Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron Review

Price:  $30 List | $22.46 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Auto-locking, very lightweight
Cons:  Can freeze shut, difficult to use in crowded anchors
Bottom line:  Lightweight, auto-locking, the Vaporlock Magnetron can slim down your rack and lighten your load.
Editors' Rating:   
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Weight:  56 g
Gate Closed Strength (KN):  21
Sideway Strength (KN):  8
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond

Our Verdict

For a few years now, Black Diamond has been making a unique kind of locking carabiner, one that uses magnets to keep the gate secured. Many would-be users were suspicious of the efficacy of magnets in a solid and reliable gate locking system, as well as nervous that the magnets would pick up ferrous metal particulates in gritty climbing environments. We found, after thorough testing over months of use, that the Vaporlock Magnetron (and the rest of the Magnetron line) are good at some things, okay at others, and poorly suited for certain specialized applications. It is not cheap, clocking in at a whopping $30, making it the most expensive locker in our review. Is it worth it? Maybe, if you want to have the lightest auto-locking carabiner that you can get your hands on, but otherwise look to the Editors' Choice-winning Petzl Attache which weighs the same, does not freeze shut and is less finicky without than the magnetized catches found on the Vaporlock Magnetron


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Locking Carabiners


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ryan Huetter

Last Updated:
Wednesday
December 7, 2016

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Updated Version vs. The One We Tested


Black Diamond has made some structural changes to the geometry and nose of the VaporLock Magnetron since the version we tested:
  • Geometry — The manufacturer has confirmed that this new version has a more pronounced pear shape than last year's version.
  • Nose - The new keylock nose is designed to prevent snagging.

We haven't been able to test either of these claims ourselves yet, so be advised that the rest of this review reflects last year's carabiner.

Hands-On Review



Function


The Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron, with all of its flash, is just another auto-locking carabiner after all. It works well in circumstances where you would like to just release the gate and not have to think twice about whether or not you locked the gate. We appreciated using the Magnetron as a belay locker, both on single pitch and multi-pitch outings where it might be paired with a guide style belay device like a Petzl Reverso 3. It also worked great as a locker to clip a personal anchor system into a climbing anchor. The Vaporlock is designed with I-beam construction, so it does not hold up well to abrasion like what is found in desert climbing venues or anywhere where you might have a wet and gritty rope running over the carabiner stock.

One of our findings was that in cramped and crowded anchors, like at a multi-pitch anchor where there are several lockers pinching each other, the Vaporlock Magnetron was hard to operate, and could even be opened when there was pressure from either side. For this reason, we tended to prefer a traditional locker like the Mad Rock Ultra-Tech HMS where these conditions exist.

Neat and tidy at the belay with varied carabiner styles all functioning well in their intended roles
Neat and tidy at the belay with varied carabiner styles all functioning well in their intended roles

Ease of Locking and Unlocking


The Vaporlock Magnetron unlocks by pressing either side of the gate, on two separate catches. The spring action on the gate is not too strong, though it quickly snaps shut and the magnets attach back onto the small steel inserts in the gate once you release it. It is quick and easy and in many circumstances and works quite well, but as mentioned above it is difficult to access the catches when pinched on its sides.

The biggest complaint by alpine users is that the locker will seize up in cold weather, and we have had to blow warm air onto the locked gate and even cut slings open to retrieve this carabiner when used in extreme cold. We would prefer an auto-locker that does not bind up so easily, like the Petzl Am'D, in these kinds of conditions.

The keylock nose is where the magnets live. They can collect particulates and need to be cleaned off sporadically.
The keylock nose is where the magnets live. They can collect particulates and need to be cleaned off sporadically.

Compactness/Weight


One of the big selling points of the Vaporlock Magnetron is that it is a medium sized HMS/pear-shaped auto-locking carabiner that only weighs 56 grams. To compare, that is the same weight as the smaller locker, like the Black Diamond Positron Screwgate., a compact locker that uses a traditional screwgate. When on long climbs or objectives far from the trailhead, the blend of size, light weight and functional size make this a desirable locker to bring with on your harness.

The right tool for the job  the Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron is a perfect blend of light weight and function for this Temple Crag classic.
The right tool for the job, the Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron is a perfect blend of light weight and function for this Temple Crag classic.

Gate Clearance


With a gate opening of 2 cm, the Vaporlock Magnetron is right in the middle of the pack. It is big enough to clip into dyneema master points, wet ropes and belay devices; standard fare for many alpine routes. Its big brother, the Black Diamond RockLock Screwgate (also available in Magnetron version) has a much wider opening and will accept a lot more bight knots than the Vaporlock will.

Being able to pop knots and hitches into a locker quickly is an important consideration for alpine transitions.
Being able to pop knots and hitches into a locker quickly is an important consideration for alpine transitions.

Gate Hang Up


Featuring a keylock nose (that has small steel inserts in the nose), the Black Diamond Vaporlock clips easily into bolt hangers, slings, knotted ropes and belay device loops. We did not have any hang up issues, as all the lockers featured in the review, with the exception of the Omega Pacific ISO Standard Locking D use the keylock style.

In cold temps  the Magnetron would freeze up  sometimes becoming impossible to unstick
In cold temps, the Magnetron would freeze up, sometimes becoming impossible to unstick

Best Applications


As the lightest auto-locking carabiner we reviewed, the Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron certainly has a place on the harness of climbers who are looking for full functionality at a fraction of the weight. It is mid-sized, so is a good choice for those long free routes as well as alpine routes as long as the temps are not too cold.

Value


This is the most expensive locker we reviewed, and at $30 it is almost twice the cost of other lightweight options like the Petzl Attache. As a specialized carabiner it may be worth the premium, but we would favor a more economical locker if shopping for several mid-sized pear-shaped locking carabiners.

Conclusion


Black Diamond's Vaporlock Magnetron is a unique locking carabiner that features the only magnet closure system on the market. If you can get over the sticker shock, you can expect a functional HMS shaped auto-locking carabiner that won't weigh you down.

Other Versions


Black Diamond Vaporlock Screwgate
Black Diamond VaporLock Screwgate
  • Cost - $15
  • Weight - 52 grams (4 grams lighter)
  • Traditional screwgate
Ryan Huetter

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: May 11, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
  • 1
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  • 4
  • 5
 (3.0)

0% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (2)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Climber

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   May 11, 2017 - 10:11am
MichaelJ · Climber · Charlotte, NC
It's great… until you end up with some sand or dirt behind the levers you pinch to unlock it. Then you're stuck with it locked until you can remove the sand or dirt. Depending on the situation you are in and what it is locked to, this could be a very big problem.

I'll stick with tri-act or screwgate lockers. Sometimes the old proven technology is best.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.


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