Long Term Review: Cassin X-Dream

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of the name. X-Dream. X, really? Dream? A bit grandiose, isn’t it? Not that other tools’ names make much sense, either. And at least it’s consistent with other Cassin products, X-Light, X-Gyro, X-etc. But, then again, names aren’t all that important if the performance is there and here the X-Dream most certainly delivers.

Since receiving my review pair, I’ve actually purchased a second set and use both on a near-daily basis: one is set up with the the X-Trigger (aka third grip rest) and the Race (competition) pick for training and competition use, the other has the stock Mixte pick for ice and mixed climbing. Both tools have seen hundreds of hours of use, and have been loaned out countless times to anyone interested in trying them out. The verdict? Let me put it this way: every single person that has demoed my tools either wanted to buy my pair, or went out and bought a set. Yes, they are that good.

TheAlpineStart_Cassin_X-Dream_Review-3My competition and training set-up on the left, with the rest positioned for extra reach from fig-4’s and taped shaft for something soft to sink my teeth into. More normal-looking ice, alpine & mixed set-up on the right, with minimal taping and no extra grips.

I touched on the handle design in my initial report so won’t go into the details too much. My tools have ended up with the larger finger-rest (X-Finger Large in Cassin-speak), I took out the rubber spacer-pad (X-Rest) and wrapped the handles and shaft in a mix of bicycle tube (how-to video coming soon) and Magic Wrap tape. The handle has ended up in the Ice setting, for everything from mild ice to horizontal roofs: the Dry setting is too extreme for my liking and also decreases the tool’s reach (needing all the help I can get, I like the extra length!). The adjustability of the handle presents a potential weak-point, as the whole thing is held together using a single nut and bolt. However, in the year-or-so that I’ve been using the tools, I’ve had to tighten this bolt up once — and I suspect that it came loose when I took it with me for a tumble down some ice. There has been no movement, wobbling or even creaks from the handle otherwise. A number of climbers have commented on not liking the handle’s shape much when they held the tool in a shop. This changed to “these are amazing” as soon as they swung them into some ice! The handle is pretty amazing, and I really appreciate how much you can personalize it.

There is only major design flaw one that I’ve found — the handle doesn’t fit overly small or large hands. The fixed-size design is incredibly strong, but is too big for small hands, and too tight for large hands (I’m generally a medium-large glove, depending on application and desired fit). While there is some adjustability thanks to the X-Rest pad, it changes the handle’s interior volume by 5mm or so, not much. There is a relatively easy — but probably expensive — solution, and that is to have handles in different sizes. If that ever happens, you can be sure I’ll post about it!

TheAlpineStart_Cassin_X-Dream_Review-1The rubber spacer pads snap into the bottom of the handle; I’ve gotten used to climbing without them.

TheAlpineStart_Cassin_X-Dream_Review-2I’ve come to really like the large trigger finger rest. Stock finger rest shown, as well.

With regards to picks, there are three available: Mixte, Ice and Race. The Mixte pick works very well on ice, rock, frozen moss, trees, whatever. It’s the all-around go-to. I have two sets of the Mixte pick, a beaten-up one for drytooling and mixed, and a factory-sharp one for ice, swapping them out as I go. The picks are cheap, and I figure this way they’ll last longer. There have been some reports of picks bending but mine are still perfectly straight, despite all the abuse they’ve been subjected to.

TheAlpineStart_Cassin_X-Dream_Review_Picks_4The Race, Mixte and Ice picks. Note the aggressive teeth all over the Race.

The Ice pick has the same angle, but a slightly different curve, and has a small hammer. I figure this should be called the Alpine pick, and once matched with the forthcoming “spiked” handle (as seen at OR in January: pic) it’ll make an awesome technical alpine climbing tool. The Ice pick climbs ice as well as the Mixte pick, which is very well indeed, and is good on rock, too. The biggest difference is less aggressive teeth on the topside, making it a bit more wobble-prone in stein holds.

TheAlpineStart_Cassin_X-Dream_Review_Picks_3The Mixte pick overlaid on top of the Ice pick. Angle is the same, just on a different curve. Penetration and cleaning is great with either pick.

Finally, the Race pick is optimized for competition use. It is a beefier version of the Mixte, with more aggressive hooking teeth, more teeth on the topside and a comp-profiled first tooth. I’m very impressed that a company actually offers such a dedicated pick! Naturally, the Race excels at comp-style climbing and indoor drytooling. The massive first tooth offers great stability on even the thinnest holds, and the aggressive top teeth bite into everything when in a stein. The pick works ok on ice, too, though it tends to stick a bit.

I’ve ended up using the Mixte pick most of the time, as inevitably I end up mixed climbing almost every time I go to find some ice, and appreciate the slight edge in rock performance it has over the Ice. It also comes stock on the tools, so it’s what I’ve gotten used to.

TheAlpineStart_Cassin_X-Dream_Review_Picks_2The Race overlaid on the Mixte. They are identical save for tooth profiles, and thickness (see below). Notice the more-forward placed ‘hooking’ tooth on the Race.

Several keen readers have pointed out that the picks are of varying thicknesses, as follows: Mixte “the thickness gradually increasing from 3 to 4 mm, 10 cm from the tip;” the Ice “gradually widens from 3 to 4 mm, 8 cm back from the tip of the pick;” and the Race “At just 4 cm from the tip, the cross-section…widens from 3 mm to 4 mm.” Curious why the Ice pick thickened sooner than the Mixte pick, I posed the question to Glen Griscom, Sales Manager at CAMP USA: “They both are 3mm at the tip and transition to 4mm at either 8cm or 10cm.  The Ice pick transitions sooner (at 8cm) to increase mass to aid penetration.  The primary reason the Mixed Pick transition occurs at 10cm into the pick rather than 8cm  is to give consistent placement width throughout most of the pick length.”

TheAlpineStart_Cassin_X-Dream_Review_Picks_1The Race and Mixte picks compared once more.

Some will also miss a dedicated tether point, and this is definitely an issue on bigger routes where dropping a tool can have serious consequences. The handle does have a hole, through which you can thread a lanyard, but it’s not an ideal solution. I’ve been using Camp’s X-Gyro leash which has two attachment options: either a carabiner, or a loop of cord for girth-hitching the handle, which gets around needing a clip-in point. Still, it’s something I miss every once in a while and am looking forward to the spiked Alpine handle, which has a biner hole in in the spike, out of the way of your hands.

TheAlpineStart_Cassin_X-Dream_Review-6The handle/shaft connection point has come loose on my tools only once in over a year of near-daily use.

TheAlpineStart_Cassin_X-Dream_Review-4My two sets of Mixte picks: the beaten-up ones I use for drytooling, and the cleaner ice-use-only ones.

The swing is so natural and well-balanced that it makes (some) other tools feel like primitive hammers in comparison. The picks are awesome — all three of them. The Ice is great for ice, light-duty mixed and all-around alpine adventures; the Mixte is also great all-around, though less well-suited to alpine duty as it lacks the hammer but better at hard drytooling where more delicate hooking is the norm; and the Race is stellar on the plastic holds used in competitions and training gyms. I really like the handle; it has redefined ice tool ergonomics for me. I particularly like the finger rest, which surprised me. It’s a subtle change, but I feel my swings are more precise and better controlled with the large finger rest in place. I absolutely love these tools. They’re my go-to standard against which all others are measured.

13 thoughts on “Long Term Review: Cassin X-Dream

  1. Sami says:

    Great review – I have to say fully agree about great tool.
    About clipping point: Here is a toning I did:
    Used dreml to make “tunnel” for 4mm cord that I hockey taped for stiffness. (Also clued in the bottom ripper just to make sure it stays on, since having small hand). And make everything grippy used very cheep and effective volcanic tape to cover entire handle.

    https://www.thealpinestart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Cassin_tuning_1.jpg

    https://www.thealpinestart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Cassin_tuning_3.jpg

  2. Noah says:

    I had the same solution for the clipping point. You can easily drill two holes through the plastic at the bottom of the handle, right up into the clip in hole. Will try to email you pictures of my solution later today.

    Honestly, it would be super easy for Cassin to modify the molds to make this stock. It’s a near ideal solution.

    • Noah says:

      Ah, so I had a slightly different solution. No tape needed. Just drill straight through the bottom, alongside the aluminum, into the handle hole. Thread through, tie knot at bottom, and done.

      The knot I am using is basically a double fisherman’s, but with the opposite free side inside the two knots. No promises on strength, but it does what I want it to.

      https://www.thealpinestart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Photo-Apr-10-10-55-05-AM.jpg

      https://www.thealpinestart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Photo-Apr-10-10-54-33-AM.jpg

      https://www.thealpinestart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Photo-Apr-10-10-54-23-AM.jpg

        • Noah says:

          No problem! One quick warning for anyone doing this. The aluminum on the inside of the handle is very, very soft. I accidentally shaved a bit of it off when drilling without even noticing. While I’m not particularly concerned with losing strength from these few mm, it does create a very sharp metal edge right at the hole which the cord runs over.

          On another note, I’m one of those who have been disappointed with the softness of the picks. My anecdotal evidence suggests that they deform and bend way more easily than the BD/Petzl equivalents. Wouldn’t mind quite as much if the picks were more easily field swappable (like the BDs), but so it goes.

  3. Jeff says:

    Raf, do you know where I could find 2 sets of x dreams? We’re looking for some for our mountain rescue team and after trying yours out at Cody ice festival I’d really like to go with them but everyone seems to be out of stock. Thanks , Jeff

  4. Jason Baker says:

    How do the xdreams work for more moderate alpine ice routes just curious if the handle and curve are a bit much on easier ice? I have the alpine versions which are great on steep ice just haven’t tried on alpine moderate yet and wondering if a quiver of just a xdream is enough.

    • Raf says:

      I’ve climbed a lot of WI2-3 with them… it’s not the best tool for the job but they’re workable. As a quiver of one the Alpine X-Dream is hard to beat, but if you can afford another pair of tools, something like the BD Cobra, Petzl Quark, Grivel North Machine or Cassin X-All Mountain would pair nicely for more moderate routes.

  5. PBeck says:

    I’m just curious if anyone has had issues with the aluminum serrations on the top section of the grip?
    I do not have big hands, but bad circulation so I tend to wear big gloves and mitts. Within a few attempts of sliding my hands in and out of the grips my gloves were getting ripped to shreds. I do not see the need for the serrations inside the grips so I took a file and smoothed it all out so my gloves slide in and out quite readily now. I just do not see when I would require using this feature. Any thoughts?
    Considering I always carry at least 3 pairs of gloves and a set of mitts it could get quite costly in shredded gloves. I slightly larger handle would be nice for those with either big hands or gloves.

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