After researching over 45 of the best quickdraws, we tested the 13 of the most popular draws side-by-side for months. We climbed on and clipped each one repeatedly, evaluating their performance on the go. Our testers included a wide range of climbers, from professional guides and rock "stars" to weekend warriors of all ages and abilities. We specifically wanted to get feedback from people with different sized hands, and then we compiled all of our findings into this review. Whether you need something for your next desperate sport project or a lightweight pair for an alpine mission, we have some great options to consider.
The Best Quickdraws for Climbing
|Price||$17.96 at Backcountry|
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|$20.21 at Backcountry|
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|$19.39 at REI|
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|$14.50 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Snappy clipping action, wide sling is easy to grab, light for a sport quickdraw||Great clipping, wide sling for easy grabbing, keylocking gates don't snag||Easy to clip, deep basket, cool "hood wire" around the notch for snag-free unclipping||Easy to clip, durable construction, large size works well with gloves||Good value, easy to unclip, durable|
|Cons||Expensive, still a little heavy for trad climbing||Heavy, expensive||Heavy, one of the more expensive options in this review, unnecessary rubber logo makes it harder to grab||Heavy, dogbone is on the thin side and not easy to grab||Heavy, more expensive than before|
|Bottom Line||The best overall draw for sport specific climbers.||A fantastic option for sport climbing.||A great quickdraw for sport climbers who prefer wiregates on the clipping end but don't want it to snag on anything.||A great all-around draw for those with large hands or who wear gloves.||This is a good intro draw for those who want a keylock carabiner without spending a ton of money.|
|Rating Categories||Spirit Express||DMM Alpha Sport||LiveWire||Petzl Djinn Axess||Positron|
|Ease Of Clipping (25%)|
|Ease Of Unclipping (25%)|
|Ease Of Handling (15%)|
|Ease Of Grabbing (15%)|
|Specs||Spirit Express||DMM Alpha Sport||LiveWire||Petzl Djinn Axess||Positron|
|Gate opening bottom carabiner (mm)||25 mm||25 mm||24 mm||27 mm||26 mm|
|Width of sling (mm)||25 mm||25 mm||27 mm||16 mm||18 mm|
Best Overall Quickdraw for Climbing
Petzl Spirit Express
The Petzl Spirit Express is a classic among sport climbers. It comes with a keylock carabiner on each end and does everything a sport climber could ask for - clips are fast and snappy, and the rope never snags on the keylock gate. The wide dogbone was made to be grabbed, and we loved the way it handled. It's one of the lightest sport-climbing specific models that we tested, shaving ounces off your harness in a sport where every gram counts.
However, even with its latest weight loss it is still not suited for long or alpine routes, so if that's your primary climbing style keep reading for our Top Pick for Lightweight, but for everything else the Spirit Express is top of its class. Just don't loan them out or you may not get them back!
Read review: Petzl Spirit Express
Best Bang for the Buck
Black Diamond FreeWire Quickdraw
The Petzl Spirit Express might feel great in your hand and on a harness, but the Black Diamond FreeWire feels great on your bank account. You'll save $8 per draw with this model, which adds up if you're buying a dozen or so! Our Best Buy winner performed well in most categories, and best of all, you can save money without sacrificing safety or durability. The dual HotWire wiregate carabiners have excellent clipping action, and the dogbone is wide enough to grab easily.
The main downside to this draw is that the carabiners have unprotected notches that can get hung up on your gear, harness, or rope when unclipping. This might be an issue for you, particularly if you're new to climbing or if you climb in steep areas, which itself can make unclipping ropes and draws more of a challenge. This draw is also on the heavier side at 3.7 ounces per, so it's not necessarily a good pick for trad climbing (see our Top Pick for Lightweight below).
Read review: Black Diamond FreeWire
Top Pick for Lightweight Draw
Black Diamond Oz Quickdraw
If you're heading up a long-trad route, the less weight on your harness the better. The Black Diamond Oz offers excellent functionality without the weight. At only 2.2 ounces per draw, you'll shave a pound off your rack if you grab a dozen of these over a more sport specific model. The hooded nose prevents snagging on bolts and nuts, and while they are slightly smaller than a full-sized carabiner, they still have great functionality. They retail for "only" $22, which is still less than some of the other lightweight options on the market, and they are also available with a shoulder length sling instead of a dogbone for $26.
The main thing to consider with the Oz is that it is not made for heavy use. Since there is less material in the spine it can bend easier if loaded over an edge, and the narrower rope-bearing surface is harder on your rope when falling. So while the lighter weight might tempt you to add them to your sport rack, they aren't designed for heavy use like that. Instead, clip them on your harness when your objective is more than 100 feet long, and your likelihood of repeatedly whipping is low.
Read review: Black Diamond Oz Quickdraw
Best Buy for Lightweight
Cypher Firefly II
If you're new to climbing and trying to build up your gear stash, you'll appreciate the Cypher Firefly I. This draw retails for only $11.50 per, which is half the price of the Petzl Spirit Express or Black Diamond Oz. That's a significant difference, particularly if you're also purchasing a rope, harness, and double set of cams! The Firefly is light enough for trad climbing (only 2.6 ounces a draw), and you could still use it while sport climbing if you're not sure which discipline you want to specialize in more.
The narrow 10 mm sling does make them less than ideal for working your sport project, where you may want to grab the occasional draw. Like most other wiregates in this review, the unprotected notch in the nose can get hung up on things. But, considering the price, you may be willing to put up with all of that!
Read review: Cypher Firefly I
Top Pick for Durability
Edelrid Bulletproof Quickdraw
While industrial carabiners are always made of steel, climbing carabiners have been primarily made of aluminum for decades. Aluminum is considerably lighter than steel, and a standard aluminum carabiner weighs about half what a steel one does. However, aluminum wears quicker than steel, and the rope end of a draw can end up with deep grooves and dangerous sharp edges after a while. Enter the Edelrid Bulletproof, which has a stainless steel insert on the rope edge of the bottom carabiner. While Edelrid is not making any hard promises about the lifespan of the Bulletproof, we estimate that it'll have a 5-10 times longer lifespan than regular carabiners (based on our experience with in-situ steel draws at crags and gyms).
Could this be the last set of QDs you ever buy? Potentially, though using these as your sole draw is probably overkill. They are heavy (4.1 ounces each) and expensive. While the keylock gate is nice for snag-free unclipping, the gate opening is on the smaller side, and the gate didn't have the best clipping action. Instead, pick up two or three for particular situations, such as your first draw on a sport route that you are working (that draw will see more friction from repeated falls and yarding up the rope), or for your top rope anchors.
Read review: Edelrid Bulletproof
Best for Climbers Starting Out
Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw
Black Diamond Positron has received a facelift, with a wider sling and new color options. This has always been a popular draw at the crags, and you're sure to see a lot of the new ones out there this year. They last a long time, and the keylock carabiner is great for snag-free unclipping. Keylock designs tend to cost a little more than plain wiregate carabiners but can make the life of a new climber much easier. We've all see that newbie on a toprope, struggling to unclip the rope or the draw from the bolt — let's face it, we've all been that person at one point! Keylock carabiners can make your experience that much easier, and are well worth the extra dollars in our opinion.
While not the most (nor least) expensive model out there, Black Diamond does sell them in a six pack for $100 for more value. You can also purchase these in a PosiWire configuration, which combines the HotWire carabiner from our Best Buy winning FreeWire quickdraw with the Positron carabiner. (Confused yet?) Note that these are one of the heaviest models that we tested (4 ounces each), which might become more of an issue as you progress through the grades.
Read review: Black Diamond Positron
Best for Using with Gloves
Petzl Djinn Axess
In the search for ever lighter quickdraws, the carabiners seem to keep getting smaller in the process. This works for small-handed folks, but for those with bear paws and/or ice climbers wearing gloves, it's nice to have something full-sized, or then some. The Petzl Djinn Axess has the largest carabiners in our review with the widest gate opening, and our big-handed testers appreciated their ease of handling. They also have keylock gates to mitigate snagging, and they're even reasonably priced!The sling is a little narrower than we'd like for easy grabbing, and at 3.7 ounces they are on the heavy side of the pack. But if you've been looking for something larger that is beefily made and will hold up to a lot of wear, then the extra ounces are probably worth it.
Read review: Petzl Djinn Axess
Best for Hanging on your Proj
DMM Alpha Sport Quickdraw
We tested a variety of heavy-duty (and just plain heavy!) sport draws in this review, and the DMM Alpha Sport was one of our top choices. It has an extra-bent bottom gate, and our thumb-clippers liked the shape of the carabiner and easy clipping action. The sling is wide and easy to grab — and while we'd prefer not to be grabbing it on a regular basis, it's there when you need it.
This draw is on the heavy side — 3.8 ounces each, and we could feel the difference racking a dozen of these vs. the Petzl Spirit Express. So while it might not be the best for hard onsighting, when you want to hang your draws and have a dependable, easy clip for your redpoint — this is a great option.
Read review: DMM Alpha Sport
Analysis and Test Results
Unless you are a dedicated boulderer and never plan to tie into a rope, the chances are high that you'll need to have some type of draw on your rack. In fact, this is often a new climber's first gear purchase after investing in a harness, shoes and belay device, and the current abundance of options can be overwhelming. Less than 20 years ago, each major brand had maybe one or two models to choose from, and they were not discipline-specific. Black Diamond alone now makes seven different draws. To help ease the confusion, our review evaluates and compares 13 different models to determine which are best at keeping a secure connection between you and your gear, and what performance criteria you'll want to consider when selecting your next set of draws.
Rock climbing can be an expensive sport to get into. Once you add up your shoes, harness, rope, quickdraws and potentially traditional gear, you're looking at hundreds of dollars. And then your shoes and rope wear out, and you need to buy them all over again! Climbing gear manufacturers are putting a lot of research and engineering into new and improved products, but those often come with a bigger price tag. When it comes to this category, you can spend over $300 on a set of QDs, or as little as $120! What's the difference?
While we did get some better products at the higher end of the price spectrum, there are plenty of others that still performed well without breaking the bank, like the Petzl Djinn Axess, the Black Diamond FreeWire, and the Cypher Firefly II.
Ease of Clipping
Quickdraws can only function if you can get the rope in them, making this a key testing criteria. That being said, most of the models that we tested scored well in this category. If anything, it was more noticeable when something was difficult to clip as opposed to easy. We assessed both the ease of clipping the top carabiner into a bolt and clipping the rope into the bottom carabiner. Here's how we scored each model for their ease of clipping.
One of the first things we noticed when testing this metric was that it didn't seem to make too much of a difference whether the gates on the carabiners were wiregate or keylock. What did influence this metric was the size of the carabiner and the stiffness of the sling. Larger carabiners were uniformly easier to clip, and even our testers with smaller hands preferred the larger options, such as the Black Diamond LiveWire and the Petzl Djinn. One of our favorite carabiners to clip was the DMM Alpha Sport. Not only is it large, but the bent gate has a distinct spot for the rope to sit on before it gets pushed through, making the clipping action that much smoother.
When clipping into a bolt, the main difference noted by our testers was that a wider and stiffer sling, like on the Petzl Spirit Express, made it easier to clip, particularly when the climber was stretched out. A floppy, thin 10 mm dogbone, like the ones found on all of the lighter weight "alpine" style draws in this review, were much more challenging to clip when reaching at your limit. Of the lighter weight draws, we did prefer clipping the Black Diamond Oz and the Wild Country Astro over the Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire. The Mad Rock's gate was noticeably stiffer than any others and gave a bit too much resistance when clipping a rope into it.
Ease of Unclipping
Just as you have to clip a quickdraw to use it, it also must be unclipped at some point — which can often be more or a challenge! We've all seen someone stuck at a draw (or been there ourselves), probably on an overhanging route, cursing because they can't unclip the rope from it or it from the bolt. Why? Sometimes the rope is too tight, and other times it's snagged on the notch in the carabiner. Carabiners have various ways of latching. Some have a notch in the nose to catch a solid or wiregate. Others eliminate this notch by creating a groove in the gate that the nose sits in, which we refer to as keylock carabiners. Then there are some wiregates that have "hoods" around the nose to avoid snags, or whose wire sits into the nose. Not matter the way of latching, one thing was clear in our testing; if you want to avoid snags, avoid notched gates.
Notched gates can also snag on your harness when you go to unclip them, or on a bolt, nuts, slings, or whatever else you might clip the carabiner into and out of. Keylocking or hooded wiregate carabiners can solve this problem, but cost a little bit more to manufacture than standard notched gates or wire carabiners. That's why all of the non-snagging models that we tested tend to be more expensive than a standard pin or wire gate. For example, the Black Diamond Positron and Black Diamond FreeWire are very similar, but the keylocking carabiners on the Positron bump the price up to $4 per draw.
Our preferred models for ease of unclipping include the Black Diamond LiveWire and the Petzl Djinn Axess. The bottom carabiners are large without too prominent a nose that can get hung up on things, and the Djinn Axess, in particular, has the largest gate opening that we tested (27 mm), giving you ample play to get a rope out or the carabiner off a bolt. The Petzl Spirit Express and DMM Alpha Sport also have keylocking carabiners and performed well. The gate opening on the Edelrid Bulletproof is only 20 mm, and while the carabiners are keylocking, we noticed that lack of opening in some situations.
Of the lighter alpine-style models that we tested, only the Black Diamond Oz has a protected notch. This increased their functionality in our minds and made them less likely to snag on nuts, slings, or other gear when re-racking at a belay. While none of the notched wiregates were as easy to unclip as the keylock carabiners, the Wild Country Astro was particularly challenging, as the nose hooks in at a steep angle.
Most draws can be divided into two categories: lightweight for alpine and multi-pitch adventures, or standard weight for everything else. There is no law saying you can't take the heavy 4.1 ounce Edelrid Bulletproof up a long route, but they weigh almost twice as much as the 2.2 ounce Black Diamond Oz, and those ounces add up to pounds if you are taking a lot of them.
Lightweight enthusiasts know that when you go light on everything, from your carabiners to your harness and pack, the difference is noticeable. If you are only climbing long routes occasionally and don't want to purchase two different sets of quickdraws, then a heavier set of draws is probably fine. However, if you are heading into the alpine or canyons on a regular basis and you're already weighing your harness down with a double rack of cams, then a lighter set of draws is the way to go, and you should pay close attention to the weight of your gear.
The Black Diamond Oz was the lightest quickdraw that we tested in our review (by one ounce!) and our Top Pick for Lightweight applications. The Wild Country Astro, pictures above, was a close second. While you might be tempted to replace your whole sport rack with these, they aren't designed for the heavy falls and wear that you might regularly subject your sport rack too. Similarly, if you're pushing the grades and falling a lot on your trad climbs as well, you may want to consider a "beefier" model, like the CAMP USA Orbit Wire Express KS. It is still on the lighter side at 3.1 ounces but has more material in the carabiners. Black Diamond themselves warn that ultra-lightweight carabiners serve a specific purpose for when ounces matter, but are more prone to bending over an edge, damaging your rope in a fall, and distorting after a high impact. Here's a line-up of the various models that we tested sorted by weight/main purpose.
While the Oz was the lightest model, at $22, it was also on the more expensive end (those hoods for the notches add to the manufacturing costs, apparently). If you're looking for a lightweight option that is less expensive, both the Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire (2.4 ounces) and the Cypher Firefly II (2.6 ounces), are good second choices.
While it's hard to beat the 2.2 ounces of the Oz, we were pleased with the weight of our Editors' Choice winner, the Petzl Spirit Express. At 3.3 ounces it is noticeably lighter than many of the other high-end sport climbing models that we tested, making it a great choice for people who are trying to shave ounces for onsight attempts but still have a highly usable quickdraw. Not surprisingly, the Edelrid Bulletproof was the heaviest model that we tested (4.1 ounces), thanks to the stainless steel insert, but that is only slightly more than the Black Diamond Positron (4 ounces).
Ease of Handling
This more general category encompassed everything from how each product felt in our testers' hands and on their harnesses, to how well it kept the bottom carabiner in its proper position. While feel in hand is more a matter of preference, the proper positioning of the carabiners can have serious safety implications.
Carabiners are strongest when the force exerted on them is along the axis of their spine (i.e., they haven't flipped sideways and cross-loaded). The top carabiner, which is clipped to a bolt or piece of gear, needs to be able to move freely in the draw's sling so as not to come unclipped from its protection point. The bottom carabiner needs to remain in one orientation so that the rope loads on the bottom scoop, and not cross loaded across the spine or the gate. In order to keep that bottom carabiner in one position, most slings have rubber keepers, either sewn into the sling or placed outside it. There are benefits to both.
The sewn-in versions, like on all Black Diamond models, eliminate the potential for user error, but once it breaks you have to buy a new sling or find an exterior positioner that fits. Although none of the Black Diamond sewn-in rubber Straightjackets tore during our two month testing period, our reviewers have had personal experience with them breaking, particularly on the narrow-sling of the Oz. The benefit of an exterior positioner is that it protects the section of the sling that houses the lower carabiner from fraying against the rock. However, they can be installed incorrectly, so you should always inspect your new draws to make sure they were assembled properly with the carabiner passing through both the sling and the positioner. Finally, never add one to the top carabiner. (We've seen this done to create more of a "stiff" draw for reachy clips.) If the top carabiner is stiffly attached to the sling, the action of the rope moving through it could cause the carabiner to become only partially hooked to the bolt or even cause it to become unhooked completely — both terrible situations.
Another consideration for ease of handling was the size of the carabiners. Smaller carabiners are harder to handle, particularly at the end of a long climb when your hands are fatigued, and even more so if you ever climb with gloves on. If you plan on ice climbing or doing a big wall, one of your most important criteria will be the size of the carabiners, as you want something that you can still operate easily with gloves on. A good choice for these applications would be the Petzl Djinn Axess. Its full-size carabiners were the prefered option for many of our larger-handed testers.
Ease of Grabbing
You might not set off up your climb intending to grab a draw (or two), but sometimes it happens, and rightly so. If you are pumped getting to your third clip, the clipping hold is sub-par, and you fall off mid-clip with a bunch of slack out, you could hit the deck if the route wasn't bolted properly. Better to grab it and make the clip safely rather than take a trip to the ER. Similarly, if you are moving fast on a Grade V in Yosemite and don't want to be benighted on the route or descent, the "French Free" technique (grabbing draws and gear to move fast through difficult sections) is a common practice. Grabbing your draws is also pretty standard in sport climbing when working a route at your limit. Here's our assessment of each unit's ease of grabbing.
The models we tested varied in width from 10mm to 27mm. The narrowest slings, which can be found on the lightweight products, are very difficult to grab. Those in the middle of the pack (14mm) are not that easy to grab either. Our testers found that the sling had to be at least 16mm wide to do well in this category, and the wider the better, no matter their hand size. The Petzl Spirit Express and DMM Alpha Sport took the top marks in this metric not just because of their wide 25mm dogbones, but also because of their ergonomic cutout design that allows you to slot your hand on the draw and go for the clip.
Black Diamond has updated the width of the Positron's sling from 14 to 18mm, and we appreciated how much easier it is to grab now. However, the LiveWire's extra-wide 27mm sling, which should be a dream to grab, has a large piece of rubber with their logo on it sewn to the front. It's not pleasant to have that digging into your palm, and it affected its grabbing score a little.
There's no one size fits all quickdraw out there; depending on your preferred style of climbing, hand-size, or propensity for draw-grabbing, you might be looking for one particular set of criteria over another. Hopefully, we've helped you narrow down your options so you can get set up with the right model for you.
— Cam McKenzie Ring