Black Diamond MiniWire Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Very light, inexpensive, small shape
Cons: Not the easiest to clip, exposed notch on nose, can be hard to handle with gloves on
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Black Diamond MiniWire
|Price||$5.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Very light, inexpensive, small shape||Full-sized, easy to clip, low price, low weight||Key-locking nose design, easy gate action, large size||Keylock wiregate has no notch, easy to handle, large rope-bearing surface||Recessed notch in nose, great clipping action, easy to handle|
|Cons||Not the easiest to clip, exposed notch on nose, can be hard to handle with gloves on||Has a notch in the nose, gates sometimes get sticky over time||Pricey, heavy compared to competition||Heavy, expensive, single "wiregate" takes some getting used to||Not the cheapest, not the lightest, crotch is slightly narrow for accommodating wide slings|
|Bottom Line||The ultralight climber’s dream carabiner: lightweight and tiny, yet full strength||A very affordable carabiner that is also one of the easiest to use and won’t cost you anything on the scale||Provides very simple clipping and unclipping action, and feels great in the hands||Heavy for a trad rack but nice keylocking gate||An ergonomic and smooth clipping carabiner that also has a keylocking nose design for the best overall wiregate function|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond MiniWire||CAMP Photon Wire||Helium 3||Petzl Ange L||DMM Alpha Trad|
|Gate Clearance (20%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond...||CAMP Photon Wire||Helium 3||Petzl Ange L||DMM Alpha Trad|
|Manufacturer Weight (g)||23g||30g||38g||34g||36g|
|Gate Closed (kN)||20||22||24||22||24|
|Gate Open (kN)||7||9||10||10||9|
|Gate Clearance (mm)||21||26||27||26||25|
|Forging Method||Hot||Cold||Hot||Not Specified||Hot|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The BD MiniWire has a lot of advantages and also disadvantages due to its unique characteristics. Which way you see them is likely due to what you intend to use these carabiners for, so be discerning about your personal goals before going out and buying a whole set. If you need to save weight and want less bulky gear, no matter how difficult that might make other tasks, such as clipping the rope above your head on pitch 7 of Mt. Hooker with numb fingers, then retrofitting your entire cam and sling rack with these things is probably a great choice. After all, they are quite cheap, and also come in rack packs, as well as a huge variety of colors for properly pairing with any type of cam.
On the other hand, if the functionality that comes with a full-sized carabiner is worth a little bit of extra weight (great options to be had for a mere 7g more per 'biner), then you may think twice about the super tiny MiniWires. There is no doubt that their small size makes them harder to clip, harder to unclip, and easier to fumble and drop. While they sort of replaced the Oz (which is no longer being made) in BD's carabiner lineup, they don't include the hoods over the nose, so the notch is left exposed to potentially hook on bolt hangers, slings, and stopper loops. Long story short, these carabiners have significant pros, but also cons, and so whether they are the right for you depends on your personal needs and willingness to trade-off function for weight.
The tiny dimensions of this carabiner certainly do not make it the easiest to clip the rope into. Not only does it have small gate clearance and gate opening compared to the competition, but the gate springs are fairly tight, meaning that extra effort is needed to force the rope through the gate; it isn't simply going to drop in there on its own. While the gate does angle out slightly as it descends from the hinge to where it meets the nose, this angle is nowhere near as pronounced as many of the easiest carabiners to clip, and the geometry is not quite to the point where one could simply "drop" the rope straight into the basket. The rope must be forced through with the fingers.
Our biggest problem when clipping is that our fingers get stuck as the gate tries to snap closed once the rope is in the basket. Simply put, there is not enough room for both the rope and our fingers inside the carabiner. This issue is exacerbated when one is wearing gloves. The difficulty in clipping a small carabiner is one of the major trade-offs one must accept when opting for a super light, and thus small, option.
This carabiner does not have a keylocking nose design like many of the full-sized options, and gone are the added on hoods found on the old Oz carabiners that made it easier for the rope to slide over the exposed hook and notch on the nose. But, since this is such a mini carabiner, the notch and hook are also proportionally mini, meaning that a rope can slide over the hook easier than with some bigger exposed notches.
However, there is still that issue of the tight gate springs, which can make it slightly more challenging to hold the small gate open while sliding the rope out. Also, even if they are small, exposed notches can get hung up on bolt hangers, stopper wires, and slings, so the act of unclipping with this carabiner is not as simple as with a full-sized carabiner, and especially one with a keylocking nose design.
Obviously, this is where the MiniWire shines, and it's incredibly low weight is the reason that you will want to buy one (or many). They weigh in at 23g per, which is 7g per carabiner lighter than any other option we have reviewed. If you were to rack all of your cams and slings with these carabiners, that would be about 40 carabiners in total, which could net you a weight savings of almost 10 ounces compared to the second heaviest carabiners, or a far more significant 24 ounces compared to a standard carabiner like the Black Diamond Hotwire.
Worth noting is that these carabiners are also a little more than half the size of a standard full-sized carabiner, so the amount of space saved inside the pack is also significant when multiplied by 40 or so. If you are doing a long approach, like into the Wind Rivers or the Sierra or the North Cascades, you can free up space in the pack for the camping gear and rope, or just carry a smaller pack if you are blasting in a day. Oh, think of the possibilities!
The gate clearance on the MiniWire is a mere 21mm, which is the smallest amount of any in this review. Compared to the competition, the basket of this carabiner is neither wide, nor deep, which also affects the width of the gate opening.
We also performed our three ropes test on it, to see how this number translated into a real-world scenario. This test involves putting the loops of three figure eight on a bight knots into the basket of the carabiner at the same time. With the MiniWire, we were only able to fit two knots into the basket before the gate became blocked. What this means is that you shouldn't expect these small 'biners to handle more than one rope, and if you need to build complex multi-pitch anchors, you may also carry along a few lightweight full-sized carabiners to keep your options open.
We found it harder to handle this small carabiner than most larger ones, although we also concede that people with very small hands may actually feel like a carabiner of this size fits in their hands easier, and is therefore easier to use than larger ones.
The anodized coating is not particularly slippery, so grip isn't really a problem when squeezing it tight. We also like how the crotch of the carabiner is fairly wide, so that it can accommodate larger width slings, like those found on some cams, without blocking the function of the gate.
One of the best things about these carabiners is how inexpensive they are. You can lighten your load significantly and not spend a fortune while doing so. Normally we would choose to recognize such an affordable option simply for the great value, but in this case, we must again warn against buying a ton of these simply because they are cheap. For most people, we think full-sized carabiners will be a much better option, and want to point out that these are indeed a specialty piece that will likely serve experienced climbers better than relative newbies. If you know you want them, however, it sure is nice that they don't cost much.
The Black Diamond MiniWire is a fresh new face on the carabiner scene, and is sure to become a classic for those who want only the lightest climbing gear they can buy. With a very small size and an exceptionally light weight, they can be a game changer for alpine missions and large climbs that are a long ways from the car. That said, they come with some notable downsides, include lower functionality, especially with gloves on, due to their tiny size.
— Andy Wellman