Black Diamond LiteForge Screwgate Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Light, small, reasonably affordable
Cons: Heavier than other compact offset-D’s, screwgate takes many revolutions to open and close
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
At the beginning of 2020, Black Diamond completely redid their entire lineup of carabiners, and the new LiteForge Screwgate now fills the niche for compact offset-D. This is the smallest locker that BD makes, and only comes in the screwgate style, without the option to buy a twistlock instead. You can buy them as either singles or in packs of three, and they come in either solid black, which we tested, or in silver with purple gate color. They are basically exactly the same as the BD HotForge Screwgates, except slightly smaller and slightly lighter, although also a hair more expensive, and in our opinion, the tradeoffs may not be worth it considering the easier handling and greater versatility of a slightly larger carabiner.
In general, compact offset-D lockers such as this one are ideal to have in bunches to save weight while still using lockers to build multi-pitch anchors, to have as a second carabiner for belaying with an ATC in guide mode, or for clipping in critical items to a belay. The LiteForge works well for all of these uses, although we didn't find it to be the most effective compared to similar small lockers we compared it directly to, and so it didn't receive the highest scores.
In terms of versatility, this locker is simply too small to be used for belaying with an ATC, or for double rope rappels. Similarly, it is too small to hold a Munter hitch. It can be used with a GriGri while belaying in a pinch, but we find it nicer to use a larger carabiner for this purpose so the device is further away from the body, enhancing ergonomics. It can easily hold a clove hitch or figure eight on a bight, so is perfect for attaching necessary links in the anchor.=
Ease of Unlocking and Locking
Screwgate lockers tend to be the most laborious of all the styles of lockers to repeatedly lock and unlock. Since they do not have an auto-locking function, one must lock them closed every time. We counted 3 ¾ full revolutions needed for the screw nut to go from completely open to completely closed, and vice versa. This amount of screwing is almost double that needed for the similar lockers made by DMM or CAMP, and amounts to a lot of extra work over the course of a long day. The screw nut itself is stamped in a cross-hatched pattern, much like on most similar lockers, which is designed to increase grip-ability, which it does slightly.
Compactness and Weight
On our independent scale, this locker weighed in at 44g, which translates into 1.55 ounces. While this is very light, and about half the weight of the heaviest belay carabiners we've featured, the fact is that it is a tad heavier than similar compact lockers, and even slightly heavier than one full-sized offset-D, the CAMP Photon Lock. There's no doubt we're splitting hairs about the weight here, but when you could have a full-sized locker for even less weight than a compact one, why wouldn't you?
In general, screwgates are the least secure type of locking carabiner because one has to remember to lock them every time, which can be forgotten with surprising regularity. In contrast, auto-locking carabiners snap locked every time they close. Some screwgates feature a visual indicator, such as a red stripe or an icon, that is exposed when the gate is unlocked, and covered when its locked, making it easier to quickly verify if the gate is locked or not. Not so with the LiteForge, which makes this quick visual verification even harder by being completely black on all parts (at least the one we tested). If gate security is your main concern, this is not the locker for you, although opting for a screwgate does make a biner lighter and cheaper, so there are pros and cons either way.
We measured the gate clearance at 1.6cm, which groups it together tied with all of the other compact offset-Ds at the bottom of the pile. Practically speaking, it's no problem to move one clove hitch, or one figure eight on a bight knot, on or off this carabiner, but it's small enough that some large rappel bolts may be too fat to fit through the gate.
As you would expect, this small locker is relatively inexpensive, although happens to be the same price as our Best Bang for the Buck winner, which is a full-sized locker at a lower weight, and it also costs a bit more than the similar, but larger HotForge. Considering its somewhat limited application, and the fact that other competitors performed better, we aren't sure it presents the very best value. If you need a bunch of these, though, you can save a few bucks by buying them in a three-pack instead of individually.
The Black Diamond LiteForge Screwgate is a small, compact offset-D that works well for building anchors, but isn't versatile enough for uses while belaying or rappelling. It does come at a reasonable price, but isn't the highest scorer among these types of lockers, so wouldn't be our first recommendation.
— Andy Wellman