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DMM Dragon Cam Review
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By Joe Manlove
May 2, 2011
I find that the metal thumb stud is a step backwards from the coated thumb loop on most modern cams. Also it's bigger than the one on the older c4s making it that much more annoying.

Even if they changed it to a real thumb loop I still wouldn't think the price difference was justified. (I just realized the irony of my stance here, I'm advocating bd cams because they're cheaper; that's not something I ever thought would happen.)

Yes, Manlove... It was irritating in highschool, but has actually been relatively chill since.

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By Brian Scoggins
From Eugene, OR
May 2, 2011
Bawls E. Climber wrote:
Good point Brian. Although I do sometimes use the smaller Big Bros in larger horizontals rather then a cam.


To be clear, I'm not criticizing anybody for using the piece that best fits the placement, just stating that my core rack will be composed of pieces that are easiest to place (for me).

For me as well, the endcap is not as easy to operate as the thumbloop, but fortunately you can tell this in the shop. Mostly it comes down to getting your thumb in the right place quickly while trying to place the piece. I find that the Dragon's sling system exacerbates the problem by giving you twice as many strands you have to maneuver around (by comparision, the double sling on the DMM 4cams is pretty easy to deal with, on account of the big thumb loop).

As far as durability goes, the only Dragon cam I've really fiddled with was fished out of a crack, and I had to beat on it with a hammer to get it to go. A cam that's light enough to take free-climbing is not going to hold up well to hammer beatings.

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By squiddo
From Mountain View, CA
May 8, 2011
A fine day at Reeds- Ejesta!
Thanks for the review (and comments). I've stated this before somewhere but I own but 2 sets of C4's (not to mention previous versions going back to V.1) and 1 set of Dragon cams. I LOVE C4's and for the larger (.5 - 4) sizes they tend to be my go to cams. I bought a set of Dragon cams last year and have used them a fair amount both front and back country. While the weight savings is nice, it in itself isn't enough to get me to sell the C4's. The Dragons seem/act incredibly well made and I have no extra perceivable trouble placing them over a like sized C4. Having said that I think they complement the C4 well.

Were I to own 1 set it would be a C4, 2 sets I'd have no issue mixing them.

As to Customer Service, the experience I've had lately around the recalled #4 & 5 was stellar. Great communication, fast turnaround, extra "sorry for the hassle" phantom carbiners.

All is right in the world again.
marc

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By coldfinger
May 22, 2011
Um, didn't DMM warn against using overhand knots with Dyneema?

Linky

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By J.Roatch
From Twisp, WA
May 22, 2011
In my hammock camping in Washington in the Okinawa...
Good read. I'd like to try them both now. As someone who does not have a ton of experience trad climbing, the points brought up in this debate/investigation will lead me to pay more attention to such qualities before purchasing personal equipment. Thanks

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By Wayne Cheung
Jul 29, 2011
caughtinside wrote:
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.



Don't be silly. You say the slings on the cam won't last as long as dyneems/nylon slings, but they *are* dyneema slings. They'll last as long as dyneema slings last.


@Evan, nice review.

@JLP, don't know what you're on about. The finishing on my Dragon cams is excellent.

@Ryan, you can't call forging crap simply because you're used to seeing CNC. Also never had a problem with them walking on a route because the lobes are 'thinner'. Personally, I think you've concocted an imaginary negative. Also, DMM say they put in stronger springs (relative to the C4 I suppose) for a stronger hold. So, swings and roundabouts.

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By Wayne Cheung
Jul 29, 2011
J.Roatch wrote:
Good read. I'd like to try them both now. As someone who does not have a ton of experience trad climbing, the points brought up in this debate/investigation will lead me to pay more attention to such qualities before purchasing personal equipment. Thanks



J, what you'll notice is that lots who like BD C4s will say most things that aren't C4s are crap. Some will even go further and give you 'facts' that are anything but fact... "hot forging = rubbish" "extendable [dyneema] slings = not as durable as dyneema/nylon slings(!)" etc. Likewise, others will see differences as new, innovative and/or positive.

The major differences come down to personal preference. I prefer Dragons because I think that DMM have taken the best bits of the BD design and added improvements, I like the extendable slings, like that they're made in the UK rather than China etc. I don't have a problem with the lack of thumb loop - in fact, I like the added option of being able to palm the cam.

Anyway, the truth is that cams from any of the major manufacturers will do the job. I've climbed with C4s, Wild country friends, DMM 4CUs and own a set of DMM Dragons myself. I prefer my Dragons but am happy to climb with the others.

Just go down to the shop, play with a couple and see what ones you like best/can afford. Here in the UK, Dragons and C4s (and new WC Helium Friends) are basically the same price (think C4s are slightly pricier). In the US, it looks like C4s are much cheaper.

Climb on.

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Jul 29, 2011
El Chorro
Wayne Cheung wrote:
@Ryan, you can't call forging crap simply because you're used to seeing CNC. Also never had a problem with them walking on a route because the lobes are 'thinner'. Personally, I think you've concocted an imaginary negative. Also, DMM say they put in stronger springs (relative to the C4 I suppose) for a stronger hold. So, swings and roundabouts.


A lot of my comments were taken out of context or just plain misunderstood. I never said that forging was crap or that it was any worse than machining, and in fact I know quite well the benefits of a hot forge. I simply said that I'm not used to seeing forged lobes and at first glance I was thrown off. They are different than what I am used to seeing, and that's what I said.

I also never said that the lobes being thinner would be a problem. I simply disagreed with the OP, who said that they were not thinner, and posted a fuzzy picture trying to prove his claim. I'm no engineer (like I said above) and don't know exactly how the thinner lobes will impact the holding power of the cam, and I never claimed that it would.

So yea, I may have sounded negative but I never made any of the claims that you are arguing with me about. I personally love DMM, have met the owner (one of them) and think he's a great guy, and will always buy from them when I can because they are in it for the love of climbing. In this case, however, I have tried multiple times now to talk myself into getting a few of these cams and I just can't do it. I don't like the design and I don't think that they will hold up to the beating that I put on my C4's, especially the dyneema sling.

But like I said above, my actual climbing experience with the Dragons is minimal, and again like I said above, only time will tell if my guess on durability will be correct or not.

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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Jul 31, 2011
Wayne Cheung wrote:
Don't be silly. You say the slings on the cam won't last as long as dyneems/nylon slings, but they *are* dyneema slings. They'll last as long as dyneema slings last.


Those thin blends have a very short lifespan. Those mammut 8mm contact slings have been tested and found to lose about half their strength after 3 years of regular use.

Regular dyneema slings (12mm) last longer and retain their strength.

I suppose I should have been more clear, it's the sling width which I have an issue with. I climb a fair bit, and those 8mm slings do wear noticeably faster. I don't want to replace cam slings every three years, and you need specialized equipment to sew that stuff. Plus it's twice as expensive. I stopped using 8mm slings for that reason, I sure don't want them on my cams.

Where do you send those things for reslinging? Who does the work in the US?

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By JesseT
From Portland, OR
Aug 10, 2011
25' drop...wheeeeee!
Does anyone think it would be kosher to resling these with some kind of high tensile cord (like sterling powercord) instead of getting them reslung with 8mm webbing? Pros/cons?

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By doligo
Aug 10, 2011
Jose Cuervo Fruitcups dirtbag style
mxq wrote:
where are the DMMs manufactured?


Wales

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By Brice Harris
Aug 12, 2011
As far as thinness in lobes:

In an ideal situation, the lobes load lineally across the contact point of the rock. Rounding the edges, does effectively reduce that distance, which in turn increases the force exerted on the lobe/rock surface connection. This is fine in dense/hard rock, and not as acceptable in soft or insecure rock. Obviously, DMM designed these cams to accept whatever loads are anticipated, so structurally there is no difference, the cam just may not work as well in some sandstone or other soft rock.

Even that is debatable, the round edge would gradually spread the force across the lobe essentially radiating load into the the stone and (this is without any calculations, just thinking mechanically about the design) possibly reducing peak impact force in a way that flat lobed cams do not. In reality if you're that concerned about the quality of rock you should either a) run that shit out, or b) buy some fat cams.

However, the rounded edges provide a positive in that they are more likely to seat in a groove or between crystals. The rounded edge will push the cam to one side or the other of an unstable placement. This is not likely something that will make or break the cam though, as any trad climber knows, real-world execution is often far from theory.

This cam is probably not in any critical way different than a c4. What it comes down to is whether or not you want lighter cams, with no thumbloop, and dyneema slings, or, heavier, with thumb loops, and fatty slings. I personally find myself using the outer part of the loop on my c4's more often than the loop itself so a cam with no loop could be nice. If I see them on sale somewhere I'd probably pick up a couple for long approaches and wide cracks, both of which I love.

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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Aug 12, 2011
caughtinside wrote:
Those thin blends have a very short lifespan. Where do you send those things for reslinging? Who does the work in the US?


Indeed- I use 10mm now, and I think the next go I'm going to switch over to nylon. Dyneema is nice and light and has some real strengths, but the lifespan just doesnt work for me.

As for the US option to re-sling, if anyone can do it stateside, it'll be John Yates- I'm not sure if he is doing it, but I know he has the equipment to do it if he wanted to. My suspicion is that its either him or your Dragon cams are taking a trip over the pond for re-slinging in a couple of years.

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By Evan Sanders
From Westminster, CO
Aug 14, 2011
Flaming Pumpkin
johnL wrote:
I don't feel like I'm in a feisty mood today BUT The "review" reads like a veiled DMM advertisement. It's apologetic for all of the cam's faults, gives workarounds for others, and flat ignores others. Simply put, I give no credit to the OP, he's not trying to be objective, he's trying to justify the money he spent on cams. I won't come out and say what the best unit on the market is, since a single inclusive answer doesn't exist. However, I'm confident in saying that the Dragon is not it.


OR...

You could be completely wrong and that's just how I feel about the cams. A review based on opinion. What the hell do you think a review is anyway? Many of the points were objective. Sure some were subjective. But most weren't.

But I never said they were the best on the market. My vote for that goes to the Totem.

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By Peter Rakowitz
From Portland, OR
Aug 14, 2011
Karl and me hanging out under the bolt ladder.
Spri wrote:
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.


I'm no scientist but it is my understanding that cams use both friction and outward force when stopping a fall, so less metal in contact with rock (thinner cam lobes) would mean a less effective device, though maybe marginally so... just sayin.

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By Jeff Maurin
Aug 19, 2011
Jeff's head on Yvon's Body (Thanks Marty(r))
Peter Rakowitz wrote:
...less metal in contact with rock (thinner cam lobes) would mean a less effective device


Not sure about that: with the same force (of the fall) being spread over a smaller surface area, the pressure per per square inch is greater.

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By JesseT
From Portland, OR
Aug 19, 2011
25' drop...wheeeeee!
Jeff Maurin wrote:
Not sure about that: with the same force (of the fall) being spread over a smaller surface area, the pressure per per square inch is greater.


Yep, coefficient of friction isn't dependent on surface area (in theory, real world situations are usually less clear cut). I was also thinking that with squared-off lobes (most cams) a placement in anything other than a perfectly parallel-sided crack would result in the lobes resting on the corners instead of the flat surface, in which case the rounded lobes would functionally have the better contact patch.

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By The Flying Dutchman
Nov 13, 2013
Ryan Williams wrote:
I felt that they were OBVIOUSLY lighter than Camalots when holding the units and when they were on my harness.......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.



You have a lot to say about a cam that you have never used. Do you typically bring your harness into the climbing shop so you can rack up a bunch of cams to compare weight?

Although I do not own dragon cams I would purchase some when I need to make replacements on my rack. I have climbed on them, and taken falls on them, in the past. As far as the cam lobe size and potential to blow out rock, if this is of a concern to you it is most likely that you are new to climbing, quality rock does not simply give way under the pressure of a cam. However if you do climb in an area where the rock is soft enough to give way under the pressure of a cam, you know as well as I do that a fraction of a millimeter will not create an issue that cannot be solved by placing more gear. I have seen #3 camalot blow out rock in Indian creek as well as TCUs catch 20 and 30 footers in Indian Creek. Learning how to place gear is more important than the width of the cam lobes. If your argument is that you climb deathly run out climbs and cannot place gear more often, your not terribly concerned with what people on mountain project say, at the very least you will actually know someone who has used virtually every piece of gear out there.


The OP made many good points on the quality of the cams as well as ways to bypass the short comings. They are a quality piece of gear, but rather expensive. As for durability, I have not climbed on the smaller sizes but the larger size, 2-6, hold up fine, even after repeated falls. At least in the short run.

The weight difference is apparent but it wont make any real difference when climbing. Unless your trying to shave ounces and grams, it doesn't make a big difference. Even at that, if your hitting a back country climb and trying to stay light, you will likely have more hexes and tri-cams anyway.

If you climb much aid, these wouldn't even be an option to you anyway, and anyone who does not currently climb aid, no offence to you, but you likely never will, so don't let the lacking thumb loop scare you off.

Bottom line is, these cams will catch falls. Which is what cams are for. I have taken many on these myself. Some small falls and some ranging in the 20-30 foot range. Albeit any 30 footer is terrifying, the cams seemed fine to me, no unexpected damage nor extreme slippage or crushing of rock. For practical climbing, they are great, no one should be concerned about the slight differences on these, it simply comes down to preference. I like the extendible sling myself, also, I did not have much trouble cleaning a route like many others had complained about with the extendible slings.

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By The Flying Dutchman
Nov 13, 2013
Ryan Williams wrote:
But like I said above, my actual climbing experience with the Dragons is minimal.



Is your actual climbing time with them minimal, or non existent? There is a difference. You stated originally that you put them on your harness while in the climbing shop, now you state that you have climbing experience with them. Which is it? Your influencing people who are actually considering purchasing some of these and you have done nothing more than 'play with them in a climbing shop.'

These are great pieces of gear, so long as they fit your preferences and your budget. To anyone considering these cams I strongly suggest trying them out. I would say buy one of the larger sizes as they are comparable in price to the BD in these sizes.



This is coming from a climber who has used them on many occasions as well as taken multiple falls on them. They work great!!

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By Jfriday1
From Denver, CO
Nov 13, 2013
TR
I have a set of Dragons, and love them. I also have a set of c4's, I rack both sets but carry less draws now.

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By ediza
From Berkeley, California
Nov 13, 2013
I've climbed for two years on a set of Dragons that I pair with C4's. I like the Dragons just as much as the C4's - Sometimes more, sometimes less. Really there's not much difference when you use them. The extendable sling can be nice as a leader and bit of a pain as a follower. Dragons do feel better built with a bit more quality. I don't know if that's the forging, the stiffer springs or what, but the manufacturing does seem better.

One great thing about the Dragons is hardly anyone has them so you never have to bother getting your gear back from your partner when you mixed up your racks.

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By wfscot
From Boulder, CO
Nov 13, 2013
Not sure how this thread got resurrected from 2011, but I figured I'd throw my 2 cents in.

I have been accumulating Dragons over the last 6 months or so as doubles to my existing rack of C4s. I now own the #2-#6.

Jfriday1 wrote:
I have a set of Dragons, and love them. I also have a set of c4's, I rack both sets but carry less draws now.


Ditto. I often find I'm able to clip the extended sling on a Dragon in situations where I'd have to extend a C4 with a sling. This lets me leave the ground with fewer slings. For me, it's more than a little extra length for rope drag management (which is certainly important). I also feel like the dyneema sling on the Dragons transmit *far* less rope movement to the cam than the stiffer nylon sling on the C4s. Thus if walking is a concern, I feel like they add a margin of safety.

After about 6mos of climbing on both, I tend to rack the Dragons first and the C4s only when I need doubles. I don't think you can go wrong with either, though.

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By Patrick Mulligan
Nov 13, 2013
The top of the tufa on Magma
I'd also state that using both Dragons and the current iteration of the Camalots that the Dragons are actually much more durable. I've not broken a single wire on them whereas I have broken a couple of the Camalot wires and the cams are in much better shape than the Camalots (which seem to be made of a much less durable metal). On the wires, I'm always having to re-bend my wires on the current camalot so the action is smooth. I have not had to do that once on the dragon. That said, the new camalots are nowhere near as durable as my older single stem camalots either.

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By coldfinger
Nov 13, 2013
The Flying Dutchman wrote:
The weight difference is apparent but it wont make any real difference when climbing.


Gotta call that one out. For one thing you are forgetting the added QD. For another that added QD means TWICE the slot taken on your gear loops/gear sling.

Put another way, you have twice as much crap in terms of counting biner slots when racking.

Have found the lack of clutter and weight was great climbing and also approaching.

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By Sam Keller
Nov 20, 2013
Finger cracking in Indian Creek!
As someone w a double rack of C4/Dragons I feel like my experience is valuable.

First off I climb in desert sandstone. Generally its a choss party.

I always rack my Dragons on my right and my C4s on my left. I am definetly biased towards placing the Dragons.

I love their aggresive lobe angle. Not sure if this is science, but they seem to place easier in pods and constrictions. I have noticed that like OP said they tend to crunch the rock a bit when fallen on (only small falls here!)

I also really like the thumb stub for placing. I find it fits real nice on my finger. I also dig the extendable sling, as more often then not its one less awkward move to my harness to grab an extra sling (I tend to rack my slings separate from my cams)

As for their appearance, before I bought my dragons a friend showed me the slate Dragon (#4 C4) and I thought it looked like a toy. But now that Ive owned them for a while I think they are fairly durable.

As for their price, I found a killer deal on them, that made them cheaper than C4s. I think the lesson here is dont buy full price gear, thats stupid ;)

All in all I really like pairing my dragons up with my C4s. The small variation in size has come in handy more times than I can count. Why have everything the exact same size? Why not introduce that tiny amount of variation?

Attached is a cool video touring the DMM factory and showing how hot forging works :)


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