Forums: Climbing Information: Gear Heads: Re: [qwert] Carabiner and quickdraw FAQ *draft*: Edit Log


Mar 11, 2008, 9:18 AM

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Re: [qwert] Carabiner and quickdraw FAQ *draft*
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  • What types of carabiners are there, what are they used for and which ones should i get?

There are many different types of carabiners out there.

First thing to distinguish them is the material they are made of. There is aluminum and steel.

Steel carabiners

Steel is stronger than aluminim, but its way heavier, so it doesn't get used much in climbing. Steel carabiners are mostly used in rescue work or in industrial purposes (and recently in slacklining). Sometimes it gets used in climbing, for example if one is climbing on very abrasive rock like sandstone, where the rope will take up small particles, abrading the belay carabiner very fast. In such a situation it also could make sense to use steel carabiners for your toprope powerpoint. If you decide to get steel carabiners, get some from respected manufacturers. Don't go to the nearest home depot and get the cheap things they have. these aren't meant for climbing use!

Aluminum carabiners

Aluminum (or better, the various aluminum alloys) is the standard material used for climbing carabiners. its light, and albeit weaker than steel still strong enough for carabiners. When looking at the different aluminum carabiners, the first thing you will notice is the different colors. If the carabiner is silver, its the color of the aluminum. if it isn't silver, it is anodized. The anodizing creates a layer that will protect the carabiner from corrosion, but since aluminum isn't corroding much, it doesn't matter if a carabiner is anodized or not. It can be useful if you are using a color coding system on your rack, or to make them easier to spot, but mostly its about being pretty.

The next thing is whether a carabiner is a locking carabiner or a non locking carabiner.

Locking carabiners

These have, you might have already guessed it, some kind of locking mechanism, that prevent their gate from opening unintentionally.

From left to right: Oval locker, D-shaped locker, asymmetric D-shaped locker and pear shaped locker (Munter hitch locker or HMS locker).

Ovals are an old form, and don't get used much anymore, just as D-shaped carabiners. Some manufacturers still make them, and they do still have their place, but stuff like carabiner brakes and advanced rigging is beyond this FAQ. If you already have some, you can of course use them (as long as they are still working, and are not too old). They aren't unsafe, its just that asymmetric D-shaped lockers are better in most situations (and being newer, they are also often lighter than old carabiners of the same strength). As mentioned, asymmetric D-shaped lockers are what is used for most purposes nowadays. They do come in many different forms, just as their non locking counterparts (look there for further information on the different shapes). Pear shaped lockers are mostly used for belaying and rappelling, either combined with a designated belay/ rappel device (stuff like the ATC, the reverso, and other tubes, or figure eights) or alone with a munter hitch. They are also nice as a big powerpoint locker in which you can clip a lot of other stuff due to its size. The carabiners pictured are all screw gate lockers. there are various other locking mechanisms, but since i like screw gates best, i don't have any other types. could someone add something on the different mechanisms?


Article about which lockers to chose, by british alpinist Andy Kirkpatrick.
More aimed at experienced and alpine climbers, but nevertheless some good "all purpose" informations.

Another article by the same guy as above, this time about the number of lockers needed. Again, it is a bit to specialized, but does offer some valuable information.

Non locking carabiners

These don't have a locking mechanism. Non locking carabiners are the bread and butter of any rack. They get used for quickdraws, for racking nuts and cams, and for dozens of other purposes. They are available in many different forms, almost all of them being a variation of the asymmetric D-shape. Oval and D-shaped ones do also exist, but the stuff said about them at locker does apply here too. Additionally due to their form Oval non lockers have a very low open gate strength, which is something that should be avoided (see: can carabiners still break?). Apart from the obvious things like shape and color, the most differences are in open gate strength, weight and price, as well as size.

At the moment ultralight carabiners seem to be all the rage, and it definitely is a nice thing to have to carry less, but the disadvantages of this are a higher price, and often reduced size and strength.
Here is a short overview about some of the carabiners i have, with weight in grams, open gate strength and price level. The petzl spirit is considered somewhat of a benchmark, so it is also pictured with the small carabiners, to have something to compare them too (apart from the scale).

Bigger carabiners, from left to right:
Petzl spirit: 9,5kN, 48g, expensive.
Kong ???: 7kN, 49g cheap.
Wild country Helium:10kN, 34g, expensive
Salewa SUB: 9kN, 34g, medium

Smaller carabiners, from left to right:
Petzl spirit, shown again for size.
Kong Helium: 7kN, 36g, medium
Black Diamond Neutrino: 8kN, 34g, medium
Black Diamond Oz: 8kN, 28g, expensive
Camp Nano (old model): 9kN, 28g, expensive

So which carabiners and how many should i get?

Which ones you should get depends. apart from open gate strength (see can carabiners still break), its a matter of what suits you best.

Some people don't like small carabiners, some don't like wiregates, some want keylocks and so on. Number wise you wont need many non locking carabiners, since non locking ones are mostly used in quickdraws. Two or three free ones should do it, to clip some random stuff, or for slings. Lockers are needed for the belay device and for securing yourself to the belay, so that makes at least two, one of them being a big pear shaped one. Having some spare lockers is always nice, but if you are carrying so many that you are getting weighted down by them, you are doing something wrong.

As on which carabiners to get my suggestion would be to get a big carabiner, with keylock, high open gate strength, that is light and has a good price. However such a carabiner doesn't exist.

As you can see in the list, you cant have everything. you can have a big and light and strong carabiner, but you cant have that for cheap. You can have the lightest carabiner that there is at the moment, but you cant have that carabiner being big and strong (with the new camp nano being even smaller). There are also many different big, strong and cheap carabiners, but they aren't light.

You have to ask your self whats the most important for you: Are you doing trad or alpine stuff with big racks and long routes? You might want to have a look at the weight and if you can use them with gloves. Are you doing sport climbing with preclipped draws? Weight isn't an issue here, so get strong and easy to clip carabiners. And so on ...

If you want specific information on a specific carabiner, you should look into the gear section of this site.
There you can find ratings and reviews about specific carabiners.
Also you can search the forums for it. Typing "manufaturer name carabiner name" into the search box, will often turn up with discussions that contain info about that carabiner. Another possibility would be to click on one of the big ads on this site, by the likes like rei, backcountrygear and whatever. Most of these big retailers have also the option that their customers rate and comment the stuff they buy there. And last but not least the manufacturers themselves do often some good information about the stuff they sell, including intended use, and at which kind of climbers the respective product is aimed.

Gate and nose variations

Another thing that exists in different variations are the gates and the noses of the carabiners.

Clockwise from the top:
Salewa SUB: strange outward bent wiregate, non hooded nose
Faders ???: bent solid gate
Lucky Metor: another bent solid gate
Kong ???: Bent solid keylock gate
Austrialpin easy magic: mildy bent solid gate, keylock variant
Stubai supreme rope: bent wiregate, hooded nose
Salewa SUB: straight solid gate
Stubai supreme top: straight wiregate, hooded nose
Black diamond Oz: straight wiregate, mildly hooded nose
Petzl Spirit: straight solid gate, keylock
Kong Helium: straight solid gate, keylock

left, from top:
Faders ???: Non keylock
Kong ???: Keylock
Black Diamond Neutrino: Hooded Nose
right, from top:
Austrialpin Easy Spezial: old school claw type nose
Salwa SUB: non hooded nose
Wild country Helium: Wirelock/ wiregate Keylock nose
Black Diamond Oz: Mildly hooded nose

As you can see, there are many variants. Solid gates are the "traditional way" carabiners are made. A variation of this is the keylock. Keylock noses have the advantage that they wont get easily caught at stuff (be it bolt hangers or slings), so it makes the carabiners easier to use. The bent gate variation is meant for the rope end of the quickdraw, since it makes clipping a bit easier. As you can see some of the gate have notches or grooves on them. this is meant to make them easier to operate. again it is a matter of personal taste if you need such notches, and if yes, which manufacturer suits you best.

Wiregates are are "new" invention. Its biggest advantages are reduced weight, and added safety against open gate loading (see can carabiners still break). The disadvantage was that they couldn't be made in a keylock variant, but this has been solved, with carabiners like the Wild Country Helium or the DMM Shield. Wiregates also Exist in a bent shape, but most manufacturers just use straight gates, since wiregates are mostly easy to clip, thanks to the protruded nose (which is not found on straight solid gates). Some wiregates have a hooded nose, helping to protect the carabiner from getting opened by getting rubbed across the rock.

Here is an article about wiregates by british alpinist Andy Kirkpatrick about wiregates. As you will see from the statements in it, it is a bit older. but that gives an interesting overview about how wiregates at first where only slowly accepted by the climbing community.

Unusual carabiners

And apart from all the above described standard forms of carabiners there is also a big number of strange, or non standard carabiners. The most well known one is surely the wiregate, which was deemed a stupid or at least very strange idea by many, but its advantages helped it to become a accepted type very quickly (see link above). Many others weren't so lucky, so there is a number of discontinued or niche products out there. Maybe some will catch on, but a lot wont.

Heres a small sample, from left to right:
DMM Revolver: carabiner with built in pulley. Useful on meandering pitches to reduce rope drag. But heavy and expensive, and can only be used on the rope side of a draw (not very multi purpose). The british site has a very enthusiastic review about it, but given the fact that it is a quite expensive and specialized piece of gear, it is not something one must get as a beginner.
Stubai locker: Unusual shape for its age, and a plastic sleeve as locking mechanism. Having only a little piece of plastic preventing your locker from opening isn't as confidence inspiring as a big piece of aluminum on conventional lockers.
Salewa ???: big plastic grips that are supposedly making clipping easier. the silver part at the draw side gets levered upwards when weighted, making it impossible for the gate to get opened. Heavy as hell, and way to expensive.

Some of the strange or special carabiners have their niches, but for a beginner normal carabiners should do it.


Article about the different carabiner types by the user shoo. A lot of good and detailed information about the various types and shapes of carabiners.

(This post was edited by qwert on Jun 3, 2009, 7:35 AM)
Attachments: bigger biners.jpg (112 KB)
  gate types.jpg (99.7 KB)
  Nose types.JPG (99.7 KB)
  Strange biners.jpg (85.5 KB)
  smaller biners.jpg (49.2 KB)
  locker types.jpg (63.9 KB)

Edit Log:
Post edited by qwert () on Mar 11, 2008, 9:25 AM
Post edited by qwert () on Mar 11, 2008, 9:33 AM
Post edited by qwert () on Mar 11, 2008, 9:39 AM
Post edited by qwert () on Mar 24, 2008, 4:10 AM
Post edited by qwert () on Mar 24, 2008, 4:36 AM
Post edited by qwert () on Jun 3, 2009, 7:35 AM

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