We love quickdraws. Few pieces of climbing protection can transform feelings of uncertainty and discomfort into peace and happiness as quickly and authoritatively. And yet, trying to shop for quickdraws can be as challenging as any other piece of climbing equipment. This article will help you navigate the large field of choices and come up with the ideal draw for your climbing needs. For more background information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Best Overall Quickdraw
Best use: Sport climbing
Lengths: 12, 17cm
What we like: Great handling and comfortable clipping.
What we don’t: A bit pricey and not versatile.
It should come as no surprise that Petzl’s tried-and-true Spirit comes in at the top of this list. What’s not to like about this Cadillac of a quickdraw? The carabiners are super smooth, the dogbones are stable-feeling, and these things are, quite simply, really fun to clip. All the materials are ridiculously strong and durable, including the rubber grommet that keeps the rope-side carabiner from flipping over. The Spirit is equally easy to stick clip or grab when the good holds run out, and the whole unit is so rigid that you can hold onto the bottom end of the draw and still clip an out-of-reach bolt.
Petzl swapped in a dark grey dogbone for the newest version, but the Spirit Express is otherwise the same, beloved quickdraw as before. It’s ideal for sport climbing, but its weight and bulk mean that it’s not a super versatile draw. In fact, we’d be surprised if a Spirit Express has ever made it into the alpine, and we certainly wouldn’t want to clip it to a direction-dependent nut. But for a sport climbing draw, either for redpointing or leaving on a project for an extended period, this is the best model money can buy.
See the Petzl Spirit Express
Best Budget Quickdraw
Best uses: Sport, trad climbing
Lengths: 12, 16cm
What we like: Good quality at a very affordable price.
What we don’t: Heavy and no keylocking carabiners.
You can get a number of things for $14: a solid lunch, a fancy cocktail, or a t-shirt in a cheap gift shop. But quickdraws generally are not on that list. Enter Black Diamond’s new HotWire, which manages to hover right around the $14 price range and dips even lower when bought in a pack of six. The HotWire is BD’s replacement to the FreeWire quickdraw, featuring an updated carabiner shape that wears less on your rope and a dogbone that secures the bottom biner for hassle-free clipping. It’s nothing fancy, but the HotWire will catch your fall similar to any other quickdraw on this list.
Is the Black Diamond HotWire the best quickdraw on the market? No. Is it lightweight? Not particularly. Is it as easy to clean as one of its keylock brethren? Certainly not. But it does cost roughly half as much as many of the other quickdraws on this list and still should get the job done. All in all, the low price tag, plus the versatility from sport to trad rack, is enough to rank the BD HotWire as our top budget quickdraw.
See the Black Diamond HotWire
Best Quickdraw for Trad Climbing
Best uses: Trad, alpine, sport climbing
Lengths: 10, 17cm
What we like: Gate design is a revolutionary way to cut weight.
What we don’t: Design takes some time to get used to.
Petzl’s Ange represents one of the biggest advances in carabiner technology to date. The single-bar, keylocking gate not only is lighter than more conventional designs, but also makes for incredibly smooth clipping, both on the bolt and the rope side. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another quickdraw that maintains the ease of use of a sport-climbing draw at such a low weight. For this reason, it’s our one-quiver quickdraw of choice, and our favorite model both for longer routes and onsight single-pitch sport climbing. And its small nose fits better than most into old bolt hangers or small pins found on many multi-pitch routes.
One hang-up we have with the Ange Finesse is that the gate latch easily can become packed with snow, making the carabiner hard to close completely. For a draw that’s light enough to take to the alpine, this seems like a significant oversight. In addition, we do know of some climbers that don’t like clipping a rope into the Ange—the gate is so different that it may require some practice. But overall, the Ange Finesse has a premium, confidence-inspiring feel at an impressively low weight. And with the most recent update, the dogbone was revamped to be wider and more user-friendly, but the weight and length options remain unchanged.
See the Petzl Ange Finesse
Best Ultralight Quickdraw
Best uses: Alpine, trad climbing
Lengths: 10, 18cm
What we like: Significantly lighter than any other quickdraw on this list.
What we don’t: Difficult handling; not versatile.
Edelrid had one main goal with the Nineteen G: low weight. And to that end, they did remarkably well. At a feathery 46 grams, this quickdraw is over 25 percent lighter than the second-lightest models on this list, the Ange Finesse above and Black Diamond Oz below, and that’s saying something. If fast and light is the name of your game, look no further than the Nineteen G.
For all the savings in weight, choosing the Edelrid Nineteen G means that you lose just about every frill there is. With a gate opening of 17 mm (compare that to the 26 mm of the large Petzl Ange Finesse), the carabiners are so small that many will find them tough to use. And the lower strength rating (20kN along the major axis compared to the more common 24kN) means that this draw will have a shorter lifespan than most. If you’re in the market for a quickdraw for everyday sport climbing, we recommend you look elsewhere. But if the job is to pack light and clip a few random old pins or pieces of gear on the way to the top of a remote alpine line, the Nineteen G is an intriguing ultralight option.
See the Edelrid Nineteen G
Best of the Rest
Best use: Sport climbing
Lengths: 12, 18, 25cm
What we like: Great-feeling dogbone; perfect clipping carabiners.
What we don’t: Rubber carabiner keeper is not as bombproof as the Petzl Spirit Express.
On one end of the price spectrum we have the $14 BD HotWire above, and on the other lies the luxury DMM Alpha VW. Consider it the polar opposite of cheap and ordinary. The Alpha VW features noticeably easy-clipping, keylock carabiners, and a dogbone reminiscent of the original Petzl Spirits. The handling is superb (like all DMM products), and you can expect the materials to last.
So what gives? At well over 100 grams, the Alpha is among the heavier draws on our list, making it less versatile than others. In the category of sport climbing-specific draws, the Petzl Spirit is the undisputed classic and comes with a little bit of a cost savings too. That said, you might really like the unique shape of the carabiners on the Alpha, not to mention it’s available in three different lengths (most other models only are available in two). All in all, this is one of the top sport draws in the game, and if the price was lower, it would be in the running for our top spot.
See the DMM Alpha VW Sport
Best uses: Sport, trad climbing
Lengths: 12, 16cm
What we like: Affordable and keylock on both biners.
What we don’t: A good-looking quickdraw, but run-of-the-mill in actual use.
Black Diamond is synonymous with quality climbing equipment, and their lineup of quickdraws is no exception. When balancing performance and price, the HotForge may be the best model they make. It features keylock carabiners on both sides of the dogbone, making for easy clipping and unclipping all the way around. Essentially, it’s everything we look for in a sport climbing draw and not too heavy to tote up the onsight burn either.
The HotForge replaces the Positron this year in Black Diamond’s lineup, with redesigned carabiners that manage to both shave off a few grams and increase the surface area for smoother rope handling (similar to the improvements with the HotWire above). That said, you don’t get any more gate clearance (the bottom biner actually has a 2-millimeter-smaller opening), and compared to the competition, there’s nothing about this draw that truly stands out. But for less than $20, it’s all most climbers need, and we even like it for trad pursuits. If you like the feel of a wiregate on the rope side but don’t want to give up the functionality of a keylocking biner on the bolt side, Black Diamond also makes the HotForge Hybrid for $17.
See the Black Diamond HotForge
Best uses: Trad, alpine, sport climbing
Lengths: 10, 15, 20cm
What we like: Lightweight and minimalist, but still great for sport climbing.
What we don’t: Not quite as premium as Wild Country’s Helium.
On a recent sport climbing trip to Spain, we racked up with the bulky (but totally plush) Petzl Spirits, while our European friends took out their set of Wild Country Astros. Over 20 Spirits maxed out our harness for the 40-meter warmup, so we ended up borrowing a dozen Astro quickdraws to lighten the load. While such a feathery wiregate draw might not be most sport climbers’ first pick, the Astros ended up being a boon for onsights, with a compact size, easy clipability, and hooded nose that minimizes the risk of hooking the bolt when cleaning.
If you’re primarily a sport climber, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons between beefy sport-specific quickdraws and more streamlined all-rounders. Do you hang your draws on your project and keep them on the wall all day? Or perhaps you’re more of an onsight climber, repeatedly racking up for new routes. And then you’ll have to consider location—long routes are the norm in some areas (Europe), but not in others. Lightweight, wiregate draws like the Astro might not offer the smoothest handling, but they do have their upsides for certain climbers and uses. For a more premium offering, Wild Country also makes the Helium quickdraw, which features a no-hook gate (similar to the Petzl Ange above) and costs $27.
See the Wild Country Astro
Best use: Sport climbing
What we like: A wiregate carabiner on the rope end adds strength and reduces weight.
What we don’t: Heavy and more expensive than our top pick.
The HotForge above might be our favorite Black Diamond quickdraw in terms of value, but for the most premium model, look no further than the LiveWire. Like the Petzl Spirit and DMM Alpha VW Sport above, the LiveWire is purpose-built for hard sport climbing, with a rigid 12cm dogbone, keylocking carabiner for easy bolt clipping, and a strong, snag-free wiregate carabiner on the rope end. And this is where it stands out most: whereas most premium draws are designed with two solid keylocking carabiners, Black Diamond substitutes one wiregate for added strength at a lower weight.
So with the Petzl and DMM above as the competition, why do we have the LiveWire ranked here? Apples to apples, the Black Diamond is slightly heavier, and we find that a bent gate on the rope-side carabiner makes for the easiest clipping (the LiveWire’s gate is straight). But we do like the added assurance of a wiregate carabiner, and overall find its shape to be very fun to clip. Nitpicks aside, the LiveWire is a high-end quickdraw and a solid choice for project-oriented sport climbers who like to leave their draws on the wall.
See the Black Diamond LiveWire
Best use: Sport climbing
Lengths: 12, 17cm
What we like: Rather affordable for a quality Petzl quickdraw.
What we don’t: Not as nice as our top pick, the Spirit Express.
Another Petzl quickdraw! Go figure. The company really does dominate when it comes to making high-quality bolt-clipping machines, and the Djinn Axess follows suit. In fact, one could argue that this affordable little number should challenge the Spirit and Ange quickdraws above. If price is your top concern, it certainly is a good choice. And as an added bonus, the Djinn now comes in flashy blue and purple colors rather than the standard Petzl grey and orange.
In terms of considerations, the carabiners on the Djinn Axess are a little bit bigger than those on the Spirit, which you’ll either like or dislike depending on the application and size of your hands. Further, the bent gate on the rope side isn’t quite as aggressive, making it slightly harder to clip. Finally, the Djinn Axess is heavy and a dozen of these on your harness will add up. But these are relatively minor gripes, and the Djinn is a great mid-range sport draw for budget-minded shoppers.
See the Petzl Djinn Axess
Best use: Sport climbing
Lengths: 12, 18cm
What we like: The most durable, high-quality draw on the market.
What we don’t: Overkill for most uses.
If the Petzl Spirit Express is the Cadillac of quickdraws, the Edelrid Bulletproof might be the Hummer. It has all of the features we look for in a top-of-the-line sport draw, plus extra durability and strength in the form of a small steel insert on the rope-end carabiner. Steel is heavier than aluminum but much more durable, so Edelrid got smart by adding it only where it counts. If you use quickdraws for top-roping anchors or want one burly draw for the first clip (this one sees the most wear from the rope), the Bulletproof is the most, well, bulletproof draw there is.
Even if it weren’t for the steel insert, this is an incredible draw. The nose is narrow for easy clipping, the carabiners are large, the dogbone is nice and thick, and the whole thing screams quality. But given the Bulletproof’s heft and price tag, we’d only recommend using the draw where it really counts. To put it another way: every rack of quickdraws could benefit from two or three Bulletproofs, but any more is overkill. And if you want to save your money, keep in mind that you can achieve the same function with a cheap steel biner on a sling.
See the Edelrid Bulletproof Quickdraw
Best uses: Alpine, trad, sport climbing
What we like: Lightweight but still ideal for sport climbing.
What we don’t: Rigidity makes it less than ideal for clipping nuts and marginal cams.
Based right outside of the sport climbing mecca of Smith Rock, Oregon, Metolius is a small company that specializes in climbing gear for all disciplines. And we’d be remiss not to include their Bravo Keylock quickdraw on this list. Comparable to our top trad-climbing pick, the Petzl Ange Finesse, the Bravo is a highly versatile piece that will clip bolts up sport routes or pins in the alpine without sacrificing much on either. The Bravo is rigid and easy to clip, features we love in a sport draw, but remains lightweight for packing into the mountains.
Many trad climbers, however, won’t love clipping these stiff draws to nuts or marginally-placed cams. The Bravo might be streamlined and lightweight, but it’s almost like a miniature Petzl Spirit in its rigidity. For these applications, you’ll want a draw with a lot more play in it (for one such draw, check out Metolius’ new Bravo II Wiregate, which comes in a variety of lengths up to 51 centimeters). That said, the standard Bravo’s keylocking biners and rigid design will keep it on your rack at the sport crag as well. Quality and versatility for $20? Yes, please.
See the Metolius Bravo Keylock
Best use: Sport climbing
What we like: Affordable, great dogbone.
What we don’t: Neither cheap nor amazing.
Don’t let the ranking fool you—the Mammut Crag Indicator Express is a solid quickdraw. It handles like one of the old Petzl Spirits, and manages to do so at a relatively affordable price. And with a keylocking carabiner on the bolt side and the option for a wiregate or solid gate on the rope side, the Crag Indicator Express can be tailored to suit your preferences.
That said, for $20, we can think of a lot of quickdraws we’d rather buy. Both the Black Diamond HotForge and Petzl Djinn, for example, are higher-quality sport draws. And if you want to go light, the Mad Rock Super Light has more features that set it apart, with carabiners that are larger and easier to handle. All that said, for day-to-day sport climbing, this draw will do the trick.
See the Mammut Crag Indicator Express
Best uses: Alpine, trad climbing
What we like: Versatile and affordable.
What we don’t: Not as lightweight as similar options; non-keylocking design.
Black Diamond’s HotWire and HotForge above are great options for sport climbers, but for trad climbers looking to streamline their setup, the MiniWire is one of our favorite quickdraws. MiniWire carabiners are a new addition to Black Diamond’s lineup, combining a sub-1-ounce weight with a generous 21-millimeter gate opening (compare that to the 17mm clearance on the Edelrid Nineteen G above). And instead of the rigid dogbone design of many draws here, the MiniWire has a thin, flexible build. All in all, it’s a great pick for longer routes when it’s more important to have a lightweight rack than a robust draw for hangdogging.
With a 12-centimeter dogbone, the BD MiniWire clocks in at a lightweight 75 grams. Although this can’t compete with the chart-topping Edelrid Nineteen G or Petzl Ange Finesse, it’s considerably cheaper (and when you’re buying 12 draws, the cost quickly adds up). You’ll get what you pay for though—the MiniWire does not have a keylock closure (on the flip side, this matters less when you’re clipping cams instead of bolts). Overall, we give the edge to the Petzl for alpine and trad climbing, but the Black Diamond MiniWire is a close runner-up.
See the Black Diamond MiniWire
Best uses: Sport climbing
Lengths: 11, 18cm
What we like: Premium quality with two keylocking wiregate biners.
What we don’t: Do you really need a $34 quickdraw?
If you read the entirety of this article, you’ll pick up on a few things. Wiregate carabiners are lighter than solid gate carabiners. Wiregate carabiners are slightly safer than solid gate carabiners (no gate flutter). And third (their main downfall), wiregate carabiners are much less likely to have a keylock closure. With all that in mind, consider the CAMP Dyon Express quickdraw, with not one, but two wiregate keylocking carabiners. If you think this sounds like the best of both worlds, you’re right.
This quickdraw is lightweight, safe, functions well, and has an exceptionally high-quality feel. What’s not to love about the Dyon Express? The most obvious answer is price: at $34, this is by far the most expensive quickdraw on our list. In the majority of settings, using these draws will be akin to owning a Porsche and driving it 30mph in town. Further, $7 less will get you a size-large Petzl Ange Finesse draw, with large carabiners for impressive handling and a similar wiregate keylocking design. We’re certainly curious about the Dyon Express, but you won’t see us ordering a dozen for our rack anytime soon.
See the CAMP USA Dyon Express KS
Best uses: Trad, alpine climbing
What we like: Almost as cheap as the BD HotWire, but with a keylock biner.
What we don’t: Only available in one length.
The Mad Rock Super Light is another solid budget option that is similar in quality to the Black Diamond HotWire above, but with a noticeably lighter build. This versatile quickdraw is simple and effective for both trad and sport climbing, making it a great quiver-of-one choice for beginning climbers. Plus, the Super Light offers a bump in function from the HotWire for just a couple bucks more: a keylock biner on the bolt side makes for snag-free cleaning.
Keep in mind that this no-frills quickdraw isn’t particularly pretty, and it probably won’t be your favorite piece of climbing gear. For example, there’s no rubber positioner to keep the lower carabiner in place, it’s only available in one length, and the quality feels lower than the draws above. But the Super Light will get you safely to the top of any climb—trad, sport, or alpine—for less than most options. If the price tag on the similarly versatile Petzl Ange Finesse has you cringing, this is a fine option for just over half the cost.
See the Mad Rock Super Light
Best uses: Trad, alpine climbing
Lengths: 11, 20cm
What we like: Lightweight and versatile.
What we don’t: There are a number of issues with the carabiners.
On paper, the CAMP USA Photon Wire Express is everything we could ask for. This draw is lightweight, has large carabiners, a streamlined Dyneema dogbone, and a rubber carabiner keeper, all for under $20. Heck, if it’s the real deal, it should usurp the Petzl Ange Finesse above as our favorite versatile, lightweight draw. So what gives?
A lot of things, actually. For one, we’ve found that CAMP carabiners often are amazing on paper but underwhelming in practice. The gate tension tends to be soft, and we’ve had numerous CAMP biners where the gate flat-out stopped closing after a few months of use. This fact alone is enough to have us shaking our heads. In addition, many of CAMP’s non-keylocking biners have huge hooks that catch gear and bolts more than most. We’ve personally experienced both of these issues with the Photon Wire Express. CAMP is a good company and we expect quality from them, but these quickdraws in particular lag behind the competition.
See the CAMP USA Photon Wire Express
|Quickdraw||Price||Weight||Lengths||Gate Opening||Best Uses|
|Petzl Spirit Express||$24||93-100g||12, 17cm||21 (straight), 25mm (bent)||Sport|
|Black Diamond HotWire||$14||100-103g||12, 16cm||25mm||Sport, trad|
|Petzl Ange Finesse||$27||63-78g||10, 17cm||23 (S), 26mm (L)||Trad, alpine, sport|
|Edelrid Nineteen G||$25||46-49g||10, 18cm||17mm||Alpine, trad|
|DMM Alpha VW Sport||$27||102-108g||12, 18, 25cm||25 (straight), 22mm (bent)||Sport|
|Black Diamond HotForge||$18||107-110g||12, 16cm||22 (straight), 24mm (bent)||Sport, trad|
|Wild Country Astro||$20||65-67g||10, 15, 20cm||24mm||Trad, alpine, sport|
|Black Diamond LiveWire||$26||108g||12cm||22mm (solid), 24mm (wire)||Sport|
|Petzl Djinn Axess||$17||107-113g||12, 17cm||24 (straight), 27mm (bent)||Sport|
|Edelrid Bulletproof||$29||118-124g||12, 18cm||20mm||Sport|
|Metolius Bravo Keylock||$20||88g||15cm||17 (keylock), 20mm (wire)||Trad, sport, alpine|
|Mammut Crag Indicator Express||$20||114g||15cm||21 (straight), 24mm (bent)||Sport|
|Black Diamond MiniWire||$15||75g||12cm||21mm||Alpine, trad|
|CAMP USA Dyon Express||$34||82-88g||11, 18cm||26mm||Sport|
|Mad Rock Super Light||$16||80g||10cm||21 (straight), 23mm (bent)||Trad, alpine|
|CAMP USA Photon Wire||$20||69-72g||11, 20cm||26mm||Trad, alpine|
- Best Uses: Sport, Trad, and Alpine
- Keylocking Carabiners
- Carabiner Gates
- Carabiner Size
- Carabiner Metal: Aluminum vs. Steel
- Quickdraw Length
- Quickdraw Weight
- Strength and Safety
- When to Retire a Quickdraw
You’ll notice that all of the picks above include a “best use” category. This may seem like a bit of a stretch for this particular product. Quickdraws are for sport climbing, right? What gives?
Truth be told, you don’t need quickdraws for any kind of climbing (including sport climbing, for that matter). You can always get away with two carabiners attached to a doubled-over shoulder-length sling instead. For trad climbers, these “alpine draws” largely remain the tool of choice. But quickdraws are a great item to have on your rack in all circumstances, even if it’s just a few. Simply put, they’re just a lot easier to clip. Most people we know of have quickdraws on their trad or alpine racks, and my guess is that you will too.
It’s worth noting that the kind of draw you use for each discipline likely will be different from one another. On sport routes, most climbers rarely worry about weight (and you might be pre-hanging the draws anyway). Instead, the main concern is ease of clipping and handling, which typically means a fatter dogbone and heavier, more durable carabiners like the Petzl Djinn Axess. For trad or alpine climbing, most people seek out the lightest quickdraw they can find, which helps in keeping weight to a minimum on those long days. Additionally, climbers affixing draws to nuts or marginal placements will want them to be supple and have some play to avoid the scenario of a rigid draw ripping out gear.
Some quickdraws are versatile enough for most scenarios (like one of our top picks, the Petzl Ange Finesse), while most remain specific to one discipline. If you’re after an all-rounder, know that you’ll likely be sacrificing at least a bit of functionality on either end. We have good examples of both in the write-ups above, just keep in mind how you plan to use these quickdraws before you make a purchase.
Any carabiner will have some sort of mechanism for “latching” the gate closed, and we’re not talking about the lock on a locking carabiner. Take a good look at a non-locking carabiner—any old one will do. A spring mechanism holds the gate closed, but there’s always a little bar or tooth, an inset groove, or a keylock feature on the nose of the carabiner that allows the gate to settle nicely and smoothly into place. When force is applied across the long axis of the carabiner, it is this feature that holds the gate close to the nose. And this is important: a closed carabiner typically retains about three times the strength of an open one.
There are two ways manufacturers create this catch, and they result in either a keylock or non-keylock closure. We won’t go into the technicalities too much, but a keylock design has a smooth nose, and a non-keylock design has a notch, or hook, in the nose. The keylock design is considered superior, particularly in sport climbing, because it is far easier to unclip from bolt hangers, pitons, or your harness. If you’ve ever attempted to clean an overhanging sport route, you know exactly what we’re talking about. You pull in hard to the wall, generate a touch of slack, open the carabiner, and try to pull it off the bolt—only to have that pesky tooth snag on the hanger. It’s super annoying and can make for some interesting rope shenanigans if you’re not practiced in this delicate art.
Instead of playing the “please give me my quickdraw back” game, just invest in a set of quickdraws where, at the very least, the bolt-side carabiner has a toothless latch system. It can be a solid inset keylock like the Black Diamond HotForge, a unique wiregate application like the Petzl Ange Finesse, or even something like BD’s HoodWire technology—just so long as there’s no hard-edged tooth when you open the carabiner. Keylock carabiners tend to be a little more expensive, but trust us: for sport climbing, it’s completely worth the investment.
The gates of the carabiners on your quickdraws come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They can be wire gates or solid, bent gates or straight. They can range in size from miniature to jumbo (not the technical terms, but we’ll get to that). Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so let’s just run through them all quickly.
Straight vs. Bent Gate
Carabiners with straight gates are less expensive because they require one less step of production. They are not as easy to clip as bent gates, which isn’t a big deal on the bolt-side carabiner, but can be annoying on the rope-side one. Often, a quickdraw will have one carabiner with a straight gate and one with a bent gate. A bent gate carabiner uses the bend to act almost as a guide for the climbing rope, the bolt hanger, or your harness—whatever it is you are clipping the quickdraw to. It is a nice feature, especially on the rope-side carabiner. On most sport-climbing-specific quickdraws, at least one of the two carabiners will have a bent gate.
Wiregate vs. Solid Gate
A wiregate is composed of a thin metal, doubled over and bent in a paper clip-like shape. Some wiregates, like that on the unique Petzl Ange Finesse, are just one single piece. Wiregate carabiners tend to be slightly more expensive than solid gate equivalents, but also are significantly lighter. Because they tend to shed snow and ice better than solid gated carabiners, they are a better choice for winter climbing.
Solid gate carabiners are a bit heavier, and tend to be less expensive than wiregates. For this reason, for sport climbing use, solid gates are what we prefer in most instances. That said, wiregates do have one more notable advantage over solid gates: they’re just a touch safer. The reduced weight of the wiregate minimizes what is known as “gate flutter” during a fall. Gate flutter is a phenomenon in which the gate of a carabiner actually opens and closes slightly if it gets whipped around forcefully. The more massive the gate, the more likely this is to occur. When it does occur, the carabiner’s strength along the major axis is reduced, so this is something to consider.
Carabiners on quickdraws come in a variety of sizes, from miniature to massive. The spec that we reference when looking for the size of a carabiner is the “gate opening.” While this measurement refers to the distance between a carabiner’s nose and the fully open gate—not simply the width or length of the carabiner—it correlates with the carabiner size (the smaller a carabiner, the smaller the gate opening). Thus we use the measurement of the gate opening on our comparison chart to delineate the size of each carabiner.
Generally, the smaller the carabiner, the lighter it will be. But it’s worth noting that small carabiners dramatically compromise convenience. We know many climbers, and especially large-handed ones, who refuse to use some of the smallest quickdraws (the Edelrid Nineteen G, for example) because they are so difficult to clip.
The vast majority of climbing carabiners are made with aluminum, including almost all of those sold on quickdraws. Although less durable, aluminum is lighter and still plenty strong. And the reality is that most quickdraws will need to be retired because of wear on the dogbone long before the carabiners reach the end of their life. That said, a few gear manufacturers make quickdraws with one steel (or partially steel) carabiner, such as the Edelrid Bulletproof. In general, we think these are overkill and unnecessary, but if you’re toproping a lot on quickdraws or just using your steel draw on the first clip (where the most rope wear takes place), the steel sure doesn’t hurt your cause.
The dogbone is the sewn soft good that connects the two carabiners in a quickdraw. Most dogbones tend to be made of Dyneema (light and skinny) or sewn nylon or polyester webbing (fat and heavy). Again, there is a pretty clear demarcation between different types of climbing here. Fatter, more rigid sewn-webbing dogbones are preferable for sport climbing, with lighter and skinnier Dyneema dogbones being the choice for alpine and trad climbing.
The major advantage of fat and heavy dogbones is that they are easier to handle, maintain, and grab onto when you’re about to whip on a sport route. For alpine and trad climbing, most of us are thinking less about grabbing a draw on a bolt, and more about simply maintaining a light rack for a full day’s climb. That’s not to say there can’t be crossover. We’ve used fat sport draws for trad and skinny trad draws for sport. In the end, it’s not that big a deal. That said, most will agree that it’s still nice to have the most effective tool for the job.
The quickdraws on this list come in lengths from 10 to 25 centimeters, often with different options for each product. There is no hard-and-fast rule on quickdraw length. Some climbers like them shorter, others like them longer. The benefit of a longer quickdraw is that it reduces rope drag—even just a difference of a few centimeters will add up over 12 bolts. That said, a 25-centimeter quickdraw may feel awfully long and cumbersome on your harness, and is probably better used for projecting overhanging sport routes. On steep overhangs, your body hangs further out from the wall, so it’s nice to have a longer draw that hangs out as well so less energy is wasted pulling in to clip it.
If you tend to climb vertical or slabby sport routes on rock that is so featured that the line goes straight up with little deviations, shorter draws will be a better choice. In the end though, it’s nice to have a handful of each. Sometimes a longer draw can make a tough clip a little bit easier, while a shorter draw can help keep you off the deck on low cruxes.
For the most part, sport climbers couldn't care less about the weight of their quickdraws (the one exception might be an onsight burn in which they’re hanging the draws). And as a rule, alpine climbers will consider the number of ounces above most other specs. Thus, a quickdraw like the Petzl Spirit Express—one of the heavier and bulkier models on our list—is an all-time favorite among sport climbers but rarely gets carried into the alpine. There’s a substantial difference between having 10 rigid and heavy Petzl Spirits hanging from your harness and 10 lightweight and streamlined Edelrid Nineteen Gs. In general, size is a predictor of weight, as is aluminum vs. steel carabiners and Dyneema vs. nylon dogbones. And like most categories of outdoor gear, the lighter the weight, the less durable the quickdraw likely will be over time.
On virtually all quickdraws sold by major gear companies, both the carabiners and the dogbone must pass UIAA and CE standards for strength. While the dogbone’s strength is simple to grasp, the strength of a carabiner is rated in three separate ways: over the major axis (lengthwise), over the minor access (sideways), and with an open gate (with the force coming over the major axis). When used correctly, the force will be applied over the major axis of a carabiner with a closed gate, but in the event of user error, carabiners provide a safety net by having respectable open gate or minor axis strengths. Most carabiners will list all three of these strengths on their spine. While all quickdraws are rated to hold multiple falls, in general, the larger a carabiner or thicker a dogbone, the longer its life.
There are two main weight-bearing components to a quickdraw that should be consistently monitored for safety: the carabiners and the dogbone. On the carabiner, look for cracks, chips, deep grooves where the rope runs (that often form sharp points), and make sure that the gate closes completely (a carabiner with an open gate is drastically weaker). As for the dogbone, detecting wear can be slightly more ambiguous. Some wear is obvious—nicks, runs, large frays, or extreme sun bleaching—while some is completely undetectable. For example, soft goods that are exposed to solvent, bleach, harmful vapors, or even urine can be significantly weakened. And though they’re certainly erring on the side of caution, manufactures generally recommend replacing Dyneema products every three years and nylon products every five.
Different prices will get you different quality of products. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect.
$0-10: The cheapest of the cheap. No frills. Toothed-gate latches. Often lightweight and minimalist. Think beginner set-up.
$10-20: Most quickdraws will fall into this range. These can be your low-end to middle-shelf sport-climbing draws, your average alpine draws, or even some very nice quickdraws on sale.
$20-30: These are really the best of the best, like the class-leading DMM Alpha VW Sport. If money is not a concern, you obviously want to shop in this category. Quickdraws at this end of the spectrum usually are made by the world’s best manufacturers and feature the utmost in quality craftsmanship and materials.
$30+: Get out of town. OK, in truth, there actually are some quickdraws that will run you more than $30. But we would suggest taking the extra money you would spend and buying a lesson from a skilled trainer or mentor instead. That will make a bigger difference in your climbing than having the most expensive quickdraw money can buy.
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