Best Carabiners: Climb Safely and Secure Your Camping Gear
Enjoy mountain climbing, and secure your hiking gear with some of the best carabiners
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Hikers, hammock-lovers, and both trad and multi-pitch climbers all use carabiners for different tasks. However, choosing a good one for the job can be tricky. Fortunately, we have the solution. Our buying guide will help you find the best carabiners for belaying, carrying your keys, or securing your extra camping supplies on your backpack.
Slightly curved spine improves gate clearance and one-handed use. Keylock nose protects against rope snagging. The auto-locking gate is practically foolproof.
Sand can get in the pins of the locking mechanism. Possibly too expensive and technical for general use, specifically designed for climbing.
Available in a range of different colors. Gates can be operated individually so you can clip the carabiner on or off without disturbing the load.
The largest size can only hold a maximum of 75 pounds: do not use it for climbing. Rubber stoppers holding the lock in place make it almost too easy to accidentally open the gate.
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Benefits of Carabiners
- Safe rope technique. Carabiners are a must-have if you’re doing any vertical or rope-based sports and are vital for setting anchors, belaying, and abseiling.
- Versatile. Whether you’re climbing, camping, or tying down gear, carabiners can be used in almost any rope-based situation. The different shapes, gates, and locks mean you’ve got a carabiner for every eventuality.
- Convenient. Small, lightweight, and unbelievably strong, carabiners allow you carry a lot of gear in a way that is visible, easily accessible, and customizable.
- Easy to use. Carabiners don’t need any specialist knowledge or skills to use in a household or basic storage situation.
- Quick access. Attached with a clip you can open and close with one finger, carabiners allow easy quick-draw access to climbing gear when timing and speed is important.
Types of Carabiners
A D-shaped carabiner is the perfect carabiner for holding your gear and keeping it in place. The weight naturally falls to the bottom corner of the D, away from the gated side and onto the stronger side of the carabiner. These and asymmetric D-shaped carabiners are arguably the strongest (and most expensive) type of carabiner, with the D-shape being a little heavier and with a smaller gate opening.
This is the most common carabiner shape and the favorite of rock climbers everywhere. This is mainly because reducing the size of the bottom corner lowers the weight of the carabiner without affecting its strength. They usually have a larger gate opening than the very similar D-shaped carabiners but hold less because of the smaller internal size.
Like an upside-down pear, this carabiner shape is much wider at the top than at the bottom. The shape was originally intended for effective rappelling and belaying, but they can be used for pretty much anything. They’re also heavier despite not being as strong as D- or asymmetric D-shaped carabiners. Gear has a tendency to unexpectedly shift from side to side, but they are a versatile and handy addition to your gear, nonetheless.
Oval carabiners are the original carabiner shape and all the others are variations on this original design. While nowhere near as strong as the D-shaped, the oval shape allows for greater internal space—so you can use it to carry more gear—while maintaining a small gate. The uniform shape also means gear won’t shift around like with the pear-shaped design. They’re still effective and convenient, even if a little heavier and less specialized than the alternatives.
An accomplished caver, Fernand Petzl started experimenting with rope safety equipment in the 1960s. This led to the establishment of the Petzl brand and its first manufacturing base in Crolles, France, in 1975. With an active R&D department and a team made up of professional climbers, Petzl is known worldwide for its quality outdoor gear. It makes a lot of carabiners, including the Vertigo and the Spirit.
Black Diamond was born in December 1989 when the assets of failing company, Chouinard Equipment Ltd., were bought by its former employees. It shifted production from California to Salt Lake City (to be closer to the mountains) and expanded even further with the creation of Black Diamond Europe in 1996. Producing all kinds of outdoor gear, its range of carabiners includes the Pearabiner.
A major player in the world of rock climbing, Wild Country was founded in the Tideswell, a town in the English Peak District, in 1977. The company was bought out by Italian company Salewa in 2012, but it maintains its original headquarters in the UK. Wild Country carabiners include the Helium and the ultralight Astro models.
- Budget (under $10): Although you can get climbing carabiners at a low price, most are designed for basic household and general use. Cheaper carabiners may not hold up in the face of heavier loads and you might find the gate to be flimsy or loose-fitting.
- Mid-range ($10-$20): This is where you’ll find the majority of carabiners suitable for climbing and holding particularly heavy loads. All parts will be well-made and the carabiner itself will likely be cut rather than molded.
- Premium ($20 and over): Quality carabiners are not particularly expensive, so the premium range consists of those with specialized features from the very top name brands. The carabiners have lots of extra bits and often double as multitools.
The spring-loaded part of the carabiner that opens and closes is called the gate. Straight gates are most common: They’re durable, strong, and quick and easy to clip into gear one-handed. Bent gates are similar, but include a slight curve, which makes it easier to clip onto rope when climbing. Wire gates feature a stainless steel loop (instead of a solid piece) and a wider opening. They’re often deemed weaker (although no evidence supports this) than straight or bent gates but are noticeably lighter and probably a better choice in the winter because they’re less likely to freeze shut.
Gate Locking Mechanism
Locking carabiners are vital when it comes to belaying, setting anchors, and any other situation where you need an absolute guarantee that the gate won’t open unexpectedly. Usually straight gates, these are categorized as auto-locking or screw-lock carabiners. They can mostly be operated one-handed for convenience, but as you’d expect they’re not as quick to use as regular gates and the extra material can add up to a lot of additional weight.
Carabiners are not going to be the largest piece of kit in your climbing gear, but you do need to carry quite a lot of them and the weight can mount up significantly. Ideally, you want the lightest carabiner possible without compromising on axis strength.
How big or small you want your carabiner will depend on what you’re planning to use it for. Take into consideration how many you will be carrying, and how much climbing gear you’re wanting to clip into each carabiner. Larger carabiners are better for snag-free belaying and holding more than one line of rope, but take up more space. Small ones are perfectly fine for cams and quickdraws but are likely to have less gate clearance.
Not all carabiners are created equal and it’s vitally important to know whether or not your carabiner of choice is expected to hold an adult’s weight. Not only that, but certified carabiners specifically designed for climbing are strong enough to withstand the extra downward force that occurs in the event of a fall. If you’re not climbing, certification is less important, but you still want to know it’s going to hold your gear without getting bent, broken, or deformed.
- One-Handed Access. There are some instances when you’re climbing where you’ll only have one hand free to lock or unlock your carabiner. It’s worth personally checking how easy it is for you to do this before deciding on a particular model.
- Extra Features. A carabiner is versatile enough on its own, but some will include extra features like additional hooks, bottle openers, and even fire starters and small blades.
- Environment. Be aware that some types of gates can potentially freeze shut in very cold, sub-zero temperatures.
- Color. If you’re climbing and need to quickly identify the right bit of gear with as little as possible, it’s worth having some kind of color-coding in place. Brands like Black Diamond do this for you.
Best Carabiner Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Place the loads along the major axis (length) and not the minor axis (width/opening clearance). The carabiner gate may bend under heavy loads.
- Not all carabiners are designed for rock climbing. Consult with the manufacturer's instructions on the use of the product to prevent injuries.
- Do not use a climbing carabiner that’s damaged, worn out, or has a faulty locking mechanism. Also, discontinue use if one of the parts is missing.
- Regularly inspect your carabiner for any signs of stress, such as bending, corrosion, or cracking before use. Also, check the nose and hinge of the carabiner for any obstructions.
- Always store your carabiner in a cool and dry place. Wipe off any dirt and moisture from the mechanism before storing it to prevent rust and corrosion.
Q. Can I repair a climbing carabiner?
If the damage was as a result of a fall, the carabiner could lose its locking strength. Even if you manage to fix the locking clip, there’s a high chance that the unit will break since the spring tension on the locking mechanism won’t be enough to sustain your weight.
Q. Which is the best carabiner for climbing?
Climbing carabiners are much stronger than others and the shapes depend on your climbing style. In general, a carabiner with a pear shape and screwgate design is easy to use and allows for a larger gate opening clearance that’s convenient for any climber.
Q. Can I use a carabiner as a lock for my backpack?
Assuming that you want to keep your items safe, using a carabiner won’t be as effective as using a luggage lock. A carabiner lock doesn’t prevent unauthorized access, since anyone can open it. However, if you have a double zipper bag, you can use the carabiner to prevent the zippers from running.
Our top pick is the Black Diamond Rocklock Magnetron, which is specifically designed to give you peace of mind when climbing.
The innovative Nite Ize SlideLock S-Biner is our best value pick, offering an innovative and convenient way of hanging gear.