Carabiners. You may have your house keys on one of these handy devices right now. But depending on the design, carabiners are way more versatile than just keyrings. From holding human climbers to tethering hot air balloons - carabiners can even be rated to withstand up to 4 tonnes of force!
Our experts have more than 10 years of rigging and climbing experience under their belts, and in this article we’re going to tell you about the 5 best carabiners on the market today.
‘No time for reading? Here are our picks for the best carabiners.’
When it comes to strength and safety, Edelrid and Kong are the two brands at the top of our list. But read on to get the full scoop for buying tips and comprehensive reviews of each of the top 5 carabiners.
Made primarily from lightweight, colorful aluminum the EDELRID Bulletproof is the best pear shaped carabiner on the market. It is strengthened by steel, but won’t weigh you down. And the triple lock gate is the safest around.
We love that EDELRID didn’t just stop there either. They beef up the safety features with steel inserts to prevent friction wear, as well as an added bar to keep the ropes in the right place and prevent cross loading.
Those seeking one of the toughest carabiners available for non-commercial use, look no further. With their highly durable, steel construction KONG is one of the most reputable carabiner manufacturers for climbing in the world.
We’re a fan of the triple lock gate for optimum safety, but all that strength comes at a price - the KONG carabiner is significantly heavier than most competitors and a little cumbersome.
Petzl is one of the most respected brands when it comes to backpacking and climbing, as this carabiner’s design elements will attest to.
You’ll never have to sacrifice your poor back again when backpacking in to do some climbing, because the ratio of weight to strength is truly impressive. Though it’s a bit smaller and tougher to open and use, the trade off may be an easy one for ultralight fanatics and hikers.
For a truly solid, un-fancy carabiner the Black Diamond Rocklock is a great choice. It is strong, well constructed, and has decent safety features. And to top it off, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
For climbing the screw lock gate is a little time consuming to open and close. And in terms of lengthier rigging installations, the screw gate is not quite as safe because it can slowly be undone over time. However, these make great beginner ‘biners!
If you’re an experienced rigger who has ever wished for just a little more efficiency, or an aerialist who needs to make the most of a low rig point... get excited. Because Petzl has finally debuted a combination carabiner and swivel.
The gates are incredibly secure. So much so, in fact, that you need a wrench just to open them! They are incredibly reliable and will make the perfect addition to any long term climbing installation or aerial silks set up.
Due to the laborious gate operation, this highly specialized type of carabiner won’t be useful to most climbers. But for the right job, these handy and well built swivels are a great investment.
The shape of a carabiner determines its versatility and best uses, opening size, as well as strength. And though it differs person-to-person, the shape also determines how it will feel in your hand - whether it’s easy to grip, or unwieldy.
Considered the original carabiner shape, oval carabiners are some of the most versatile as well. The symmetrical, smooth shape helps limit load shifting and holds more gear than D-shape or pear shape carabiners.
Oval carabiners are usually heavier than other types, and may not be appropriate for ultralight trekkers and folks just looking to lighten their pack.
Similar to the D-shaped biners, but with one end slightly smaller than the other. They are similarly designed to direct force away from the weakest point, the gate.
These have become the most commonly used carabiner shape in the climbing world, due to their larger opening which makes clipping on and off ropes easier.
Primarily used for belaying and rappelling, but can also be used as anchor points for multi-pitch climbing or top roping. These carabiners have wide openings for easy use and many are designed to work well with popular climbing hitches like the HMS (or “Halbmastwurfsicherung.”)
Pear shaped carabiners are usually heavier and less strong then its D and modified D-shaped counterparts.
For more specialized needs, there are even carabiners that are also swivels. They are almost like two small carabiners put together that can each spin a full 360 degrees without catching.
Aerialists sometime use these when they need to be able to spin, but don’t have much ceiling clearance to work with.
This type is often less strong than others and incredibly expensive due to the specialized nature.
Closure or Gate Type
There are many different options for gate closure as well, including locking vs non-locking. The gate type will play a big part in how easy it is to use one handed and what purposes it i appropriate for.
Please note that non-locking carabiners should never be used for climbing or in any instance where human safety/suspension is the main function. They can be great for hauling gear, but not people.
Screw Lock Gate
Composed of a screw down lock that you have to manually twist all the way open or closed to operate, this gate is designed to limit the possibility of accidental openings.
It is a little more time consuming to open than other types, but holds up well in dirty environments and can be operated with one hand.
Twist Lock Gate
These gates are in a default locked position and take two motions to open: twisting the lock and pressing the gate wide.
They are fast and easy to use, and the auto-lock function saves even more time and worry. However, they are not as secure as triple locks.
Triple Lock Gate
The most secure type of carabiner gate is the triple lock. You must perform three discreet motions to open it: twisting the lock, pulling the lock down or up, and then the whole gate inward.
Triple locks are a little more laborious to open one handed, but the extra finess needed to open them and the auto-lock features almost completely eliminate the risk of your carabiner being opened or left open accidentally.
The simplest closure, straight gates are designed to be easy to open with minimum effort. They aren’t good for climbing or high weight rigging, but can be great options for quckdraws and easy gear hauling.
Like the straight gate, but slightly bent to make a wider opening.
Just like it sounds, a wire gate is a simple loop wire that is pushed inward to open the carabiner. They are lighter, and less prone to freezing and breaking. They are much less strong, however.
For a more in depth look at carabiner shapes and gates, check out this article from U.S. Rigging Supply.
The materials a carabiner is made of mainly affect the strength rating, but also change the weight and how it wears against other gear. Aluminum and steel are both popular options. Aluminum is lighter and cheaper. Steel is heavier, but stronger.
When choosing metal gear that will touch, go for the simple rule of “like with like.” Steel carabiners on steel swivels, or aluminum on aluminum. That’s because steel will slightly damage aluminum more by wearing against it over time than on other steel.
For a more detailed guide on how to check your carabiners for damage and wear, check out this video by TeamBMC.
The strength rating of a carabiner determines how much force can be applied before it is in danger of failing, or breaking.
This rating is expressed in kN, or kilonewtons - the International System of Units measurement of force. The higher the strength rating, the more weight a carabiner can hold.
How high of a strength rating you need will differ greatly depending on the intended use of the carabiner. Since safety is the ultimate goal, climbing carabiners usually have a rating from 20 to 40 kN.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of carabiner do I need?
That’s entirely up to what you want it to be able to do! For gear, an oval shape without a locking gate may be best. But for belaying and rappelling, you’d want a large pear shape carabiner with a locking gate.