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Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire Review

An inexpensive carabiner that's perfect for alpine draws.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $6 List | $4.46 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, inexpensive, better handling than a "keychain" carabiner
Cons:  Slightly maller than full size, exposed notch for the gate, only available in two colors
Manufacturer:   Mad Rock
By Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 29, 2018
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 10
  • Ease of clipping - 20% 8
  • Rope pull smoothness - 15% 6
  • Ease of unclipping - 15% 6
  • Ease of handling - 15% 8
  • How many ropes fit - 15% 9
  • Portability - 20% 7

The Skinny

The Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire carabiner comes in both a bent and straight gate for a reasonable $6 apiece. It's only a hair smaller than full size and weighs 31 grams. We like a lot about this carabiner, including the price, and it's an excellent choice for anyone looking to save a few dollars on their gear. Our Best Buy winner comes in only red and silver, which is great for alpine draws, but not so fantastic for racking cams. The Trango Phase also retails for $6 each, but comes in eight color choices for easy racking. As such, we've also given it our Best Buy award for anyone looking to color-code their carabiners to their camming devices. The Ultra Light Wire is not quite as high performing as our Editors' Choice winner, the Wild Country Helium, but it gets the job done for less than half the price. If you're looking to go even lighter, consider the Black Diamond Oz or CAMP Nano 22.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire is a hot-forged wiregate carabiner. It weighs 31 grams (1.1 ounces) and has a 22 mm wide gate opening. It currently comes in silver and red colors only.

Performance Comparison


This Mad Rock model is one of the least expensive carabiners out there. Our Best Buy award winner will leave you smiling from the bank to the crag.
This Mad Rock model is one of the least expensive carabiners out there. Our Best Buy award winner will leave you smiling from the bank to the crag.

Ease of Unclipping


This carabiner has an unprotected notch on its nose that the wiregate latches onto. This notch can get hung up on the rope, particularly when climbing steeper terrain. It can also snag on your nuts, slings, harness, and bolts, etc. Due to this, and the smaller size, our testers found the Ultra Light Wire a little difficult to unclip.


Some manufacturers are creating notch-less wiregates to avoid this issue. For example, the Black Diamond Oz has a wire hood over the notch to prevent snags, and the Wild Country Helium and DMM Alpha Light bury their notched in the nose. This extra engineering increases the cost of these products, however, and this is the main trade-off you are getting with a less expensive model like our Best Buy award winner.

The exposed notch on the UltraLight's (left) wiregate can get snagged on your rope or gear. In comparison  the Black Diamond Oz (right) has a stainless steel wire hood over the notch to prevent this.
The exposed notch on the UltraLight's (left) wiregate can get snagged on your rope or gear. In comparison, the Black Diamond Oz (right) has a stainless steel wire hood over the notch to prevent this.

Ease of Clipping


This carabiner was relatively easy to clip. The bent gate version has a nice scoop which seems to swallow the rope for you. The tension on the gate is a little softer than the Black Diamond Oz, which makes clipping that much easier. But, like any smaller carabiner, our testers found it a little trickier to clip than a full-sized one, even if they had smaller hands.


Note that we tested these carabiners as part of our quickdraw review as well, where they received a slightly different ease of clipping score. When compared to the mostly full-size sport specific carabiners in that review, the gate tension felt a little stiff to us and the carabiner a little small. However, in this review, we were comparing it to much smaller carabiners, like the Camp Nano 22 and the Metolius FS Mini II, and it was a lot easier to clip than those models.

The bent wiregate on this carabiner is easy to clip.
The bent wiregate on this carabiner is easy to clip.

Ease of Handling


The Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire is about the same size as the Black Diamond Oz, somewhere between a full-size model and a "keychain" size one like the CAMP Nano 22 or Metolius FS Mini II.


While they are much easier to handle than the smallest of the small, they are still not as user-friendly as a full-size one. Once you have gloves on, our testers found that it became a bit trickier to use them. If you plan on using your gear on a big-wall or in cold conditions, consider a larger model such as the CAMP Photon Wire.

The Ultra Light (right) is a smaller sized carabiner  which means it is harder to handle  with or without gloves on  compared to the CAMP Photon Wire Express (left).
The Ultra Light (right) is a smaller sized carabiner, which means it is harder to handle, with or without gloves on, compared to the CAMP Photon Wire Express (left).

How Many Ropes Fit


When we put three figure-eight loops of 10 mm rope in the Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire, we could barely open the gate, and it was pretty crowded. At 22 mm, this product's gate opening is on the smaller side, and combined with the smaller size of the carabiner there just isn't a lot of room in the basket.


You probably wouldn't want to use this piece of gear to carry a bunch of slings or a cordalette, or to use as an anchor point. The Wild Country Helium and CAMP Photon Wire models have much wider gate openings and would be a better choice for that. When we tested it with twin 7.8 mm ropes, this carabiner did work well and didn't seem overly crowded.

The smaller gate opening (22 mm) combined with the smaller size of this carabiner make it a poor choice for anchoring or carrying lots of webbing.
The smaller gate opening (22 mm) combined with the smaller size of this carabiner make it a poor choice for anchoring or carrying lots of webbing.

Rope Pull Smoothness


The rope bearing surface on this model is narrower than the CAMP Photon Wire or Petzl Ange L, and our testers found that the rope didn't pull quite as smoothly as those carabiners.


A narrower rope bearing surface also means that the Ultra Light will be harder on your rope than the Ange in the case of a fall or for yarding back up.

This carabiner didn't have the smoothest pull and the rope bearing surface seemed to be on the narrow side compared to some other models.
This carabiner didn't have the smoothest pull and the rope bearing surface seemed to be on the narrow side compared to some other models.

Portability


This model weighs 31 grams, which is slightly heavier than the other smaller lightweight carabiners out there, like the Black Diamond Oz (28 grams). The CAMP Nano 22 (22 grams) and Metolius FS Mini II (25 grams) are even lighter, though that weight deduction comes in a much smaller package.


Even amongst the lightweight gear category, these small differences add up. Twenty Ultra Lights are almost a half-pound more than 20 Nano 22s. However, you might decide that those extra ounces are worth the convenience of having a slightly more useable carabiner.

The Ultra Light is not the lightest option out there  but it is more usable than some smaller ones. Here Tracy Martin clips her 7.8 mm set with ease.
The Ultra Light is not the lightest option out there, but it is more usable than some smaller ones. Here Tracy Martin clips her 7.8 mm set with ease.

Best Applications


The Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire is best used for traditional and multi-pitch climbing. This carabiner currently comes in only two colors, silver for the straight gate and red for the bent. There's no reason why you can't rack your cams on them, but once you've switched to a cam/carabiner color-coded system, it is hard to go back. The Black Diamond Neutrino and Oz, Trango Phase, Wild Country Helium, and the CAMP Nano 22 and Photon Wire all come in six to eight different colors to match your camming devices. This helps you pick out the right cam first go, particularly if you rack on your harness.

The Ultra Light (left) on one of the few camming devices it matches. Color coding your carabiners and camming devices makes choosing the right protection that much quicker. Unfortunately  this carabiner only comes in red and silver.
The Ultra Light (left) on one of the few camming devices it matches. Color coding your carabiners and camming devices makes choosing the right protection that much quicker. Unfortunately, this carabiner only comes in red and silver.

These carabiners would be great to put on tripled-up shoulder length slings for a set of "alpine" draws, though you might want to go with a narrow 10 mm sling since these carabiners aren't very big.

These carabiners are great for making alpine draws. Lightweight and inexpensive  you can build up a rack of them for a reasonable price.
These carabiners are great for making alpine draws. Lightweight and inexpensive, you can build up a rack of them for a reasonable price.

Value


The Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire carabiners are half the price of our Editors' Choice winning Wild Country Heliums. If you're on a budget, or you're looking to buy your first trad rack and not even sure if you are going to like placing gear, better to start with a less expensive model before going all in on the spendy stuff.

Conclusion


Mad Rock has done a great job with the Ultra Light Wire. Small but not too small, light and strong, and all at a reasonable price. Our Best Buy award winner is a great choice for someone new to climbing and facing the hundreds of dollars it takes to build their rack, or for anyone who would rather spend their money on gas to get to the crag rather than their gear. If you are looking to pad your rack with lots of lightweight carabiners at a reasonable price, this model is the best option out there.


Cam McKenzie Ring