by Jullie

September 1, 2021

Types of Carabiners Used in Climbing Explained

When your life is at stake, using the appropriate carabiner is of utmost importance. Typically, when someone or something needs to go down or up safely, carabiners are the ideal tools to use. But what exactly is a carabiner? What are the different types of carabiners used in climbing, and how do you ensure you choose the right one? 

Well, fortunately for you, this guide offers you everything you should know about choosing a suitable carabiner. What’s more, it outlines the critical factors you should consider and includes a detailed guide on choosing the right tool. 

What Is a Carabiner? 

So what is a carabiner? It is essentially a simple metal shackle purposed to hold and connect objects. It is a simple and handy tool as you only need to push open the spring-loaded gate and attach it to the object’s loop, releasing it to connect securely.

Ideally, the sturdiest steel carabiners have multiple uses with sailors, firefighters, technicians, and mountain climbers among the professionals who commonly use them. 

Why Choose a Suitable Carabiner?

Owing to its remarkable versatility, it is not surprising that there are numerous types of carabiners available. However, this assortment of carabiner options and different purposes can render your search a rather daunting task. You should learn and understand carabiners. Among the key areas you should consider are:

  • Carabiner Shapes;
  • Carabiner Gate Types;
  • Weight, strength, and sizes of Carabiners.

These crucial factors can significantly impact your ultimate carabiner choice since each carabiner is designed to suit different purposes despite their common working mechanism. Here is everything you should know. 

Different Carabiner Shapes

1. Oval Carabiners 

Oval Carabiners 

Most individuals or climbers use the oval carabiner because it has a wide range of purposes. Among the reasons for its preference by many people is its unique elliptical shape, which creates more space to clip your equipment or gear. 

Another advantage of the oval carabiner is it allows you to hold your weight at the bottom of the oval, promoting a steady climb. In addition, the oval carabiner enables you to descend safely- its symmetrical oval shape provides a braking system. It differs from other types of carabiners in that its weight capacity is minimal. 

Pros:

  • Its oval shape creates more space to hold your gear.
  • Its center of gravity provided at the bottom of the oval carabiner maintains a stable balance since your equipment will be intact.

Cons:

  • Relatively small gate opening.
  • Fragile and smooth oval carabiner.

2. D-Shaped Carabiner

D-Shaped Carabiner

Regardless of the oval carabiner’s popularity, a majority of climbers choose to utilize the D-shaped carabiner. Why? This carabiner type can directly carry the load away from the gate, reducing the center’s weight. 

D-shaped carabiners are a little bit smaller when compared to oval carabiners. As such, they weigh less. In addition, they boast higher durability and provide a stable balance to your load.

Pros:

  • Solid and durable.
  • Facilitates stable load balance.

Cons:

  • The D-shape carabiner is costly.
  • It contains a small gate opening.

3. Modified D Carabiner

Asymmetric D-shape carabiner

This type of carabiner is also referred to as the asymmetric D-shape. It is almost similar to the primary D-shape carabiner, only that it is smaller at one end. This unique feature allows for weight reduction. Unlike the D-shape carabiners, modified D carabiners come with large gate openings, gs that provide an effortless clip-on. Many climbers utilize the modified D carabiner.

Pros:

  • Decently large gate opening.
  • Easy clip-on.
  • Lightweight and durable.
  • It comes in varieties, including straight and bent gates, double and triple action locks, screw locks, and twists.

Cons: 

  • Fairly expensive.
  • Less effective than D-shape carabiners.

4. Pear-Shaped Carabiner

Pear-Shaped Carabiner

Pear-shape carabiners are suited explicitly for belay and rappel. Containing a large gate opening, this type of carabiner ensures your gear is safe and secure. Pear-shaped carabiners can be used during high-altitude climbing and top-roping since they provide anchorage. In addition, they help facilitate a stable balance for your load.

Pros:

  • Features a big gate opening.
  • Help facilitate a stable balance for your load.

Cons:

  • Costlier and somewhat heavier than most carabiners.

The Different Gates of Carabiners

1. Screw Lock

Containing a metallic sleeve, a screw lock gate carabiner can be single-handedly and manually screwed onto the gate hence shutting and locking the gate. Read our dedicated page to the best locking carabiners on the market.

Pros:

  • You can manually tighten a lock using screw locks.
  • Easy to use-one can quickly tighten the gate’s sleeve.
  • Screw locks are durable and adapt to the dynamics of the environment.

Cons:

  • Excess friction on the sleeve tends to unlock the screw lock.
  • There is a possibility of forgetting to lock the screw.
  • It needs substantial time to fix when loosening the screw lock against the gate.

2. Double-Action (Auto Lock)

Unlocking an auto-lock gate requires two consecutive and distinctive actions. Specifically, releasing an Auto-lock gate requires a rotating sleeve and then manually pushing the lock inwards. Soon after releasing the lock, the double-action carabiner will automatically lock itself. 

Pros:

  • Auto-lock carabiners are fast and easy to open.
  • The double-action carabiner minimizes the likelihood of forgetting to lock.

Cons:

  • The auto-lock carabiner is a shadow to triple-action auto lock’s security.
  • Tedious gate opening process- you have to loosen or unscrew its sleeve.
The Different Types of Carabiners Used in Climbing Explained

3. Triple-Action (Auto Lock)

Unlocking a triple-action carabiner requires you to follow three consecutive steps. The process requires you to shift the sleeve up and down, manually rotate the sleeve, and then push the lock inwards. Like the double-action carabiner, a triple-action carabiner automatically locks itself upon release.

Pros:

  • The automatic lock mechanism automatically shuts itself. 
  • Highly safe and secure.

Cons:

  • Natural environmental conditions like winter or muddy encounters inhibit proper automatic lock function.
  • Inconvenient as it mandates the use of two hands.

4. Straight Gate (Non-Locking)

Straight gate carabiners are a robust and longstanding option, a characteristic that makes them unique. These non-locking carabiners contain a spring-loaded gate that is opened by a single push. A straight-gate carabiner automatically shuts itself and is often used during simple outdoor activities like shelving cameras.

Straight-gate carabiners are recommended for quick-draw actions. Some of the straight-gate carabiners are inclusive of critical locks to prevent catching and hooking.

Pros:

  • Highly durable.
  • Render rope clipping process easier.
  • Keylock-feature enhancing snag-free clipping.

Cons:

  • Weightier than wire gate.
The Different Types of Carabiners

5. Bent Gate (Non-Locking)

Similar to straight-gate carabiners, ben-gate carabiners do not lock and are not recommended for climbing. Their bent shape enables effortless and quick clips, mostly on ropes. They allow for quick-draws at a rope’s end-point.

It is important to note that other bent-gate carabiners brands provide key locking features to avoid injuries and equipment damage.

Pros:

  • Highly durable.
  • Render rope clipping process easier.
  • Keylock-feature enhancing snag-free clipping.

Cons:

  • Weightier than wire gate.

6. Wiregate Carabiners

These carabiners comprise a stainless-steel wire loop gate. Wiregate carabiners have relatively lower weight, hence more manageable and more convenient to operate. This unique feature does away with the excessive use of materials that other gates utilize. 

In addition, the design creates a wider gate opening. Moreover, these gates are less prone to freezing during cold weather conditions.

Other wire-gate carabiners seem weak, but it is not always so. This is because they press a lower mass on the gate and emit minimal vibrations in case of a fall.

Pros:

  • Relatively lightweight.
  • Reduce the likelihood of a freeze shut.
  • Reduces the occurrence of gate lash.

Cons:

  • Less durable than bent and straight gate carabiners.

Carabiner Weight, Strength, and Size Explained

Types of Carabiners

Carabiners’ Size

There are several Carabiner size options. The large carabiners are easier to use and clip and can handle more gear inside. Larger Carabiners are popularly used with rappel and belay devices. The smaller carabiners mean a lighter load and are convenient as they occupy less space. However, they can prove more difficult to clip. 

Note: When browsing different carabiner sizes, consider checking the tool’s Gate Open Clearance. It is a metric that represents the width the carabiner gate can open and the shape and depth of the carabiner’s bottom under the carabiner. 

Smaller carabiners offer less clearance. The lesser the gate-open clearance, the bigger the risk of your fingers sticking between the carabiner’s body and its gate while clipping. Contrastingly, if the clearance is too deep, the carabiner gets harder to clip. 

Carabiners’ Weight

The lesser a carabiner weighs as you climb, the easier and more convenient it is to use. But sometimes, the lesser carabiner isn’t always the right option. For instance, the smaller super light carabiners can be challenging to use as you clip a bolt or the rope.

Moreover, since smaller carabiners usually comprise narrower rod stock, it can mean limited durability and lower gate open capacities. If the carabiner is too narrow, it can result in increased rope wear hence more maintenance costs. 

Carabiners’ Strength

A carabiner’s strength is measured in three dimensions: minor axis (sideways), major axis (lengthwise), and gate open (major axis open). You can spot these ratings marked on the carabiner’s spine. 

A suitable carabiner should have CE and UIAA strength standards. 

When choosing your carabiner, ensure you go for that with appropriate weight and size and the most robust option. However, you should note that while lighter, smaller carabiners are weaker than heavy, large ones, it is not always the case. 

Note: You should watch out for gate lash as it diminishes your carabiner’s strength and increases the risk of breaking. Gate lash is a result of the gate’s inertia overcoming the tension of the spring holding it. Additionally, it can happen from the tool’s gate colliding with an object. 

The best way to avoid this is to choose specific and appropriate gate designs (like wire gates) or carabiners with stiff spring tension. Ensure you consult an experienced REI professional. 

Which Is the Best Carabiner to Use

It is important to note that different carabiners have unique characteristics, but all are suited for a particular kind of climbing. For instance, large and heavy carabiners are a great choice to clip heavy gear and maintain a stable balance during a climb. 

This does not apply to small wire gate carabiners, which are only ideal for besetting your equipment and keeping your rack a little less heavy; they tend to limit the amount of gear you can carry around.

Different climbers have their unique attraction towards a particular type of carabiner, which portrays a specific shape, size, and gate. This applies to professional climbers.

For starters, below are a few recommendations:

  • Asymmetric D, D, and oval carabiners: best carabiner for racking trad gear.
  • Asymmetric D carabiners with wire gates: ideal for trad-climbing quick-draws.
  • Asymmetric D carabiners containing wire gates, bent gates, or straight gates: suited for sport-climbing quick-draws.
  • Large pear-shaped carabiners: best for rappelling and belaying activities.

After thoroughly perusing through the different types of carabiners and identifying with their suited activity, you should pay a visit to your local climbers’ shop. Sample a few designs, check how efficient their gates work, check their clipping and unclipping capacity, and how they place on your hand. For carabiners with a locking capacity, test how smoothly their gates open. 

Always be sure to select carabiner designs that are easy to operate, perform efficiently, and most definitely those that appeal to you.

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About the author 

Jullie

Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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