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Wild Country Helium 3 Carabiner Review

This great carabiner is among the largest and hands down the easiest to use, regardless of hand size
Wild Country Helium 3 Carabiner
Photo: Wild Country
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $14 List | $13.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Key-locking nose design, easy gate action, large size
Cons:  Pricey, heavy compared to competition
Manufacturer:   Wild Country
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 26, 2020
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83
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 10
  • Clipping - 25% 10
  • Unclipping - 20% 9
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Gate Clearance - 20% 8
  • Handling - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The Wild Country Helium 3 is one of our favorite carabiners due in large part to how easy it is to use. It tops our comparative testing charts for ease of clipping, ease of unclipping, and ease of handling, making it perhaps the best trad climbing carabiner you can buy. We love the clean-lock nose that lacks a hooked notch for ropes, nuts, or slings to catch on, find its large overall size a breeze to manipulate in our hands, and can't stop playing with the lightweight, snappy action on the wire gate. Our only complaints revolve around the mildly increased overall weight, and the elevated price tag. If you are looking for racking carabiners for your cams or want the easiest to clip option on the ends of your alpine draws, we would highly recommend choosing the Helium 3.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award    
Price $13.95 at Backcountry
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$16.50 at Amazon$13.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Key-locking nose design, easy gate action, large sizeFull-sized, easy to clip, low price, low weightKeylock wiregate has no notch, easy to handle, large rope-bearing surfaceRecessed notch in nose, great clipping action, easy to handleEasy clipping and unclipping, keylock design, lightweight for medium size biner
Cons Pricey, heavy compared to competitionHas a notch in the nose, gates sometimes get sticky over timeHeavy, expensive, single "wiregate" takes some getting used toNot the cheapest, not the lightest, crotch is slightly narrow for accommodating wide slingsBent spine sacrifices strength
Bottom Line Provides very simple clipping and unclipping action, and feels great in the handsA very affordable carabiner that is also one of the easiest to use and won’t cost you anything on the scaleHeavy for a trad rack but nice keylocking gateAn ergonomic and smooth clipping carabiner that also has a keylocking nose design for the best overall wiregate functionThe Camp Dyon is an easy handling, lightweight 'biner that is a true all-arounder
Rating Categories Helium 3 CAMP Photon Wire Petzl Ange L DMM Alpha Trad CAMP USA Dyon
Clipping (25%)
10
9
8
8
9
Unclipping (20%)
9
8
9
9
8
Weight (20%)
5
8
6
6
7
Gate Clearance (20%)
8
9
8
7
6
Handling (15%)
9
9
8
9
8
Specs Helium 3 CAMP Photon Wire Petzl Ange L DMM Alpha Trad CAMP USA Dyon
Manufacturer Weight (g) 38g 30g 34g 36g 33g
Gate Closed (kN) 24 22 22 24 21
Sideways (kN) 7 8 7 7 7
Gate Open (kN) 10 9 10 9 11
Gate Clearance (mm) 27 26 26 25 26
Forging Method Hot Cold Not Specified Hot Not Specified

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Wild Country Helium 3 is an updated version of a long-popular design and features hot-forged I-beam construction. The I-beam means that the stock is not totally round, and instead places more aluminum material on the inside of the carabiner for a wider and more rounded interface with the rope, while cutting out the superfluous material on the exterior edges. This type of design retains all the strength of a thicker and heavier round stock, while cutting out unnecessary weight, and looking cooler overall. These 'biners come anodized in six different color options, matching the most common cam colors, so you can pair the color of your carabiner with the color of your cams for the easiest racking. You can also buy them in a six-pack (rack pack), which comes with one of each color, and provides a bit of savings over buying them individually.

Performance Comparison


The Helium 3 has possibly the nicest gate action of any we've tried:...
The Helium 3 has possibly the nicest gate action of any we've tried: it easily opens with minimal effort, yet snaps closed upon release. It also features a key-lock nose design that ensures there is no hook to catch on ropes, slings, or nuts. The large size also greatly adds to the ease of handling.

Clipping


This is easiest carabiner to clip that we have tested. It has a very wide 27mm of gate clearance, giving you the maximum amount of space for both the rope, and your fingers if need be, to slide through the gate into the basket without getting caught.


The rope practically falls into this carabiner all by itself, thanks...
The rope practically falls into this carabiner all by itself, thanks to the rediculously smooth gate spring, and the shape of the gate which allows one to drop the rope straight down into the basket.

Even better than the gate clearance is the snappy action on the doubled-up wire gate. This gate feels very light, and is very easily forced open, but also snaps closed in a millisecond with a satisfying click. Some carabiners have gate springs that are very tight and make it effortful to force the rope through the closed gate, but not so with this one. The design is also such that the nose sticks out further than the top of the carabiner, with the gate angled outward as it descends, so that gravity assists in the clipping motion. It is literally possible to drop the rope through the gate. All of these factors contribute to the Helium 3 being among the easiest clipping carabiners you will find.

Unclipping


The "clean-lock" nose design makes this one of the easiest wire gate carabiners to unclip the rope or a sling from. This design recesses the hooked beak inside the nose design, so that there isn't a protruding hook, common on many wiregates, for the rope or slings to catch on when unclipping. The end result is a completely smooth nose (see photo).

A relatively unique design, the key-notch inside the nose of the...
A relatively unique design, the key-notch inside the nose of the Helium 3 can hold the bent end of the wire gate, while also not presenting any sort of exposed hook on the nose for wires, slings, or ropes to catch on. These are the easiest type of wire gate carabiners to unclip, by far, mimicking the keylock design commonly found on solid gate carabiners.


Worth noting, however, is that the basket is very deep, and the nose does curve upwards at the end, rather than continuing on a flatter trajectory. What this means is the rope has to be lifted out of the basket in some situations, which isn't quite as easy as simply sliding it out. This complaint is minor, and this is certainly one of the easiest carabiners to unclip under duress.

Unclipping the rope from this one is a breeze, as there is no notch...
Unclipping the rope from this one is a breeze, as there is no notch for the rope to catch on as you slide it off the nose. A carabiner that is easy to unclip is really handy when cleaning routes while seconding.

Weight


If we have one major complaint about these awesome carabiners, it's their weight. Weighing in at 38g per, these are 5g per more than the last version and roughly 16g per heavier than the lightest options in this review. Granted, they are one of the largest as well, so the additional weight shouldn't come as a surprise, but both the added weight and the added size make them less portable compared to the competition.


Comparing a few of the carabiners we have tested recently. The...
Comparing a few of the carabiners we have tested recently. The Helium 3 is second from left, on the top. You can see it is nearly the biggest, which makes for easy handling, but also the heaviest with the exception of the top right, which calls into question its portability, especially if you intend to buy 20 or more.

How significant is the difference? If you have 20 of these on your cam rack, weighing 15g per carabiner more than the Black Diamond MiniWire, that would amount to 10.58 ounces of difference, or roughly 2/3 of a pound. For something as simple as the carabiners you are racking up with, this is actually a fairly significant amount, so how much weight matters to you should certainly be something to consider.

When the approach to your route looks like this, portability really...
When the approach to your route looks like this, portability really matters. This is when you should opt for lightweight. However, the glacier means its probably not that warm, and super small carabiners can be much harder to use with gloves on or with numb cold fingers, so one must balance the needs against each other.

Gate Clearance


The Helium 3 has a relatively deep bucket, as compared to some others that are flatter in shape. The deep bucket focuses the rope down into the groove where it is meant to run but also makes it a bit harder for three ropes, or three figure-8 on a bight knots, to sit side by side inside the carabiner. If they do sit like this, then they inhibit the opening and closing of the gate a bit. On the other hand, if the knots or ropes are unweighted, they can be arranged to sit on top of each other and thus allow plenty of room for the gate to open.

While there should be plenty of gate clearance, the deep basket...
While there should be plenty of gate clearance, the deep basket means that the ropes can stack up in a row and eventually block the opening and closing of the gate. Worth noting is this would only be an issue for you if you are big walling or guiding, as it is not super common to stack three ropes or knots in the same carabiner.


It is no problem to fit a clove hitch, or twin ropes, through this large carabiner.

The large gate opening (27mm) and the deep basket mean this...
The large gate opening (27mm) and the deep basket mean this carabiner works great for building anchors; it easily holds a clove hitch on this 9.5mm rope.

Handling


Handling is largely a function of how large a carabiner is, as we have found time and again that large 'biners, up to a certain point of course, are far easier to use than little tiny ones. As one of the largest in our current selection, the Helium 3 is naturally also one of the easiest ones to handle. This also comes into play when you are climbing in the winter with gloves on, and you may consider buying larger carabiners over smaller ones for use while alpine and ice climbing, simply for how much easier they are to use.


While this carabiner is hot-forged with I-beam construction, it lacks the added textured ridges that are sometimes added to hot-forged carabiners that serve to increase friction and grip.

The large carabiner is very easy to handle, and we found it worked...
The large carabiner is very easy to handle, and we found it worked well for all sorts of applications. In particular, the key-locked nose made it very suitable for racking our stoppers, as the lack of notch made it very easy to slide one off the nose once placed.

Value


Speaking strictly in terms of performance, we feel this carabiner offers great value, as it is one of the highest performing. Its price point is on the high end of the spectrum, although not out of line with other top-end carabiners. You can save a bit of money per unit if you choose to buy a six pack. That said, if you are on a budget, then there are quite a few options available that cost about half as much as this one, and would therefore likely provide greater value.

Dakota on the tenuous crimps and slopers of the crux of Idiot Wind...
Dakota on the tenuous crimps and slopers of the crux of Idiot Wind, high above the ground on Lumpy Ridge, CO, happily spending a day testing carabiners.

Conclusion


The Wild Country Helium 3 is a fantastic carabiner, and we think makes an excellent choice for racking cams, clipping nuts to, and for using on extendable alpine draws. Basically, if you are trad climbing, then these carabiners will easily find a place on your rack. We are less likely to recommend them for sport climbing draws, but still concede that their insanely easy clip-ability makes them a reasonable choice no matter what type of climbing you love most.

15 pitches up a huge mega-classic like the Beckey-Chouinard in the...
15 pitches up a huge mega-classic like the Beckey-Chouinard in the Bugaboos, you want to be sure your carabiners are light and easy to use. Stefan enjoying a day of testing.

Andy Wellman