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Black Diamond Hotwire Review

An updated version of an OG classic, but one that is heavier than similar sized competition and doesn’t offer the smoothest clips
Black Diamond Hotwire
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Price:  $8 List | $7.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Very large basket, excellent gate clearance, easy to handle, affordable
Cons:  Heavy, stiff gate springs, notch and hook on nose
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 26, 2020
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 10
  • Clipping - 25% 7
  • Unclipping - 20% 5
  • Weight - 20% 4
  • Gate Clearance - 20% 9
  • Handling - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Hotwire has been a longtime staple on many old-timers trad racks, and has seen an update for 2020. It now features a bend near the bottom of the spine that changes the geometry of the basket a little bit, allowing for a wider surface for the rope to run over. Indeed, this versatile carabiner has a huge basket, and is also shaped at the top to accommodate any width of sling, whether a quickdraw dogbone or Camalot C4 sling. We also like its affordable price. Compared to the full-sized competition, however, we found it slightly harder to clip than most, and quite obviously heavier than almost every other similar sized carabiner. It is suitable to all styles of climbing, especially winter climbing where a larger sized wiregate is easier to handle and clip than smaller alternatives.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
66
86
83
78
78
Star Rating
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Pros Very large basket, excellent gate clearance, easy to handle, affordableFull-sized, easy to clip, low price, low weightKey-locking nose design, easy gate action, large sizeKeylock wiregate has no notch, easy to handle, large rope-bearing surfaceRecessed notch in nose, great clipping action, easy to handle
Cons Heavy, stiff gate springs, notch and hook on noseHas a notch in the nose, gates sometimes get sticky over timePricey, heavy compared to competitionHeavy, expensive, single "wiregate" takes some getting used toNot the cheapest, not the lightest, crotch is slightly narrow for accommodating wide slings
Bottom Line A versatile choice for any style of climbing, and one that almost anyone can afford, but lacking the top end performanceA very affordable carabiner that is also one of the easiest to use and won’t cost you anything on the scaleProvides very simple clipping and unclipping action, and feels great in the handsHeavy for a trad rack but nice keylocking gateAn ergonomic and smooth clipping carabiner that also has a keylocking nose design for the best overall wiregate function
Rating Categories Black Diamond Hotwire CAMP Photon Wire Helium 3 Petzl Ange L DMM Alpha Trad
Clipping (25%)
7
9
10
8
8
Unclipping (20%)
5
8
9
9
9
Weight (20%)
4
8
5
6
6
Gate Clearance (20%)
9
9
8
8
7
Handling (15%)
8
9
9
8
9
Specs Black Diamond... CAMP Photon Wire Helium 3 Petzl Ange L DMM Alpha Trad
Manufacturer Weight (g) 40g 30g 38g 34g 36g
Gate Closed (kN) 24 22 24 22 24
Sideways (kN) 8 8 7 7 7
Gate Open (kN) 8 9 10 10 9
Gate Clearance (mm) 27 26 27 26 25
Forging Method Hot Cold Hot Not Specified Hot

Our Analysis and Test Results

The BD Hotwire has been updated for 2020, along with all the rest of Black Diamond's carabiner lineup. It is the largest and most versatile of the three wiregate offerings, and is understandably easy to handle. The bend in the spine makes it so the rope runs over a wider surface, which is both better for the carabiner, and also for the rope. However, this carabiner is heavy, and doesn't have the best clipping action. It also currently only comes in a small handful of colors, sold as singles, and is not being marketed in a rack pack, eliminating it for consideration for color-coded pairing with your cam rack.

Performance Comparison


The Hotwire has been redesigned with a bend in the spine near the...
The Hotwire has been redesigned with a bend in the spine near the basket. This feature makes the basket larger, the gate opening even wider, and also manages to reduce friction within the basket on both the carabiner and the rope. It is an easy to handle and affordable carabiner, but has a couple flaws, most notably the hook and notch gate opening.

Clipping


The wire gate of this carabiner is made of thicker gauge wire that weighs more than the lighter weight gates more commonly found on many of its competitors, and is molded in an absolute straight line, rather than incorporating any bend to aid with clipping. We also feel like the gate spring is noticeably stiffer than most other wiregates, which means that more effort is needed to push the rope through. Once you do, that stiff spring snaps closed with authority! The gate angles outward as it descends, coaxing the rope into the basket if it is pushed downward, but the gate itself is too tight for the rope to do all of the work, you certainly need to push it on through.

The gate springs are rather stiff, and the heavier duty wire used to...
The gate springs are rather stiff, and the heavier duty wire used to make the gate is also completely straight, without the added bends that can help the rope drop into the basket easier. This is not one of the easiest carabiners to clip, and requires a bit of extra effort to push the rope through.

Unclipping


The Hotwire is by no means the easiest carabiner for unclipping. The principal downside of a traditional wiregate carabiner is that there is a notch and hook on the nose for the gate to slot into. This notch and hook can work to catch the rope when trying to unclip it while seconding, or hook on bolt hangers, slings, or stopper cables while trying to unclip the carabiner from them. The notch and hook on the Hotwire is larger and deeper than most other competitors, meaning that compared to the competition, this negative attribute is actually enhanced. Added to the mix is the fact that the nose angle actually bends back on itself, creating a vertical wall, so to speak, preventing the rope from simply sliding out on its own if the gate is open. While these issues can easily be worked around with a little extra care or fiddling, they could also be addressed with better design.

The notch and hook on the nose are quite pronounced and relatively...
The notch and hook on the nose are quite pronounced and relatively large. This allows them to catch in many applications, such as when unclipping a placed stopper if used as a racking carabiner. This notch also catches on bolt hangers when cleaning sport routes, and can work to hang up ropes and slings as well. A recessed notch design makes unclipping easier.

Weight


A single Hotwire carabiner weighs in at 40g, which is the heaviest in this review among standard full-sized carabiners. This amount is 10g heavier than the lightest full-sized options, and 17g heavier than the lightest mini options. If you were to multiply out the 10g difference between it and the lightest full-sized choice, times 20 for all carabiners on double length slings that you are carrying, you would be carrying an extra 7 ounces by choosing Hotwires, or close to half a pound.

Despite the fact that it's a full-sized carabiner, the Hotwire is...
Despite the fact that it's a full-sized carabiner, the Hotwire is pretty heavy compared to the competition, and in this review, only specialty option with added features weighed in heavier. Not the ideal choice for retooling your entire cam rack with.

Gate Clearance


This is a large carabiner with tons of clearance. The gate clearance is measured at 27mm, which is easily among the largest of any we've tested. Furthermore, in our testing, we were easily able to fit three knotted ropes into the carabiner, side-by-side without stacking, and still have plenty of clearance for the gate to open and close to add or remove items. If your potential uses include building complex anchors, or holding a lot of items, this carabiner will not let you down.

The Hotwire has one of the largest baskets and also gate openings...
The Hotwire has one of the largest baskets and also gate openings, which is a product of the bend in the spine right near the basket. If you have tasks such as building anchors that require the versatility of clipping many items to the same carabiner, this is a great choice.

Handling


As the name suggests, the Hotwire is made using hot-forged I-beam construction, which gives a nice flat surface along the spine for gripping. Its full-size shape makes it easier to handle than tiny alternatives, but we also noticed that the colored anodizing seems a bit slipperier than some other models. The fact that the gate springs are stiff and thus take more effort to open certainly adds a little bit of a chance that you would accidentally drop this carabiner while trying to use it.

The large size of this carabiner makes it pretty easy to handle...
The large size of this carabiner makes it pretty easy to handle, although the slightly more difficult clipping and unclipping actions relative to the competition does make it more likely that you could fumble while performing one of these actions.

Value


One of the best attributes about these carabiners is their relatively low cost, which is an effect of having a notched nose rather than a recessed one, like most models that are more expensive do. However, it didn't score near the top of our overall ratings, and other, full-sized carabiners that scored much higher overall have a very similar price. You also can't buy them in rack packs (why not BD?). Thus, we aren't sure we would recommend them as a top value purchase.

With a very large notch and hook on the nose, these carabiners are...
With a very large notch and hook on the nose, these carabiners are not as easy to get the rope unclipped from, or to unclip from bolts, as notchless and key-locking counterparts. Sport climbing, with its many clips and unclips, often in difficult positions, was a great way for us to test this.

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Conclusion


The Black Diamond Hotwire has been redesigned and reengineered with a different geometry in the spine meant to increase space within the basket while reducing wear on your rope and the carabiner itself. The design seems to work, but other attributes of the 'biner, such as its heavy weight and stiff gate, bump it down a bit on the list of our favorite carabiners. While it's a pretty decent product, we also feel like there are better options in the full-sized market.

Testing carabiners on the ends of sport draws on a weekend climbing...
Testing carabiners on the ends of sport draws on a weekend climbing trip to the welded tuff canyon of Penitente.

Andy Wellman