Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The BD Vaporlock Magnetron is very similar in shape, weight, and intended purpose to our Editors' Choice winning Petzl Attache. The main difference between the two is that the Vaporlock Magnetron is auto-locking, meaning that you can't possibly forget to lock it, ensuring its gate security, while the Attache has a screw gate that can be left unlocked on accident. Of course, the innovative magnetic locking mechanism comes at a price, and the Vaporlock Magnetron will cost you double the price of the Attache. The Attache, while not quite as secure, is also more versatile, due in large part to the fact that it is easy to use in the cold and in snowy, icy conditions, whereas the BD has a greater tendency to freeze up and remain closed due to ice, and can be harder to manipulate with thick, warm belay gloves on. Which of the two is the best choice for you will come down to your intended purpose, how much you value the auto-lock, and your budget, but either way you really can't go wrong.
Overall utility refers to how well a locker performs for its intended purpose, as well as how versatile it is. The BD Vaporlock Magnetron is an HMS/pear shaped locker that works very well for belaying, rappelling, or as a master point in an anchor. It has a large, wide basket, which is mostly flat, but angles slightly down toward the spine and away from the nose. In contrast to the Black Diamond Rocklock Screwgate, or even the Petzl Attache, the slight downward angle means that adding more items to the 'biner, whether other biners, ropes, or slings, means that they tend to bunch up slightly, making them slightly harder to keep organized. This complaint is minor, however, and this locker functions well for its intended purpose.
As a pear shaped locker it is also very versatile, as there is really no climbing task that a 'biner of this shape is not designed for. However, compared to a screw gate locker like the Metolius Element Keylock, the magnetic auto-locking function can be problematic in winter. It can ice over easily if left in a wet spot, making it impossible to open. Similarly, depressing the necessary levers needed to open the gate can be a challenge with gloves on. For these reasons, we don't think it is the best choice for winter climbing, making it slightly less versatile than the Attache.
Ease of Unlocking and Locking
To open the Vaporlock Magnetron, a climber must simultaneously squeeze the triggers on each side of the gate, pulling the small yellow lever arms away from the magnets, then open the gate. This makes it a double-action locker, although one that requires significantly more dexterity than either a screw-gate locker, or a classic twist gate double-action locker, such as the Petzl Freino. As already mentioned, the gate can be hard to open in the cold, but it can also be hard to open when used on a crowded anchor where access to both sides of the gate is not easy to reach, and can also be a bit of a pain to remove from the gear loops of the harness. That said, we noticed that over time our dexterity and ability to quickly open this locker significantly improved.
Locking the gate, on the other hand, is exceptionally easy! Simply allow the spring loaded gate to snap shut and it is already locked and secure. However, be mindful of not leaving it laying in the dirt on the ground, because depending on the geologic composition of the area you are in, the magnets can attract ferrous material, which gets in the way and can prevent the gate from locking correctly. These little bits of magnetized dirt can be hard to remove as well. For these reasons, we felt that this was one of the more difficult lockers to easily open and close.
Compactness and Weight
At a mere 56g, the Vaporlock Magnetron is far and away the lightest auto-locker in this review. In fact, it weighs the same as the screw gate (usually lighter), and smaller Black Diamond Positron, and 1g less than the Petzl Attache. With such a low weight, there is really no excuse not to have a few of these on your trad climbing rack, and also stands as proof that there doesn't have to be any weight cost to having an auto-locking gate.
The way that BD manages to drop the weight so much is due to its I-beam, aluminum construction. Everything comes at a price somewhere, and the price here is durability. Don't assume that this carabiner will be a work horse in dirty environments for anywhere near as long as a solid, round-stock locker like the BD Rocklock Screwgate. It is pretty much the exact same size as the Attache, striking an appropriate balance between compactness and the ability to serve as a master point locker, which needs to be large enough to hold Munter and clove hitches.
As a double-action auto-locker, the Vaporlock Magnetron is very secure. In fact, it is second in our testing to only the Edelrid HMS Bulletproof Triple FG in terms of gate security, not surprising considering that locker includes another whole step to getting the gate unlocked and open.
Auto-lockers in general are the most secure style of locking carabiners because they cannot be left unlocked: their gates lock the moment they snap closed. Forgetful or paranoid climbers can rest assured that the gate of this locker is secure.
According to our measurements, this locker has a minimum gate clearance of 2.2cm, which is roughly third best in this review. The locker with the most clearance is the Petzl Attache, an odd fact considering these two lockers have almost the exact same shape.
In our field testing, we did not notice any issue with the gate clearance, and had a relatively easy time sliding knots and other 'biners on and off this one. Worth pointing out though is that the basket is not very deep–it has a straight angled shape instead–so there is less clearance from the top of the gate to the basket than other similar pear shaped lockers, potentially making it hard to open if too many things are crammed inside.
As an HMS/pear shaped locker, the BD Vaporlock Magnetron is ideal for use as a belay 'biner, for rappelling, and for setting up multi-pitch, or even top-rope, anchors. It works far better on rock than in icy or cold conditions, so if you want to buy a locker that will work for both winter and summer climbing, consider looking elsewhere.
Retailing for $30, this locker is almost double the cost of most screw gate lockers. However, it is common for auto-lockers to cost significantly more than screw gates, and indeed it is the least expensive auto-locker. Considering it is far and away the best one, our Top Pick in fact, we think it presents awesome value.
Auto-locking carabiners ensure that the gate is always locked, and for that reason are simply more secure than lockers that need a human to lock them closed. For anyone who needs or wants the most secure type of locking carabiner, we recommend the Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron as the best auto-locker available. Not only does it do its intended purpose, but is also lightweight and affordable in comparison to the competition.
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