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Black Diamond HotForge Screwgate Review

An affordable and solid full sized offset-D locker
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Price:  $11 List | $10.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Affordable, fairly light, nice gate action
Cons:  Many twists needed to open and close screwgate, slightly heavier than competitors
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 15, 2020
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 15
  • Overall Utility - 25% 6
  • Ease of Unlocking and Locking - 25% 6
  • Compactness and Weight - 20% 8
  • Gate Security - 20% 6
  • Gate Clearance - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond HotForge Screwgate is a full-sized offset-D that has a keylocking nose and works well for most applications. In early 2020, Black Diamond scrapped the majority of their previous carabiner line, and the HotForge is now the standard, basic locker that replaces the old Positron. This is a no-frills locker that gets the job done, feels good in the hands, and comes at a very reasonable price. That said, it isn't the lightest, nor the easiest to open and close, so scores slightly lower in our overall ratings than some other offset-Ds. Beginner climbers and experienced tradsters alike will find these a useful addition to their multi-pitch rack with only a minimal hit to the wallet.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The BD HotForge Screwgate is made with an I-Beam construction that cuts out unnecessary weight while still offering the same amount of strength as the old Positron that it replaces. It is virtually the same as the other new BD locker we tested, the LiteForge Screwgate, except for the size and the tiny amount of added weight. We found the HotForge the easier to use of the two due to being slightly bigger. This biner only comes in screwgate form, and cannot be purchased with a different style of gate opening. It comes in one of two colors: matte black, or silver with a blue gate.

Performance Comparison


The HotForge Screwgate is a no-frills  full-sized offset-D that does a good job at what it is designed for: building anchors  tethering in. It can also be used for belaying with a GriGri  and is quite affordable.
The HotForge Screwgate is a no-frills, full-sized offset-D that does a good job at what it is designed for: building anchors, tethering in. It can also be used for belaying with a GriGri, and is quite affordable.

Overall Utility


The HotForge is an offset-D shaped locker, which means it is among the most commonly used styles for nearly any type of climbing. The fact that it is full sized, rather than compact, means it's easier to hold and manipulate in the hands, while also having an easy time with knots and clipping to large anchor bolts. We loved the smooth action of the gate. Lockers of this type are most commonly used for building multi-pitch anchors or on the end of a personal tether, and we found that it worked just fine for this purpose. It also worked well as a lightweight option for use with a GriGri, but due to the shape isn't as ideal for use while belaying with an ATC, and especially not for rappelling with two ropes, although we also used it for both (testing!), and it can certainly be used this way in a pinch. While the HotForge is not as versatile as an HMS/pear shaped locker, it can get the job done for most tasks.

While it wouldn't be our first choice for this purpose  we used the HotForge for belaying with a GriGri and it worked pretty well. In general  we find it best suited for anchors and on the end of a personal tether.
While it wouldn't be our first choice for this purpose, we used the HotForge for belaying with a GriGri and it worked pretty well. In general, we find it best suited for anchors and on the end of a personal tether.

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Ease of Unlocking and Locking


In general, screwgate lockers take more effort to lock and unlock than double-action auto-lockers. Auto-lockers lock all by themselves upon gate closure, while screwgates need to be manually locked closed. On a practical level, we measured the screwgate of the HotForge taking 3 ¾ full revolutions to go from completely closed to all the way open, and vice versa. This is close to double the amount of work it takes for some of the screwgates we tested, such as those made by CAMP USA or DMM. Multiplying this action out by however many times you need to use a locking carabiner in a day, and you end up with a lot of extra time spent screwing and unscrewing gates. This is just one of the many tiny issues that separated this locker from the very best in our overall ratings.

Comparing the two full-sized offset-D's by using them to set up a top-rope anchor at the end of a pitch in Smith Rock. In terms of locking and unlocking the gate  we noticed that we have to twist the screw nut roughly double the amount of times to go from fully open to fully closed with the HotForge than with the Photon  just one reason we are more inclined to go with the Photon.
Comparing the two full-sized offset-D's by using them to set up a top-rope anchor at the end of a pitch in Smith Rock. In terms of locking and unlocking the gate, we noticed that we have to twist the screw nut roughly double the amount of times to go from fully open to fully closed with the HotForge than with the Photon, just one reason we are more inclined to go with the Photon.

Compactness and Weight


On our independent scale we weighed the HotForge at 48g. This is only 4g heavier than the smaller LiteForge, and since it's full-sized, it's easier to manipulate in the hands. That said, this locker was once again about 5g heavier than our favorite of this shape, the CAMP Photon Lock, which is also full-sized, so there is room for cutting weight while still using a full-sized locker.

At 48g  this locker is a bit heavier than comparable offset-D's that we compared it to. While a couple grams here or there may not make that big of a difference in the real world  we still appreciate having the lightest gear we can find that still performs up to standard.
At 48g, this locker is a bit heavier than comparable offset-D's that we compared it to. While a couple grams here or there may not make that big of a difference in the real world, we still appreciate having the lightest gear we can find that still performs up to standard.

Gate Security


In general, screwgate carabiners are not quite as secure as auto-lockers, because they don't lock themselves when closed. With a screwgate such as the HotForge, one must remember to screw the gate closed to ensure it's locked, and depending on one's disposition, this can be forgotten surprisingly frequently. Screwgates also have the ability to vibrate open over time if they are oriented the wrong direction, although this is not common. Be sure to flip your locked screwgate so that gravity pulls the nut downward if vibration is in play.

With screwgates  it can be nice to have a visual indicator of whether the gate is all the way locked or not. Notice the little caution icon on the Photon on the right  that gets covered when the gate is locked closed. By comparison  the HotForge on the left is completely black throughout  and it can be quite difficult to quickly tell at a glance whether the gate is locked or not.
With screwgates, it can be nice to have a visual indicator of whether the gate is all the way locked or not. Notice the little caution icon on the Photon on the right, that gets covered when the gate is locked closed. By comparison, the HotForge on the left is completely black throughout, and it can be quite difficult to quickly tell at a glance whether the gate is locked or not.

Unlike a few of our favorite screw gates, this carabiner does not have a visual indicator, such as a red stripe or icon, that is covered up when the gate is closed, and makes it easier to see with a quick glance whether the locker is closed or not. For our black test model, where all parts are black, it can be surprisingly hard to see that the gate is closed from a distance of even a few feet away, so this one is a bit less secure than screwgates that do come with that feature.

Gate Clearance


We measured the gate clearance of this locker at 1.8cm, which is right in line with the other full-sized offset-D lockers that we tested. It's easy to slide a clove hitch onto the basket, or the end of a figure eight on a bight. Despite the moniker "full-sized," the fact is this carabiner is still pretty small, so it doesn't easily handle two knots, and the gate clearance reflects this.

We measured the gate clearance at 18mm  which is right in line with the amount of clearance on other lockers of the same size and design.
We measured the gate clearance at 18mm, which is right in line with the amount of clearance on other lockers of the same size and design.

While the gate clearance is not on the same level as some of the large HMS style lockers  we found it to be plenty large enough for easily adding a knot  such as this clove hitch  the to basket.
While the gate clearance is not on the same level as some of the large HMS style lockers, we found it to be plenty large enough for easily adding a knot, such as this clove hitch, the to basket.

Value


These are very affordable carabiners, some of the cheapest you can find among lockers. Oddly enough, the larger, full-sized version is even less expensive than the slightly smaller LiteForge, despite having more material. These lockers can also be bought in three packs for a savings of about a dollar per biner. For the price, we think they present good value, despite not being the highest rated one of their type. That said, we weren't willing to give them our Best Bang for the Buck award, due to a few minor flaws.

Using an offset-D as the clip in point  while using a round stock HMS locker for the guide mode setting on the ATC  is our preferred way of setting up multi-pitch belay to minimize friction in the setup and make taking in rope easier.
Using an offset-D as the clip in point, while using a round stock HMS locker for the guide mode setting on the ATC, is our preferred way of setting up multi-pitch belay to minimize friction in the setup and make taking in rope easier.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond HotForge Screwgates are an economical and rather basic offset-D locker that will get the job done for you on long routes or for everyday use. They work just fine and come at a very economical price point, but aren't the first one of their type that we would recommend.

Offset-D's are not the ideal choice for double rope rappels due to the shape that pinches the ropes together and creates added friction  but we tested them for that use anyway. We were surprised that the HotForge was relatively effective  and could be used this way in a pinch when needed.
Offset-D's are not the ideal choice for double rope rappels due to the shape that pinches the ropes together and creates added friction, but we tested them for that use anyway. We were surprised that the HotForge was relatively effective, and could be used this way in a pinch when needed.

Andy Wellman