Comparing the DMM Dragonfly Vs. Black Diamond Z4.
Within the past year, several new micro cams have been developed which has greatly added to the options climbers have in protecting small cracks. Micro cams are subject to more scrutiny than cams in the medium to large sizes because they have a smaller margin for error in placements, are subject to factors like walking more easily, and can break under lower forces than larger cams. Two of the best cams to come out in the last year are the DMM Dragonfly and the Black Diamond Z4. While each are great for their own reason, here is an in depth comparison of the two after using both.
When comparing the DMM Dragonfly Vs. the Black Diamond Z4, design is an important difference between these two cams. The Dragonfly stem is far more flexible than other micro cams such as the Black Diamond X4 or the Wild Country Zeros. The flexible stem greatly minimizes walking which is particularly important for smaller cams. Furthermore, the extendable sling also helps reduce walking and rope drag.
One of the more noticeable features of the Dragonfly is the range of each piece. The Dragonflies make use of a smaller cam angle than other micro cams, and as such each cam has a slightly smaller range when compared to the Aliens which have a much larger cam angle. While this may not always be a benefit, the small cam angle means that these cams have more holding power–which is particularly important for cams in this size range. The Dragonflies cover cracks from 7.8 to 28.3mm. The size 1 dragonfly is one of the smallest cams rated for free climbing, beat only by the Black Diamond Z4.
While these are great cams, they do come with some drawbacks. With such a flexible stem, the larger sizes have a tendency to buckle slightly when fully retracted. In my opinion the benefits of the flexibility greatly outweigh this drawback. Furthermore, the low cam angle means that one must carry more cams to cover the same range as other cams.
The Black Diamond C4 has long been the gold standard for climbing cams, but they have struggled in recent years to produce a quality micro cam. The C3 cam, which was recently discontinued, was fantastic for certain applications due to its very narrow head and stiff stem. The X4 cam, which Black Diamond also recently stopped producing, was an alien-style cam that in my opinion did not add anything to the alien’s original design. The Black Diamond Z4 is an exception, and is a great middle ground between these two previous cam designs.
The Z4 is innovative because of the collar the Black Diamond designed to keep the cams stiff when being placed, but flexible after placement to prevent the cam from walking. In this way the Z4 builds upon both the alien-style design and the stiffer cam designs such as the C3 or Metolius Mastercam.
A potential drawback of the Z4 is the durability of the plastic collar that is so integral to the design of this cam. The collar can potentially break if loaded over an edge in a horizontal placement. For climbing areas like the gunks, the Dragonflys may serve better in the horizontal cracks there.
Both the DMM Dragonfly and the Black Diamond Z4 are great cams that improve upon earlier cam designs. The dragonflys are more flexible than the Z4s which can be an advantage for horizontal cams or placements that are prone to walking. The Z4s offer better handling which can help on difficult trad routes. I personally own and use both, and tend to prefer the Dragonflys for the areas that I climb in, though I will always keep my Z4s. When comparing the DMM Dragonfly Vs. Black Diamond Z4, it is hard to go wrong with either option.
Photos from Gear Institute