DMM Alpha Trad Review
Cons: Not the cheapest, not the lightest, crotch is slightly narrow for accommodating wide slings
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DMM Alpha Trad
|Price||$15.95 at Backcountry||$7.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Recessed notch in nose, great clipping action, easy to handle||Full-sized, easy to clip, low price, low weight||Key-locking nose design, easy gate action, large size||Great price, slim profile, comes in eight different colors||Very light, inexpensive, small shape|
|Cons||Not the cheapest, not the lightest, crotch is slightly narrow for accommodating wide slings||Has a notch in the nose, gates sometimes get sticky over time||Pricey, heavy compared to competition||Other options are lighter, a little on the small side, exposed notch in the gate||Not 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 purpose||While not perfect, still the most impressive combination of the winning attributes – full size, low weight, low price||This great carabiner is among the largest and hands down the easiest to use, regardless of hand size||This inexpensive carabiner provides a great value and matches up well with your cams||A 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|
|Gate Clearance (20%)|
|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|
|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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
— Andy Wellman