The Best Carabiner Review

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The Black Diamond Oz won our Top Pick for Lightweight award. It weighs only 1 ounce, but is still easy to use and its updated design wont snag on your gear or rope.
Credit: Tracy Martin
We wanted to find out which carabiner was the best, so we’ve updated our old review to take a look at some of the newer products out there, and compared them to some classic performers. Even though carabiners have been used for rock climbing for over 100 years, the innovation still continues. It seems like every year another gear manufacturer comes out with the latest, greatest, or lightest new biner.

Our team of testers used the products in this review for three months on a variety of single and multi-pitch traditional climbs. Our side-by-side comparison testing evaluated how well each model unclipped and clipped, how well it handled, how many ropes it could fit, how smoothly the rope pulled through, and its portability. This review will go over all our significant findings, and it will fill you in on whether some of these new innovations are worth the extra bucks, or not. If you’re still using a 20-year-old set of ovals on your “alpine” draws, keep reading to see if you should consider updating to something from the 21st century. New to climbing and not sure if you even need to buy these things? We’ll fill you in on what the different types of carabiners are and what model is right for you.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Carabiner Displaying 1 - 5 of 18 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Wild Country Helium Carabiner
Wild Country Helium Carabiner
Read the Review
Video video review
Petzl Spirit Straight Gate
Petzl Spirit Straight Gate
Read the Review
Wild Country Nitro
Wild Country Nitro
Read the Review
Video video review
Black Diamond LiveWire
Black Diamond LiveWire
Read the Review
Petzl Djinn Straight Gate
Petzl Djinn Straight Gate
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award         
Street Price $14
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $8.46 - $9.95
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $7.16 - $16.50
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $7.73 - $10.95
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $7.16 - $8.95
Compare at 6 sellers
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100% recommend it (3/3)
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Pros Lightweight, full-size, snag-free wiregateKeylock design eliminates snags, Great clipping actionWire gate, most of the new advances in biner technology, functional and a good medium to big or "full" size.Easy to clip, deep basketSnag-free keylock design, large size easy to handle
Cons ExpensiveHeavy for a trad rackWire-gate notch gets caught on the bolt hanger when cleaning steep routes.Not light, toward the more expensive end of binersHeavy
Best Uses Traditional climbing, alpine, sport climbingSport climbingSport climbing, all around useSport climbingSport climbing, racking your nuts
Date Reviewed Jun 14, 2014Jun 14, 2014Apr 13, 2010Apr 13, 2010Jun 14, 2014
Weighted Scores Wild Country Helium Carabiner Petzl Spirit Straight Gate Wild Country Nitro Black Diamond LiveWire Petzl Djinn Straight Gate
Ease Of Unclipping - 15%
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Ease Of Clipping - 20%
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Ease Of Handling - 15%
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How Many Ropes Fit - 15%
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Rope Pull Smoothness - 15%
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Portability - 20%
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Product Specs Wild Country Helium Carabiner Petzl Spirit Straight Gate Wild Country Nitro Black Diamond LiveWire Petzl Djinn Straight Gate
Manufacturer Weight 33g 39g 31g 44g 45g
Gate Closed 24 23 23 26 23
Sideways 7 8 7 10 8
Gate Open 10 9 9 7 9
Gate Clearance 27mm 21mm 27mm 24mm 24mm
Forging Method Hot Cold Hot Hot Cold

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Petzl Spirit Straight Gate
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Wild Country Nitro
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Trango SuperFly
$7.95
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Wild Country Astro
$7.95
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Petzl Djinn Straight Gate
$9
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Black Diamond Oval Wire
$6.95
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Black Diamond HotWire
$7.95
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Black Diamond Positron
$7.5
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Metolius FS Mini
$7.50
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Black Diamond LiveWire
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CAMP Orbit
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Black Diamond Oval
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CAMP Nano 23 Carabiner
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CAMP Photon Wire Straight Gate
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Selecting the Right Product
There seems to be as many different types of carabiners out now as there are routes to be climbed. If you’re a dedicated sport climber, you might never even purchase a free, stand-alone biner, choosing a manufacturer’s pre-assembled quickdraw instead. But once you start placing gear while trad climbing, the carabiners will accumulate. First 10, then 20, and by the time you decide to climb El Cap, you could have 50 or more of them in your gear box. Our main reviewer recently did an inventory of her gear, and after 20 years of climbing she and her husband have accumulated over 100 (and that’s not including the dozens that have already been retired). No wonder people just stick to bouldering these days!

To help you select the right product, we’ve tested and compared 18 different models, from “old-school” ovals to the lightest biners being made today. Keep reading to see what performance criteria we find essential in these pieces of aluminum, and what you’ll want to keep in mind when buying your next set.

You can also read our buying advice article for even more detailed information on the ins and outs of carabiner construction and how to select the right one for your main climbing objectives.

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Contemplating which carabiner to purchase next? Our updated gear review compares 18 different models to help you choose the right piece for your next climbing objective, be it El Cap or your local crag.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

Types of Carabiners
These products can be sorted out in several ways: shape, gate, and function.

Shape
Oval (big wall climbing)
Pear (belaying, large lockers)
D (old school trad, big wall climbing, belaying)
Off-set D (most common shape; comes in bent and straight gate)

Gate
Wire Gates
Solid Gates (locking and non-locking)

Function
Sport Climbing
All-round
Lightweight

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The different biner shapes, from left to right: Pear, Oval, D, off-set D (solid gate) and off-set D (wiregate). Although a few locking biners are pictured here, this review just covers non-locking carabiners.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

Criteria For Evaluation

Ease of Unclipping
A lot of people focus on how easy it is to clip a piece of climbing gear, but we spend just as much time unclipping our gear as we do clipping it, and this is a crucial purchasing decision. You might love a certain model’s clipping action, but if it has an exposed notch in the nose that the gate latches on, you (or your follower) won’t love unclipping it, particularly as the wall steepens.

It used to be that all models had a notch to catch either a pin in the solid gate or the wiregate itself. Then Petzl invented the keylock design, and these days almost all solid gate carabiners are keylock. With this design, the nose sits in a groove in the gate itself, eliminating any notches that might snag on your gear. The keylock models that we tested scored very high in this metric, particularly the Petzl Spirit Straight Gate, Petzl Djinn Straight Gate, and Black Diamond Positron. These products make excellent choices for quickdraws, so that you can easily clean a steep sport route without getting it stuck on the rope or the bolt. It’s also a safer product to use on the bolt end of a quickdraw as it cannot become
nose clipped.

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Notch-free wiregates: the Wild Country Heliums notch is buried in the nose (left), and Black Diamond has added a stainless steel hood over the Ozs (right).
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

Many people prefer wiregates over solid gates since they are generally easier to clip, lighter, and have a larger gate opening. But most wiregates still have a notch in the nose, leading to some frustrating unclipping scenarios. Some manufacturers have created keylock/wiregate hybrids, like the Wild Country Helium Carabiner. In this model, the wiregate latches onto a notch that is inset into the nose. The notch is buried deep in there and cannot snag on anything. Black Diamond has taken a different route with the Black Diamond LiveWire and Black Diamond Oz Carabiner wiregates, adding a stainless steel wire hood over the notch instead. All of these models were easier to unclip than ones with an exposed notch. An added benefit of this extra bit of engineering is that the bigger nose profiles protect the gate from scraping open against the rock. The two downsides are that the bulbous nose can be tricky to fit in tighter situations and the fancy designs come with a fancy price tag.

If you climb steep routes, either sport or trad, definitely keep all this in mind and choose a product that scored highly in this category. Otherwise, you might not even notice an unprotected wiregate on your cams or slings, but you might want to purchase one or two larger keylocking model, like the Petzl Djinn, to rack your nuts on.

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A keylock design is great for sport climbing, and also has a few crossover traditional applications, like racking your nuts for snag-free placements.
Credit: Scott Ring

Ease of Clipping

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Our testers found the Wild Country Helium (left) the easiest to clip, and the CAMP Nano 23 (right) the hardest due to its small size.
Credit: Tracy Martin

There are two characteristics in a carabiner that seem to affect the ease of clipping most: the size of the biner and the stiffness of the gate. While some prefer the clipping action of a wiregate over a solid gate, we had both score well in this category. Wiregates are less prone to icing up in cold conditions though, and should be your first choice for ice or alpine climbing. How important is this metric? If you’re mostly climbing on cruiser terrain and doubt you’ll ever be clipping from a tenuous position, then it might not be much of a concern. But for any type of hard-for-you climbing, where you need your clips to be fast and assured, you’ll want a product that scored highly in this category.

When it comes to size, bigger really is better for clipping. The full size Wild Country Helium, Wild Country Nitro, Petzl Spirit, and Black Diamond LiveWire were all top scorers in this category. When the models started shrinking, however, so did their scores. The smaller Black Diamond Oz, Mad Rock UltraLight Bent Gate and Wild Country Astro were all a little more difficult to clip and our testers found clipping the super small CAMP Nano 23 Carabiner and the Metolius FS Mini downright difficult.

The other factor that affects clipping action is the tension on the gate. Part of this comes down to personal preferences - some people prefer stiff gates over soft, or vice versa. Overall our testers seemed to prefer the medium to medium-stiff tension. The Petzl Spirit was a tester favorite, along with the Wild Country Helium and Black Diamond LiveWire. The Black Diamond Oz and CAMP Nano 23 were a little too much on the stiff side and didn’t score as highly, nor did the CAMP Photon Wire with its weaker gate tension. While a soft gate tension might seem easier to clip at first, the downside is that it’s easier for the carabiners to cross clip themselves when all jammed up on your harness. It can be really frustrating to reach for a piece or quickdraw in a crucial situation only to find that your gear is in a knot. This did happen to us when testing the CAMP Photon Wire.

Ease of Handling

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Whether you prefer to rack on your harness or gear sling, narrower carabiners are preferred so that they dont get all bunched up.
Credit: Tracy Martin

Our testers found that larger products were easier to handle than smaller ones, with or without gloves on, particularly at the end of a long climb when your hands become fatigued. If you do climb in cold conditions, be sure to consider a full-sized model like the Wild Country Helium or CAMP Photon Wire. If you aid climb with gloves on, best to cut the fingers off so you can still use some smaller biners and save on weight.

Another thing to consider with this category is how you rack your gear when trad climbing. If you rack on a sling, you will most likely have ample space, but if you rack on your harness, you will want a product with a narrower spine so that things don’t become bunched up. The CAMP Photon Wires are so narrow that six of them are the same width as five Petzl Djinns. This makes a big difference when trying to stuff a double set on your harness.

How Many Ropes Fit

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Our three-rope test. Some gates, like the one on the Camp Photon Wire (right) can still open fully with three loops of 10 mm rope, which is nice for organizing belays and climbing with multiple people. Smaller models like the Camp Nano 23 (left) did not score well in this metric.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

We subjected each of the models reviewed here to our “three-rope test.” Could the products hold three figure eights on-a-bight and still have the gate open fully? This is an important purchasing consideration if 1) you climb big walls and will be anchoring off the biners you buy; 2) you climb multi-pitch routes, particularly with parties of three; or 3) you like clove hitches.

Predictably, it was the small models like the CAMP Nano 23 and the Metolius FS Mini that scored poorly in this category. Generally speaking, the larger ones scored well, as long as they had a correspondingly large gate opening. For example, the Petzl Spirit straight gate is full sized but it has the same 21 mm gate opening as the much smaller Nano 23 (by default, solid gates have a smaller gate opening than wiregates). It was difficult to fully open the Spirit’s gate when it held three loops of 10 mm rope.

The products with the largest baskets and the largest gate openings (and therefore the best performers in this category) were the CAMP Photon Wire, Petzl Djinn, Wild Country Helium, and Black Diamond HotWire.

We also tested out twin 7.8 mm ropes with these models to see how well the double ropes worked with each one. Even the small CAMP Nano 23 was able to hold the two ropes just fine, though we wouldn’t want to clip two 10 mm ropes in there.

Rope Pull Smoothness

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Scott Ring near the top of the North America Wall on El Capitan. Ovals and other carabiners with large rope bearing surfaces help reduce friction and rope drag when climbing on traversing or long pitches.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

We tested how smoothly the rope pulls through each piece of gear for two reasons: the effect of rope drag and the wear on your rope. When lead climbing, you want the least amount of friction between the rope and the carabiner so that you’re not fighting rope drag all the way up a route. On an Indian Creek splitter crack you might never notice the friction, but if you are on a long pitch, or the route wanders a lot, you will start to notice it even with a lot of extended slings. This is the one category that the oval biners scored highly in, as the round basket and large rope bearing surface helped to reduce friction. Products with narrower rope bearing surfaces will be harder on your rope, particularly if you use them for top-roping or you’re taking repeated falls. This is why most sport climbing quickdraws still use full size models, as opposed to smaller lightweight ones.

Portability

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Light, lighter, lightest. The smaller you get the lighter the biner. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot between lightweight and usability.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

We’ve divided the products we tested into three categories: lightweight for alpine, multi-pitch, and speed ascents; all-around for traditional climbing or sport climbers who want the lightest full-size models possible; and heavy for sport or big wall climbers who like to take their time.

Lightweight: alpine, multi-pitch, & speed ascents
CAMP Nano 23 (23 grams)
Metolius FS Mini (24 grams)
Black Diamond Oz (28 grams)
Wild Country Astro (28 grams)
CAMP Photon Wire Express (29 grams)
Wild Country Nitro (31 grams)
Mad Rock UltraLight (32 grams)
Trango Superfly (32 grams)

All-around: traditional or sport
Wild Country Helium (33 grams)
Black Diamond Neutrino (36 grams)
Black Diamond HotWire (37 grams)
Petzl Spirit Straight (39 grams)

Heavy: sport or big wall
Black Diamond LiveWire (44 grams)
Petzl Djinn (45 grams)
Camp Orbit Bent (45 grams)
Black Diamond Oval Wire (45 grams)
Black Diamond PosiTron (49 grams)
Black Diamond Oval (64 grams)

The CAMP Nano 23 is impressively half the weight of some of the “heavy” products (we should note that the “heavy” biners used to be the standard weight before the hot forging and I-beam construction revolution.) Twenty Nano 23s weigh one pound, compared to two pounds for the CAMP Orbit and almost three pounds for the Black Diamond Oval. If you extrapolate that to a big wall rack, where you might be carrying up to 60 carabiners, switching all your ovals out to an ultra-lightweight one will save you 6 pounds. Anyone who’s tried to mantle with a 25-pound aid rack on knows that six fewer pounds on their harness would be a dream!

However, there is a trade-off with the lighter weight models, and that is overall usability. The Nano 23 and Metolius FS Mini did not score well in any other metric that we tested. For a few extra ounces overall you can upgrade to a still-small-but-bigger-than-a-keychain-carabiner like the Black Diamond Oz or Wild Country Astro, which are considerably easier to use.

Editors’ Choice Award: Wild Country Helium

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The Wild Country Helium is our Editors Choice winner. This product does everything well, is sturdily made, and will make a great addition to your rack.
Credit: Cam McKenzie Ring

The Wild Country Helium Carabiner did it again, winning our Editors' Choice award for the second time. There have been some exciting new additions to the carabiner market in the last four years, but none good enough to take the top spot from the Helium (in our minds anyway!). This product does everything well: it’s easy to handle and can hold multiple ropes thanks to its full size, it clips nicely and has a smooth pull, it’s lightweight and suitable for all types of climbing, and most importantly, it marries the best of wiregate and keylock designs into one package. You can purchase it in five different colors to match with your cams or go on your slings, or they come on the pre-assembled Wild Country Helium Quickdraw, which earned our Top Pick for Lightweight Quickdraw. The only thing we don’t like about this product is its price, but we truly believe that the Helium is worth the extra cost. Start a savings account, shop the sales, and try it out.

Best Buy Award: Mad Rock UltraLight

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The UltraLight is our Best Buy winner. Mad Rock has made an inexpensive carabiner that still performs well in all categories, and its lightweight too!
Credit: Tracy Martin

If you just checked out how much the Heliums are selling for and are having a panic attack, take a deep breath and buy some Mad Rock UltraLight Bent Gates instead. They’re a little smaller than the Heliums and have an unprotected notch in the nose, and they only come in two colors (red for the bent gate and silver for the straight), but they are half the price! You might decide that you’ll put up with a little snagging for all the money you’ll save with this one. Pick some up for you next set of slings, or you can also find them on the Mad Rock UltraLight Quickdraw.

Top Pick Award for Lightweight: Black Diamond Oz

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The Black Diamond Oz won our Top Pick for Lightweight award. It weighs only 1 ounce, but is still easy to use and its updated design wont snag on your gear or rope.
Credit: Tracy Martin

Have you ever taken your heavy pack off after a long hike and had the sensation that you were floating? This is what switching to lightweight gear is like for your trad rack. The Black Diamond Oz Carabiner is not the lightest product out there, but in our minds it is the lightest product that still retains as much functionality as possible. At a scant 28 grams, or 1 ounce, you barely notice it in your hand, yet you can still clip and handle it fairly easily. Black Diamond recently updated the Oz and placed a stainless steel wire hood over the notch in the nose for snag-free unclipping. It comes in six different colors to rack with your camming devices. You’ll be floating up your next crack with these on your harness.

Cam McKenzie Ring
Buying Advice
How we Test
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best Carabiner - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Carabiner

by Cam McKenzie Ring
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