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DMM Dragon Cam Review
Cons: No thumb loop
Bottom line: A good choice for free climbing if you want to carry fewer slings.
Range (inches): .51-4.48"
Length (from top to bottom of clip point): 10.12"
Hailing from North Wales, the DMM Dragon Cam is a solid piece of precision equipment. Our testers' initial impressions were that these cams could handle some mega whippers and then ask for more. Quality control seems to be a non-issue at DMM, and each cam is flawless down to the grooved lobes and the raw aluminum finish on the points that contact with the rock. These cams have an extendable sling that when employed, reduces walking and potentially reduces the number of slings and quickdraws you'll have to carry. However, our testers unanimously preferred Black Diamond Ultralight C4s because they have a thumb loop and are lighter.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
DMM Dragon Cams are out to make a dent in the Black Diamond cam supremacy that seems pervasive at all American crags. They feature the same size and color scheme as the Camalots, and the same double axle design and camming range. Before the advent of the Ultralight Camalot, they were some of the lightest cams available, but BD has forged way ahead in the weight game. The Dragons are bomber and well suited to parallel placements, with the stems being flexible enough for horizontal placements, but not as versatile as the "Alien" style cams like the Black Diamond X4s, Metolius Ultralight Mastercams, and the Fixe Hardware Alien Revolutions.
These cams are the second heaviest in our review (20.7oz), barely lighter than the same size run of Black Diamond C4s (20.8oz), and almost five ounces more than the Black Diamond Ultralight Camalots. Five of the same size run of Totem Cams only weigh an ounce more, and each one can function as an offset cam in a flared placement, reducing the need to carry extra offset cams and further reducing weight. The extended sling could save weight on quickdraws, around 2.8 ounces per lightweight draw, for a total weight savings of 22.8 ounces if you were to extend an entire rack of eight Dragon Cams.
A set of Dragons will protect in cracks from 13mm to 144mm. That's from tiny finger size to big fists, covering almost the same range as Camalots give or take a millimeter. They are available in the same size range as the Camalots and come in two sizes smaller than the current Wild Country Friends Selection.
Until you get down to the thumb loop(less) zone, the stems on the Dragons are very similar to Camalots and are equally flexible, so unless you load them in a shallow horizontal at 90°, these cams hold well and don't become permanently bent. Place them deep in a horizontal and extend the sling and you'll have a great placement that will load with the supple Dyneema sling (hopefully not over a sharp edge), and the cam won't need to bend at all.
Again, these cams are so similar in size and shape to Camalots that their performance in pods, holes, pin scars and other tight placements is equivalent. One nit-picky little difference lays in the gray finger size. The stem on the gray BD ultralight is ever so slightly wider than the cam lobes when the cam lobes are retracted as small as they can go. The thinner stemmed Dragon doesn't get in the way, allowing for it to fit in a slightly smaller spot, in a way over cammed orientation potentially making it harder to get out. For most climbers, this isn't a concern.
The extendable sling is a great asset in the fight against the dreaded cam walk. Extend each piece, and you'll be less likely to move the cam out of its perfect placement and also reduce rope drag. DMM has put a lot of thought into the design of their cam lobes, all the way down to the micro level. The "TripleGrip" cam lobes have a raw aluminum finish and a crosshatch pattern of tiny grooves to increase friction and reduce walking in slick rock.
Our testers felt that these cams were as durable as the Wild Country Friends and the Black Diamond Camalot Ultralights. The nylon slings of the Black Diamond C4s may last longer and are easier to replace.
The lack of a thumb loop makes these cams less than optimal for aid climbing. When every inch counts when trying to get to the next good high placement, it's hard to imagine choosing Dragon Cams over cam with a thumb loop like the Wild Country Friends or the Totem Cams. Since the Dragons have wider heads and less flexible stems, they fit in fewer places than "Alien style" cams, and are more likely to become kinked and bent when loaded in shallow pockets and weird positions.
Instead of a thumb loop, DMM has developed a strong piece of aluminum that accommodates its extendable sling and creates a large, textured surface for your thumb when you engage the trigger. The expandable sling was a hot topic of debate among our testers. Some found it difficult to extend and most found it difficult to rack on the go when following a pitch. With practice by both the leader and the follower, it's not that bad. You need to make sure that you extend the sling by grabbing the sewn part of the sling that won't slide through the holes in the thumb press. Then the follower can equalize the two loop lengths and re-rack the cam with one hand. If you're following and super pumped, you're just going to clip the cam to your gear loops, and it's going to swing around all over the place. Most of our testers still prefer the thumb loop for free climbing.
These Cams were developed in the UK where the climbing ethic is staunchly traditional, and natural protection is needed for slick slate quarries and sea cliffs. In these environments, the Dragons are meant to inspire confidence with the "TripleGrip" cam lobes. For El Cap, we prefer a rack of the versatile Totem Cams.
The Dragon is $75 per unit, making them $10 more than trusty Black Diamond C4 and $15 more than the Best Buy Award winning Metolius Ultralight Mastercams. The extendable sling might save you a few bucks, as you may not need as many alpine draws.
The DMM Dragons are reliable and well constructed. They are a bit heavier than the competition, but if the extendable sling feature peaks your interest, you'll be purchasing some high-quality cams. We prefer cams with a thumb loop though.
— Matt Bento
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