Black Diamond LiveWire Quickdraw Review
Cons: Heavy, expensive
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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 draw weighs 4 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. With the exception of portability due to its heaviness, these draws were top performers in every other category, making them easily one of the highest overall rated quickdraws in our review.
While some people simply prefer the feeling and action of a spring-loaded wiregate over that of a solid gate, there is another compelling reason to choose wiregate carabiners on the rope end of your draws - gate flutter and shudder. Gate shudder happens when a carabiner slams against the rock and momentum allows the gate to snap open a momentarily. Gate flutter is when the resonant vibrations within the metal of a carabiner, usually caused by the friction of the rope running through the carabiner, cause the gate to "flutter" open repetitively, in small increments. Mis-timed, either of these "open gate" scenarios can pose a safety hazard in the form of allowing the rope to slip out, or weakening the carabiners strength by weighting it with the gate open. Both of these circumstances are unlikely, but have been suspected as the culprits in documented accidents. Wire gates have a much lower mass than solid gates, so tend to flutter and shudder less, and in smaller increments, leading some people to think that they are safer than their solid gate cousins.
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 (as 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. This action is made even easier by the ridges found on the outside of the spine of the lower carabiner, which allow for a better grip on the draw before clipping.
Ease of Unclipping
With its large top and bottom carabiners, wide gate openings, and lack of unprotected notches that can hook on bolt hangers or the rope, we think this draw ranks up there with the best for ease of unclipping. Everything about unclipping this draw is made easy.
Other top scorers for this action, the Petzl Ange Finesse and the Petzl Djinn Axess, used a similar combination of large carabiners and keylock carabiners. While the bottom carabiner is a wiregate, the hood effectively allows the rope to slip over it without added friction, and so whether unclipping the rope while top-roping, or cleaning these draws off a steep overhang, there is little to get in the way of your mission.
Where the LiveWire doesn't score highly is for portability. This model weighs 4 ounces per draw 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 for this reason, we also wouldn't recommend them for trad climbing.
If you are searching for a wiregate quickdraw for fast and light ascents far from the car, instead check out our Top Pick for Alpine climbing, the BD Oz quickdraws, which weigh barely half as much (2.3 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. Our testers find larger carabiners easier to manipulate, and easier to clip and unclip from bolts and the rope.
One of the few downsides to this draw is the rubberized keeper that is sewn into the sling where it wraps around the bottom carabiner. The fat sling does a great job of protecting this rubber keeper, but if it happens to tear or break, potentially from drying out in very arid climates over many years, then they are not replaceable, as the String keepers on Petzl quickdraws are.
Ease of Grabbing
This quickdraw is one of the easiest in our test group to grab. The dogbone is a whopping 27mm thick (thickest in our review), with a tapered design to facilitate grabbing.
Learning the moves on a difficult project, especially when you are trying to hang your draws for the first time, is the most likely time to be grabbing quickdraws. It's nice, then, that these sport project specific draws easily facilitate this need by accommodating with a wide and comfortable sling to grab. Other sport-specific draws, like the Spirit Express, and DMM Alpha Sport, are luckily also quite easy to grab.
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.
At $26 per draw, the LiveWires are pretty expensive. The hot-forged technique that lets them be pretty light for their size no doubt adds to the price. 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. 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