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DMM Soft Goods Review

© Rob Greenwood

British climbing brand DMM have recently launched a full set of soft goods to go alongside their legendary hardware. DMM sent through a full set of the backpacks and ropebags to UKC for a big old UKC gear review.

Alan James and Duncan Campbell have used and abused the gear in exactly the way it has been designed. They have been cragging, taken the travel bags on planes, multi-pitched, sport, trad, you name it and it has been done.

Below is a table showing what is available from DMM, then follows the review of how it performed in the field.

DMM Vector  © DMM
Vector Trad Rucksack - £85

DMM say: "At 45 litres the Vector is the perfect size for trad climbing. You can certainly fit in everything you'd want for a full day out, including a DMM Pitcher Rope bag. And if you need to carry an additional abseil rope then just use the top compression/rope straps. These straps can, of course, be removed if you don't need them."

DMM Void  © DMM
Void Travel Duffle Bag - £65/£75/£85

DMM say: "A duffle bag needs to be tough, and the Void certainly is, but it needs to be light too, otherwise you'll end up eating into your baggage weight allowance. To achieve this fine balance between toughness and lightness we have used hardwearing materials from the same Ballistic family that we construct our bouldering pads with."

DMM Classic Rope Bag  © DMM
Classic Rope Bag - £35

DMM say: "Carries an 80m rope and a few extras, the full size tarp keeps your cord dirt free, and the clever strap system allows either a rucksack or a courier style carry."

DMM Pitcher Rope Bag  © DMM
Pitcher Rope Bag - £25

DMM say: "A lightweight, packable rope bag that is both easy to use and super versatile: pack it in a rucksack snag free, carry it as backpack, use it as a rope bucket on sea cliffs, or as an essentials bag on multi pitch routes. The tarp design allows quick and convenient rope stashing (thanks Rab Carrington)."

DMM Flight  © DMM
Flight Sport Bag - £85

DMM say: "There is nothing better than escaping for a week or two of bolt clipping in the sun and the Flight is the ideal sack for such a trip. It works extremely well at the crag, but it is also perfectly suited to air travel. It matches the maximum 'carry on' size for airline hand luggage and has stash-able features to reduce snagging during transit."

DMM Zenith  © DMM
Zenith Multipitch Bag - £45

DMM say: "At 18 litres the Zenith is big enough to carry everything you'll need for the day, including food, water, extra clothing, head torch, phone, guidebook and your approach shoes. On the walk in, or the walk out, extra gear such as your helmet can be attached to tabs on the top of the sack, or clipped to the external daisy chains if need be."

Vector 45ltr Trad Rucksack - £85

Carrying a full day's climbing gear plus an abseil rope is no problem for the DMM Vector  © Rob Greenwood
Carrying a full day's climbing gear plus an abseil rope is no problem for the DMM Vector
© Rob Greenwood

When it comes to rucksacks, I want something I can chuck all my gear in, big enough so that it doesn't require careful packing, a simple design that is comfortable to carry and is durable. When the DMM Vector arrived I was really looking forward to seeing how it performed as my previous cragging sack wasn't overly comfortable. My first opportunity to use it was over the Easter Bank holiday, for which I had booked an extra day off to maximise climbing time in Pembroke, so I threw my rack and ropes in the bag, plus a couple of pairs of shoes, a wind-proof and a warm jacket and there was still plenty of room left for food and water. Upon shouldering it for the first time I was really impressed with how comfortable the bag was both on the shoulder straps but also at the back - there was no bulky rack digging into my back. So far it was as good as any other sack I had used, but once I got to the crag the Vector started to exceed most other bags. I put it down and the flat base meant it stayed stood up, then a quick pull of the closure tab and I was in and getting everything out.

When I then wanted to find the extra bits of kit I had at the bottom, the bright material on the inside meant it was easy to find, and when repacking the bag it stayed standing and open due to stiffening inside the material of the bag - so far I was very impressed.

I have now used the Vector every time I have been trad-climbing since and it has been excellent. Even better is the fact that when the bag is full you can still carry an abseil rope with ease due to the compression straps on the top of the bag.

The Vector comes with a 'racksack' which is basically a bag to put your rack in, keeping it clean and making it easy to get in and out of your rucksack. I didn't use this much as it just seemed like something that would inevitably blow away and found getting kit into the Vector easy due to its wide opening. The only other criticism is that the zip-pocket inside the bag is a little small to carry a camera, phone, wallet, keys and a headtorch so I often ended up using a dry bag to store valuables that I wanted at the top of the bag.

Summary - A simple, durable, and very well thought out rucksack that allows you to carry a lot of kit comfortably and access it very easily and quickly. A perfect rucksack for trad climbers and at £85 is very reasonable for a bag of this size. Highly recommended if you are in the market for a new rucksack.

Void Travel Duffle Bag - £65/£75/£85

A useful new addition to the DMM soft goods range is the Void Travel Duffle Bag - a set of large bags designed to carry the bulk of your luggage on longer trips and with a number of features aimed at those on flights to foreign climbing destinations. The bags come in three sizes - 45Ltr, 75Ltr and 100Ltr - and, on first appearance, just look like they are your average holdall. Closer inspection though reveals a number of well thought out features specifically designed for climbers, which make you realise that someone has really spent some time thinking about this product.

The bags are made of the same hardwearing materials used in DMM bouldering pads and have a very durable feel. The aim has been to stay lightweight while giving the sort of protection climbers require for heavy gear loads, and rough treatment in cars and airplanes. The base is supported with a thin padded layer which gives a good feel while protecting the contents properly and exposed stitching has been kept to a minimum.

DMM Void Duffle - On the back for easy carrying  © UKC Gear
DMM Void Duffle - On the back for easy carrying
DMM Void Duffle - Straps removed for hold baggage  © UKC Gear
DMM Void Duffle - Straps removed for hold baggage
DMM Void Duffle - Disappearing down the normal conveyor at Manchester  © UKC Gear
DMM Void Duffle - Disappearing down the normal conveyor at Manchester

The bags have a range of carrying possibilities. There are standard holdall handles plus two straps on either end for quick shifting of the bag into a boot. There are also removal back straps for those longer walks through airports where a trolley can't be found. These straps can be secured easily using easily threadable buckles which split open to allow easy access, unlike most similar buckles where cramming the thick webbing ends through can be a struggle. Another example of intelligent design is the inclusion of a set of split buckles inside the bag as well for stashing the straps away when not in use, but also doubling up as compression straps if required.

Another problem with bags that have handles, and back straps, is that you often get tangled up with the handles when flipping the bag onto your back. In this case there are some press studs to hold the handles out of the way although these studs on the bag we had were so stiff that it was more of a pain to do them up and even when you had, the strap still got caught. A very minor problem though.

The back carry feature is certainly one of the best aspects of the Void series.

Many large holdalls have had back straps in the past but most give very uncomfortable carries due to the straps being too wide, or there being little padding for your back from the jumble of gear inside. On the Void series the lid of the bag doubles up as a solid padded sheet giving a very comfortable carry with easily adjustable straps. The lid is also plenty large enough to allow easy access to the contents.

The three sizes should cover most people's needs. I am not sure that the 45ltr bag will be of much use to many, but the 75ltr version was great for a sport climbing trip. The 100ltr version will definitely give enough for longer trips. There are some external compression straps but these are too short to be used effectively to strap much gear on the outside of the bag like a tent or a sleeping mat. The bags are aimed at travelling where you probably wouldn't want to do this but a slightly longer strap might have made sense. Having said that, this is the first time my bag disappeared on the normal conveyor belt at Manchester airport where I usually have to take it to the 'awkward bags' section when checking in - this might not have happened with longer side compressions straps!

Other features include an internal security pocket with a key clip, an internal A4-sized documents pocket and a bright yellow lining making it easy to see your gear.

Summary - A very well designed set of bags with lots of well thought out features. At between £65 and £85 they are generally a bit cheaper than comparable offerings. Highly recommended.

Classic Rope Bag - £35

To fit in with the new brightly coloured range, the classic DMM rope bag has been redesigned with a few new features. It comes in four bright colours - red, green, blue and grey - to suit all tastes. It is light but well constructed to be durable and long lasting.

The previous version had the excellent square shape created by a clever two direction compression system. It also had an awkward method of switching between back carrying, or over the shoulder using velcro. The new bag is a big improvement on this. It uses the longitudinal compression strap as an alternative attachment point for one of the back straps. This means that it is incredibly easy to have the bag on your back and then swap to a shoulder strap if you have another bag.

DMM Classic Rope Bag - The large tarp with rope tie-ins  © UKC Gear
DMM Classic Rope Bag - The large tarp with rope tie-ins
DMM Classic Rope Bag - Shoulder carrying method  © UKC Gear
DMM Classic Rope Bag - Shoulder carrying method
DMM Classic Rope Bag - Back carrying method  © UKC Gear
DMM Classic Rope Bag - Back carrying method

The Classic is big enough to carry a long sport rope, and a fair bit of extra gear if you pack it carefully. For a team of two you can pretty much carry this plus one back pack to get all your gear to the crag. The compression system as mentioned creates a neat square pack. As with many other rope bags that use a zip closure on their main compartment, it does require careful closing to avoid stressing the zip too much. I suspect that the zip won't last long if you don't pre-compress it when closing. One day someone will think of a way to use the compression straps before closing the zip - put them on the inside maybe?

Other features include an external security pocket and a large integral tarp with coloured tie-in points.

Summary - A big improvement on the previous Classic Rope Bag with a clever dual carrying system and neat compression. At £35 it is not the cheapest rope bag but still good value.

Pitcher Rope Bag - £25

The DMM Pitcher Rope Bag - perfect for use on sea cliffs such as Swanage's Boulder Ruckle  © Duncan Campbell - UKC
The DMM Pitcher Rope Bag - perfect for use on sea cliffs such as Swanage's Boulder Ruckle
© Duncan Campbell - UKC

DMM have designed this to be a multi-functional rope bag that is capable of being used as a normal rope bag but also to be used as a rope-bucket on sea-cliffs and enable you to carry extra clothes, food, etc up routes. I have found the Pitcher to work very well when trad climbing, especially on sea cliffs where it makes keeping the ropes dry very easy. In particular, hanging stances are made very simple, you just build a belay, clip yourself in, clip the rope bag in and after tying in to the appropriate ends you are ready to go, perfect. Additionally, in places such as Huntsman's Leap, where there are large pools of water, often underneath your chosen route, the Pitcher allows you to not have to worry about getting the ropes wet or jammed under boulders. Plus, by flaking the ropes straight into the Pitcher, you eliminate some of the faff of flaking and coiling the ropes before and after every route.

In use to carry clothing, food and water I found the Pitcher to be great, although the straps are thin and so not hugely comfortable for carrying heavy loads, the lack of any back system allows the bag to be cinched upwards allowing access to you harness and chalk bag. The only aspect that the Pitcher didn't excel in was in use as a normal rope bag due mainly to the fact that the tarp isn't big enough. In this usage the Classic rope bag works much better.

Summary - A great rope bag for use when trad climbing on sea cliffs that easily fits into a rucksack. The no frills design means that it is hard-wearing and light and is also good to carry extras up long routes. Not the best buy for a sport climbing rope bag, but definitely worth buying for sea-cliff devotees.

Flight 45ltr Sport Bag - £85

The DMM Flight comfortably carries a 70m rope, quickdraws, shoes, harness and has room for extras  © Duncan Campbell - UKC
The DMM Flight comfortably carries a 70m rope, quickdraws, shoes, harness and has room for extras
© Duncan Campbell - UKC

The DMM Flight bag has been designed for sport climbing and in particular, foreign sport climbing trips. With a removable rope tarp, and sized to be the exact carry-on limit, the Flight fits it purpose perfectly. It sports a big, chunky zip that goes right the way around the pack to allow easy access, plus lots of pockets to keep valuables, guidebooks, etc safe.

The best thing for me about this bag is that it works as a rope bag, but one that you can fit everything you need for the day inside! Although it is not quite as easy to pack as the Vector, I managed to carry an 80m rope, quickdraws, shoes, harness food, water and extra clothes in the pack and also utilising the external carry straps.

As with the Vector it was great to carry and seems pretty durable, though I do worry about the durability of the zip especially as I broke one of the pull tabs, but it is a decent size so should stand up to some abuse. The removable tarp is great as you can just chuck the rope in to your check-in luggage and then use the flight as your carry-on bag, and it means you can just move the rope around at the crag and leave the main bag in one place.

Summary - Another well thought out bag from DMM for sport climbers, that will allow you to carry all your gear for a day's sport climbing with ease. And it's great as a carry on bag when flying. At £85 it is a standard price for this sort of rucksack.

Zenith 18ltr Multipitch Bag - £45

Testing the DMM Zenith out on Peak Limestone  © Tom Ripley
Testing the DMM Zenith out on Peak Limestone
© Tom Ripley
For long multi-pitch climbing it is often nice to be able to take some water, food and extra clothing, but using a normal sized bag is often too big and gets in the way when climbing. DMM have designed the Zenith with this in mind and have done a pretty good job at making a small bag that has all the features you would want for a long day climb. I'm not a massive fan of climbing with a rucksack and in the UK I don't think it is something that is necessary very often. But for the purpose of reviewing the Zenith I took it down to places such as Gogarth's Main Cliff and used it to carry shoes and a guidebook on an evening ascent of Sirplum in the Peak.

The great thing about the Zenith is that when you clip it in to the belay, you won't drop anything once you open it due to it's bucket design. It's a great size for carrying the bits and bobs that you'd need on a long route say in the US or in an alpine rock environment.

At 5 foot 6, I found the Zenith to be a little long in the back and so struggled to get to my chalk bag as easily as I have done using the Pitcher rope bag in this way but taller friends of mine did not have this problem. The extra gear loops I didn't find to be that useful and were a little awkward to get to, though they didn't get in the way at all so didn't detract from the useability of the bag. Climbing in the Zenith is fine, and although you never forget you've got it on it is not restrictive to your movement.

Summary - For those looking to do long alpine rock routes or head to the US then it is a great little 'sack big multi-pitch climbs. Though it is a little expensive at £45.

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