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C4 vs. DMM Dragons vs. Totem


Original Post
Leliko Mana · · SF Bay Area, CA · Joined 13 days ago · Points: 0

Sorry for the "same old same old" discussion but you fellow climbers need to help this girl out!
So I really really really want to buy my first trad gear which I might never even update as I started climbing quite late in life :)
I've been agonizing over the decision WHICH CAMS TO BUY!

Couple weeks ago just for fun I bought my one and only cam - green Totem. Note that nobody around me owns Totems as they are super expensive, so I wanted to see what the hype was all about.
Everyone who saw it liked it.
My partner and I used it climbing Lover's Leap over last Sunday near Lake Tahoe and he really liked it. His own gear is 10 years old and is comprized of C4s and all regular jazz. He has no experience with DMM Dragons or Totems.

My other partner just bought his first rack of DMM Dragons and LOVES it. I climbed with him couple weeks ago and really liked his Dragons. He's waiting for DMM Dragonflies to come out but also said that as soon as he has money he will go ahead and buy all Totems as his second rack.

Money-wise I'm not rich but not poor. I could buy all Totems but would feel very guilty of spending that much (although my dear husband told me today to stop agonizing and go and buy the most expensive gear as he, a non-climber, wants his crazy wife to be safe on the cliffs).

Another thing I feel is climbing ethics: if a follower can't clean or drops the cam, he/she needs to buy a new one to replace for the leader. I would feel bad for my followers, not all of them could afford buying a new Totem for me (and I certainly can't afford replacing my owns). So I don't want to create a situation where people are afraid to climb with me for that reason. Note that I'm not trad leading yet but will start as soon as I have my own rack!!!

I like DMM Dragons but other than that one guy, nobody else has them around. I'm wondering if it's better to own what other people owns (C4s, aliens, and friends) too so that when I hand over my rack to my partner, he/she wouldn't struggle to place something they haven't done before. Because not everyone likes absence of thumb loop and presence of an extendable sling on a DMM Dragon.

Decisions decisions!

 I did read quite a few pages online as well as Marc-Olivier Chabot's excellent discussion of all three of these (and some more) gear somewhere here on Mountainproject BUT STILL CAN'T MAKE UP MY MIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHICH ONES TO BUY FOR MY FIRST TRAD RACK THAT I PROBABLY WON'T REPLACE FOR LONG TIME, PERHAPS NEVER :)

I climb in Northern California and plan to be going to Yosemite several times a year with my gear.

If money was not an issue... what would you buy, and why? :)

Justin G88 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 230

I always start here when thinking about buying new gear. Granted its all subjective and up for debate, but these guys seem to do a good job testing gear.

https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/climbing/best-climbing-cams

Regular C4s are kind of at the end of the list, but that pretty much makes up my whole rack and I like them.  

jon butler · · los angeles · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 0

Totems 100%. I have c4s, x4s, mastercams, aliens, and totems, regular and basics. I consistently place/rack totems first. Haven’t had a chance to climb with dragons yet.

Leliko Mana · · SF Bay Area, CA · Joined 13 days ago · Points: 0
Justin G88 wrote: I always start here when thinking about buying new gear...
I was ready to buy DMM Dragons yesterday and then I saw exactly that post and stopped myself from pressing "Order" button :)
Outdoorgearlab guys clearly do not favor DMM Dragons but if you look at Marc-Olivier's post, it says TOTALLY opposite.
Arghhhh. Why does it have to be so difficult to decide? :)
Leliko Mana · · SF Bay Area, CA · Joined 13 days ago · Points: 0
jon butler wrote: Totems 100%.
So has it happened to you that your follower couldn't remove or dropped it? Just curious.


Leliko Mana · · SF Bay Area, CA · Joined 13 days ago · Points: 0

Funny excerpt from Outdoorgearlab review of Totems:
"Any valley wall climber would go on a diet of ramen and cobras, maybe even get a job, to save up for a set of Totems."
:)

alexd81 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 20

When a cam can’t be cleaned because it’s badly overcammed or was placed in such a manner that it walked into a spot where it can’t be retreived, it’s entirely the leader’s fault. You should not be expecting your second to replace such gear. 

that guy named seb · · Britland · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 205

Don't like dragons the tiny stem is crap, c4's are heavy for what they are ( maybe not so much of an issue with the new ones) the new wild country cams are great, totems beat everything though from a size 1 down.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 484

As somebody who has had and used all 3 I'll take the totems any day of the week. IMO the new friends are better than the C4s and Dragons so they would be my second choice. It seems that whenever I end up using my partner's rack, I find placements that make me wish I had my totems.

The narrow head width makes them fit where no other cams will and the flexible sling makes them almost impervious to walking. Add that to the geometry of the cam lobe and it's pretty damn hard to get a totem stuck.

Although I try not to make a habit out of it, sometimes when I'm scared I'll just stuff the biggest totem that I can fit into the crack, knowing that now I've got another centimeter or so for the rock to crumble before my cam rips. Never had an issue getting them out, even when overcammed.

Robert S · · Driftwood, TX · Joined Sep 2018 · Points: 226

I have Dragons, Totems, and Utralight Master Cams. Love them all for different reasons and carry them for different things. But if you're new to trad, you're probably going to find a lot of use for a cam like the blue #3, which you will not find from Totem but will find from DMM, BD, and WC. So I'd go with one of them for your first set and then get Totems later unless you know you won't be needing #3 and larger.

Floyd Eggers · · Kennewick, WA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 341

Trango has some bomber pieces! (Satire)
Some people hate the idea, but mixed racks for beginners just gets the (personal) best out of all the gear. So don't just look at brand, feel around and find what fits your unique expectations and route preference.

Jack C. · · Calgary, AB · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 325

Dragons.  I've tried them all and find Dragon 2s to be the best compromise between cost, quality, ease-of-use, and bulk of the three options you've listed.  Having owned Dragon 2s for a couple years I can't climb on C4s. They just feel so darn cheap.

michael s... · · Denver, CO · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 60

Most people's rack in the USA are mostly C4s. For a good reason I think. Use those mainly (in sizes like 0.4-whatever) and you'll be able to use many other people's racks more easily. I have totems, but no way I would free climb with the hand-sized ones, they are floppy when you are trying to place them.

Sean Post · · Laguna Beach, CA · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 23

My rack consists of a mix of totems, C4s, and Dragons, and if I had to do it over again I would say get a mix of all three. I like totems in everything red and below.* Too floppy for the larger sizes. Beyond that, I would say dragons, as the extendable sling is great on those as it a) carries no strength penalty (unlike the WC Friends) and b) is super helpful for fine-tuning anchor equalization stuff. Not really worth extending on most placements during the route, as the difference is marginal and it makes them harder to clean. For everything #4 and above, get C4s. Wait until the new ones come out, as they have trigger keepers and are about 10% lighter than the old ones. I would stay away from the larger Dragons, as the lack of thumb loop makes the big ones much harder to handle. 

Effectively, my ideal rack is this:
Doubles of totems .2, .3, .4 (black/blue/yellow)
Single of totems .5, .75, 1.
Single of dragons .5, .75, 1,
Double of dragons 2 and 3
Single/double/triple of 4, 5, and 6 C4s (idk how much offwidth you are doing).
 
Also, i'm of the opinion that WC friends are flat upgrades over C4s. Only reason I don't recommend those is that WC doesn't have trigger keepers on its 4, and doesn't make 5s and 6s. 

*I'll be using BD color/sizing here, it corresponds on all these cams except a couple totems, in which case yellow totem = small gray (.4) C4 and orange totem = Yellow #2 C4.

adeadhead · · Baltimore, MD · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 45

Black diamond is coming out with new C4s in January. They're between 4% and 10% lighter than the current edition of C4s.

The current Wild Country friends are lighter even than the new C4s in sizes up to #1, plus they have extendable slings. Go with them for your first rack, then invest in totems when(if) you decide to double up.

Cole D · · Los Angeles · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 5
Leliko Mana wrote: Sorry for the "same old same old" discussion but you fellow climbers need to help this girl out!
So I really really really want to buy my first trad gear which I might never even update as I started climbing quite late in life :)
I've been agonizing over the decision WHICH CAMS TO BUY!

Another thing I feel is climbing ethics: if a follower can't clean or drops the cam, he/she needs to buy a new one to replace for the leader. I would feel bad for my followers, not all of them could afford buying a new Totem for me (and I certainly can't afford replacing my owns). So I don't want to create a situation where people are afraid to climb with me for that reason. Note that I'm not trad leading yet but will start as soon as I have my own rack!!!

I like DMM Dragons but other than that one guy, nobody else has them around. I'm wondering if it's better to own what other people owns (C4s, aliens, and friends) too so that when I hand over my rack to my partner, he/she wouldn't struggle to place something they haven't done before. Because not everyone likes absence of thumb loop and presence of an extendable sling on a DMM Dragon.

 I did read quite a few pages online as well as Marc-Olivier Chabot's excellent discussion of all three of these (and some more) gear somewhere here on Mountainproject BUT STILL CAN'T MAKE UP MY MIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHICH ONES TO BUY FOR MY FIRST TRAD RACK THAT I PROBABLY WON'T REPLACE FOR LONG TIME, PERHAPS NEVER :)

If money was not an issue... what would you buy, and why? :)

There is already hours of material available for you to read about this topic if you continue to search these forums. It sounds like you have done some of that already with reading Marc-Oliviers thread. 

As previously mentioned if a cam cant be cleaned (above the very basic level of the follower not doing something like just pushing the cam in the crack further without pulling the trigger) it is usually the leaders responsibility. If someone drops something, leader or follower, they should stop doing that, and pay for a replacement. There are ways to clean pro that should make it that you are never dropping anything. If you want, as a new leader / follower you can talk this over with your parters and perhaps practice a zero fault policy where any costs incurred on a route are shared until you guys stop getting pro stuck, dropping things, etc.

If you prioritize mileage over grades and what pro you are using, very quickly you and anyone you climb with should have no problems using any cams that are out and in use. If you start with totem cams you may not be as good as placing C4s, Mastercams, Dragons, or Friends as the totems are a bit more forgiving. You can get a .5 - 3 C4 rack for 250 when they are on sale. Probably about the same for Mastercams. Probably the best bet. Get something good, cheap, and dependable. No need to plan a rack based off of what you think other people may or may not have. The .5-3 cams, stoppers, and slings should get you up some easy stuff. Combined with someone else's single rack you will be able to climb loads of routes. Then you can try to fill out the .1 - .4 sizes with x4s, c3s, totem cams, basics, etc. After that add a 4 and you'll have a decent full single rack. After that you could get into doubles or add a set of totem cams. Hopefully by that point you'll have climbed a bunch of routes and you will confidently know exactly what you want and there will be no uncertainty.

Money no issue; Double set of Totem Cams, 1 set of C3s (without the 000), the red and yellow x4, 2 BD #2's, 2 BD #3s, 2 BD #4s and 1 BD #5. Just by having that rack you will instantly crush 5.10 trad.
Andy W · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 31

Another vote for a variable rack. Simple takeaway is to compliment double axles with single axles. I have Totems, Metolius, DMM, WC (new and old friends), and still a few BD. I've been weening away C4s because I think dragons and new friends are equivalent but just better tech. Metolius is bomber and has the best costumer service; if you care about longevity and not replacing cams, give Metolius a serious look. Totems are in a league of there own but still not the best tool for every job nor necessary for the average climber. Search these forums and read more than just Marc's thread, but most importantly, climb with others' rack and find out what you like the feel of. Internetz unfortunately can't give you that final decision.

Jon Rhoderick · · Redmond, OR · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 865

I love my dragons, first time I regretted having them this past Yosemite trip because you can’t clip high on them, which would make a Nose in Day notably harder.
Love them for free climbing with an extendable draw that won’t wreck the thumbloop. I don’t miss the thumbloop 

Ryan Pfleger · · North Lake Tahoe, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 15

C4s, UL C4s or Friends in the bigger sizes. I think I like the new Friends or UL C4s best, followed closely by the C4s and Dragons. Basics/Alien Revolution/Totems/UL Mastercams for your smaller pieces. All other things being equal and you are looking for the "safest" pieces to help your husband sleep at night, Friends for big sizes, Totems for small sizes. In the same placements Totems are possibly least likely to pull, followed by Aliens/Basics/Friends.

EDIT: If a cam gets stuck, it is probably the leader's fault, not the follower's.

Zach Parsons · · Tacoma, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 100

Simply put, if you're building a rack and money is any kind of object, you'll be much happier and be able to do more climbs if you have more cams. The differences between cams are minor enough to make little difference when you're newer to trad, so it's better to stretch your dollars farther.

C4s are the gold standard and are the most affordable of any of the cams discussed here (you can almost always find them on sale).

I suggest starting with at least a single rack of C4s as your workhorse cams and going from there. Then try different makes here and there until you find something that makes them worth the extra cash. I got a double rack of C4s to get me started, and have been adding other cams here and there when I need to or when they're on sale.

There really isn't a wrong answer, just pull the trigger and get climbing that much sooner!

Live Perched · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

Buy all sizes of Totems. No brainer.  C4 v Dragons is tougher.  DMM feel better and are less prone to rust.  C4s have a tumb loop which is better.  I prefer Dragons. My wife prefers C4s.  Wild Country are also very nice, rust resistant and have a thumb loop.  Going forward we are buying totems and wild country. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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