either good or neutral. The extendable sling is supposed to be able to save the climber the weight of carry an extra draw for extending a piece. I found that on climbs that don't wander that much, this is a savior of weight, I only had to carry draws for my cams that weren't Dragons. However as most know, there are many routes that do wander. This is where my neutral opinion is. The extendable sling really doesn't do that much for these types of climbs, and you almost always have to carry an extra draw anyway to extend the piece. However, it doesn't hinder the climber in any way, because they'd have to be carrying those draws anyway, thus, neutral. See the picture for the length of the sling when extended

extended sling
extended sling


The 13.75 degree cam angle is another bragging point for DMM, as they say that it creates a greater holding power. Holding power is a very subjective term, but it does create a greater outward force. This can be either good or bad for a climber. Like I previously said, I tried these cams out in both sandstone and granite. In my opinion, the dragon cams felt more bomber than the Camalots in granite, but were a little sketchy in sandstone. As most know, in sandstone the rock gives a lot more than granite, and the greater outward force of the cams creates a shifting sound of the rock when the cams are weight/fell on. A comparable situation would be Metolius's line of cams, which have a similar camming angle, and I've found do almost the exact same thing in sandstone. That said, I didn't have any of the cams fail when fallen on (however, the falls weren't that large). The smaller camming angle does give for a greater potential of failing rock in sandstone though. However they will still perform very well in that rock type, and perform as good if not better in granite than the C4s.

Due to the smaller camming angle, the range of the Dragon cams is slightly less. But when climbing I didn't really notice this too much, the ranges are so close it didn't make a difference in placements.

While Dragon cams do weigh less than the C4s, the weight is not much less, and with a full rack it's hardly noticable. So in the race between C4s and Dragons, for the weight aspect I'd say it's a tie. No distinctive winner.

Overall, you can't go wrong with either cam. Price will be an issue, but if you're willing to shell out Dragon cams will serve you well. In the largest two sizes they are slightly cheaper than the C4s, but much more expensive in the smaller sizes. So my recommendation for someone who was looking to save money but still have a quality rack would be C4s up to #2 and then dragon cams (until you get to sizes larger than DMM makes)

PS-sorry for the lack of pictures while actually climbing, I didn't bring my camera out. Next time I go out climbing I'll take more pictures of the cams in action.


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By bwalt822
Mar 10, 2011

It looks like the lobes of the dragons are rounded which means less contact area with the rock. The total width of the lobe may be the same but it looks like the actual contact area might only be half.


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By S.Stelli
From Colorado Springs, CO
Mar 10, 2011

This whole thread is negated if you have a dragon cam in sizes 4-6, as they noted the turned axle bosses are cracking down the middle.

Dragon Cam Recall

I suppose if you have the new version of Dragon Cam with hot forged axle bosses, then this thread applies, and I thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Dragon Cam.


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By Evan Sanders
From Westminster, CO
Mar 10, 2011
Flaming Pumpkin

clevernamehere wrote:
This whole thread is negated if you have a dragon cam in sizes 4-6, as they noted the turned axle bosses are cracking down the middle. Dragon Cam Recall I suppose if you have the new version of Dragon Cam with hot forged axle bosses, then this thread applies, and I thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Dragon Cam.


I have the new 4-6, the one with the "X" shaped axle boss


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By bwalt822
Mar 10, 2011

clevernamehere wrote:
This whole thread is negated if you have a dragon cam in sizes 4-6, as they noted the turned axle bosses are cracking down the middle. Dragon Cam Recall I suppose if you have the new version of Dragon Cam with hot forged axle bosses, then this thread applies, and I thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Dragon Cam.


The axle boss doesn't apply to what is said in this review since this review basically just describes a few of the features of the cam, not its ultimate strength or reliability.


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By bwalt822
Mar 10, 2011

clevernamehere wrote:
This whole thread is negated if you have a dragon cam in sizes 4-6, as they noted the turned axle bosses are cracking down the middle. Dragon Cam Recall I suppose if you have the new version of Dragon Cam with hot forged axle bosses, then this thread applies, and I thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Dragon Cam.


The axle boss doesn't apply to what is said in this review since this review basically just describes a few of the features of the cam and a little bit about how they feel when placed, not its ultimate strength or reliability.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Mar 11, 2011
El Chorro

It's funny; my findings with the Dragons were almost exactly opposite of yours.

The lobes are most certainly thinner where they contact the rock. A single fuzzy picture is no way to compare the widths. In real life, there is a difference, and I'm not sure how anyone could miss it.

I felt that they were OBVIOUSLY lighter than Camalots when holding the units and when they were on my harness. If I were on a big wall or in the back country or alpine environment it would be nice to have an option this light.

I haven't climbed with them so that's about all I can say, but after handling them in the shop for 10 minutes I decided that I would never own one. They felt like toys. I don't see them being as durable as BD's but only time will tell.

How exactly did they "feel more bomber in granite" than Camalots? How did you come to that conclusion? And how could you hear a "shifting sound" in sandstone when you were falling?

What kind of falls did you take on the granite and sandstone? Did you notice movement/slippage in either medium? Did they open up at all in sandstone? What kind of sandstone was it that you were climbing on?

I don't mean to be contradicting your review or arguing with you... I'm just generally curious since we seem to be very far apart in our findings and I've met more than a few people on both sides. Thanks for your input.

I remember when these first popped up on the net. They were so hyped but haven't done particularly well in the US or the UK.


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By mattm
From TX
Mar 11, 2011
Grande Grotto

Ryan Williams wrote:
They were so hyped but haven't done particularly well in the US or the UK.


Not so sure about the UK claim. Maybe (No numbers have been published), but there's a LARGE price difference for some sizes of the Dragons over there: Nearly $24 for the DMM 6 / BD 4

DMM Dragons: Size 1 and 2: 53; 3 - 5: 55; and size 6: 60.
More info about the Dragon Cams on the DMM website.

BD Camalots: Size 0.3 - 0.5 52.99; 0.75 - 2: 54.99; 3: 59.99;
4: 74.99; 5: 84.99; 6: 99.99.

UKC Cam Comparison


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By Jeremy Kasmann
From Denver, CO
Mar 11, 2011

Ryan Williams wrote:
I felt that they were OBVIOUSLY lighter than Camalots when holding the units and when they were on my harness. If I were on a big wall or in the back country or alpine environment it would be nice to have an option this light.


Looks like it is 1.5oz of weight savings for a full set of 6 (33.2oz total for the 6 dragons). Seems to depend on the size though - 1 and 6 are basically the same weight as camalots, while 2-4 are significantly lighter.


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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Mar 11, 2011

Ryan Williams wrote:
but after handling them in the shop for 10 minutes I decided that I would never own one. They felt like toys. I don't see them being as durable as BD's but only time will tell.


Really? Like you, I have only 'handled them in the shop' but they felt way bomber to me. I liked the feel.

Agreed that the lobes are noticeably thinner than those on a camalot.

My #1 concern remains the durability of the thin sling. Those slings wear out faster than nylon or dyneema, and I think reslinging would be a pain. I suppose you could use cord, but I don't want to have to mail in cams every 2-3 years and pay double to resling.


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By JLP
From The Internet
Mar 11, 2011

Jeremy Kasmann wrote:
Looks like it is 1.5oz of weight savings for a full set of 6 (33.2oz total for the 6 dragons). Seems to depend on the size though - 1 and 6 are basically the same weight as camalots, while 2-4 are significantly lighter.

They are the same design with the same materials. The weight savings must be some voodoo magic!

The reality is that the Dragons are smaller than C4's in proportion to the weight savings. Regardless of the specs posted online, grabbing a set of each and comparing on a flat surface will make the difference obvious.

I was interested in a set, but passed on them after seeing the crappy forging job for the lobes. C4's are CNC'd. Dragons have the usual pitting, rounding and flash marks on the lobe contact surface that go with stamping/hot forging - similar to the 1st and 2nd generation Camalots. Nice cam, but not as good as a C4.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Mar 11, 2011
El Chorro

JLP wrote:
They are the same design with the same materials. The weight savings must be some voodoo magic! The reality is that the Dragons are smaller than C4's in proportion to the weight savings. Regardless of the specs posted online, grabbing a set of each and comparing on a flat surface will make the difference obvious. I was interested in a set, but passed on them after seeing the crappy forging job for the lobes. C4's are CNC'd. Dragons have the usual pitting, rounding and flash marks on the lobe contact surface that go with stamping/hot forging - similar to the 1st and 2nd generation Camalots. Nice cam, but not as good as a C4.


Yea, I'm no engineer or metal worker but I think the forging is what threw me off. I am used to looking at machined metal from BD and Metolius.


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By Jonathan Ward
From San Francisco
Mar 19, 2011
Me leading pitch 4 of Rewritten.

Are you guys seriously against forging? It's not like CNC machining is a more advanced manufacturing process.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Mar 19, 2011
El Chorro

Jonathan Ward wrote:
Are you guys seriously against forging? It's not like CNC machining is a more advanced manufacturing process.


Not at all, I'm for whatever works best. I'm just not used to seeing forged cam lobes... they look... fake or something.


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By -sp
From East-Coast
Mar 19, 2011
Buenos Dias!

Ryan Williams wrote:
Not at all, I'm for whatever works best. I'm just not used to seeing forged cam lobes... they look... fake or something.


The forging process offers quite a few advantages over machining.

www.scotforge.com/sf_facts_forgingadv.htm


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By Chris Owen
Administrator
From La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake
Apr 30, 2011
There's more than one use for an Ice Hammer. Lake District (UK) late '70s

I am an engineer and a metal-worker so let's see if I can put this machining vs. forging discussion to bed with a simple question:

For the applications in which we use equipment; would you rather have a forged aluminum carabiner or one machined form a solid block of aluminum?

After reading the comments about inferior quality, or feeling like a toy, I went out to my garage and checked my Dragon cams and they seem to be of extremely high quality, there was no remaining flash evident, in fact I'm fairly sure they tumble-deburr the individual parts so perhasp a few got through without this process? I find that hard to imagine since DMM is BS EN ISO9001:2008 compliant.

I'll admit that I'm biased in favor of climbing equipment manufactured in the UK, but I happen to believe that the originators of this type of equipment, plus the workshop methods to manufacture it should be (as long as they continue to innovate) rewarded with my business.


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By Dan Petty
From Colorado Springs, CO
Apr 30, 2011
Overlooking Roanoke, VA after completing the Blue Ridge Marathon the previous day.

I also looked at these in the shop yesterday and the lobes of the dragon are visibly narrower than the C4 where they contact the rock. That means that the reduced contact area will exert more concentrated force on the rock where it is placed.


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By Pete Spri
Apr 30, 2011

Dan Petty wrote:
I also looked at these in the shop yesterday and the lobes of the dragon are visibly narrower than the C4 where they contact the rock. That means that the reduced contact area will exert more concentrated force on the rock where it is placed.


Unless it blows out the rock, I fail to see how this issue of "narrow lobes" has any bearing on the rock at all.

If I was in the Fisher Towers, I *might* pick up BDs over a Dragon cam. Actually, if I was going to do that, I'd just go for the new Metolius UL Fat cams. In granite, and almost any other stone, less contact area is pretty much irrelevant.

On the positive side, they have a smaller width profile as a result, right? So better for placements in pods.

They are both good cams, I'd pick DMM on the "made in England" as well as lighter and more "sling-able" issues.


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By Joe Manlove
May 1, 2011

I bought a dragon in the .75 camalot size (green) of these shortly before heading to Joshua tree on a trip. I hated the way cam placed so much that I gave it to a friend who exclusively topropes.

I simply couldn't get the cam from my harness to a solid placement in a reasonable amount of time. I'm sure they're really wonderful if you want something to shave grams or if you only put in gear from ledges, but in my opinion they are poor lead protection when pushing your trad redpoint grade.

My opinion has nothing to do with strength, it is simply a matter of one handed usability compared to bd c4s. I will not purchase another of these overpriced knockoffs and I would suggest that you don't either.


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By Bawls E. Climber
May 1, 2011

Joe Manlove wrote:
I bought a dragon in the .75 camalot size (green) of these shortly before heading to Joshua tree on a trip. I hated the way cam placed so much that I gave it to a friend who exclusively topropes. I simply couldn't get the cam from my harness to a solid placement in a reasonable amount of time. I'm sure they're really wonderful if you want something to shave grams or if you only put in gear from ledges, but in my opinion they are poor lead protection when pushing your trad redpoint grade. My opinion has nothing to do with strength, it is simply a matter of one handed usability compared to bd c4s. I will not purchase another of these overpriced knockoffs and I would suggest that you don't either.


So because you lack proficiency in placing these cams you're saying don't buy DMM Dragons? That's ridiculous!


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By Brian Scoggins
From Eugene, OR
May 1, 2011

Bawls E. Climber wrote:
So because you lack proficiency in placing these cams you're saying don't buy DMM Dragons? That's ridiculous!


Do you use a .5 big bro when a #3 camalot (or 3.5 friend) will do?


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By Joe Manlove
May 1, 2011

I was actually saying that they are harder to place than other cheaper, nearly identical cams. I don't feel the need to make gear placement the crux of my gear redpoints.


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By T.C.
From Whittier, NC
May 1, 2011

Your name is Manlove? That's a tough handle to boast.


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By Evan Sanders
From Westminster, CO
May 1, 2011
Flaming Pumpkin

Joe Manlove wrote:
I was actually saying that they are harder to place than other cheaper, nearly identical cams. I don't feel the need to make gear placement the crux of my gear redpoints.


I disagree, i think they are very easy to place compared to camalots. How exactly are they harder to place to you?


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By Craig Quincy
May 1, 2011

Interesting review and counter points. Thanks for taking the time to track your thoughts!


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By Bawls E. Climber
May 1, 2011

Brian Scoggins wrote:
Do you use a .5 big bro when a #3 camalot (or 3.5 friend) will do?


Good point Brian. Although I do sometimes use the smaller Big Bros in larger horizontals rather then a cam.


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