Best Carabiners for Rock Climbing: The Top 5 of 2018
|Top Pick: Wild Country Helium 2||$$|
|Best Value: Black Diamond Neutrino||$|
|Budget Buy: Mad Rock Ultra-Light Bent||$|
|Best Lightweight Carabiner: Black Diamond Oz||$|
|Best Standard Gate Carabiner: Petzl Djinn||$|
The commonality and necessity of the ‘biner has led to an absurd number of options to choose from. In all my time writing about climbing gear, I’ve never seen so many options for one piece of gear. How many are we talking?
Hundreds upon hundreds. 🙁
If you need a good carabiner, it can be hard to know where to look. For that reason, we put together this guide to the best carabiners of 2018. Whether you need the lightest and snazziest ‘biner or a simple and cheap option, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
And, to do so, you’ll only have to read about five carabiners, not 500.
Yet, if for whatever reason our top five picks don’t strike your fancy, I’ve included some advice after the reviews for how to pick the right carabiner for you.
After reading this article, you’ll know exactly which carabiner to get.
Table of Contents
- Top Pick: Wild Country Helium 2
- Best Value: Black Diamond Neutrino
- Budget Buy: Mad Rock Ultra-Light Bent
- Best Lightweight Carabiner: Black Diamond Oz
- Best Standard Gate Carabiner: Petzl Djinn
- How to Choose the Best Carabiner for You
- How to Take Care of Your Carabiners to Dramatically Increase Their Lifespan
- When to Retire Carabiners to Limit Your Risk of Serious Injury: 6 Scenarios
Top Pick: Wild Country Helium 2
It can be hard to determine whether one carabiner performs better than another. They all seem so similar sometimes and perform relatively simple functions.
Despite this, the Wild Country Helium 2 earned our Top Pick because it was a clear notch above the competition. It stood out in a crowded field for its well-roundedness and reliability.
In terms of build and performance, there is little to fault this carabiner over. It is lightweight (as the name implies) and strong due to its hot-forging manufacturing process.
Yet, its lightness doesn’t come at a trade-off with size. The Helium 2 is still large enough for big-handed climbers to handle easily and can fit multiple climbing ropes.
The Helium 2 is a wiregate carabiner. In the past, there was an obvious trade-off between wiregate and standard gate carabiners: wiregates were lighter and less prone to gate flutter but their exposed hook (AKA notch) in the nose could get snagged on ropes or other gear when unclipping.
The Helium 2 solves this issue with a hood that covers the hook and prevents snagging from occurring. You get the lightness of a wiregate with the snag-free unclipping action of a standard gate. (Also, the Helium 2 is a great carabiner for ice climbing since the wiregate is less likely to freeze shut.)
As for downsides, pretty much the only thing to gripe about is the price. The Helium 2’s performance comes at a cost. It is quite pricey, and you can find other carabiners for one-half the price or less.
Some of these cheaper carabiners are on this list. So, if you’re penny pinching, scroll down for our Best Value and Budget Buy picks.
Best Value: Black Diamond Neutrino
Black Diamond calls the Neutrino a “wiregate carabiner for the weight-conscious climber.”
We call it a darn good deal.
The Neutrino is a solid ‘biner at a solid price. It works as you expect a carabiner to work and you can satiate your ‘biner need with it without breaking the bank.
While the Neutrino is smaller and less burly than some other carabiners, it still clips smoothly and easily. Unclipping, though, is not its forte since, unlike our Top Pick, it has an exposed hook that can snag.
At 1.3 oz, it is a lightweight carabiner and can be used as such. Recent advancements in manufacturing, though, have churned out lighter ‘biners (such as the Black Diamond Oz, below).
For a basic, reliable carabiner at a comfortable price, the Neutrino is the best option in our opinion. And despite it earning our Best Value pick, the Neutrino isn’t the cheapest option on the list. That one is up next…
Budget Buy: Mad Rock Ultra-Light Bent
Raw ‘biner performance comes at a cost. If you don’t need the performance or don’t want to pay the price for it, our Budget Buy pick will solve your dilemma.
The Mad Rock Ultra-Light Bent carabiner is even cheaper than our Best Value pick and retails for less than half the price of our Top Pick.
The Ultra-Light Bent is a small (Mad Rock would say “lightweight”) wiregate carabiner with smooth gate action and decent handling. It’s smaller size isn’t ideal for bigger hands, though.
Like our Best Value pick, it has the exposed hook problem common of older wiregate models. Mad Rock probably won’t update the design anytime soon, though, since manufacturing a carabiner with a hood over the hook is more expensive.
The downsides mainly stem from it’s smaller size: not as easy to handle, doesn’t clip as easily, doesn’t hold as many ropes. But of course, the main upside is the price — this ‘biner is cheap.
Climber on a budget, meet your new best friend.
Looking for a cheap standard gate ‘biner instead? Our Budget Buy pick for a standard gate carabiner is the Mad Rock Super Tech Keylock.
Best Lightweight Carabiner: Black Diamond Oz
If weight is of the utmost importance to you, we recommend going with a top lightweight carabiner. The Black Diamond Oz is just that.
The Oz gets its name from the fact that it weighs only one ounce. It is one of the lightest carabiners available yet still well-made enough to be used in most any situation.
In fact, while Black Diamond advises against using the Oz as your workhorse sport climbing carabiner, some reviewers — such as Rock and Ice — have pointed out that the Oz quickdraw works well in most situations:
“A few outings with the Oz made me wonder if I’ll ever go back to larger, heavier quickdraws for anything other than big-wall racking.”
While the Oz could be used in many climbing situations, Black Diamond does have a point. The Oz’s smaller size makes it harder to clip, and it can’t handle as many drops until failure. Hardly sounds like a ‘biner you want to make your workhorse.
Best to save it for the situations that call for lightweight ‘biners.
The Oz retails for a decent price despite its impressive lightness and hooded notch. The combination of price, performance, and weight makes it, in our minds, the best lightweight carabiner available today.
Best Standard Gate Carabiner: Petzl Djinn
If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve noticed that all our picks so far have been wiregate carabiners. You might be thinking…
But what about standard gate carabiners?
For those of you looking for standard gate carabiners, sometimes mistakenly referred to as keylock carabiners, our recommendation is the Petzl Djinn.
The Djinn could be described as a workhorse ‘biner. It is large and sturdy. Ropes pull through smoothly and it be clipped and unclipped easily. Its keylock design means there’s no hook in the nose and thus no chance of snagging.
The main downside with the Djinn is that it’s relatively heavy so it’s not the best option when you need to go lightweight. Also, the standard gate closure makes it not the best choice for ice climbing since it is more prone to freezing shut.
How to Choose the Best Carabiner for You
It’s overwhelming to an extreme degree to buy carabiners if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Which is exactly why I wanted to lay out for you what to look for in your next carabiner. Should you venture off on your own to buy your carabiners, you need to understand how to choose the right carabiner for your particular situation.
First, realize that there is no perfect carabiner for every situation. So, rather than looking for one carabiner to rule them all, consider your unique circumstances:
What type of climbing will you be doing? What will you be using your carabiner for? How long will your approaches be? Are you concerned with rack weight? Size? Price?
With these questions in mind, consider the following criteria:
Locking vs. Non-Locking
If you’re still confused about whether or not to get a locking or non-locking carabiner, there’s a general rule of thumb to help you out. When a single carabiner failure would lead to a system-wide failure, use a locking carabiner. In any other case, use a non-locking carabiner.
(This reddit thread has an insightful discussion into the topic for those interested in learning more.)
The list above includes non-locking carabiners only. We will soon publish an article on the best locking carabiners.
Ease of Opening & Closing the Gate (Gate Tension)
Some carabiners are more difficult to open than others. It mostly depends on your personal preference how much tension you’d like the gate to have (which translates into how hard it is to open and close it). Just knowing that gate tension varies across ‘biners, though, can be helpful.
Beginner climbers might want to consider getting something a easier to open since that will make clipping and unclipping easier in the beginning. It can take a little practice to get good at clipping and unclipping ‘biners and draws so you might want to make it easy on yourself.
It should go without saying, but never climb with a carabiner with such low gate tension that it doesn’t fully close automatically.
Trad climbers and some sport climbers will need to carry lots of carabiners and quickdraws.
For this reason, if minimizing rack weight is an important goal for you, consider the weight of the carabiners you’re interested in buying. Some are designed to be lightweight while others are meant to be larger and burlier.
Wiregate vs. Non-Wiregate
Carabiners normally come with two types of gates: wire and standard (non-wire).
There are a few differences between the types. Wiregate ‘biners tend to be lighter and less susceptible to gate flutter, AKA gate whiplash (when the gate opens up upon abrupt deceleration or impact).
Standard carabiners tend to be keylock which means they don’t have an exposed hook which can snag on your climbing rope or other climbing gear.
Wiregate ‘biners, on the other hand, tend to be lighter which makes them better suited for trad climbers or sport climbers looking to minimize rack weight. Also, wiregate carabiners are less susceptible to icing over in cold, damp weather so they are better for ice climbers, too.
If you decide to go with a wiregate carabiner, you’ll need to make another decision: hooded or no?
In other words, you’ll have to pick whether or not the ‘biner has a hood coverin the hook on the nose. A hooded hook reduces the chance that your carabiner will snag on your rope. The downside is that these types of carabiners are more expensive.
Other Minor Considerations
The above criteria are, in my opinion, the most important when choosing a good carabiner. There are a few other minor things you might want to consider, though:
Sometimes you need bigger carabiners, sometimes you need smaller ones. Size affects the carabiner’s weight, ease of handling, and number of ropes it can hold, so go for the carabiner size that meets the criteria you need in these departments.
Bigger carabiners tend to be heavier but easier to handle and can hold more ropes, and vice versa for smaller carabiners.
This consideration isn’t only aesthetic. Picking your carabiners based on color can be pragmatic. Color-coding your quickdraws, for example, can help you know which ‘biner is meant for which side when clipping.
BENT VS. STRAIGHT GATE
The gates on carabiners, whether wiregate or standard, can be either bent or straight.
Bent gate carabiners make clipping easier and are commonly found on the rope-end of quickdraws.
CE certification is a process which climbing gear manufacturers go through to ensure their gear meets safety standards put forth by the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA).
It is required for manufacturers to be CE certified in order to sell their gear in Europe, and most US manufacturers build their gear to these standards, too.
While it isn’t necessary that your carabiners be CE certified, it suggests a basic level of quality. You can read more about the ratings and what they mean here.
How to Take Care of Your Carabiners to Dramatically Increase Their Lifespan
Poorly cared for ‘biners won’t last that long.
If you don’t clean your dirty ‘biners, the pieces of dirt will cause extra friction when rubbed up against your climbing rope and wear your ‘biners (and rope) down faster.
It pays in the long run to learn how to properly care for your carabiners. Here’s how to do it:
- Remove dust, dirt, and grime. Blow on the ‘biner and wash it with warm water and soap. Air-dry it afterwards.
- Lubricate the gate. According to REI, dry graphite or any dry, waxed-based lubricant works well. Wipe of any excess lubricant.
- Clean them after contact with saltwater. Or after you climb in an area with salty air.
- Store them properly. In dry locations where they won’t be exposed to extreme temperatures or corrosive chemicals.
Regularly cleaning and lubricating your carabiners and storing them properly will help them last a long time.
Eventually, though, every carabiner will need to be retired. Read on for how to know when to chuck your carabiner or keep on using it.
When to Retire Carabiners to Limit Your Risk of Serious Injury: 6 Scenarios
Carabiners, like all climbing gear, don’t last forever. Knowing when to retire your ‘biners can be tricky, though.
Here are six scenarios when you should retire your carabiners:
- It won’t close correctly. According to Black Diamond, “the open-gate strength of carabiners is roughly 1/3 of the closed-gate strength.” If a carabiner of yours ever stops closing correctly, try cleaning it first. Then, if that doesn’t work, retire it.
- It’s structurally damaged. This is self-explanatory. If your carabiner is cracked or chipped or structurally damaged in any way, retire it immediately. Structural damage can come from impact or major falls or any number of sources.
- It’s developed grooves or sharp edges. Excessive friction against climbing ropes can form grooves on the insides of your carabiners. Deep enough grooves can cause sharp edges to form that can snag on and sever your rope. (Here are some photos of what that looks like.)
- It’s been exposed to extreme heat. According to Black Diamond, extreme heat — such as a fire — can damage a carabiner.
- It’s been exposed to corrosive chemicals. Strong, corrosive chemicals can damage carabiners. Retire them if they come into contact with such chemicals.
- It’s questionable. According to Petzl, any climbing gear should be retired when “it’s reliability is in question.” We agree. Better safe than dead. If anything about the carabiner causes you to question its reliability, your default response should be to retire it.
Whether you decide to toss it or make it your next keychain is up to you, but don’t climb with a carabiner that meets any of the above criteria.
Photo Credit: Amazon