A carabiner is a simple metal shackle designed to connect and hold objects together. In its most basic form, simply push the spring-loaded gate open, and attach it to the object’s available loop, letting go to secure the connection. Heavy duty carabiners serve their purpose well. The toughest steel carabiners are used by mountain climbers, firefighters, sailors, technicians, and construction workers. When something – or someone – needs to go up or down safely, a carabiner is an essential tool.
Due to its versatility in use, there are many types of tactical carabiners available to purchase. The type of gate and general shape can have a significant effect on which carabiner you choose to bring with you, as each type of is designed for a different situation. When your life is on the line, using the right climbing carabiner is of critical importance.
Different Shapes of Carabiners
Oval is the classic style and most popular of the carabiner types due to its multipurpose functionality. Though it lacks in the strength provided by other types, the oval shape provides more space to hold your gear. Another benefit is that it balances the weight at the center-bottom of the oval so that you can remain steady as you climb. You may also descend via carabiner-brake rappel thanks to the symmetrical oval shape.
- The available space can support a good amount of gear.
- Oval shape can help you maintain balance due to minimized load shifting.
- Oval is less rugged and not as strong.
- The gate opening is moderately smaller.
Though oval may be the most popular carabiner overall, climbers prefer D-shaped due to its ability to shift weight away in the opposite direction of the gate. This minimizes weight in the center. Though D-shaped climbing carabiners are comparatively smaller than their oval counterparts, they are designed to be lightweight, stable, and durable.
- D-shape offers superior strength.
- Due to the D-shape’s balance of weight, it keeps loads steady.
- D-shape typically costs more.
- For a larger gate opening, a modified D-shape may be necessary.
Modified D-Shape Carabiner
The modified D carabiners (also known as the asymmetric D shape carabiners) receive their name since they work like regular D shape carabiners, but only slightly smaller at one end for weight reduction. They typically have bigger gate openings, which allows for easier clip on. One drawback is smaller room inside in comparison to regular sized D’s or oval carabiners.
A large portion of the climbing community own and use modified D shaped carabiners.
- Big gate opening
- Light & durable
- Simple clip on
- Different types: twist, screw, double/triple action lock, straight or bent gate
- Not quite as strong as regular D shape
- Some are more expensive than others
Pear-shaped carabiners are designed for use in rappelling as well as belaying. They make securing your gear and rope an easy task thanks to their large carabiner gate opening. For multi-pitch climbing or top-roping, they may be used as an anchor point. Certain pear shape carabiners even offer a wider top for superior balance with hitches.
- They are specially engineered for use in rappelling and belaying activities.
- Pear shape offers a spacious gate opening.
- Lackluster strength in comparison to D-shape.
- Pear-shape can weigh more than other carabiners.
The Different Gates of Carabiners
A screw lock gate must be manually screwed shut in order to lock the carabiner. It has a metal sleeve that can be screwed onto the gate easily with a single hand.
• One hand is enough to tighten the sleeve to the gate.
• Screw locks allow for manual tightening of the lock.
• Screw locks are resistant to the elements and dependable in challenging environments.
• It takes a reasonable amount of time to tighten or release the lock from the gate.
• There is risk that you may forget to screw the lock shut.
• There is risk that rubbing against the sleeve can cause it to unlock.
Double-Action (Auto Lock)
It takes two distinct motions to release a double-action auto-lock gate. These two gestures are 1) manually rotating the sleeve and 2) drawing the lock inward. Upon release of the lock, the carabiner will secure itself automatically.
• Double-action locks are quick and simple to open.
• The quick auto-locking removes risk of forgetting to lock.
• You are required to unscrew the sleeve every time you open the gate.
• Double-action is not as safe as a triple-action auto lock.
Triple-Action (Auto Lock)
With a triple-action gate, three motions are required to unlock the carabiner. These three gestures are 1) moving the sleeve upward or downward, 2) manually rotating the sleeve, and 3) drawing the lock inward. Similar to double-action, the carabiner locks automatically when you release.
• Triple-action gates are highly secure.
• Forgetting to lock your carabiner is not an issue thanks to instant auto-locking.
• Unlike double-action, triple-action requires the use of two hands.
• It takes slightly longer than double-action to unlock your carabiner.
• Difficult environments such as mud or ice can interfere with automatic locking.
Straight Gate (Non-Locking)
Straight gate carabiners do not lock and thus should never be used for climbing. Because their spring-loaded gate is easy to push open and shuts automatically, they can be useful in many outdoor situations. They can be used to rack gear such as cameras or stoppers.
Straight gate carabiners are most often used in conjunction with quickdraws. There are several brands of straight gate carabiners that offer keylocking to avoid hooking and catching.
Bent Gate (Non-Locking)
As with their straight gate counterpart, bent gate carabiners do not lock and are not suitable for climbing. As their bent gate shape is optimized for fast and simple rope clipping, they are most often used at a quickdraw’s rope end.
Just like straight gate, some brands of bent gate carabiners offer keylocking to prevent snags on your harness gear.
Wiregate carabiners feature a stainless-steel wire loop for a gate, decreasing the overall weight and eliminating the need for excess parts found in common gate types. The wiregate design allow for larger gate opening and are also less likely to freeze compared to other gate styles in cold temperatures.
Some wiregates don’t appear to be as strong as other common styles, but indeed they are due to their lower mass in the gate itself, which are less likely to vibrate during a fall.
Choosing the Right Carabiner
As the right carabiner for you will depend on what kind of climbing you are attempting, always consider the reasoning behind the carabiner’s shape and gate as well as its strength, size, and load limit. If you are currently in the process of researching carabiners for your next trip, take a look at the large selection from U.S. Rigging Supply. These guys are known to make some high quality & some of the most reliable carabiners in the industry.
Be responsible and always purchase high quality, heavy duty carabiners that are designed for your climbing activity. These simple metal shackles can have a significant impact on your safety and ability. Without a doubt, carabiners are some of the most important tools to bring along on your climbing adventures.
Elizabeth Sparks received a Masters Degree in geology from The University of Colorado. Elizabeth has been working as a full-time geologist for the past 5 years. In her spare time, Elizabeth participates in rock climbing competitions and frequently goes camping with friends.