Black Diamond HotForge Screwgate Review
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Andy Wellman