The Best Quickdraw for Climbing

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Ammon McNeely on the crux pitch at sunrise on Rodeo Queen. I promise there was no Photoshop used on this photo.
Credit: Chris McNamara
What is the best quickdraw for rock climbing? We compared 13 of the best in a variety of tests to find out. We judged each quickdraw in the following five categories: ease of clipping, ease of unclipping, ease of handling, ease of grabbing, rope pull smoothness and portability. In the end we found that there was no one quickdraw that excels at everything. Instead, there are three main categories that each had their own top products: lightweight quickdraws, sport climbing quickdraws and all-around quickdraws.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab January 26, 2011

Top Ranked Quickdraws Displaying 1 - 5 of 12 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #2 #3 #7 #5 #4
Product Name
Petzl Spirit Express
Petzl Spirit Express
Read the Review
Video video review
Black Diamond LiveWire Quickdraw
Black Diamond LiveWire Quickdraw
Read the Review
Black Diamond FreeWire Quickdraw
Black Diamond FreeWire Quickdraw
Read the Review
Black Diamond Hotwire Quickdraw
Black Diamond Hotwire Quickdraw
Read the Review
Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw
Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Top Pick Award    Best Buy Award     
Street Price Varies $21 - $23
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $18 - $24
Compare at 4 sellers
$12
Compare at 8 sellers
Varies $11 - $18
Compare at 7 sellers
Varies $9 - $17
Compare at 8 sellers
Overall Score
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82
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68
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77
100
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79
Editors' Rating
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3 ratings
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100% recommend it (3/3)
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Be the first to rate it
Pros Probably the most durable quickdraw out there, easy to clipEasy to clip, deep basketInexpensive, easy to grab when working a routeDurable, easy to hold.Good value, easy to unclip from bolts, good all around biner
Cons Expensive, not lightNot light, toward the more expensive end of quickdrawsGate gets hung up on bolt hangers, not the lightestHeavier than most other biners.Not the lightest, didn't score as high as others
Best Uses Sport climbs. Can be used in other applications but it's a little on the heavy side for multi-pitch or alpine climbsSport climbingGeneral sport climbing, building your trad rackSport climbing, trad climbing, big wall climbing.All-around use climbing use with and emphasis on sport climbing.
Date Reviewed Apr 13, 2010Dec 29, 2010Jan 26, 2011Jan 25, 2011Oct 06, 2010
Weighted Scores Petzl Spirit Express Black Diamond LiveWire Quickdraw Black Diamond FreeWire Quickdraw Black Diamond Hotwire Quickdraw Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw
Ease Of Unclipping - 25%
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
3
10
0
9
10
0
9
Ease Of Clipping - 25%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
Ease Of Handling - 15%
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Ease Of Grabbing - 15%  
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Portability - 20%
10
0
5
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
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5
Product Specs Petzl Spirit Express Black Diamond LiveWire Quickdraw Black Diamond FreeWire Quickdraw Black Diamond Hotwire Quickdraw Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw
Weight (grams) 104 106 100 91 107
Weight (ounces) 3.67 3.7 3.5 3.2 3.8
Gate opening bottom carabiner (mm) 20 24 26 25 26
Width of sling 20 20 18 14 14
Sling Material Nylon Nylon Nylon Dynex Dynex
Manufacturer Warranty 3 year 1 year 1 year 1 year 1 year
Keylock For Top Biner Yes No no Yes Yes

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review



Ease of Clipping
There were a lot of top-scoring quickdraws in this category. The Wild Country Helium and Nitro stood out a little above the rest and got scores of 10. That said, there were many scores of 9 that were nearly as good. The Black Diamond LiveWire was a favorite among some testers with its ribbed spine that gave 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 tiny lightweight draws scored poorly. We tried using some of the tiny quickdraws 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 quickdraws like the Metolius FS Mini or CAMP Nano 23.

Ease of Unclipping
The keylock and "keylock-like" quickdraw 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 quickdraw to score well in this test, thanks to its hooded nose design. The Black Diamond Positron. Livewire and Hotwire also scored extremely well. All keylock quickdraws scored well; just about all the wiregate quickdraws scored poorly. Because of their notched gates, the wiregates got hung up on slings and bolt hangers. Avid sport climbers should pay attention to these scores – draws that are hard to unclip make cleaning a steep sport climb a pain. For most trad climbing applications this score is not so crucial.

Ease of Handling
The easiest quickdraws 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 draws scored well and were hard to distinguish between. The only draws that scored poorly were, again, the tiny draws.

Ease of Grabbing
Here we were testing how easy it is to grab a quickdraw. This score is mainly only important to sport climbers. Not surprisingly, the wide slings on the Spirit Express and the Livewire were the easiest and most comfortable to grab. Most other Black Diamond draws scored well. The low scores came from the really skinny lightweight draws. But hey, you are probably using those draws for trad or alpine climbing and shouldn't be grabbing them!

Portability
Here the small quickdraws finally excelled. The CAMP Nano 23 is the lightest quickdraw we tested and the Metolius FS Mini is the smallest. 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, the FS Mini is the way to go. The Nano 23 is our favorite ultra-light draw. It is just so so light! The next category was light draws that were still a big enough size to handle confidently. Here the competition is stiff. There were more than five draws that were about the same lightness while still performing great in other tests. The CAMP Nano 23 Quickdraw and Metolius FS Mini Quickdraw did not score well in most other tests.

Durability
We don't have durability scores because we didn't have a way to subject all the quickdraws to exactly the same conditions over time. That said, in our own experience the Petzl Spirit is the most durable. While most gates eventually wear out or get sticky, the Spirit gate keeps on going. Also, it had the most durable rubber piece for keeping the clipping carabiner in place. Most other draws used little gaskets that broke easily and were hard to repair. In fact, if you do break the rubber on another draw, we recommend replacing it with a Petzl String.

Bottom Line
The Editors' Choice Award goes to the Wild Country Helium Quickdraw. It scored the best in most categories and is also just really cool. Its revolutionary gate design made it the lightest for its size. If we were working a sport climb, we would replace the thin sling with a thicker one. That would be the only change.

The Buy Award goes to the Black Diamond FreeWire Quickdraw. It performed in the middle but was so much less expensive (only $11) than the draws that scored better. If you want a keylock biner on top, the best deal is the Black Diamond Hotwire Quickdraw for $15.

There are two quickdraws that get our Recommended Award. The Wild Country Astro scored at the top of lightweight carbiners and is only $14. It tied with the Black Diamond Oz Quickdraw for best lightweight trad climbing biner but costs much less. The CAMP Nano 23 Quickdraw is the best ultra-lightweight quickdraw. Yes, it is a little tricky to handle and didn't score well in many tests. However, the amount of weight you save is astonishing. This the quickdraw we use for alpine rock climbing and the draw I use on my big wall rack. No, it didn't score high, but if you are obsessed with weight like we are, you can't beat it.

Best Quickdraws for Each Application
Sport Climbing: Wild Country Helium or Petzl Spirit.
Trad Climbing: Black Diamond Oz or Wild Country Asto.
Big Wall Climbing: Wild Country Astro and half CAMP Nano 23.
Alpine Climbing: Camp Nano 23.
Budget Sport Climbing: Black Diamond Freewire.
Budget Trad: Wild Country Astro.

Chris McNamara
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