GEAR REVIEW – DMM Vault ($44.95)
A few years ago, I found myself on the West Flank of the Eiger, descending from it’s knife edge ridge after having climbed its historic North Face. The winds increased and the impending doom felt by the oncoming storm was very much a real threat. Time was ticking and I craved for a speedy return to the safety of mulled wine and aprés ski parties flanking the base of the Eiger. Reaching across my harness, I adjust a strap on my pack and manage to catch my arm in the gate of the plastic ice clipper adorned on either side of my harness, racked with a lot of $$ in the form of ice screws. The ice clipper snapped in two and after yard saling my costly screws along a section of the West Flank, I lost five or so minutes collecting the screws, re-racking what I could on the other ice clipper and placing the rest in my pack. I was frustrated, exhausted, but really psyched I didn’t lose anything and proceeded on with my descent. I wish I could say that was the first, or last, plastic ice clipper I snapped in two.
Until this year, plastic ice clippers were the best racking options available for winter ice climbing. As a community of ice climbers, we settled with what we had; sometimes even carrying spare plastic racking biners on larger trips. Key words being, ‘until this year’.
DMM has reinvented ice racking biners with their advent of the Vault. No stranger to the intricacies of metalworking, it is not surprising that DMM reinvented the classic plastic ice racking biner with a more durable version. DMM provided our testers with two non-locking Vault racking carabiners for the purpose of this review.
Bottom Line – DMM Vault racking carabiners are a game changer for winter climbing. In one swoop, the plastic ice screw racking biners have become obsolete.
- Construction – metal not plastic, meaning no more broken plastic racking biners at the least opportune time
- Available in a locking version – a great option for when you think you may need it; whether scumming a squeeze chimney or on descent
- Compatible with all ice clipper/caritool slot harnesses – its design fits into harnesses equipped with slots for screw racking biners (described as ice clipper or caritool slots on harnesses)
- Snag resistant nose – minimize snagging when you’re pumped, reaching for that stubby
- Wide basket – accommodates six ice screws with ease
- Ridged, flat top – allows you to rack screws on top of biner and sort through screws for ease of size selection
- Sits flat on waist – the back of the vault is machined flat so that it sits flush against harness and hips
- Sturdy – will not twist out of ice clipper slots, largely due to rubber elastics that force the Vaults to stay put in the designated slot.
- Once they’re on, they’re on – the durability and stability of the Vaults, also make them a pain in the butt to remove and install on a harness, not impossible just somewhat time consuming. We recommend having a designated winter climbing harness to avoid the struggle of swapping out the Vaults. I don’t consider this a problem, just something the buyer should be aware of.
- Expensive – Retailing at $45, a pair will set you back just under a Benjamin, whereas the plastic versions are a meager $10 each. Adding up the cost of the six ice screws I stand to lose with the plastic ice clippers, the cost is a fair investment.