The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

How We Tested Carabiners

By Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Thursday November 1, 2018
We climbed with these carabiners for three months  and compared them to each other in six different performance categories: unclipping and clipping  handling  how many ropes fit  rope pull smoothness  and portability.
We climbed with these carabiners for three months, and compared them to each other in six different performance categories: unclipping and clipping, handling, how many ropes fit, rope pull smoothness, and portability.

We tested these carabiners on single and multi-pitch traditional routes in Red Rock Canyon, NV, and they came on a road trip Independence Pass, Colorado. We received input from six different testers with over 100 years of climbing experience between them, male and female, large and small hands. We took them on routes ranging from 5.5 to 5.12. The easy routes let us pay close attention to the details, and the difficult ones let us know how they worked in strenuous situations. After our "work" was done, we did a few extra tests and then rated them on the following criteria.

Ease of Unclipping


This metric was mostly evaluated while climbing. We noted if the carabiner snagged on us while unclipping, how easy it was to take the rope out when seconding a route, and if the gate opening or geometry affected this in any way. Those with the largest gate opening were often the easiest to unclip, as were those that didn't have an exposed notch.

The Black Diamond Oz (left) is similar in shape and size to the Black Diamond Neutrino (right)  but it has a hood over the notch which makes unclipping it easier.
The Black Diamond Oz (left) is similar in shape and size to the Black Diamond Neutrino (right), but it has a hood over the notch which makes unclipping it easier.

Ease of Clipping


While clipping these carabiners on different routes, we considered whether the gate tension was too soft or too tight and if we ever blew a clip or had a hard time getting the rope in.

Cam on a hard-for-her trad route. We evaluated the clipping action of each model on easy routes and in desperate situations.
Cam on a hard-for-her trad route. We evaluated the clipping action of each model on easy routes and in desperate situations.

Ease of Handling


Like the previous metrics, we mostly considered this one while actually climbing, and took note how well these models felt in hand. Our testers have a variety of hand sizes, so we got feedback from a variety of sources. It's one thing for a guy with XL size hands to say a carabiner feels small, but when a woman with medium size hands concurs, we know it's on the small side!

We looked at how easy each model was to hold on to and use  how they racked on our harness  and even considered what colors they came in and how well they matched up with our cams.
We looked at how easy each model was to hold on to and use, how they racked on our harness, and even considered what colors they came in and how well they matched up with our cams.

How Many Ropes Fit


We did a few different tests for this category. Our three-rope test involved three figure eights on a bight of 9.8 mm rope. We wanted to see how many we could get in there and still open the gate fully. Some passed, many didn't. We also tried each one with a clove hitch of 9mm, as well as looked at how twin ropes ran through each.

The CAMP Nano 22 did not pass our three-rope test. This one is important for pieces that you will use at belay stations and while aid climbing.
The CAMP Nano 22 did not pass our three-rope test. This one is important for pieces that you will use at belay stations and while aid climbing.

Rope Pull Smoothness


We attached five-pound weights to the end of a rope and pulled it through each carabiner to see if we could feel a difference in rope pull smoothness (we could). A combination of wider rope-bearing surface and rounder profile helped carabiners score better in this category.

We considered how smoothly a rope ran over the carabiner  and whether it was rounded or more square-cut.
We considered how smoothly a rope ran over the carabiner, and whether it was rounded or more square-cut.

Portability


We compared the weight of each model along with its width. Those that were lighter naturally socred higher, but a narrower width also allows you to carry more of them on your harness at once, which we appreciate.

Climbing at elevation at Independence Pass  Colorado. We want the lightest rack possible in most situations  and even more so when breathing feels like sucking in air through a straw.
Climbing at elevation at Independence Pass, Colorado. We want the lightest rack possible in most situations, and even more so when breathing feels like sucking in air through a straw.