DMM Dragon Cam
Sizes Tested: #2,3,4
Available Sizes: #00 -6
- TripleGrip cam lobes give increased holding power and reduce walking
- Dual axle, single stem design for 360° flexibility and a large expansion range
- Ergonomic, hot forged thumb press with extendable 8mm Dyneema sling
- 13.75° cam angle for high holding power
MSRP: $74.95 – $84.95
Days Tested: 13
Test Locations: Zion NP, Indian Creek / Moab, UT; Eldorado Canyon, South Platte, CO; Red Rocks, NV
DMM’s Dragon cam is rebooted for 2016, but doesn’t stray too far from the previous generation of Dragons. Instead, it adopts incremental improvements that aim to elevate the functionality of the cams without dramatically altering the experience of using them.
But since the Dragon cams in general are going to be new to many climbers, I’ll start with a quick tour through their overall design before getting into what’s new.
The DMM Dragon Cam is a single stem cam with four lobes that rotate about a dual axle arrangement at the head. This is very reminiscent of Black Diamond’s C4. In fact, from the trigger bar up, you could be forgiven for confusing the two at a glance — even the size ranges and corresponding colors are nearly identical. This makes adopting the Dragon pretty easy for climbers who are familiar with BD Camalots, and are therefore reluctant to learn a new size / color scheme.
This is both good — since Dragons are easy to adopt since you’re likely already familiar with the labeling — and bad — since part of the benefit of having cams from different brands is that you can get great overlapping coverage across the size spectrum.
From the trigger bar on down, both the new and old Dragon have eschewed the thumb loop in favor of a curved thumb stock with two eyelets for the sling.
As I discussed in my review of the previous generation Dragon, this thumb stock makes room for the extendable sling that is a signature component of the Dragon cam. Instead of a sewn runner or single loop of webbing, the Dragon has a doubled-up sling that can be clipped short as two strands, or long as an extended single strand. This is a pretty great feature, since it serves as draw or sling for extending the piece.
Thumb Loop vs. Extendable Sling
It’s worth unpacking this point because it’s at the heart of the “Is this cam good for me?” question. As a stand-alone feature, the extendable sling is awesome. In a broader context, though, the extendable sling comes at the expense of a thumb loop, which is a big sacrifice by most accounting, and an out-and-out deal breaker for some climbers.
The case for the thumb loop is that the loop at the base makes it faster and easier to grip the cam in a stable way both when taking it off your harness and when manipulating the cam into a crack, thereby easing the effort of the placement. For aid climbers, the thumb loop also makes for a very convenient and easy place to clip your ladders in high, as well as offering another ready-to-go target for your fifi hook.
The case for the extendable sling is that you can seriously reduce the amount of clutter on your harness by reducing the number of draws your carry. If you’re on a long alpine route and you’re planning to bring six quickdraws and another half dozen alpine draws, a full set of Dragon cams can make the six quickdraws superfluous. That’s no small feat. In addition, the thin sling on the Dragon cams hangs very loose on the cam compared to the sewn loops adorning C4s and Wild Country Friends, reducing rope action on the cam and minimizing walking.
As for the central point of whether or not the thumb loop makes it easier to hold and place the cam, that’s a bit more of a personal call. I’m sympathetic to folks who consider thumb loops indispensable (I have many older generation Camalots, but I tend to favor the newer C4s because of the thumb loop). But since I was raised on old-style Camalots and TCUs, I am a little more open minded when it comes to these sorts of design compromises. Ultimately, you’ll have to make this call for yourself.
NEXT: What’s New with the Dragon?, Aid Climbing, Etc.