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 Petzl Ange Finesse, or another lightweight model like the Cypher Firefly II instead. For everything else, the Spirit Express is at the 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 HotForge Hybrid
In early 2020, Black Diamond scrapped their entire quickdraw lineup and released five new models to fill the void. We tested the three most compelling versions, and of these, the Hotforge Hybrid was our clear favorite. These affordable quickdraws pair a new Hotforge solid gate biner on the top with a wiregate carabiner on the bottom, combining easy clipping of the rope through the wiregate, with the easy to clean keylocking design for the top. While the design is simple, effective, and affordable, we received by far the most comments on their looks. Climbers all over the crags we climbed at noticed the hot pink versions that we tested, repeatedly asking what kind they were.
It's hard to ask for much more than an effective sport draw at an affordable price, which is why we are happy to award these our Best Bang for the Buck award. However, comparing them to the highest performers in our review, such as the Petzl Spirit Express or the DMM Alpha Sport reveals that their gate springs are a bit tight, requiring slightly more effort to complete a clip. They are also relatively heavy overall, and their simple polyester dogbone is not engineered to be a fat handle to grasp when you are too pumped to clip. In our experience, however, these attributes only come with the highest priced choices, and we think budget-minded climbers will be more than happy with the performance they get from the HotForge Hybrid.
Read review: Black Diamond HotForge Hybrid
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. 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 much better for long missions, where lightweight is of critical importance, than they are 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, making them more difficult to clean. 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.
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're 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, with a standard aluminum carabiner weighing 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 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 due to the belayer standing away from the wall), 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 dragging high school friends to North Table Mountain above Golden, CO, on weekends to practice using them. He has over 23 years of climbing experience and has managed to wear out and lose countless quickdraws since then. A guidebook author and former publisher of Greener Grass Publishing guidebooks, he has spent much of his life 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.
In order to test quickdraws, we use them the same way that you will. We take our racks out to our local crags and spend day after day trying to work our way to a perfect send of a project, or simply experiencing the joy of climbing many new pitches in a day. We fiddle these draws into the stick clip for pre-hanging the first bolt, rack a whole set of them on our harness, and sometimes desperately get the rope clipped from a precarious stance. We fall on them over and over again, pull back up, hang, grab them in desperation, and then often top rope through a couple of them rigged at the anchors. While this often takes place at our local crags of Smith Rock and the Calico Hills of Red Rocks, we also drag these draws with us to crags around the world such as Leonidio, Siurana, Chulilla, and Margalef in Europe, or to Ten Sleep, the Fins, Index, and Squamish in North America. What we aren't able to learn simply by climbing (or failing to climb), we usually manage to figure out by intensively comparing these draws side-by-side for such things as their spring tightness, gate clearance, weight, bulk, and clippability.
Related: How We Tested Quickdraws
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 on wandering traditional pitches. 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 it's quite common to receive a bit of a discount if you buy them as a set (most draws are 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, and the longer the pitch you intend to climb, the more draws you will need.
We tested and assessed each draw based upon five different metrics, described in greater detail below: Ease of Clipping, Ease of Unclipping, Portability, Handling, and Ease of Grabbing. Since quickdraws are mostly used for sport climbing, that is what we most frequently assessed their performance for. Traditional climbers will sometimes carry a few quickdraws as well, but more frequently will carry tripled up climbing slings, sometimes referred to as "alpine quickdraws." Any sport climbing quickdraw can be called into effective service for trad climbing, although for this purpose light weight and easy portability become the most important attribute, which is not the case if one is simply sport climbing at a crag. Be sure to evaluate your own needs by considering the style of climbing you mostly do to end up with the best choice for you. In all cases, our ratings are based in comparison to the competition, so a lower score does not automatically mean it is a poor product.
Related: Buying Advice for Quickdraws
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 best 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, pay close attention to which models offer decent performance at a lower price. These include our Best Bang for the Buck Winners — the Black Diamond HotForge Hybrid and Cypher Firefly II — as well as other choices such as the Petzl Djinn Axess and CAMP Orbit Wire Express KS.
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 prove more difficult, especially when you are a beginner and haven't learned the most efficient techniques. 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 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 are 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 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 preferred it over the Black Diamond MiniWire or the Mad Rock Ultra Light Wire.
Ease of Unclipping
Clipping the draw to the bolt, or the rope to the draw, is only half the battle. Eventually you or your second are going to have to also unclip the rope and the draws, and we have found that carabiner design has a large role in how easy or difficult this ends up being. These days, virtually all solid gate carabiners have a keylock design, meaning the nose fits into the gate like a key. This design allows for a smooth nose, which is easy to unclip from bolts, even when under tension. On the other hand, wire gate carabiners (with the notable exception of those found on the Petzl Ange Finesse) have a nose design with a hook and notch that the wire portion of the gate sits against. This hook, or notch, can easily get hung up on bolt hangers as you try to remove the draw, especially on steep pitches.
Cleaning the draws off of a steep sport climb while lowering is one of the most annoying and physically demanding tasks a climber undertakes, so much so that experienced sport climbers will often go to great lengths to con, trick, bribe, or cajole others into doing it for them! The steeper a pitch, the more important it is that the top carabiner of a draw has a keylock design, as this makes removing the draws while under tension much easier. Almost all dedicated sport climbing draws are designed this way, but beware that many lightweight and super affordable quickdraws have wiregate carabiners on top, which is not an ideal choice at all for steep climbing.
Beginner climbers rarely climb super steep pitches, as they haven't had the time to build up the strength to do so. Cleaning quickdraws off the bolts on vertical rock or slabs is rarely a challenge, regardless of what kind of carabiner is affixed to the bolt. For them, removing the rope from the draw while top-roping is often the primary concern, so the bottom carabiner is the most important. A wire-gate here rarely proves more difficult to remove the rope from, despite the hooked nose, because of the diameter of the rope that can easily slide over it. Instead, the size of the gate opening is of critical importance, with a larger opening making it easier to slide the rope out with one hand, and a smaller opening obviously making this more challenging.
Quickdraws with large gate openings and keylock nose designs are the easiest to unclip. The Petzl Djinn Axess, according to all of our testing, best combines these attributes, as it is made of very large carabiners on both ends, and features double keylock noses. The Petzl Ange Finesse, despite being a wiregate design, also has keylock noses, a unique feature for this draw. While it is customizable with large or small carabiners on either end, the larger carabiners are easier to unclip by a long shot, and more appropriate for sport climbing. Draws with wiregates on both ends and tiny carabiners and openings prove the most difficult to repeatedly unclip, so if this is a primary concern you should avoid the Black Diamond MiniWire or Trango Phase.
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 more than twice as much as the 1.9 ounce Black Diamond MiniWire, 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 MiniWire is far and away the lightest quickdraw that we tested in our review. However, while these are a solid 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 .
The MiniWire's may actually be too small. Luckily, we also tested a solid handful of other lightweight alpine style quickdraws, which have the notable side-effect of greater affordability, a win-win if this is what you need. Check out the Cypher Firefly II, our Best Bang for the Buck Winner for Lightweight, if you want the best value and performance in a lightweight draw.
While it's hard to beat the 1.9 ounces of the MiniWire, we are 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.
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 those found 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 testing period, some of our reviewers have had personal experience with them breaking in the past. 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, it's not wise to 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 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 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.
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