What Are Carabiners?
A carabiner is an essential tool for climbers. They resemble loops and hold the different parts of a climbing system together. It’s more or less a metal snap that is either made with lightweight aluminum or heavy-duty steel. They form the link in the safety chain in equipment used for maneuvering and belaying.
Carabiners for climbing and mountaineering are mostly made with Zicral. This is made with zinc alloy and aluminum. The two materials combine to give carabiners strength while remaining lightweight.
“Gates” are things attached with springs that give way under the climber’s finger pressure. The climber is then able to clip a rope or other climbing gear to it. The spring helps keep the gate closed.
How and where carabiners are going to be used determines the type of carabiners one should get. There are a few basic types of carabiners. Let’s first explore what they’re like.
The Different Shapes of Carabiners
The Offset D Carabiner Shape
Also known as the asymmetric D shape, these are slightly smaller at one end. This feature reduces the weight of the carabiner. They have larger gate openings, which makes clipping them relatively easier. They have lesser space inside because of their shape.
They’re like the asymmetric D shaped ones in that they have large gate openings too. That allows climbers to conveniently hook on ropes, and other gear. They are most helpful in belaying and rappelling. They are also useful in using at anchor points, or multipitch climbing.
They may sometimes be inscribed with the letters HMS along the spine. This indicates that they can be used with a Munter hitch, and that it has a wider top.
The shape of these carabiners makes it most efficient to use while climbing. The load slides to the non-gated side of the carabiner.
These are considered the original style of carabiners. Their smooth top and curved bottom restricts too much shifting of load. They have great gear holding capacity. The symmetry in this type of carabiners makes them useful for carabiner-brake rappels. Aid climbing is best with them as the load remains centered at their curve.
While we are at it, it is also important to know a thing or two about carabiner gates.
Straight Gate Carabiners
These gates are known to be strong and durable. They serve a variety of purposes which is why they are most commonly used. Often used for racking gear, these gates are mostly found on quick draws. These are spring loaded, and can be opened easily. They are called so because they’re completely straight. They close automatically as they are released.
Concave in shape, the bent gates are best for clipping a rope. Climbers mostly reserve them for the rope-end of quickdraws. They mostly come in asymmetric shape.
A loop of stainless steel is used in the wiregate carabiners. This decreases the weight, and doesn’t need extra parts found in traditional gates. The design lets the gate open wider. When being used in cold, wet conditions, they’re less likely to freeze.
Locking Gate Carabiners
A locking gate carabiner provides greater safety as they would not accidentally open. They could be locked manually, or come with an auto-locking system.
Screw Lock Gates
The user can manually screw the sleeve onto the gate and secure it.
Auto Lock Carabiners
They tend to be heavier but are best for belaying and rappelling. They ensure greater protection, and grant peace of mind to the climber.
Non-locking/ Snapgate Carabiners
All non-locking carabiners are referred to as “snapgate” carabiners. Snapgates is like a generic term for them.
There are some essentials to consider while choosing a snapgate carabiner:
- The gate open strength should be really good. Specially while using it with a GriGRi or a thick, old rope.
- It should not have flat long bars at the top. It should drive the rope into the spine.
- Having a minimal notch helps minimize the chances of items hanging up on the notch. This way the carabiner is loaded away from the spine.
- The spring tension should be firm, but not stiff.
- The nose should be shrouded to protect the gate from opening.
- Anodized snapgate carabiners do not corrode easily
- It is a good idea to have both ends of the carabiner in different colors. That helps show the end where the rope should be clipped, and where gear should be clipped. There is less chance of confusion in solid gate draws. They have straight gate for the gear and a bent gate for the rope. Wire gate carabiners are used the wrong way unless they are not marked with different colors.
Weight or Strength
This is another factor to consider when making your choice for the right carabiner. Ideally, climbers want to carry less weight while climbing. And, for that reason they would prefer getting lightweight carabiners. But lightweight carabiners are not always the safest choice. It is more important for them to be strong and durable considering the weight they may have to support. Lightweight carabiners usually have narrow rod sticks. This makes them less durable than heavier models.
Getting the Right Carabiner for the Right Application
Here is a summarized guide to choosing the right carabiner for the purpose it is meant to fulfill. Most climbers keep different carabiners handy to prepare for all kinds of adventure. Yet, for certain applications there are particular carabiners that could be used:
Belaying and Rappelling
For this purpose the best carabiners would be the pear shaped ones, with locking gates.
Wiregate assymetrical D-shaped carabiners are best for this.
The asymmetrical D-shaped carabiners with any kind of gate style would do.
There are three types that are used for such an application: the D, asymmetrical D, or oval carabiners.
Having understood the above will make it easier for users to decide on the right carabiners. This article will explore the best choice for carabiners.
Tips for Using Carabiners Correctly
Have you got the right gear?
First, climbers need to make sure that they have gotten the right gear. It should be well-suited for its purpose. And they should be compatible with the rest of the gear.
Positioning the Carabiner
They may be used on the harness, or anchor, or at the end of a lanyard. But when in use it should be ensured that they are positioned and closed properly.
Monitoring the Carabiner
While in use, carabiners constantly move around or bump against the rocks, or vibrate. That is the reason they need to be monitored constantly. It ensures that they don’t move into a dangerous position, or open accidentally. Carabiners are always stronger when closed.
The compact size and screw-lock locking system is perfect for all belaying purposes. It can connect a belay system to a harness. It is large enough to hold many items at a time, and hold a Munter hitch. The I beam construction makes it lightweight. And the keylock system keeps it from snagging during maneuvers.
The safety stripe on the carabiner alerts climbers if the gate is left unsecured. It can be used for both, snow climbing and rock climbing.
- Good gate clearance
- Security stripe
- Screwgate may get stuck
- The I beam construction wears out
This carabiner has a locking slide-gate mechanism. That reduces the risk of accidental opening. The easy-to-operate slide gate makes it easier to clip fast.
The carabiner is mase with durable aluminum. It has an H-profile construction that makes it light weight. The auto lock mechanism keeps the belay device in place. It can also move freely in all situations.
- Quick and easy to unlock
- Light weight
- Locking mechanism not very secure
- Locking slider blocks the closure of gate
The carabiner has been made with aluminum with an H cross section. This gives it impressive strength to weight ratio. The carabiner can easily be locked and unlocked with a simple flick of the finger. It is made for specific uses like at belay stations.
The key-lock feature helps clip easily. It also keeps ropes from getting snagged. A red colored indicator alerts the climber if the lock is open.
The compactness of the carabiner makes it easy to maneuver. It can be used in cold weather conditions also without the fear of freezing.
- Shape perfect for quick draw or alpine draw
- Being a specialty item it cannot be used for general purposes
- Not large enough to handle multiple ropes
This compact carabiner is made in the offset D shape. This gives the carabiner great strength to weight ratio. They’re best for use in climbing anchors.
It has a conventional screw lock closure to secure the gate from opening. The gate opening is good enough to clip into bolt hangers, and anchors made of thinner material.
- Comes in a pack of three
- Screw locks are easy to use
- Squeaky gate
- Larger and heavier than some other carabiners
- Only good for anchors or for holding thin pieces of gear
This carabiner is made using heavy duty, lightweight aluminum. The locking gate feature of the carabiner allows for a worry free ascent and descent. Clipping and unclipping are both snagless processes with this carabiner.
They are the perfect size for anchors and the locking mechanism is reassuring. Their size is compact enough to clip into chains and hangers. Yet, they have enough space inside to run a couple of ropes through.
- Sturdy safety lock
- A bit too small
- Flat shape doesn’t allow easy belaying
These are wiregate carabiners that can be used for camping, hiking, or backpacking. Their palm-sized design makes them lightweight, and easy to carry.
These carabiners are made with aircraft grade aluminum. They are rust proof, and hence, durable. Weight limit for these carabiners is 2697 lbs which is about the same as a mini Cooper car.
- Rust proof
- Can carry optimum load
- Comes in pack of four
- Not meant for adventure sports
Being a fully functional carabiner, the Camp Nano is extremely lightweight and compact. It has a refined gate with an opening good enough for easy clipping. It’s been designed to handle ropes of all diameters.
Available in 8 colors, it’s a cold-forged, wiregate carabiner.
- Thin profile
- Easy to carry, and fits into small openings
- Significantly reduces bulk
- Not easy to handle with bare hands because of compact size
- Handling issue overshadows its lightweight feature
The one that stands out to me amongst all the carabiners is the PETZL Attache. It is one carabiner that is found on most climbers’ racks. The I beam construction that is anodized an orange color is a representation of HMS carabiners. The screw lock shuts really well and easy. It has maintained a flawless record in a range of uses. It has proved to be sturdy and useful in sports, and in all seasons, and conditions. This versatile carabiner will do well for climbers, hikers, and canyoneers.