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DMM Alpha Trad Review

A top quality carabiner that also demands that you pay a top of the line price, yet serves well for any climbing purpose
DMM Alpha Trad
Photo: Backcountry
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Price:  $16 List | $15.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  Recessed notch in nose, great clipping action, easy to handle
Cons:  Not the cheapest, not the lightest, crotch is slightly narrow for accommodating wide slings
Manufacturer:   DMM
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 26, 2020
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 10
  • Clipping - 25% 8
  • Unclipping - 20% 9
  • Weight - 20% 6
  • Gate Clearance - 20% 7
  • Handling - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The Alpha Trad is DMM's top of the line full-sized carabiner designed for all-around use; that is, for any climbing purpose at all. It has a noticeably bent spine that serves to not only improve the ergonomics for how well it fits in your hand, but also increases the amount of gate clearance while keeping the width of the carabiner compact. It is also one of the newer breed of wiregates that feature a keylocking nose design that reduces the likelihood of the nose catching on slings and the rope and cuts down on the ability for the gate to accidentally open by rubbing on the rock. Unfortunately, the Alpha Trad also has a few flaws, most notably its higher than average price. This carabiner is a great bet for nearly any use, and pairs well with cams, slings, and stoppers for all types of trad climbing.

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DMM Alpha Trad
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DMM Alpha Trad
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $15.95 at Backcountry$7.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Recessed notch in nose, great clipping action, easy to handleFull-sized, easy to clip, low price, low weightKey-locking nose design, easy gate action, large sizeGreat price, slim profile, comes in eight different colorsVery light, inexpensive, small shape
Cons Not the cheapest, not the lightest, crotch is slightly narrow for accommodating wide slingsHas a notch in the nose, gates sometimes get sticky over timePricey, heavy compared to competitionOther options are lighter, a little on the small side, exposed notch in the gateNot the easiest to clip, exposed notch on nose, can be hard to handle with gloves on
Bottom Line A top quality carabiner that also demands that you pay a top of the line price, yet serves well for any climbing purposeWhile not perfect, still the most impressive combination of the winning attributes – full size, low weight, low priceThis great carabiner is among the largest and hands down the easiest to use, regardless of hand sizeThis inexpensive carabiner provides a great value and matches up well with your camsA tiny and lightweight carabiner that will help you shave ounces from your rack, but may also be a bit harder to use
Rating Categories DMM Alpha Trad CAMP Photon Wire Helium 3 Trango Phase Carabiner Black Diamond MiniWire
Clipping (25%)
8.0
9.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
Unclipping (20%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
Weight (20%)
6.0
8.0
5.0
8.0
10.0
Gate Clearance (20%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Handling (15%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
Specs DMM Alpha Trad CAMP Photon Wire Helium 3 Trango Phase Carabiner Black Diamond MiniWire
Manufacturer Weight (g) 36g 30g 38g 30g 23g
Gate Closed (kN) 24 22 24 24 20
Sideways (kN) 7 8 7 8 7
Gate Open (kN) 9 9 10 7 7
Gate Clearance (mm) 25 26 27 23 21
Forging Method Hot Cold Hot Not Specified Hot

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Alpha Trad is the wiregate version of DMM's other top of the line carabiners, the Alpha Sport, which have solid gates and come in either straight or bent gate designs. The hallmark of these carabiners is their bent spine, which makes them easier to grip in the hands while also improving the amount of gate clearance and space in their very deep basket, while still maintaining a relatively narrow profile. The keylocking nose makes it ideal for any usage, whether on the bolt end of a quickdraw, or for racking stoppers. That said, carabiners with this design included tend to be significantly more expensive than the simpler counterparts, and the Alpha Trad is no exception. They come in a wide variety of colors for pairing with different brand and size cams, and are also sold in a five-piece rack pack, which doesn't have a grey or silver 'biner included.

Performance Comparison


The Alpha Trad is a solid full-sized carabiner that is easy to...
The Alpha Trad is a solid full-sized carabiner that is easy to handle, easy to clip, and very easy to unclip due to its innovative recessed nose design. This is a great carabiner for any trad climbing usage, but especially nice for racking stoppers or cams due to its design.

Clipping


The Alpha Trad is a very easy carabiner to clip the rope into. It has a lightweight wire gate that also has a snappy and easy action to the gate spring, so very little extra energy is needed to force the rope through. Like many of the best designs, the gate angles outward as it descends from the hinge to where it meets the nose, so gravity assists as a rope put against the gate can literally fall into the basket of its own accord. The keylocking nose design means that there is a bit of a bulbous shape to the nose, which isn't the absolute lowest profile of those we tested. Where this matters is if you are trying to clip the carabiner through a small opening, such as a piton hole, it may be harder than with lower profile options.

A close up of the recessed notch and hook. This is basically the...
A close up of the recessed notch and hook. This is basically the same design as all other wiregates, except that the recess means that a rope, slings, or even bolt hangers can slide right over the nose without getting hung up. The only downside of this awesome design is the additional price.

Unclipping


Due to the keylocking nose design, which has a recessed notch within the nose that the wire gate loops around, unclipping this carabiner is a breeze. This goes for both unclipping the 'biner from a bolt, as well as unclipping the rope from inside the carabiner. With the recessed notch, there is no protruding hook, as is commonly found on cheaper wiregate options, for the rope, or other items like the wire loop on stoppers, or slings, to hang up on. While they come at a higher price, these sorts of wiregate designs are clearly the highest functioning, and unclipping is when this feature really shines.

The gate springs on this carabiner are perfectly tuned, and super...
The gate springs on this carabiner are perfectly tuned, and super easy to manipulate with minimal effort. This fact, combined with the smooth recessed nose, means that unclipping is a breeze.

Weight


The Alpha Trad weighs in at 36g per, which is a bit heavier than the average full-sized carabiner. It is made with an I-Beam design that is designed to cut down on the amount of aluminum material used, thus saving weight, while also maintaining the same strength ratings. However, the stock used for this 'biner seems a bit thicker than many others, with less material cut out for the I-Beam, and this seems to have manifested as a slightly higher weight. If you are choosing between multiple full-sized options and want a keylocking nose, then a couple of extra grams is likely no reason to opt against choosing the Alpha Trad. That said, if you want the lightest weight rack you can possibly put together, a giant pile of these is not going to be the optimal choice for lightening your load.

As a full-sized carabiner, it's not surprising that the Alpha Trad...
As a full-sized carabiner, it's not surprising that the Alpha Trad doesn't weigh in among the very lightest choices. That said, its not all that heavy, either, and makes for a great racking carabiner.

Gate Clearance


The width of the gate opening is 25mm, which is roughly average, but not quite as wide as some other full-sized options. The shape of this carabiner is not totally common, as it has a very deep basket, but one that is not especially wide compared to the competition. Fitting a knot such as a clove hitch into it is no problem, but when we tried to fit three different figure-eight knots into the basket at the same time, we noticed that they needed to be stacked on top of each other to all fit, and couldn't sit side by side. This simply illustrates the more tapered, oblong shape compared to many other options that follow a more classic pear-shaped design.

The Alpha Trad has 25mm of gate clearance, which is plenty for...
The Alpha Trad has 25mm of gate clearance, which is plenty for nearly any single rope usage. The purpose of this photo is just to show that the basket is deeper and more tapered, rather than flat, and thus isn't shaped perfectly for holding many different ropes or objects.

Handling


DMM has designed this carabiner with handling ergonomics in mind, and we have to agree that it is one of the best handling 'biners you can buy. The bend in the spine provides a nice bump for the thumb or fingers to rest against as you open the gate, and they have also added pressure ridges that add friction to the outside of the spine, designed to keep your fingers from slipping. The large size is easy to hold in the hands and to make clips, regardless of whether you are climbing rock barehanded or have gloves on for winter climbing. If ease of use is a primary consideration, it's hard to beat the functionality of the Alpha Trad.

Derek removes a large Camalot just over the roof on the first pitch...
Derek removes a large Camalot just over the roof on the first pitch, clipped with an Alpha Trad carabiner. The bend in the spine and the easy to open gate make these one of the easier carabiners to handle, regardless of conditions.

Value


This carabiner scores near the top of our comparative rankings, suggesting good value. However, it also comes with a top of the line price tag, one that may scare away many prospective buyers. It is a lot easier to afford a few of these fantastic 'biners for use in critical areas like racking stoppers than it is to consider completely retro-fitting your cam rack with them. With their solid performance and features, we feel like they are a good value, but also concede that if you are on a budget, there will be better options for you.

The Alpha Trad are not inexpensive carabiners, but perform very well...
The Alpha Trad are not inexpensive carabiners, but perform very well for racking cams, stoppers, or on slings. It is worth having one or two for racking stoppers alone, and considering their performance, buyers will be happy, despite the elevated rpice.

Conclusion


The DMM Alpha Trad is a heavily featured and high performing carabiner that is applicable to pretty much any climbing use. They are designed to be ergonomic and easy to use for winter climbing with gloves on, and these same characteristics make them very easy to use for dry rock climbing as well. The only downside is the elevated price tag, but at a minimum, it is worth buying a few for specialty racking needs.

Making clips in a hurry while leading is one of the most crucial...
Making clips in a hurry while leading is one of the most crucial tests of any carabiner, and challenging sport climbing is as good of a way to test this function as anywhere. The Alpha Trad is no doubt an easy carabiner to get clipped in a pinch.

Andy Wellman