Black Diamond HotForge Hybrid Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Visually pleasing, affordable, easy to unclip keylocking top biner
Cons: Tight gate springs require slightly more effort than others to clip, 18mm sling adequate but not perfect for grabbing
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
In the winter of 2020, Black Diamond completely scrapped their old quickdraw lineup and released five new models. The lineup is decidedly more affordable than most, with no high-end price point, and we think the HotForge Hybrid is the most compelling choice, which is why we awarded it our Best Bang for the Buck Award.
The main difference between it and the other new BD quickdraws is the combination of keylock biner on top and wiregate on the bottom. We enjoy clipping the rope into wiregates, as they are slightly lighter than solid gates, and to us seem slightly easier to clip. They are also arguably safer, as they have been shown to have less gate flutter and shutter when knocking against the rock . They are also ever so slightly lighter than solid gate carabiners. These arguments, even taken collectively, however, are not really enough to definitively sway the argument in one direction or the other, and whether or not you like these quickdraws will depend on whether you personally prefer to clip a wiregate or a solid gate with the rope (some people feel rather strongly one way or the other), and whether you like flashy, visually appealing gear. We tested the ultra pink color, and they sure did get noticed! If you like a more subdued look, or just prefer a bent solid gate lower biner, then look no further than the Black Diamond HotForge Quickdraws instead.
Ease of Clipping
Clipping the rope to the HotWire carabiner on the bottom of this draw is pretty easy. The gate is angled outward as it descends, like most wiregate carabiners, thereby allowing gravity to aid as the rope falls into the basket. The gate is perfectly straight, unlike many wiregate and even solid gate carabiners that have a bend in them to aid with catching the rope and clipping.
While we like the snappy action of the gate, we find that when comparing it to many of the top contenders the springs are noticeably stiff, meaning that a bit more force is required to push the gate open than with most carabiners. This is true not only for the wiregate carabiner on the bottom, but also the HotForge solid gate carabiner on top. Unfortunately, this action is not as buttery smooth as we find on most Petzl quickdraws, although we admit that we didn't notice it while climbing exclusively on these draws, and only came to this realization once we were closely comparing the various competitors side-by-side.
Ease of Unclipping
The top carabiner on this draw is a HotForge keylocking solid gate carabiner, generally the easiest type of carabiner to unclip from bolt hangers because of its smooth nose design that lacks a hook or notch that can get hung up. In general, we found these quickdraws to be no problem to clean off steep overhanging sport routes (the most difficult to clean because of the constant tension from the rope), but a much more nuanced look shows that they could be improved slightly.
Despite being hot forged, these carabiners do not have any of the extra ridges or indentations on the spine or gate that make them slightly easier to grab, as many of the carabiners on the higher end models do. Instead, they are simply smooth. What we also noticed is that the shape of the nose is more hooked, and not nearly as flat, with a less gradual arc, that offers more friction and slightly more difficulty pulling the draw off of bolts on steep terrain. While this has minimal actual effect, the fact remains that removing these draws could be even easier with a few minor tweaks to the shape of the carabiners.
A single, 12cm long version of these draws weighed in at 3.5 ounces on our independent scale. Of course, if you purchase an 18cm long version, it will weigh slightly more.
This is not exactly super light, and is nowhere near as light as the very lightest options we tested. However, it is also not the heaviest by close to half an ounce. These draws are of average size. The curious thing is that despite having a wiregate lower biner, this draw is only 0.1 ounces lighter than the very similar BD HotForge Quickdraw, which has a solid gate lon the rope end. Bottom line is that these wouldn't be our first choice for alpine climbing or long approaches, but the weight isn't a detracting factor.
These quickdaws are easy to handle. The most notable feature is their color scheme, with a black top transitioning to a bright ultra pink or neon blue bottom. BD says this is a visual advantage, so that if you are desperate and gripped and quickly look up, you will immediately see the quickdraw to clip. Compared to other top quickdraws that are bland colors such as grey, a color that can easily blend into the rock behind it, this seems like a useful advantage. What we definitely noticed was that when we left them hanging on projects at popular walls in Leonidio, Greece, we had countless people asking us what kind of draws they were, so they sure got noticed!
Beyond the looks, these draws present no special challenges in handling. As mentioned, the gate springs are a bit tight, but not so much that this presents a problem. The top carabiners like to flip around within the sling loop, but this is also common to all draws. The rubberized Straightjacket keeper on the bottom carabiner is sewn in place inside the sling, and works effectively to keep this carabiner in place and oriented correctly.
Ease of Grabbing
These draws feature an 18mm wide polyester sling that is tripled over and bar-tacked. Our testing has proven that the thicker the dogbone sling, the easier it is to grab and use as a handhold to clip if need be, a not uncommon occurrence when trying something near your limit. While this sling gets the job done, it is not as comfortable or as wide as those found on the high-end quickdraws, which score more for this metric. That said, we never grabbed this draw and failed to make the clip simply because the sling was too narrow, as we have with the pinner 10mm wide slings on lightweight draws.
Retail price for these draws is middle of the road for an affordable and functional draw, but about half the price of the most expensive draws in this review. Expect to pay a dollar more per draw if you want 18cm slings instead of 12cm. Likewise, if you order a six-pack you can save a dollar per draw. These draws are a bit cheaper than the very similar HotForge Quickdraws, and since we like the clipping action of the lower wiregate better anyway, they present the best value. In fact, for the value-conscious, these draws are more than worthy of our Best Bang for the Buck Award.
The Black Diamond HotForge Hybrid are a new quickdraw that present excellent value, which is why we gave them our Best Buy Award. If you want a solid draw that is easy to clip, very easy to see, and has an easy to remove keylocking upper gate, all at a reasonable price, then look no further.
— Andy Wellman