Quickdraws are an essential safety component in your sport or trad climbing arsenal. Just as crucial as your harness and rope, quickdraws help connect you to whatever you’re climbing in case you have a fall. Sounds pretty important to me!
Choosing a set of quickdraws can be tricky just because of the sheer number of options available but also the technical differences between them.
Different types of climbing will tend to require quickdraws with different characteristics. But don’t worry we’ve broken them down in this comprehensive but hopefully not overly complicated guide. Scroll to the bottom to read our buying guide.
- Keylock carabiner – won’t snag when unclipping
- Handles nicely
The Not So Good:
The best-selling Petzl Spirit Express quickdraws were specifically designed for sport climbing in mind with each draw weighing under 100g! So wearing a set of 10 is still under a kilo – now that is the dream. Despite their light weight, each quickdraw feels reassuringly solid and handle nicely as they have a nice thick dogbone and solid metal gates (opposed to a wire gate).
Every element of clipping and unclipping these quickdraws have been carefully considered with no detail spared. For instance the top of the quickdraw features a straight-gate SPIRIT carabiner with a unique nose shape and keylock system to make it as easy as possible to clip these into bolts. A keylock quickdraw means when unclipping, the lip of your quickdraws’ carabiner won’t snag on a bolt – this is especially a big annoyance when climbing steep sport routes.
These are quality quickdraws and are certainly more of an investment quickdraw than a quick cheap beginner one. Each quickdraw retails at around $24 so if you want the best of the best, especially when it comes to sport climbing then you know where to go. If you want something cheaper that certainly won’t disappoint then we would recommend the Mad Rock Concordes.
The Not So Good:
- Not Keylock
So what if you just want a set of cheap quickdraws that are still decent quality? Well these beauties are at least $40 cheaper than the average 6 set of quickdraws – not a saving to be sniffed at! Especially if you’re out to get your first set and don’t want to blow a whole load of cash on them. The Mad Rock Concorde Quickdraws are made of aluminium with the ‘dog-bone’ or sling made of dyneema (an incredibly strong thermoplastic fiber, you can see how it compares to a steel rope here.
The dyneema and aluminium materials mean these quickdraws only weigh ___ per quickdraw making them easy to carry on your harness as well as pack. The Mad Rock Concorde features a rubber liner on one end of the dog-bone which help the carabiners maintain their correct orientation to the wall thus making it easier to clip in.
The carabiners are on the smaller side though the gates are still the typical width so you won’t have difficulty clipping in unless you have really really big hands! They perform very well, handling large whippers with no problems and they have an impressively high ____ kN rating
One downside of these quickdraws when compared to some newer designs is that they have a hooked noise i.e. a notch at the opening of the carabiners which make it more likely to get caught on things such as bolts or your harness. This need not be a problem with mindful use but if that is something rather avoided, a good reasonably priced alternative is the ____ which don’t have a hooked nose.
Another potential drawback (which applies to all wiregate quickdraws) are their propensity to catch on ropes when removing a rope from them under tension which can be a minor annoyance for some.
- Handles well
- Clips well
- Handles nicely
- Sheds ice and snow easily
The Not So Good:
When it comes to both trad and alpine climbing, it’s all about balancing weight with durability. It’s tough out there and you don’t want a piece of gear that just buckles under the pressure but you don’t want great big heavy draws weighing down your entire rack. You’ll be carrying more than enough anyway!
It makes sense then to go for wiregate carabiners to save on weight but you still want a carabiner that is big enough and not too fiddly to clip when you’re up there between a rock and a hard place with sweaty palms trying to thread the needle. This is why the Wild Country Helium 2, for us, wins to the cheaper alternative Petzl Ange. Wiregates also tend to shed snow and ice better than solid gate carabiners so they are doubly prefered for alpine/winter climbing.
What’s more, the Helium 2 comes with a nice bit of rubber between the carabiner and sling to help with positioning – these little touches which you don’t often see on a quickdraw built for being ultralight – is what sets these quickdraws apart and justifies the price tag they command (around $27). They are also more than good enough to be used for sport climbing (it is also keylocking), so if you’d like an investment set that can do it all, look no further.
Pre-assembled quickdraws vs making your own
So if we broke down a quickdraw into its component parts, it’s really just two carabiners joined together by a sling. This means it is possible for you to create your own quickdraws but it’s usually cheaper to buy them pre-assembled. Not to mention less hassle!
Carabiner Aspects to Consider
Keylock vs Non-Keylock (Hook) Nose
‘Keylock’ refers to how the nose of a carabiner connects with the gate. It can either hook into place or fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. As you can see in our image, if there is a hook on the nose then that carabiner is not a keylock carabiner, otherwise it is.
Keylock carabiners solve the problem of the carabiner snagging on a bolt when you’re trying to unclip it – it’s a particularly annoying issue when climbing steep/overhanging sport routes. There are a few more factors that come into how snag-y a carabiner can be and if you really want to geek out about it we’d recommend this great post from Weigh my Rack.
What’s the Carabiner made of?
Few of us have manservants to carry our kit around for us these days so manufacturers have worked to make carabiners lighter and lighter without sacrificing strength. Nobody fancies lugging ten kilos of steel quickdraws around on their harness or in their pack so most carabiners are now made from lighter aluminium. Aluminium does tend to wear out quicker than steel though so in places like indoor climbing walls where the quickdraws stay in place, you will usually find steel carabiners.
Aluminium carabiners tend to fall prey to becoming anodized i.e. have a thin outside layer of aluminium oxide to resist corrosion and improve lifespan. However, this layer can wear away especially when exposed to salt water so best give your quickdraws a good wash after use to make them last as long as possible. Anodizing also allows the carabiners to be dyed so if the carabiners are coloured, that’s usually a good sign they’ve been anodized.
Hot forged vs cold forged
Both are ways to bend metal into the shape you want. Hot forging is usually used with harder metals like steel which would be much harder to shape cold. Aluminium on the other hand is usually cold forged i.e. bent into shape without heating as it’s already quite soft compared to steel. Hot-forged products normally need more work done to finish them off which combined with the addition of heat means they tend to be more expensive.
Hot-forging may create more irregularities in the grain and because manufacturers may design these carabiners to have less metal on the spine to save weight, it may wear these carabiners out more quickly than cold-forged carabiners. So in the interests of saving money and having quickdraws that last that bit longer, we’d recommend cold-forged carabiners like ______. But if the main concern is weight and you’re willing to sacrifice some durability and are willing to pay extra, go ahead with the hot-forged.
When buying carabiners from a major gear manufacturer, you can be confident they’ll have passed the CEN’s (European Commission for Standardization) safety standards. These regulations are put in place to protect us the consumers and are required to even sell carabiners in the EU. How to tell if they meet this standard? It’ll tell you on the carabiner – look out for “CE” with four numbers afterwards.
So when it comes to strength there are generally more heavy duty carabiners like the Black Diamond Positron or the Petzl Djinn Axes as well as more lightweight carabiners like the ones on the Black Diamond Oz. Obviously, the more heavy duty carabiners can handle more during repeated drop tests with ridiculously heavy weights at great heights. Fact is, both lightweight and heavy duty carabiners will easily be able to handle real life situations where only people are dropping repeatedly.
Nevertheless it’s good practice to check your quickdraws for any metal warping or damage to the gate every time you take a large fall. If you think you’re going to be taking loads of falls and aren’t concerned about slightly heavier quickdraws then a more heavy duty carabiner would be the best option.
How many quickdraws do I need?
12 should be more than enough for the average length sport climbing route. However, if you know you are going to be climbing a longer route e.g. 30m then aim for 16-18 quickdraws.