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Fast and Light: reflections on featherweight Carabiners, you can actually use.

Updated: Jan 7

I always try to be light in the mountains, not least because I hate carrying a heavy pack, and I'm always keen to shave off a few grams. One really good way I've found to do this is to make sure you're making use of the advances in Carabiner design, and that the biners you chose are the best for your situation. I've been nerding out over the lightest biners and draws since I started climbing, and thought I'd share my thoughts about some of the designs out there. It's very possible to shave as much as half a kilo from your rack, even before you start slimming it down, just by making sure you chose the very best biners for the job. Disclaimer before I begin: I started climbing with small biners and quickdraws with a non-clean nose (the Oz), so these issues may be less of a problem form me, just because I don't know any better.

Below is a table of the carabiners, and some of their vital statistics. Most of them are reasonably self-explanatory. Size refers just to whether the manufacturer has kept the weight down by making the biner itself smaller. Most of the gates are either solid or wire gates, except for the Petzl Ange, with their patented mono-fil wire (a single wire rather than the loop on other wire gates. Clean nose is whether there is a hook, which might get caught on slings, gloves etc. Gate opening is the maximum distance between the nose and gate when the gate is fully open. I find this statistic can be less than useful, as what is often just as important is the size of the gate itself e.g. the Petzl Ange Gate is tiny, but the geometry means it can open quite wide. The weight of the draw refers to the weight of the smallest quickdraw available, with a dogbone 10-12 cm long, and the weight of 12 is an attempt to give some sort of idea what a difference using these biners across a whole rack might have. I'm not too concerned with rated strengths. All carabiners with a CE or EN rating will be plenty strong, and with the numerous hazards in the mountains the strength of your carabiners should be the least of your concerns. Below, I'll also give a brief run-down of my thoughts on each biner / quickdraw.




Size

Gate Style


Clean Nose

Gate opening (mm)

Weight (g)

Weight draw (g)

weight x 12 draw (g)

Dmm Alpha Sport

Normal

Solid

Yes

22/25

44/45

104

1248

DMM Phantom

small

wire

No

22

26

61

732

BD Positron*

Normal

solid

Yes

22/26

49

107

1248

BD Hoodwire

Normal

wire

Yes

24

37

82

984

BD Oz

small

wire

Yes**

22

28

63

756

Petzl Ange S

Small

MonoFil wire

Yes

23

28

63

756

CAMP Photon

Large

wire

No

28

29

63

756

* I don't have any Positrons, but they act here to show an approximate weight of older, solid gate quickdraws in general.

** The current model of BD Oz has a clean nose similar to the hoodwire. Mine are of the older model without this clean nose.

DMM Alpha Sport

As the heaviest of the biners I have, and the only solid gates these definitely have their place on hard sport climbs. It's also useful to have something to contrast the featherweights with. These are the only quickdraw here with a thick, vari-width nylon dogbone – great to grab when you're pumped out at the crux. Where these quickdraws really shine is the hot-forged bent gate. I often tell partners that you just have to wave the rope nearby and it will probably go in. However, for alpine these are definitely on the heavy side. This is a quickdraw to take to that roadside mixed crag you're keeping secret, but probably not one for fast and light epics in Fiordland.


DMM Phantom

I found the Phantoms surprising for several reasons. They're small, among the smallest carabiners I have, and many people would dismiss them as only fir for a key-chain, but they're surprisingly usable. I keep them on my hexes and cams, and have never had any trouble clipping them (though see the disclaimer above).They also come in coloured rack packs colour coded to match BD and DMM cams.


BD Hoodwire

I like the hoodwire for its clean nose, and the system is elegant in its simplicity, and easy to keep free of debris. It's great for racking slings, as you know they're not going to get caught while you're trying to get them off. The Hoodwire represents the weight of most normal wire gate quickdraws at 37g. I don't use many of them because they weigh a little more than the Oz, (oh no 9g each!) and I have had friends who have bent the wire shroud over the gate, which has ruined the gate action, though mine are still fine. This also comes in coloured rack-packs to match your cams. The hoodwire is available at Bivouac/Outdoor stores for $24.90, with quickdraws coming in at $39.90.


BD Oz

First of all, as a mild aside, I'm pretty sure these are supposed to be pronounced like the weight, rather than the land of Oz, because they weigh exactly 1 Ounce (28g) each, but I'm not sure as I've even seen BD employees pronounce it both ways. I haven't tried the new Oz, as they have yet to get to our shores, but I am a great fan of the original. It's small without being too small, and features ridges at the nose, to prevent the gate being opened by resting on the rock. Most of my rack is made up of these. Look out for the coloured rack-pack when they finally get here. The Oz is also available at Bivouac/Outdoor for $19.90, and draws costing $37.90.


Petzl Ange S

The Ange is a novel Idea: it takes the best bits of wire gates (lack of gate flutter, light weight etc.) and marries them with the strengths of solid gates (clean nosed, longevity of action etc.). It's a cool bit of kit, but is not without its problems. The carabiner itself is the smallest one I have, and this means that handling this one is not the easiest. Also, the gate on the Ange S is really small, about the same width as my thumb. I have friends with thumbs wider than the gate, making it almost impossible for them to manipulate, and gloves only worsen this problem. This means, for me at least, it is very much a bolt or gear biner, where smooth handling isn't quite such a big issue.

CAMP Photon Wire

CAMP is a cool brand, always working hard to shave weight of every little bit of gear, from a 90g harness, to the (until recently) lightest biner out there, the Nano 23. With the Photon Wire, CAMP have bucked the trends a bit: Unlike the DMM Phantom, BD Oz and Petzl Ange S, the Photon doesn't sacrifice size or handling to achieve its impressively low weight, in fact it is bigger than many full size carabiners. The light weight and large size mean they feel almost like Styrofoam in the hand, and many people are shocked when they pick them up. Despite this, the Photons are fully rated, and in fact stronger than several of the smaller biners. The gate action is light and snappy, the rope surface is big and smooth, and body is stripped back to just the features you need. The rack pack comes with 8 colours, rather than the 5 or 6 of other brands. If it was easier to get my hands on these, I would have a lot more and I strongly recommend giving them a look. The Photons are definitely one of the best carabiners for going fast and light out there. The Photon will shortly be available through iClimb.


There are also a couple of other carabiners which, though I don't have as much first-hand experience with, bear thinking about. The first is the CAMP Nano 23, until recently the lightest carabiner out there at just 23g, and with quickdraws starting at just 53g. This means that 12 quickdraws would weigh only 636g, half the weight of a rack of solid gates, a saving of more than half a kilo. Many of the other members of NZAT are ardent supporters of the Nano 23, and claim its 21mm gate opening is only an issue when wearing the fattest of belay mitts, especially with practice. If nothing else, due to their light weight, these make fantastic accessory biners, or for clipping into gear. The Nano 23 will also be available via iClimb.

Also of note is the Climbtech Reposado wiregates. These weigh 33.5g each, and 74g for a quickdraw, which is reasonably standard for a wiregate, and means a rack of 12 will come to 804g, still significantly less than solid gate carabiners. The thing that sets the Reposado apart though is its price: These quickdraws are available on Show Me Shop for $23.00, and biners for $12.00 half the price of some of the other carabiners I've looked at. While I haven't tried them myself, the reports I've heard suggest that they've got a nice easy action, and their size and shape make for easy handling. Worth a look. check these out on Show Me Shop.


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