The Metolius Element Keylock is a small pear-shaped locker that bridges the gap between compact and versatile. Its most notable quality is its affordability, as it is the second least expensive locker in this entire review, providing good value. Its best use is as a compact belay locker while trad climbing, and we loved it for use with a Petzl Reverso, either while lead belaying or while belaying off the anchor in auto-lock mode. The completely round stock, as compared to the I-beam stock prevalent in most lockers, allows the rope to slide smoothly with less friction, regardless of the use, and makes belaying easier. Its compact size takes up less room in the pack or on the harness, but also means it isn't as good for organizing a complex belay as the larger HMS lockers such as the Petzl Attache. It is also quite heavy, especially considering its size.
Metolius Element Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Compact, affordable, rope runs easily over round stock
Cons: Heavy, on the small side for hitches, many twists needed to open gate
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Metolius Element Keylock is a pear-shaped locker, and so its best use is as a belay locker for trad belaying. It is very compact, roughly the size of the Black Diamond Positron, but is considerably heavier, a noticeable downside that in our mind really limits its use. Regardless of the intended purpose, we want the lightest product that can adequately do the job, and in many ways the Element feels like a throwback to a previous age of climbing equipment, rather than embracing the lighter weight I-beam designs that have nearly halved the weight of similar locking carabiners.
Overall utility is a function of how well the locker performs at its intended purpose, as well as how versatile it is. The Element is quite versatile, as its pear shape has the advantage of being good for belaying while minimizing rope friction on the 'biner. We like it best bringing up the second with a Petzl Reverso, as the lack of friction caused by a thin offset-D locker allows for easier pulling of the ropes without stressing our elbows. While it is the same size as a lightweight/compact offset-D, there are more uses for it. That said, as it is far more compact than the Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron, it doesn't as easily fit clove or Munter hitches, and isn't as easy to clip many items to.
Ease of Unlocking and Locking
The patterned metal screwgate is easy to grip in our fingers and has a very buttery smooth action as it twists around the gate, in stark contrast to the metal rubbing and squeeking found on the Black Diamond Rocklock Screwgate. However, we noticed that it required the most twists of any screwgate tested to go from fully open to fully closed: 12 ½ half twists, or just over six full twists. By comparison the easiest of the screwgate locker is the DMM Phantom Screwgate, which requires only four half twists or two full revolutions to go from fully open to closed, and is therefore much quicker and easier to open and close.
Compactness and Weight
Our Element Keylock weighed 74g on our independent scale. This weight is 18g heavier than the similar sized BD Positron, and almost twice the weight of the lightest compact locker, the DMM Phantom, which weighs 41g. It is also around 18g heavier than the Editors' Choice winning Petzl Attache, the best pear shaped locker we tested, which is also larger, and therefore a bit more versatile. While we appreciated its compact size, the Element honestly feels like a bit of a relic in a modern age of new designs intended to minimize weight.
Like all screwgate lockers, the gate is plenty secure as long as the climber remembers to properly close it every time. Screw gate lockers will never be quite as secure as auto-lockers for this reason. They are also best oriented with gravity, that is, basket side down when locked closed, so any vibrations caused by movement of the rope doesn't assist in the gate unlocking itself, which can happen. We rated this screw gate the same as most of the others when it comes to gate security.
At 2.1cm of gate clearance, the Element Keylock offers a surprisingly large opening for a locker so small, far more than any of the other compact lockers we tested. This helps make it more versatile for fitting multiple ropes when rappelling or when tying a clove hitch.
We enjoyed using this locker most for traditional belaying, as its round stock creates less friction when using an ATC or tube style belay device than an I-beam shape or offset-D. It is lighter and more compact than the other round stock locker, the Black Diamond Rocklock Screwgate, and is also more affordable. Due to its excessive weight, we would not want to purchase too many of these, and they would not be our top pick for carrying up multi-pitch climbs.
At a mere $10 retail, these are the second most affordable lockers we tested, behind only the Mad Rock Super Tech Keylock Screw. They are certainly the most affordable pear shaped locker. While there are some downsides, such as weight and a slow to open gate, we think they are a pretty decent value purchase.
The Metolius Element Keylock is a small, round stock, pear shaped locker that fits a niche unfilled by any other. It is the size of a compact locker, but has the desirable and versatile pear shape. It is also very affordable. That said, it is quite heavy compared to the competition, which is the main downside one must weigh against its benefits.
— Andy Wellman