The Petzl Spirit Express has two cold-forged Spirit keylock carabiners, the upper one with a straight gate and the lower with a bent gate to facilitate clipping. The 12cm long sling is 25mm at its widest point. It tapers at the top to sit securely in the upper carabiner.
Our Editors' Choice winner is a top-notch draw for sport climbing, without an actual notch, of course. This keylocking set does everything well, without weighing you down.
Ease of Clipping
We gave this quickdraw top marks for ease of clipping. The Petzl Spirit carabiners have a fast springing action in their gates. They feel snappy when you click them and clip fast and efficiently.
The stiff sling also allows you to clip the draw into a bolt even when extended. Some dogbones are a little floppy, but this one is stiff and our favorite to use on reachy clips. This quickdraw has keylock carabiners on both ends — if you prefer a wire gate on your clipping end, check out the Black Diamond LiveWire.
Not too stiff and not too loose, the gate tension on the Spirits is just right.
Ease of Unclipping
The Petzl Spirit Express scored near the top of the pack for this metric as well. Unclipping a draw from the rope or a bolt can sometimes be a fraught experience, particularly for new climbers or on steep terrain. This quickdraw was designed with steep sport climbing in mind. Our testers didn't have to wrestle with it when seconding or cleaning a steep sport route. The rope easily slid out of the bottom carabiner thanks to the keylock design, and the upper carabiner didn't snag on the bolt either.
Most of the wiregate carabiners in this review have an exposed not in the nose that can snag on any number of things. Wiregates tend to be less expensive to manufacture, which is why some models, like the CAMP USA Orbit Wire Express, cost significantly less per draw. However, the notch in the gate can make life more of a hassle when cleaning routes. If you climb on steep terrain or hate wrassling with your draws at every bolt, look for a draw with keylocking carabiners instead.
Nothing to snag on here! When seconding a steep sport climb, the Spirit Express is easy to unclip from the rope or the bolt thanks to its keylock carabiners.
The current Spirit carabiner was updated several years ago now and uses the latest "I-beam" construction to reduce weight. At 3.3 ounces per quickdraw, it's several ounces lighter than most of the other high-performance sport draws out there, like the Black Diamond LiveWire (3.9 ounces) and the DMM Alpha Sport (3.8 ounces). That means that you'll save about half a pound with a dozen of the Spirits on your harness instead of the other ones.
While the Spirit Express is light for a sport draw, as you can see from the chart above, there are a lot of lighter options out there for alpine or long multi-pitch routes. If you mostly trad climb, then something like the Wild country Astro or Black Diamond Oz would be more appropriate. However, for an onsight sport rack, the Spirits are hard to beat.
Cam McKenzie Ring starting up a route with a full set of Spirits. These quickdraws are lightweight for a sport draw, and were our favorite option for hard onsight attempts.
Ease of Handling
We liked the way this quickdraw handled, and it was again a standout performer in this category as well. The full-sized carabiners feel great in all hand sizes, and we never experienced any cross-clipping on our harness like we did with several of the wiregate quickdraws.
Petzl uses their "String," an exterior rubber positioner, for the bottom carabiner. This keeps the dogbone from wearing out in that area and prevents the carabiner from rotating into an unsafe position. The String is lower profile than CAMP's exterior positioner, which made them sit better on our harnesses. The good side of an exterior positioner is that you can replace it once it's worn out, but the downside is that it leaves the potential for user error. The Spirit Express comes pre-assembled with the String, but you should always double check that the bottom carabiner is inserted through both the sling and the rubber String before using it for the first time. At least one fatality is known to have occurred due to improperly placed exterior positioners.
We liked the way these draws handled. The stiff sling makes reachy or tenuous clips easier, as it keeps the top carabiner in the right position as you go to clip it to a bolt.
Ease of Grabbing
Petzl has engineered the Spirit Express with this metric in mind. While for the most part climbers never want to grab a draw, sometimes you have to. Maybe you are too pumped to clip of a bad hold and don't want to take a big fall, or you want to clip up a bolt or two and work out a tricky section on top rope. Ethics and style points aside; theSpirit Express was the most natural draw to grab because of its wide sling and tapered section at the top. Our testers found that they could grab the lower part of the sling with most of their hand, then wrap their index finger and thumb tight around the upper section and clip with ease. The tapered upper section also makes the sling sit securely in the bottom notch of the upper carabiner, minimizing any potential cross-loading.
If you are heading up a long route that has an A0 bolt ladder on it, like the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral in Yosemite National Park, you might want to consider bringing along a couple of these draws to help you overcome that section. It's never fun to try and grab your way up something on skinny 10 or 11mm wide slings, and the extra weight from a few of these draws would be negligible.
When it comes time to grab a draw (and we've all been there), this was one of the easiest ones to hang onto thanks to the wide sling.
There is no question that Petzl had pure sport climbing in mind when creating this product, and it continues to be one of the most popular sport climbing draws out there for a reason. Steep or vertical sport routes are where the Petzl Spirit Express belongs. If you only do the occasional traditional route, there is no reason why you can't take them on that as well. The only thing we'd hesitate to do with these draws is leave them on our project, as (unfortunately) they probably wouldn't be there when we got back.
If you're a dedicated "sporto" or even an all-around climber, you'll appreciate the Spirits. They are light in their class of quickdraw, easy to clip and unclip, and hold up well even with lots of use.
At $24-$25 per (depending on sling length), this quickdraw is on the expensive side, though not nearly the most expensive that we tested (that honor belongs to the Edelrid Bulletproof, which retails for #29 thanks to stainless steel inserts for added durability). While some models go for as low as $11, like the Mad Rock Concord, the Spirits performed much better overall.
No one quickdraw can have every feature or be best at everything, but when it comes to sport climbing, our Editors' Choice winning Petzl Spirit Express is our hands-down favorite. It clips and unclips better than most other draws that we tested, and the ease of grabbing can't be beat. They are not the lightest, but they'll shave some ounces off your harness compared to other sport draws, and won't weigh you down as much when you go for that hard on-sight attempt.