Wednesday, October 30, 2013

DMM Renegade 2 harness - a review

Relaxing in the Renegade 2 at the top of the corner of Engelskdiederet, Eidetind.
 I think DMM probably asked me if I wanted to review the new version of the Renegade because I had given the original version a rather glowing review on UKC back in 2008. It became my main harness after that and did sterling weekly service for the next five years. It still looks in pretty good nick now so shall emigrate to England, and my mum and dad's attic, where it will reside with various other bit of older gear as my "UK rack", helping me cut down on how much baggage I take backwards and forwards across Northern Europe.

Simon borrowing the Renegade - fully adjustable to fit different sizes

I stand by my original opinion that the Renegade, before and now in its updated "2" version, is an excellent all-round harness. It's not the lightest, but it is supportive when you need to hang in it for a long time; it has loads of racking possibilities; it is very adjustable allowing you to put it over winter layers or lend it to a differently sized mate; and at least the original one I know was very well made because it lasted so well.

The stuff we lugged up Stetind, plenty of racks are helpful. The Renegade is the red and grey harness as the back.

Some people, for reasons I never got, hated the racks on the Renegade 1. They sloped forward a bit, something that I never really noticed but others clearly did. On the Renegade 2 DMM have done away with the sloping style. They have though kept the same seven loop-layout that I love. There are climbers who I respect who say they've never felt the need for more than four gear loops even for complex trad climbing when you carry lots of stuff, but personally I love the ability to split big racks between the seven loops and know exactly where some bit of kit is going to be. When I went to Norway in August I took with me the Renegade 2 and another very nice Edelrid harness that I was reviewing for UKC. The Edelrid is great, nicely made and super-comfy for long days, but as we racked up for our big day on Stetind I took the Renegade 2 without much thought; I just knew I would want the familiar ability to spread a big rack out over the seven gear loops and find what I wanted quickly. I'm sure I would have done fine with the Edelrid too; but for the me the Renegade works so well for big routes and big racks, it is reassuring.

Me sorting all the gear out on the summit of Stetind after 13 pitches of climbing; photo ©D. Smith
Of course a review isn't a review if you don't try and break the thing, even if just a little. One change DMM made between the 1 and 2 versions is that the tubing to stiffen the gear racks used to be pushed over the sewn on tape that makes up the racking. Now the tubing is pushed into the tubular tape before the racking is attached. This perhaps looks a bit smarter and avoid small krabs getting caught at the top of the plastic tubing on the original harness (cue much patting your bum whilst gibbering "dammit, where's my effing nut key gone!?" when it's not hanging as expected in the middle of the back loop). Nevertheless at some point on Stetind my inelegant chimneying technique, most likely, led to one of the stiffener-tubes pushing through the tubular tape that should have been enclosing it. Needing a field repair the next day and not being able to just push it back into the tape, I trimmed about 5 mms off the plastic tube to allow it to go back in, and then put some finger tape over the damaged bit. This has been fine since. I don't know if I just got really unlucky managing to snag the rack leading to this or whether it's a design weakness and DMM are going to see some returns from other people, but users should perhaps keep an eye on the racks to check it doesn't happen to them.

Where I broke the Renegade.
Nevertheless, overall, the Renegade 2 is great. Everything I liked about the original Renegade: loads of racking; the free floating padding meaning the harness is always straight; supportive and strong; is here and the "2" irons out a few kinds from the original. A total weight-weenie might want something more compact and lighter but if you do a bit of everything the Renegade is still a great choice.

Monday, October 28, 2013

DMM Shadow, DMM Alpha and DMM Aero quickdraws - a review

Simon escapes the dour Australian winter for some sunny Finnish sport climbing: lower bolt clipped with an Aero QD, upper with an Alpha QD
Back in the summer DMM sent me the new version of their Renegade harness to test, which is a good un' but deserves it's own post soon. They they also sent me some of their newest quickdraw models to try out at the same time. This post is going to focus on the quickdraws. Amusingly, considering I'm a pretty lousy sport climber, I got three plain gate models which most people now associate with sport climbing. More and more people use wire gates for trad and I think arguably wire gates make the best all-round krabs if you have only one set to do everything from summer, sunny sport climbing to brutal winter ice or mixed. Nevertheless, wiregates can mix badly with old school bent plate bolt hangers at the top end of quickdraws and some, I think including me, believe that a well designed bentgate is easier to clip in extremis than even the best wiregate krabs. Hence there is still market for plaingate krabs. Personally when there isn't going to be snow and ice around (with the possibility of gates freezing) I also find that plaingate models like those below work great as general trad cragging as well as for sport.

DMM Aero quickdraws

The Aeros are DMM's budget plaingate krabs, they're kinda heavy by modern standards at 47 grams for the bent gate, but they are burly at 9kn gate-open and shop around and you can find them for as little as £12.50 for a full quickdraw. They don't come with the fancy variwidth dogbones that the more expensive quickdraws do, but with plain 16 mm nylon tapes that I find found perfectly comfortable to grab and cheat on! The gate is exactly the same as on the more expensive models and is fantastic - getting the rope in is easy even for a total clipping-klutz like me. So yeah, if you needed to carry a rack of twenty up some enduro-sports-monster pitch they're gonna be a bit heavy on your harness, but still nothing like scared-trad-climber-rack-heavy and you're more likely to be able to afford twenty of these!

DMM Alpha quickdraws

Gio doing a tricky move past the Alpha quickdraw
DMM make two wiregate versions of the Alpha, a little one called the "Light" and a full size one - the "Trad", but I got sent the plaingate quickdraw - the straight-gate is called the "Pro" and bent gate the "Clip" - joined together by a variwidth nylon dogbone like the classic Petzl sports draws. This is DMM's full-on, top of the range sport climbing quickdraw, I felt a bit lame using it on 6as and the odd 6b or whilst trad climbing HVSs, but still I can say they are very easy to clip and reassuringly burly when you are working moves (yes, I work moves on 6bs - the shame...). At 45 grams for the Alpha Clip, they aren't a lot lighter than the aeros, so the technology has all gone into the ergonomics rather than weight saving, but on projects where the quickdraws are in place, that's what you'll be interested in anyway. So overall, super-luxury sport krabs - not very cheap - but you'll probably know whether the step up in price from aeros is worth it for you.

DMM Shadow quickdraws

The Shadow quickdraw (second runner down) on a trad route
I got a bunch of Shadow quickdraws to review for UKClimbing from DMM six years ago. As soon as I got to use them for regular summer cragging, I liked them a lot and my opinion hasn't changed in six years; they remain my favourite all-round rock climbing krabs. Those first six I got all those years back are normally the first six QDs I still use on just about every single-pitch route, be it sport or trad. The updated version of the Shadow hasn't changed hugely, the bent-gate version now shares the same great gate as the Aero and Alpha. They weren't hard to clip before, but I guess it's even a little easier now. The notching has changed very slightly on the straight-gate too; can't say I noticed a difference but DMM are sensible about these things and I'm sure its the result of suggestions from people who know what they are talking about. They now come with the variwidth dogbones, good for the sport climbers, although I've been perfectly happy with the narrower original dyneema tapes: fine to grab when dogging, but perhaps a tad more flexi for trad? It's not a huge issue though. The bent gate version is 43 grams, so the lightest of the three here. Not super-light by any means compared to modern crazy-light krabs; but these are big beefy easy to handle krabs that do everything well. The Shadows cost about halfway between the price of the Aeros and Alphas and I think are great value considering they make such good krabs for both sport and trad and, as my original ones will attest, they last very well too. The new colours look funky as well, although of course we're all too serious to care about such matters aren't we? One odd thing; the Shadows used to be rated at 10 kn for gate-open, now it's 9kn. 9 is plenty but 10 looks reassuring and I'm not sure why it has changed when I don't think the krab itself has changed much.