Black Diamond HotForge Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Double keylocking biners easy to clip and unclip, relatively affordable for such a design
Cons: Not the lightest, gate springs a bit tight compared to competition, 18mm sling adequate but not great for grabbing
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
In early 2020, Black Diamond scrapped their entire quickdraw line, replacing it with five new offerings. The HotForge Quickdraw is the most expensive of these new choices, and features keylocking solid gate carabiners on both the top and bottom. Most of the highest end sport climbing draws feature bent solid gates as the bottom clipping biner, and indeed many climbers prefer this action on their quickdraws. The downside is that these designs tend to be slightly heavier, and also cost more. The HotForge does a remarkable job combatting both of these common issues, weighing only 0.1 ounces more than the comparable Black Diamond HotForge Hybrid, which has a wiregate as the bottom clipping biner, while still offering a roughly 30% savings over the most expensive draws in this review. Those who want a solid gate clipping biner but don't want to pay top dollar will find a solid option here. These quickdraws currently only come in black and grey color schemes, and also offer the option of 12cm or 18cm slings.
Ease of Clipping
When it comes to clipping, the most important thing to consider is how easy it is to clip the rope through the bottom carabiner. These draws feature a bent, solid gate on the bottom. The bend is nice because it naturally centers the rope over the gate, making it easier to quickly push the rope through without having it slide off or miss. This is a standard feature among solid gate lower clipping carabiners.
We noticed that the gate springs on both the top and bottom carabiners are particularly tight when comparing them to the other competition, such as those made by Petzl or DMM. This tightness means that a little bit of extra force is needed to push the rope through the gate, making them ever so slightly harder to clip than the buttery smooth clipping action on the highest end draws. While this should very rarely be an issue, it is a small point that differentiates these draws from ones that scored and performed higher.
Ease of Unclipping
The top carabiner on this quickdraw features a straight gate keylocking design that eliminates any sort of hook or notch that can get caught up on the bolt hanger when trying to clean them from a route. This design is especially nice on steeper sport routes, where it is difficult to remove the tension from the quickdraw before you try to yank the draw off the bolt.
That said, the tension of the gate springs once again very slightly affects the ease of holding the gates open to remove them from bolts. The HotForge carabiners are also machined smooth, without any of the easy to grab ridges or grips that some of the highest end carabiners have. Essentially, these draws work just fine, but subtle differences in performance are noticeable when compared to the top scorers and award winners.
On our independent scale, one of these draws with a 12cm dogbone weighed in at 3.6 ounces. Remarkably, this is only 0.1 ounces heavier than the HotForge Hybrid, with its wiregate clipping biner on the bottom, so the weight penalty for going with solid gates is negligible. These draws are of average size, and while they are a bit heavy for hauling into distant alpine walls, their portability does not affect their usage at all while sport climbing.
The bottom carabiner on these draws is held in place using Black Diamond's Straightjacket, a rubberized keeper that is sewn into the sling and resides inside the loop end of the dogbone. This keeper is effective at keeping the biner securely in place and oriented the correct direction. We experienced no durability issues with this rubber piece while testing, although if it should happen to rip, it won't be replaceable like those that slide over the outside of the sling would be. Overall, we experienced no noteworthy issues in handling with these draws, the carabiners are of average size that can be manipulated by hands of all sizes.
Ease of Grabbing
Over 20 years of relentless dogging on our projects has taught us that it's nice to be able to grab a draw when you need a solid handhold to get a bolt clipped before you take a giant winger. Fatter dogbones make this easier, and help ensure that you can hang on long enough, even while wicked pumped, to make the clip safely. These draws have an 18mm wide dogbone that is not especially narrow, but at the same time not super fat and comfortable to grab. Suffice to say that they get the job done, and we never slipped off the end because they weren't easy enough to hold, but they are more challenging and less friendly on the skin to hold than the cush, tapered, and fat dogbones on the most expensive quickdraws.
These draws are mighty affordable for a double solid gate draw, offering upwards of 30% savings over the highest end draws in the review. However, there are higher rated draws at the same price, so they may not present the best value on the market. Expect to pay about a dollar extra per draw if you are looking for 18cm slings instead of 12cm. Alternatively, if you choose to buy a six-pack instead of singles, you can save about a dollar a draw, increasing the value.
For the time being, the HotForge Quickdraw represents the top end of Black Diamond's quickdraw lineup, although it doesn't offer the same high end performance as the highest scorers in this review. It is a good budget purchase for those who like to clip their rope to a bent gate on the bottom.
— Andy Wellman