The Best Carabiners for Climbing

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Ammon McNeely racking up for Never Never Land, El Capitan wearing the Petzl Elios and Yates Big Rack and Yates Shield Harness.
Credit: Chris McNamara
What is the best carabiner for rock climbing? We compared 15 of the best carabiners in a variety of tests to find out. Each one was judged on the following six categories: ease of unclipping, ease of clipping, ease of handling, how many ropes fit, rope pull smootheness, portability . In the end, we found that there was no one carabiner that excels at everything. Instead, there are three main categories which each had their own top products: lightweight, sport climbing and all-around. The biggest surprise was how many great budget options are out there.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab June 11, 2010

Top Ranked Carabiner Displaying 1 - 5 of 19 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Wild Country Helium
Wild Country Helium
Read the Review
Video video review
Petzl Spirit Bent Gate
Petzl Spirit Bent Gate
Read the Review
Wild Country Nitro
Wild Country Nitro
Read the Review
Video video review
Petzl Spirit
Petzl Spirit
Read the Review
Black Diamond Positron
Black Diamond Positron
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award    Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award   
Street Price Varies $10 - $14
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $8 - $10
Compare at 3 sellers
$8
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $7 - $10
Compare at 9 sellers
Varies $5 - $8
Compare at 9 sellers
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100% recommend it (8/8)
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100% recommend it (3/3)
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100% recommend it (2/2)
Pros Light for it's size, easy to clean from bolts, very cool designOne of the best biners to clip and unclip, durable.Wire gate, most of the new advances in biner technology, functional and a good medium to big or "full" size.One of the best biners to clip and unclip, durableGood value, easy to unclip from bolts, good all around biner
Cons ExpensiveExpensive, not the lightest carabiner.Wire-gate notch gets caught on the bolt hanger when cleaning steep routes.Expensive, heavy relative to other similar-sized carabinersNot the lightest, didn't score as high as others
Best Uses Sport climbing and traditional climbing. Ideally used on quickdraws.Sport climbing or general cragging (for use on the rope side of a quick draw).Sport climbing, all around useSport climbing or general craggingAll-around use climbing use with and emphasis on sport climbing.
Date Reviewed Apr 13, 2010Apr 13, 2010Apr 13, 2010Apr 13, 2010Apr 13, 2010
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 Petzl Spirit Bent Gate Wild Country Nitro Petzl Spirit Black Diamond Positron
Manufacturer Weight 32g 45g 31g 45g 49g
gate closed 24 Kn 23 Kn 23 Kn 23 Kn 25 Kn
sideways 7 Kn 10 Kn 7 Kn 10 Kn 8 Kn
gate open 10 Kn 9.5 Kn 9 Kn 9.5 Kn 8 Kn

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Wild Country Nitro
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Petzl Spirit
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CAMP Nano 23
$7
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50
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Trango SuperFly
$9
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70
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Wild Country Astro
$7
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Petzl Spirit Bent Gate
$10
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Black Diamond Oval Wire
$6.50
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Black Diamond Hotwire
$7.50
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Omega Pacific Doval
$7
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49
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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
$10
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Black Diamond Oval
$6
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53
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Black Diamond Quicksilver
$7
100
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Ease of Unclipping
The keylock and "keylock-like" carabiners were the easiest to unclip from bolt hangers and slings. Top scores went to the Petzl Spirit and Wild Country Helium. The Helium was the only wiregate to score well in this test thanks to its hooded nose design. The Black Diamond Positron also scored well. Most other keylocks scored well and just about all the wiregates scored poorly. Because of their notched gates, they got hung up on slings and bolt hangers. Avid sport climbers will want to pay attentions to these scored as a biner that is hard to unclip makes cleaning a steep sport climb a pain. For most other applications, this score is not that crucial.

Ease of Clipping
There were a lot of top scoring products in this category. The Wild Country Helium and Nitro stood out a little above the rest and got 10 scores. That said, there were many scores of 9 that were nearly as good. The Black Diamond LiveWire was a favorite among some testers with it's ribbed spine that fave the thumb and index finger something to grab. There is some personal preference at play here. Most testers liked a firm but forgiving gate. However, the stiffer gate on the Petzl Spirit was a favorite of other testers. The ovals and tiny lightweight biners scored poorly. We tried using some of the tiny ones as the last clip on a sport climb and… it was scary! Yes, we made the clip, but when we were really pumped at the end of of a climb, we noticed a big difference on how hard it was to clip the tiny carabiners like the Metolius FS Mini or CAMP Nano 23.

Ease of Handling
The easiest carabiner to handle had a generous size and featured spine. Again, the Wild Country Helium and Nitro stood out above the rest and got 10 scores. They have featured spines and generous size that instill a lot of confidence when handling them high off the ground. Most other biners scored well and were hard to distinguish between too much. The only biners that scored poorly were, again, the tiny biners and ovals.

How Many Ropes Fit?
Here we're testing the capacity of the product. Basically, how useful it is at an anchor when you might have multiple slings and ropes you need to clip to it. Here the Black Diamond Hotwire and LiveWire came out top. They generous baskets that held multiple strands of our 10.5 mm rope and allowed you to easily clip and unclip ropes to organize an anchor with multiple people. Most other products scored well. Only the tiny ones bombed this test.

Smoothness of pull
Here, finally, the ovals came out on top. Ovals were clearly the best biners to use for a top rope anchor to minimize friction. That said, often a toprope is where a little friction is not a bad thing. It is on sport climbs and trad climbs where you want the least friction when leading. In those situations, ovals are not practical because they are too heavy. There were many others that stood out as high scorers - actually too many to list.

Portability
Here the smaller devices finally excelled. The CAMP Nano 23 is the lightest one we tested and the Metolius FS Mini is the smallest biner we tested. The FS Mini is almost too small as it was tricky to clip and a little slippery in our hands. That said, if you want the least amount of bulk in your pack, it is the way to go. The Nano 23 is our favorite ultra light biner. It is just so so light! The next category was light biners that were still a big enough size to handle confidentally. Here the competition is stiff. There were 5+ biners that were all about the same lightness while still performing great in other test. The CAMP Nano 23 and FS Mini did not score well in most other tests.

Durability
We don't have any durability scores because we didn't have a way to subject all the contenders to exactly the same conditions over time. That said, just in our own experience, the Petzl Spirit is the most durable. While most gates eventually wear out or get sticky, the Spirit gate just keeps going.

Bottom Line
The Editor's Choice Award goes to the Wild Country Helium. It scored the best in most categories and is also just really cool. It's revolutionary gate design made it the lightest for its size.

There are two Best Buy Awards. The first goes to the Wild Country Nitro which scored second highest but was among the least expensive at only $7.5. It scored only a little lower than the Helium at about half the cost. If you prefer a bigger biner that is still light, this is the best value. If you want a smaller and lighter biner, or just want one of the least expensive ones out there: go with our other Best Buy Winner, the Mad Rock Ultra-Light Straight. It is light but still at a size that is easy to handle and costs a mere $6.

There are two carabiners that get our Recommended Award. The Petzl Spirit scored at the top and is best for work horse sport climbing. We love the way the gate feels when clipping and the durability. They are not cheap but they will last forever. The CAMP Nano 23 is the best ultra-lightweight carabiner. Yes, it is a little tricky to handle and didn't score well in many tests. However, the amount of wight you save is astonishing. This is the one we use for alpine rock climbing and the biner I use on my big wall rack. No it didn't score high, but if you are obsessed on weight like us, you can't beat it.

Best Carabiners for Each Application
Sport Climbing: Wild Country Helium of Petzl Spirit
Trad Climbing: Black Diamond Oz
Big Wall Climbing: Half Black Diamond Oz and half CAMP Nano 23
Alpine Climbing: Camp Nano 23
Budget Sport Climbing: Wild Country Nitro
Budget Trad: Mad Rock Ultra-Light
Budget Wall Climbing: Rack of half Mad Rock Ultra-Light and hald Nano 23

Chris McNamara
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