Quickdraws, also known as extenders, refer to climbing equipment often used as a safety measure by climbers and mountaineers. They are made of two carabiners linked by a length of webbing.
They work by linking the climbing rope to the protective equipment, i.e., bolt anchors and other traditional gear while leading, thus enabling your climbing rope to pass through smoothly, thus making your climb safer.
This article is meant to provide you with more information on how to choose climbing quickdraws. After all, they are the next must-get item after purchasing some climbing shoes, a belay device, a harness, a helmet, and locking carabiners.
There are three main things you’ll need to consider when shopping for quickdraws:
- Carabiner gates;
- Sling (dogbone) lengths;
Some additional considerations would also help when choosing the right quickdraws. They include:
- Carabiner size and shape;
- Sling material;
- Sling width;
Your tradeoffs will involve ease of use, strength, and weight. For instance, quickdraws with thin slings and tiny wire gate carabiners are lighter, helping you work with a lighter gear rack. However, these quickdraws are harder to clip than those with heavier carabiners and stiffer slings.
You could also consider the types of climbs you do and your personal preferences. For instance, lighter quickdraws are great for multi-pitch adventures where you’ll need lighter gear. However, they won’t be as effective in single-pitch sport climbs where lighter gear isn’t a priority.
Sport Climbing Quickdraws
Quickdraws used in sport climbing have slightly different features. For instance, they are designed for durability and ease of use. There is also a number of quickdraws you need for sport climbing.
They have a wider sling that’s easier to hold when working a route. They also have a bent gate for easier clipping. Let’s take a dive and find out more on how to choose climbing quickdraws.
How to Choose Quickdraws
There are three main types of quickdraw carabiner gates: wire, bent, and straight gates. A typical quickdraw has a combination of any of these three gates on both carabiners.
These are the most standard carabiners on sport climbing quickdraws. They have solid straight gates from their pivot points to the end. This makes them easier to operate.
Bent-gate carabiners have concave gates that make it easier for users to clip their climbing ropes. Thus, they are reserved for the rope clip end of the quickdraws.
Note: Some straight and bent-gate carabiners have a keylock feature (keylock carabiners). The feature refers to a smooth notch that facilitates the interactions between the carabiner’s nose and gate.
The feature prevents the carabiner from catching and hooking onto other slings, bolt hangers, or your harness gear loop. You’ll likely pay more for this extra feature, but it could make your climbs more enjoyable.
These types of carabiners use a stainless steel wire loop as the gate. The wire loop creates a spring mechanism to lock itself into position. This eliminates the extra parts that are found in solid gates, which in turn make it lighter.
- One advantage with wiregate carabiners is that their low mass is less likely ‘gate lash.’ Gate lash refers to the momentary opening caused by collision with other objects or inertia resulting from a fall due to vibrations.
- These types of carabiners are also less likely to freeze in cold temperatures. Thus, they are the best types of carabiners for use by mountaineers or ice climbers.
- These carabiners don’t have keylock features such as those found on bent or straight-gate carabiners. However, some wiregate carabiners have hooded’ noses (a mechanism that works similar to the keylock feature) that help prevent them from catching on to gear.
Most climbers consider the sling length (dogbone) when shopping for quickdraws. Longer sling lengths are great for minimizing rope drag; however, they are often heavier and bulkier.
Sport climbers often prefer to have with them both short and medium-length quickdraws. However, their purchases include pre-made quickdraws that are available in various sling lengths. For example:
10cm to 12cm slings
These are the shorter alternatives, and they work best for short and relatively straight routes.
17cm to 18cm slings
These are medium-length alternatives and are great for minimizing rope drag. They are great for longer routes requiring 12+ quickdraws or for routes where the rope doesn’t travel in one straight path.
Trad climbers: Trad climbers often design their quickdraws by taking a 60+ cm sewn sling and clipping two carabiners to the sling. These types of quickdraws are often called extendable quickdraws or alpine quickdraws. The term ‘extendable’ refers to a technique that involves racking the quickdraw to enable the climbers to shorten or extend the quickdraw as needed.
The number of quickdraws climbers need varies with what route they plan to climb, the route’s location, and how long the climb will be. Here are some suggestions to help you get a rough estimate.
- Most sport routes require about 12 quickdraws.
- Longer sport routes that are about 30m require climbers to have about 16 to 18 quickdraws.
- Routes that require a 70m climbing rope will need more than 12 quickdraws.
- Exceptionally long climbing routes require climbers to have more than 24 quickdraws.
- If the number of bolts is listed in a guidebook, then that’s the number of quickdraws needed.
- You’ll also need to account for extra quickdraws if you plan on using them as part of your anchor.
- You could also carry a few extra quickdraws on your harness to be safe.
Additional Considerations when Choosing Climbing Quickdraws
Smaller carabiners are lighter; however, they are harder to manipulate compared to more large carabiners. For instance, you could have difficulties unclipping your rock climbing quickdraw from the harness and hooking it onto the rope or bolt.
Different carabiner shapes can affect your ease of use depending on whether you have big or small hands. The shape you choose could also be determined by how and where you climb.
You could always find carabiner dimensions listed on product pages. However, the best approach could be going to your nearest local shop and holding various carabiners in your hand to determine which may work best for you.
Carabiner’s gate open clearance
The carabiner’s gate open clearance refers to the gate’s opening width and depth, plus the shape of the carabiner’s bottom (below the gate). Naturally, smaller carabiners often provide less clearance.
A small gate clearance could cause you to get your finger stuck between the carabiner’s body and the gate. A deeper clearance could also make it difficult for you to clip your carabiner.
You’ll need to get a quickdraw with a carabiner that offers just the right amount of clearance. To do this, you’ll have to go to your local store and physically examine the various types of carabiners that are available.
A quickdraw’s weight ranges from around 60 grams to 110 grams. This weight may seem insignificant when talking about one quickdraw; however, it starts to add up when you need to carry more quickdraws.
Choosing lighter weights could prove advantageous, especially on long sport climbs and fast alpine climbs. However, before purchasing the lightest quickdraw you can find, remember that smaller carabiners are harder to use. Plus, they are more susceptible to bending when exposed to lots of weight.
The material used to make slings often affects quickdraw weight. Slings are usually made from polyester, nylon, Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight (UHMW), or a combination of these materials.
UHMW is often stronger, lighter, and more durable and provides the minimum required 22kN strength; however, it could cost you more.
Similar to sling length, sling width also impacts your quickdraw’s overall weight. Narrower slings are lighter; however, they are often harder to handle than broader slings.
Narrow slings are often about 8mm wide, while the broadest is about 25mm. If you are considering buying a quickdraw based on the sling width, then it would be good to consider the type of climb you’ll use the sling for.
Choose quickdraws with narrower slings if they give you an advantage on a quick-paced route. You could also choose quickdraws with broader slings if you prefer climbing long, tedious routes requiring durable equipment.
Carabiners have a rating for their strength based on three directions; sideways (the minor axis), lengthwise (the major axis), and while they’re open (gate open’ or the major axis open). The ratings are inscribed on the carabiner’s spine.
All climbing carabiners in production have passed UIAA and CE standards, which means they are quite strong. Thus, you don’t have to get overly worried about their strength if you use them correctly. However, other climbers prefer to compare brands based on their strength rating, with the minor axis and gate open strength being two of the significant variations.
How do you use a quickdraw’s strength ratings?
Narrow down your search and choose two or three quickdraws that can fit your needs. Use the carabiner strength rating to determine which quickdraw from the list is the strongest and could work best for you. Make your purchase!
Remember: Smaller and lighter carabiners are often weaker than the bigger ones, but not always.
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