Our expert testers have been clipping the best quickdraws for over 9 years, testing 45 of the market's finest. For this season, we bought 15 of the most promising to hang, clip, and fall on while sport and traditional climbing. We've climbed our way throughout the USA and Canada, clipping draws in Smith Rocks, Red Rocks, Squamish, and the Fins. We've jammed our hands into cracks, took big whippers on our hardest projects, and handed them out amongst friends for a collective opinion on performance. Whether you're a seasoned dirtbag seeking a great deal, leading for the first time, or simply want the best in performance, we have what you're looking for.
The Best Quickdraws for Climbing
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 is made to be grabbed, and we love the way it feels when we do so. 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, check out the Black Diamond Oz or the Petzl Ange Finesse instead. 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
CAMP USA Orbit Wire Express KS
The Camp Orbit Wire Express draws are about half as expensive as some of the higher-end draws in this review. This savings is significant if you are trying to outfit yourself with a large selection of draws all at once, or if budget is one of your main concerns. While they aren't flashy, these draws are solid and easy to use, and are the highest scorer among the selection of double-wiregate draws that we tested. Both the top and bottom carabiners are large and easy to clip and manipulate, while the stiff sling ensures they hang straight for a quick clip.
Like most wiregate draws, the main downside is that the tooth on the nose of each carabiner where the top of the wire gate rests has a propensity to get caught on bolts as you are trying to clean and unclip them. While this can be slightly annoying, it rarely if ever presents a major problem, and is a small performance price to pay for such as large discount on the price tag. If you are a new climber looking to outfit yourself with 12 or so shiny draws, you could do a lot worse than picking up a couple of six-packs of these, although the Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw is another reliable option if you prefer solid gates over wire ones.
Read review: CAMP USA Orbit Wire Express KS
Best Wiregate Quickdraw
Black Diamond LiveWire Quickdraw
Some people prefer the feeling and action of clipping a wiregate over that of clipping a solid gate. Others appreciate the added security a wiregate may bring in the form of reduced gate flutter or shutter. For those reasons, we recognize the Black Diamond LiveWire Quickdraw as our Top Pick for Best Wiregate Quickdraw. As one of the highest overall scorers in our testing, the only main performance difference between the LiveWire and the Petzl Spirit Express is about an ounce of weight. We love these quickdraws because they are easy to clip, with a wire hood protecting the notch on the lower wiregate biner, allowing the rope to slide out even easier when unclipping. Likewise, the keylock top carabiner is easy to slide on and off of bolts, with nothing to catch as you try to quickly clean your draws.
As we mentioned, the only downside of this quickdraw is its added weight, weighing in at an even 4.0 ounces on our independent scale. They also run up there with the most expensive in our testing. This is one of our testers' favorite draws, and those who love wiregates actually preferred it over the Petzl Spirits. Due to the added weight, we wouldn't consider carrying a rack of these up a long alpine route, but being able to hang a rack of them on your sport project is a luxury that most would envy.
Read review: Black Diamond LiveWire Quickdraw
Best for Traditional Climbing
Black Diamond Oz Quickdraw
If you're heading up a long-trad route or giant alpine climb, the less weight on your harness the better. The Black Diamond Oz offers excellent functionality without the weight. At only 2.3 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 less than some of the other quickdraw options on the market, and they are also available with a shoulder-length sling instead of a dogbone.
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 II. They retail for only half the price of the Petzl Spirit Express or the lightweight Black Diamond Oz. That's a significant difference, particularly if you're also purchasing a rope, harness, and double set of cams! The Firefly II is light enough for trad climbing (only 2.6 ounces a draw), and you can still use them while sport climbing if you're not sure which discipline you want to specialize in more.
That said, these draws are still better for long missions than for everyday sport use. The narrow 10 mm sling makes them less than ideal for working your sport project, where you may want to grab the occasional draw. And like most other wiregates in this review, the unprotected notch in the nose can get hung up on bolt hangers. But, considering the price, you may be willing to put up with all of that! If you are looking for some quickdraws that shave the weight for long clip-ups in Black Velvet Canyon of Red Rocks, or for alpine climbs, then consider the FireFly IIs for half the price of our favorite lightweight draws, the Black Diamond Oz.
Read review: Cypher Firefly II
Best Quiver of One Quickdraws
Petzl Ange Finesse
Most dedicated climbers that we know have a rack of 12 or more burly quickdraws devoted entirely to sport climbing, as well as an extra handful or more lightweight draws for use while trad climbing or on multi-pitch or alpine missions a long way from the car. This makes sense, since sport draws are too heavy and bulky for long missions, and lightweight draws have small carabiners that are harder to clip and also hard to grab while projecting sport routes. But what if there was one ultimate quickdraw that was both durable, easy to grab, and light? There is — the Petzl Ange Finesse! Made with the unique MonoFil Keylock design that has only a single wire on the gate that keylocks into the nose, these are some of the lightest quickdraws we tested, while also providing a large, easy to grab dogbone, and customization for either easier clipping or even less weight.
The downside with these draws is their price, which depends on which of the four carabiner and dogbone options you choose to purchase. Some of our testers also complained about the size of the gate opening itself. While the gate clearance is a hefty 26mm when all the way open, the actual gate opening is certainly less than that, sometimes making for a more difficult clip. But no quickdraw we tested provided as much crossover as the Ange Finesse, with the perfect attributes for long alpine routes as well as roadside sport climbs. If you are searching for the perfect "Quiver of One" draws that can go with you on any climb, these are your best bet.
Read review: Petzl Ange Finesse
Best 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 due to the wear of the rope running over it repeatedly. 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 set of draws 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 doesn'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
Why You Should Trust Us
Our head testers for this review are Andy Wellman and Cam McKenzie Ring. Andy can remember saving hard to purchase his first set of Metolius quickdraws in 1998 when he was 17, proudly taking high school friends to North Table Mountain above Golden, CO on weekends to practice using them. He has over 22 years of climbing experience and has managed to wear out and lose hundreds of quickdraws since then. A guidebook author and former publisher of Greener Grass Publishing guidebooks, he has spent countless seasons rehearsing the moves on pitches around Boulder, Rifle, Mexico, Ouray, the Deep South, and his current home near Smith Rock, Oregon. Cam McKenzie Ring began climbing over 20 years ago, accumulating experiences over all climbing disciplines during that time. She is a former member of Yosemite Search and Rescue, and now lives in Las Vegas, where she can be found clipping bolts in the Calico Hills or blasting up long routes in the Canyons of Red Rocks.
Our testing of quickdraws has taken place over the course of many seasons of clipping bolts near our homes and on numerous climbing road trips. While we manage to get out frequently to Red Rocks and Smith Rock, we have also used these quickdraws in Ten Sleep, the Utah Hills, Squamish, Cheakamus, Skaha, the Fins, numerous crags in Spain, and handfuls of smaller and more obscure spots. Our testing includes putting them through the rigors of daily sport climbing, complete with plenty of sports action like taking falls, lunging and grabbing for them, cleaning them off overhangs, top-roping off them, attempting desperate clips, stick clipping, and even clipping them to stopper placements and cams on trad climbs. We also force and cajole our friends and climbing partners to use them as well to gain valuable perspective on what works and what doesn't.
Analysis and Test Results
Quickdraws are a relatively simple piece of climbing gear comprised of two different carabiners attached with a short, sewn sling referred to as the "dogbone." They are most commonly used to attach the rope to a bolt on sport climbs or at an anchor, but can also be used to clip the rope to removable protection like stoppers, or to extend cam placements. The sling is typically fairly short, usually between 10 and 17cm, and varies in its degree of stiffness and width. Quickdraws, or "draws" for short, can be purchased individually, although its quite common to receive a bit of a discount if you buy them as a set of six (most draws are also sold in six-packs). A "standard" rack of quickdraws for starting out climbing is about twelve, which should be enough to see you to the top of 90% of the sport bolted pitches you may encounter, although most dedicated sport climbers own 20 or more.
If you intend to climb on a rope, the chances are high that you'll need to have some type of quickdraw on your rack. In fact, this is often a new climber's first gear purchase after investing in a harness, rope, 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 quickdraws. To help ease the confusion, our review evaluates and compares 15 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 started in. Once you add up your shoes, harness, rope, quickdraws and potentially traditional gear, you're looking at hundreds of dollars, and easily more. 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 three hundred bones on a set of QDs, or as little as half that! What's the difference?
While we certainly tested some better products at the higher end of the price spectrum, there are plenty of others that still performed well without breaking the bank. If you are on a budget, then pay close attention to which models offer decent performance at a lower price. These include the Petzl Djinn Axess, the Black Diamond FreeWire, and the Cypher Firefly II.
Ease of Clipping
Clipping a quickdraw to a bolt is usually a pretty simple task, but clipping the rope into the bottom carabiner of a draw can often be far more difficult, especially if you are starting out. Learning how to quickly and easily clip, regardless of whether the draw is facing toward or away from you, is one of the very first skills a prospective leader should acquire. There are a few attributes that also contribute to how easy a carabiner is to clip, including the type of gate, its size, its shape, and the "action" of the spring keeping it closed. Most of the models that we tested scored well in this category. If anything, it's easier to notice when a draw is difficult to clip as opposed to when it's easy. We assessed both the ease of clipping the top carabiner into a bolt and clipping the rope into the bottom carabiner, although weighted the ease of clipping the bottom carabiner much higher.
One of the first things we noticed when testing this metric is that it doesn't seem to make too much of a difference whether the gates on the carabiners were wiregate or keylock (when assessing for clipping, this attribute matters a lot when assessing for unclipping, discussed below). What does influence this metric is the size of the carabiner and the stiffness of the sling. Larger carabiners are 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 Axess. One of our favorite carabiners to clip is 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 is that a wider and stiffer sling, like on the Petzl Spirit Express, makes it easier to clip, particularly when the climber is stretched out. A floppy, thin 10 mm dogbone, like the ones found on all of the lighter weight "alpine" style draws in this review, are much more challenging to clip when reaching at your limit. Of the lighter weight draws, the Cypher Firefly II is the easiest to clip, and we also preferred the Black Diamond Oz 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 sometimes be more of 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 the notch on the carabiner is creating a snag. 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 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.
Our preferred models for ease of unclipping include the Black Diamond LiveWire, the Petzl Djinn Axess, and the Petzl Ange Finesse. 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 that perform well. The gate opening on the Edelrid Bulletproof is only 20 mm, and while the carabiners are keylocking, we noticed the small opening in some situations.
Of the lighter alpine-style models that we tested, only the Black Diamond Oz has a protected notch. This increases their functionality in our minds and makes 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, they are often far more affordable, and it can often be worth dealing with a few snagged notches to be able to afford them in the first place.
Most draws can be divided into two categories: standard sport climbing draws, or lightweight for alpine and multi-pitch adventures. 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 2.3 ounce Black Diamond Oz, and those ounces add up to pounds if you are carrying 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 consider the Petzl Ange Finesse, which are both light and burly, or take your rack of sport draws and deal with the added ounces. However, if you are heading into the alpine or canyons regularly 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 is the lightest quickdraw that we tested in our review and our Top Pick for Alpine Climbing for that reason. However, while these are the best choice when needing to carry draws far from the car, quickdraws are one of the few pieces of climbing gear where light is not always right. 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, it was also on the more expensive end. 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 2.3 ounces of the Oz, we were pleased with the weight of our Editors' Choice winner, the Petzl Spirit Express. At 3.2 ounces, it is noticeably lighter than many of the other high-end sport climbing models that we tested, making it an excellent choice for people who are trying to shave ounces for onsight attempts but still want a highly usable quickdraw. Not surprisingly, the Edelrid Bulletproof was the heaviest model that we tested (4.2 ounces), thanks to the stainless steel insert, but that is somehow still the same weight as the Black Diamond Positron (also 4.2 ounces).
Ease of Handling
This more general category encompasses everything from how each product felt in our testers' hands and on their harnesses, to how well the bottom carabiner is held in its proper position by the rubberized or sewn keeper. 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. That's why the top end of the quickdraw sling will be sewn loose, and one needs to be sure to clip the correct end of the draw to the bolt. The bottom carabiner needs to remain in one orientation so that the rope loads on the bottom scoop, and doesn't accidentally cross load the biner across the spine or the gate. 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 they break 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 correctly assembled 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 is 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 in the winter. 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 preferred 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. Better to grab the draw 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.
The dogbones found on the models we tested varied in width from 10mm to 27mm. The narrowest slings, which are on the lightweight products, are very difficult to grab. Those in the middle of the pack (14mm) are easier to grab, but 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. While the Petzl Ange Finesse has a wide, tapered sling that should be a pleasure to grab, we actually found that its stiff, rough nylon hurt our skin more than other slings, slightly lowering its score.
There's no one perfect quickdraw for everyone. Depending on your preferred style of climbing, hand-size, budget, or even propensity for draw-grabbing, you might be considering one type of quickdraw over another. Hopefully, we've helped you narrow down your options so you can get set up with the right draw, or blend of draws, for you.
— Cam McKenzie Ring, Andy Welman