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CAMP Photon Wire Review

While not perfect, still the most impressive combination of the winning attributes – full size, low weight, low price
CAMP Photon Wire
Photo: CAMP USA
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $8.00 List | $7.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Full-sized, easy to clip, low price, low weight
Cons:  Has a notch in the nose, gates sometimes get sticky over time
Manufacturer:   CAMP USA
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 26, 2020
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86
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

The CAMP Photon Wire could be called the Holy Grail of wiregate carabiners for its effective combination of full size, low weight, and low price, and tops the charts in our comparative testing due to these factors. At a mere 30g, it is the same weight or even lighter than some carabiners that are considerably smaller, and its full-sized design makes it easy to handle and easy to clip. It also comes at a price that is significantly less than the keylocking designs we've compared it against, so budget-minded climbers should be able to afford a rack's worth. These carabiners are great for nearly any purpose but shine on hard trad climbs, alpine climbing, and ice climbing, where it's nice to have a full-sized carabiner for ease of clipping, but weight is still a top priority.

Compare to Similar Products

 
CAMP Photon Wire
This Product
CAMP Photon Wire
Awards Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $7.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$9.00 List$5.21 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$8.95 at REI$5.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Full-sized, easy to clip, low price, low weightLightweight, good handlingGreat price, slim profile, comes in eight different colorsVery large basket, excellent gate clearance, easy to handle, affordableVery light, inexpensive, small shape
Cons Has a notch in the nose, gates sometimes get sticky over timeDifficult for large hands, smallOther options are lighter, a little on the small side, exposed notch in the gateHeavy, stiff gate springs, notch and hook on noseNot the easiest to clip, exposed notch on nose, can be hard to handle with gloves on
Bottom Line While not perfect, still the most impressive combination of the winning attributes – full size, low weight, low priceA lightweight decently easy to handle biner that finds a nice middle ground between ultralight and heavier offeringsThis inexpensive carabiner provides a great value and matches up well with your camsAn updated version of an OG classic, but one that is heavier than similar sized competition and doesn’t offer the smoothest clipsA tiny and lightweight carabiner that will help you shave ounces from your rack, but may also be a bit harder to use
Rating Categories CAMP Photon Wire Wild Country Astro Trango Phase Carabiner Black Diamond Hotwire Black Diamond MiniWire
Clipping (25%)
9.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
Unclipping (20%)
8.0
6.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
Weight (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
4.0
10.0
Gate Clearance (20%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
6.0
Handling (15%)
9.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Specs CAMP Photon Wire Wild Country Astro Trango Phase Carabiner Black Diamond Hotwire Black Diamond MiniWire
Manufacturer Weight (g) 30g 30g 30g 40g 23g
Gate Closed (kN) 22 24 24 24 20
Sideways (kN) 8 7 8 8 7
Gate Open (kN) 9 7 7 8 7
Gate Clearance (mm) 26 24 23 27 21
Forging Method Cold Hot Not Specified Hot Hot

Our Analysis and Test Results

It usually takes shrinking the size of a carabiner in order to significantly cut back on the weight of an individual unit, but with the Photon Wire, CAMP has managed to keep the weight down while still offering the easier clipping and larger gate clearance that comes with a larger carabiner. It also comes at a very affordable price, especially compared to many of the other full-sized options, which are either quite a bit more expensive, weigh a fair bit more, or both.

The notable downside to what we consider to be the best overall carabiner is that they don't have a keylocking nose, like many of the other top scorers do. This means there is an exposed notch in the nose where the wire gate must rest, although to be fair this notch is quite a bit smaller and less prominent than on some others. These carabiners are also somewhat notorious for acquiring sticky gates over time, so be sure to keep them out of the dirt, and clean and lube them frequently if you want them to retain their buttery smooth gate clipping action. As an economical and high performing option, they really can't be beat. They also come in a very affordable "Rack Pack," set of 6.

Performance Comparison


The Camp Photon Wire combines so many great qualities, including a...
The Camp Photon Wire combines so many great qualities, including a full-sized design that is very lightweight, and super affordable. They are also very easy to clip, and come in rack packs that make lightening up your whole trad rack a very simple, and affordable, task.

Clipping


The Photon Wire effectively combines a very smooth action of the gate spring with a wide opening that makes them a cinch to clip. The only reason we didn't rate them at the very top of the pile is that there is at least one carabiner with even smoother gate action. Regardless, these are among the best and certainly don't create much of an obstacle when one is attempting a desperate clip.


Easy clipping is essential, whether sport climbing or trad climbing...
Easy clipping is essential, whether sport climbing or trad climbing, and with its very light and snappy gate springs, and shaped design that means the rope practically falls straight into the basket of its own accord, the Photon is one of the very best choices.

The angle of the gate itself also aids in the ability to quickly clip. As the gate descends from the hinge to the nose, it tapers outward. This means that if one was to rest the rope against the gate, gravity itself would drop the rope through the gate and into the basket. Many other great carabiners share this design, which should be included on all easy to clip carabiners.

Unclipping


The shape of the basket on this carabiner is fairly flat so that it isn't too hard to slide the rope from the lowest point out and over the nose once your other fingers have opened the gate. Getting the rope unclipped from it is no more difficult than with many of the other top carabiners you can buy today.


There is not a keylocking nose design, so that a hook remains on the end of the nose. While this hook and notch is so small that any normal-sized climbing rope can easily slide over it, it still has the ability to catch on bolt hangers while you are cleaning sport climbs, or on the small gauge looped wires on the ends of stoppers. Minor complaints, but ones that have to be made when discussing wiregate carabiners.

As you can see, there is the classic hook and notch design in the...
As you can see, there is the classic hook and notch design in the nose where the closed wire gate joins the nose. While this is a slightly lower functioning design than the new keylocking or recessed designs, it also means the carabiner is far more affordable. Compared to many competing options, this notch and hook is quite low profile.

Weight


The CAMP Photon Wire weighs in at a mere 30g, which is among the lightest in this review. This weight is remarkable for a full-sized carabiner, as most of the lightest options these days are forced to be significantly smaller in order to cut down on the amount of materials in use.


While it would be nice if it had a keylocking nose, all four of the options that we've tested that have this sort of design are heavier. The light weight of this carabiner, while still a fair bit heavier than the smallest and tiniest options, certainly makes one think about whether it might be easier to clip these when climbing near the limit, rather than a smaller choice, at virtually the same weight.

Low weight at a full-size is the primary reason we love and...
Low weight at a full-size is the primary reason we love and recommend this carabiner. No other full-sized carabiner weighs this little, while still retaining such affordability.

Gate Clearance


At 26mm, the gate on this carabiner is very close to having the widest opening of any that we've tested, so there is no problem dropping in the rope without the gate catching on your fingers or gloves as you do so.


We also tested it against the competition in our "three ropes test," where we take three figure eights on a bight and clip them into the carabiner at the same time. With the exceptionally wide bucket, no other contender allowed us to clip all three ropes so easily, without any overlap or stacking necessary, and with plenty of room to still open the gate unobstructed in order to remove the ropes. While it may not be common to clip this many knots to one carabiner, it's also not unheard of, and regardless, just proves that the large size of this one also increases how easy it is to use.

While this test is not super applicable to everyday use, the point...
While this test is not super applicable to everyday use, the point is that you can see how much gate clearance there is with these three knots all sitting in the basket at the same time. This is as much as any other biner, and simply means that once again, the large size makes it easier to use.

Handling


Generally speaking, we find larger carabiners to be easier to handle, as they simply fit more perfectly in our hands so that pressure can be applied both along the spine and along the gate in order to clip or unclip them easily. The full-sized design of this carabiner makes it a breeze to handle, and adds significant value over much smaller designs that we find easier to drop, and also harder to clip and unclip without getting our fingers stuck.


The wide crotch design means that it can be used on the end of a dogbone for sport climbing, and that wider cam slings will sit easily as designed without impeding on the gate function. While there aren't any pressure ridges or hot-forged gripping aids, the simple and standard I-Beam design presents no problems for holding onto.

On the end of this extended cam sling, you can see how large the...
On the end of this extended cam sling, you can see how large the Photon Wire looks. The larger full-size greatly aids in how easy it is to handle, especially when in duress, or while wearing gloves.

Value


These carabiners come at an exceptional value. Simply put, they are among the most affordable options in this review, and also the highest performing. This turns the old adage, "You get what you pay for" completely upside down. What we are saying here is that you get the best carabiner at the best price, pretty much the ultimate win/win.

The value of this carabiner is in being able to cut grams on every...
The value of this carabiner is in being able to cut grams on every single cam, while still having the same handling and functionality you expect with a full sized carabiner. It is also one of the most affordable options to buy either as singles or as rack packs for ravamping the entire lineup.

Conclusion


The CAMP Photon Wire carabiners are not without flaws. However, they present the best balance of many of the most important characteristics, including weight, price, and ease of clipping and handling. While you must accept the hook and notch on the nose, the fact is that every keylocking design costs significantly more, and also weighs a few grams more as well. For the attributes that matter the most, and for a great deal when purchasing many, we highly recommend the Photon.

With its large size, low price, low weight, and easy handling, the...
With its large size, low price, low weight, and easy handling, the Photon might just be the perfect trad climbing carabiner, especially for those who don't want to spend their whole paycheck. Putting them to the test on granite multi-pitch in Colorado.

Andy Wellman