The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

CAMP Photon Wire Straight Gate Review

A full size and lightweight carabiner that's ideal for climbing with gloves on.
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Price:  $8 List | $5.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight and full size, easy clipping and handling
Cons:  Wiregate‚Äôs notch can snag on rope or gear
Manufacturer:   CAMP
By Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 29, 2018
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88
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 10
  • Ease of clipping - 20% 9
  • Rope pull smoothness - 15% 9
  • Ease of unclipping - 15% 8
  • Ease of handling - 15% 10
  • How many ropes fit - 15% 9
  • Portability - 20% 8

The Skinny

The CAMP Photon Wire is one of the lightest full-size carabiners on the market. This product was designed with light and fast ascents in the mountains in mind. In fact, this is the favorite carabiner of our founder, Chris McNamara, on his frequent one-day climbs of Yosemite's El Capitan. CAMP redesigned the Photon in 2017, and the new version seems to have rectified some of the previous issues that we encountered with this model, including sticky gates. If you have meaty paws, or often climb with gloves, you'll appreciate the size of the Photon, and we thought it handled well in all conditions. If ultimate weight savings is a bigger goal, then CAMP's Nano 22 will shave some more ounces off your rack. Our Editors' Choice winner, the Wild Country Helium, slightly edged out the Photon thanks to its "clean" nose, but this is still a great carabiner for a decent price.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

The CAMP Photon Wire is a wiregate carabiner that is the lightest for its size in our review; weighing only 1.1 ounces or 30 grams, it has a 26 mm gate opening. It's now 1 gram heavier, and has a slightly smaller gate opening. The gate interface was redesigned, and the tension feels slightly stiffer now. The previous version had very soft gate tension, and we one of our testers had a personal set that turned to "manuals" (stuck in an open position) after only a few months of use. We weren't that impressed with the Photon of a few years back, but CAMP seems to have made some significant improvements, and we didn't encounter any of the old issues with the updated model.

Performance Comparison


Climbing with some Photon Wires that are color-coded to our cams. We liked a lot about this carabiner  including the full-size design but still lightweight package.
Climbing with some Photon Wires that are color-coded to our cams. We liked a lot about this carabiner, including the full-size design but still lightweight package.

Ease of Unclipping


The notch that the wiregate latches on is exposed and can snag on your gear or rope. We found this particularly noticeable when climbing steep terrain, or trying to unclip from a nut or bolt. In contrast, the Wild Country Helium and Black Diamond Oz carabiners have protected notches to mitigate this issue.

There is an exposed notch on the wiregate  which means you have to unclip from nuts or slings with care.
There is an exposed notch on the wiregate, which means you have to unclip from nuts or slings with care.

Ease of Clipping


The gate tension on the updated Photon seems noticeably stiffer than the last time we tested it. This is actually a good thing, as before it was so soft that, though it was easy to clip, it also cross-clipped itself on our harness frequently. The full size and large gate opening made this one of the easiest models to clip.

Ease of Handling


The CAMP Photon Wire also earned high marks for this metric. The spine is narrow, which means it takes up less space on your harness or rack. The large size makes it easy to handle, particularly with gloves on, and the narrow nose profile allows it to fit in tight sling-stuffed bolts at a belay, which is an advantage over the wider nose on the Wild Country Helium. However, that "nose" does protect the gate from accidentally opening.

The advantage of the Helium (left) over the Photon Wire (right) is the snag-free unclipping. It does make the nose a little bigger though and the Helium is a few grams heavier.
The advantage of the Helium (left) over the Photon Wire (right) is the snag-free unclipping. It does make the nose a little bigger though and the Helium is a few grams heavier.

How Many Ropes Fit


The large basket on this model and the 26 mm gate opening allowed the gate to open fully during our three-rope test (three figure eights on a bight using 10 mm rope). This is nice for organizing belays with multiple people, or if you like to use clove hitches for anchoring.

This carabiner easily passed our three-rope test.
This carabiner easily passed our three-rope test.

Rope Pull Smoothness


The Photon Wire has a large rope-bearing surface, and the rope pulled smoothly through it. It's also wide to enough to accommodate twin ropes easily.

The rope bearing surface is nice and wide  and this carabiner had a smooth pull.
The rope bearing surface is nice and wide, and this carabiner had a smooth pull.

Portability


This carabiner weighs 30 grams, or 1 ounce, and is the lightest full-size carabiner that we tested. The Trango Phase also weighs 30 grams, but it is quite a bit smaller in size.

Best Applications


The CAMP Photon Wire was designed for light and fast pursuits in the alpine environment. This is a great choice for ice and big wall climbers, or for anyone with larger hands who can't operate the "keychain" sized carabiners comfortably. It also comes in eight different colors for racking with your camming devices.

Clipping a Photon Wire before tackling the roof. These lightweight carabiners are easy to clip  match up with your cams  and won't weigh you down.
Clipping a Photon Wire before tackling the roof. These lightweight carabiners are easy to clip, match up with your cams, and won't weigh you down.

Value


The Photon Wire retails for $8, which is an attractive price, particularly when compared to the $14 Wild Country Helium. Is the extra $6 worth it? If you're trying to save a bit when filling out your rack, then choosing the Photon Wire for racking your cams (where the notch in the gate won't be as noticeable) and the Helium for your slings and nuts is a good way to go. To save even less, consider the Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire, which costs $6 and is only slightly smaller.

Conclusion


We were excited to see that CAMP redesigned the Photon Wire because our previous review of this carabiner was not so favorable. The improved gate design seems to have minimized the issues we observed before, and we're happy to be able to recommend this carabiner now. It almost unseated our Editors' Choice winner!


Cam McKenzie Ring