The Black Diamond LiveWire is a high-end sport climbing specific quickdraw. It has oversized carabiners that are great for thumb clippers and those with larger hands. The top carabiner has a keylock gate for no snagging on a bolt, and the bottom is a wiregate but with a "hood" so that it doesn't snag as well. It's on the heavy side, and also expensive, but these are draws that are meant for leaving on your "proj" when you need quick clips. If it weren't for the unnecessary rubber logo on the dogbone (which dug into our hands when we went to grab the draw in certain configurations), this might have been our Editors' Choice award winner. Instead, the Petzl Spirit Express took the top honor once again.
Black Diamond LiveWire Quickdraw Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Easy to clip, deep basket, cool "hood wire" around the notch for snag-free unclipping
Cons: Heavy, one of the more expensive options in this review, unnecessary rubber logo makes it harder to grab
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond LiveWire is a snazzy looking and highly-engineered piece of climbing equipment. On top, there's a hot-forged Nitron carabiner with a keylock gate. The bottom carabiner is a wiregate that uses BD's unique "HoodWire" technology to protect the notch. The whole thing weighs 3.9 ounces and retails for $26. BD also makes a full Nitron quickdraw, with a straight gate Nitron on top and a bent gate on the bottom, should you prefer dual keylocks over the keylock/wiregate combo.
Ease of Clipping
Our testers had nothing but good comments about this draw's ease of clipping. Ultimately, we slightly preferred the gate action on the Petzl Spirits, but if you prefer clipping wiregates (some people just do), then these could be the right QD for you. Our "thumb-clipping" testers, who hook the rope on their thumb and push it into the gate with their fingers on the spine, really liked to clip this draw. That style of clipping is a little easier with a slightly larger carabiner, which the LiveWire has.
Ease of Unclipping
We gave this quickdraw a perfect score for ease of unclipping. Some of these scores at the higher end are splitting hairs, as it was often easier to distinguish what carabiners were doing wrong as opposed to right. But everything about unclipping this draw felt great. It didn't have the widest opening on the bottom carabiner (only 24mm); however, something about the angle of the nose let the rope slip out as easily as the wider Petzl Djinn (27mm), even on steep sport routes. The keylocking bar gate on top was great for unclipping from a bolt too.
Where the LiveWire didn't score highly was for portability. This model weighs 3.9 ounces and is one of the heaviest in our review group. If you're only hanging your draws on projects and doing redpoint burns, this might not bother you. But for harder onsight attempts, a whole rack of these will feel rather heavy, and they're not for trad climbing. BD's Oz quickdraws weigh almost half as much as these (2.2 ounces) and are a great choice for long ascents in hard to reach places.
Ease of Handling
The over-sized carabiners on this draw were easy to handle. If you have big hands, or just like a larger carabiner, this could be the one for you. They did feel a little clunky on our harness though.
Ease of Grabbing
This quickdraw could have been the easiest one in our test group to grab. The dogbone is a whopping 27mm thick (thickest in our review), with a tapered design to facilitate grabbing. However, BD had to go and stitch a giant rubber emblem with distinct edges on one side. If you clip the draw to the left and the logo if facing out, you won't notice it, but if you've clipped it the other way and then go to grab it, you'll have sharp rubber corners digging into your palms. This whole design feature seems unnecessary and frankly kind of vain. Is it so people can see a line of BD logos when you've hung your draws on a route? They must add to the weight, even if only marginally, and certainly detract from the functionality without serving an actual purpose besides advertising.
The Black Diamond LiveWire is made with sport climbing in mind, and that is where it excels. It's too heavy and cumbersome for traditional climbing, and if we had a two-hour hike into our sport crag we'd consider something different as well. But if the approach is five minutes and you're just hanging them up for repeated redpoint attempts, you won't notice the weight, but you will appreciate the fast clips. Just don't grab them!
At $26 per, the LiveWires are pretty expensive. The hot-forged technique that lets them be pretty light for their size no doubt adds to the price, and we're sure stitching on that logo jacks the cost up too. The Petzl Spirit Express gives you the same great quality and performance for "only" $24 a draw. That's not much savings, but it adds up if you're buying 12 of them!
The Black Diamond LiveWire Quickdraw is an excellent choice for sport climbing. We like clipping it much more than the standard wiregate carabiner on the Black Diamond FreeWire, our Best Buy winner. Some people even preferred it over the Petzl Spirit, particularly if they used the thumb-clipping technique. While the Spirit ultimately won our Editors' Choice award (and are also a little less expensive), this is still a great draw and it could be the perfect one for you.
— Cam McKenzie Ring