Petzl Spirit Express Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Snappy clipping action, wide sling is easy to grab, light for a sport quickdraw
Cons: Expensive, still a little heavy for trad climbing
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Our Analysis and Test Results
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. They come in two different length options - 11cm dogbones, or 17cm long versions. The 11cm long sling is 25mm at its widest point. It tapers at the top to sit securely in the upper carabiner.
While these draws are an optimal choice for sport climbing, there's no reason you can't take them traditional climbing occasionally too, although we generally prefer a lightweight option for that, as you can save up to an ounce per draw going that route. Be warned, you may not want to leave them on a popular project overnight because they might not be there the next day. These draws retail for a little bit cheaper than some other high-end options, but not by much!
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, a setup that most top climbers seem to prefer.
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 notch in the nose that can snag on any number of things. Wiregates tend to be less expensive to manufacture, which is why some models 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.
The current Spirit carabiner was updated several years ago now and uses the latest "I-beam" construction to reduce weight. At 3.2 ounces per short quickdraw, it's about one ounce lighter than most of the other high-performance sport draws out there. 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. However, for an onsight sport rack, the Spirits are hard to beat.
We like the way this quickdraw handles, and it is 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 makes 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.
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 off 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; the Spirit Express is 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.
There's no doubt that this quickdraw is on the expensive side, though not the most expensive that we tested. While you can find draws that retail for less than half the cost that these will set you back, the Spirits perform 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.
— Cam McKenzie Ring