Early testing: DMM Shadow and DMM Phantom Quickdraws.
Venue: Rollarit, near Helsinki. Conditions: finger numbingly cold. Rounds of hotaches endured: 2 (fortunately minor). Routes climbed: 5. Nuts placed: about 20. Bolts clipped: 8. Falls taken: 1.
So I finally got the chance to use these new quickdraws after a couple of weeks of weather-enforced idleness. In brief, the Phantoms are designed with one thing in mind: being the absolutely lightest possible usable karabiner available. The Shadows are solid gate alternative for a generation of climbers who have become used to lightweight wire gate krabs.
Phantoms first. When you pick them up, they feel ridiculously light. Even in comparison to the last generation of wiregates that weighed in the mid-30 gram range, these feel light and are basically half the weight of many of the classic krabs of the 1990s. They are also very strong with a 9kn gate open strength. The way weights have been going down a few grammes at time in krab design can perhaps make you complacent to just how light krabs like the Phantoms are. Compare it to the DMM Truclip, a krab that many who started climbing in the 1990s will know well, and that is still in production today. A Phantom is half the weight of a Truclip. For every one Truclip on your harness you could be carrying two Phantoms for the same weight.
For most of us punters the weight of the gear isn't the thing that is going to stop us from getting up a route or not, but for anyone who has to carry their rack in a pack for a couple of hours uphill, you'll take my point. Secondly, when you are pushing your grade on long mountain or sea cliff pitches, lighter gear helps you carry your courage with you; allowing you to take those extra pieces that might be the difference between doing the crux, or backing down psyched out by it.
So is there anything wrong with the Phantom? It is small, but no smaller than the excellent, widely-used (including by me) and significantly heavier Black Diamond Neutrino. Some people won't like it for its size, but many others won't care. Once I use the Phantoms more, including with gloves on ice climbing, I'll have a firmer opinion on the size issue. The other only obvious thing is that they don't have any shrouding around the gate. What I imagine is going to be the Phantoms main competitor, the BD Oz, does; but then it weighs 2 grammes more. I've noticed that clipped to micro cams or small nuts in narrow cracks, shrouding by the gate can lessen the chance of the gate being pushed open by the rock, but again it is one of those marginal things and I'll need to use them more to decide whether this matters to me or not.
Strength (Minor-Axis): 7kn
Rope Bearing Surface Width:9.0mm
Catalogue no: A318
The Phantom carabiner costs £7.50 and is also available as a quickdraw in various lengths: 12 cm is £15.00, 18cm is £15.50 and 25cm is £16.00.
Now the Shadows. DMM have designed this as modern competitor to the ultra classic Petzl Spirit – a krab that despite being two decades old, still is the favoured biner of many serious sports climbers. The Shadow is a worthy competitor being lighter, as strong as the famously beefy Spirits with a 10 kn gate-open rating, having a similar non-snag key-lock style gate, and best of all – cheaper. I've never owned Spirits as they were always too expensive, so for me DMM were going to have to beat their own past glories of the Mamba and the Cobra as the easiest clipping krabs in the world. When I first tried a Shadow back in the spring I wasn't convinced. Yesterday they felt better, although I'm not sure if I'm just concentrating on clipping more smoothly these days. My first impression is whilst they didn't grab my attention in the same way as the Phantoms, there is nothing wrong with them and a very serious contender for anyone who wants to buy plain gate biners over wire gates. I'll report back after I've used them more.
Catalogue no: NoDA306-12
Product: Shadow Quickdraw
Price: ~ £15.00.
More details at the DMM website