Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight and full-sized, Unique keylock/wiregate combo
Cons: Expensive, Narrow sling
Best Uses: Traditional and multi-pitch climbing, Alpine, Ice
The Wild Country Helium is our Top Pick for Lightweight Quickdraw. The unique full-size carabiners have both wiregate and keylock functionality, and are a breeze to clip and unclip. As one of the lighter quickdraws we tested, they are ideal for long routes and hard on-sight attempts. The main drawbacks are the skinny sling, and the high cost. If you are a dedicated traddie or alpinist, these are the draws for you. If money were no object, our testers would have a set of these and a set of our Editors' Choice Petzl Spirit Express on their racks, as each are the best in their class for traditional and sport climbing respectively.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Helium quickdraw comes with two hot-forged Helium "Clean Wire" carabiners with no-hook noses. The sling on the tested model was 10mm wide and 10cm long. Our Top Pick for Lightweight Draw weighs 2.6 ounces.
Ease of Unclipping
Unlike some of the other wiregate carabiners we tested that have an exposed notch that the gate latches on, the Helium carabiner's notch is set into and surrounded by the nose. This means that there is nothing for the rope or other gear to snag on when you're unclipping. Our testers found the full-sized carabiners easy to maneuver and gave it the highest marks in this category.
Ease of Clipping
Our testers found the clipping action of the Helium very smooth. The gate opening is 27mm (compared to 22mm on the Black Diamond Oz Quickdraw and there is ample room to put a clove hitch or several rope anchor points into this draw at a belay. Because it has a wiregate you don't have to worry as much about the gate fluttering open in a fall and the carabiner breaking. Additionally, wiregates in are less likely to ice up in cold conditions which makes them a good choice for ice or alpine climbing.
The Wild Country Helium is one of the lighter products that we tested in this review. At 2.6 ounces apiece, a set of twelve of them together are a pound lighter than the heavy Petzl Djinn Axess and a half-pound lighter than the Petzl Spirit Express. While we tested even lighter models, we felt that the extra ounces saved did not make up for the unique features that the Helium delivers.
The lightest draw on the market is the Camp Nano 23 Quickdraw. It weighs 1.9 ounces, which is a half-pound lighter than even the lightweight Heliums for a rack of twelve, but the carabiners are very small and the wiregate has an unprotected notch. The Black Diamond Oz is also lighter than the Helium by a few fractions of an ounce, but those carabiners are also smaller than the Helium's, and have a lower strength rating. The Camp Photon Wire Express Dyneema is similar in weight to the Helium and offers full-size carabiners as well, but the wiregate carabiners have an unprotected notch which can easily snag on your gear or the rope. When factoring all these considerations together, the Wild Country Helium stood out amongst the other lightweight products available. It's both lightweight and an excellent draw, and for this it earned out Top Pick award.
Ease of Handling
The full-sized Helium carabiners handled well and earned top scores in this metric. The "Clean Wire" design meant that the carabiners never snagged on our harness or gear. The slings on this model come with an external rubber positioner. The benefit to an external positioner is that it can be replaced if it breaks, unlike a sewn-in version like the Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw has. It also protects the sling from abrading against the rock in that spot. The downside is that you must ensure that it is assembled correctly. The lower carabiner must always pass through the sling and the rubber piece.
Ease of Grabbing
The 10mm wide sling on this draw was not designed with grabbing in mind. Our testers found it very difficult to grab this sling. This is not usually a main concern for alpine draws, where the weight saved from a narrow sling is more crucial than the ability to grab it. If, however, you know the long route you are getting on has an A0 section, you might want to throw a few wider slinged models - like the Black Diamond FreeWire Quickdraw or the Petzl Spirit Express - onto your harness for that specific section.
The Wild Country Helium quickdraws are best suited for any type of climbing where lightweight gear will help you achieve your climbing goals. Whether you're hiking a pack deep into the high alpine, going for a push on El Cap, or even a really hard sport on-sight, when every extra ounce counts against you, you'll want a set of these draws. The dual wiregates also make it a good choice for ice climbing as they're less likely to ice up than a solid gate.
Unfortunately, the innovation on the Wild Country Helium comes with a hefty price tag. Each draw costs $10 apiece more than the Camp Photon Wire Express, and $15 more than our Best Buy winning Black Diamond FreeWire. You can buy five FreeWires for the price of two Heliums! If you are looking for a lightweight draw but can't afford the Helium, the Camp Photon Wire Express is a good second choice, but keep in mind that both carabiners on the Photon Wire Express have notches that easily snag when cleaning or unclipping.
The Wild Country Helium is the Aston Martin of quickdraws; smooth and sleek, and really expensive. It's not the absolute lightest draw on the market, but it still keeps the weight down while using full-size carabiners that are stronger than the typical smaller carabiners found on lightweight gear. Its "Clean Wire" carabiners bring the best of keylock and wiregate design to your rack, and it won't ever snag on your gear or rope. If you want the best product around for long routes where success hinges on every ounce, look no further. Our Top Pick for Lightweight excels in the alpine and light and fast environments. But you might cry if you ever drop one or have to leave one on a rappel!
The Wild Country Helium Carabiner, $13.50, has received a lot of hype since its release over a decade ago and we think for good reason. For the second time, this product has won our Editors' Choice award.
Check out the Wild Country Helium 2 Clean Wire - 5 Pack, $60, if you're looking for color coded carabiners in a five pack.
The Wild Country Nitro Quickdraw and Wild Country Astro Quickdraw are other quickdraws made by Wild Country.
— Cam McKenzie Ring
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Most recent review: May 11, 2014
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