Whether sport or trad climbing, the quick draw is among the most indispensable and crucial pieces of gear. Select the perfect draw for your style and cherish their awesomeness.
Carabiner Gate Type: The first consideration when choosing new quickdraws is the type of carabiner that will be used.
Standard Gate Carabiners: These are the most standard and least expensive carabiners out there. They offer easy clipping but their weight can add up on a full rack. Most quickdraws today come with a combination of straight gate carabiners and bent gate carabiners, which are designed for easy rope clips. On draws with both types, the bent gate carabiner is meant for the rope strand to run through.
Wire Gate Carabiners: Wire gates are much lighter than straight gate carabiners and offer more gate clearance for fast clip-ups. They tend to be more expensive, and though commonly thought to be less durable than straight gates, UIAA standards put them at relatively equal ratings. Wire gates are less likely to be opened during a fall thanks to the gate’s lower mass and are preferred in snow and ice applications because they tend not to freeze as easily as a standard carabiner. Because of excellent options for both, choosing between the two types is mostly a matter of preference.
Carabiner Strength: It’s important to get a sense of how strong a carabiner is in different situations. Carabiner strength is measured in a few different ways:
Strength along major axis, closed: This is a basically the strength of a carabiner that is in proper use—that is to say, clipped in to protection with the gate closed. It should be noted that the major axis here is the spine of the carabiner where most of the force of a fall is absorbed. This number should be at least 22 KiloNewtons and in most cases will be up to 25 KN.
Strength along major axis, open: This is a UIAA test that measures a carabiner’s ultimate point of failure — absorbing the force of a fall with the gate open. In most cases this drastically reduces the strength of the carabiner and you will see this measurement somewhere in the 6-8 kN range. Though this is much smaller than when the gate is closed, bear in mind that it is still adequate to hold a factor 2 fall — just don’t tempt fate here.
Strength along minor axis: The minor axis runs perpendicular to the major axis. Imagine your carabiner is hanging from the wall by the gate or the spine — this drastically reduces its tensile strength. A good measurement here will be above 8 kN but you’ll notice a lot of variation as smaller, lighter carabiners tend to withstand less force in extreme circumstances. Used properly, however, every quickdraw meets UIAA standards and will save you on whipper after whipper at your local crag.
Nose-hook v. Keylock: One huge consideration, often overlooked by climbers, is the nose construction of carabiners. This is the point where the gate meets the ‘nose’ of the carabiner and keeps the rope from working its way out. There are two types of nose closures:
Nose Hook: Most wire gate carabiners — and some less expensive straight gate carabiners — feature nose hook style gate closure. This style has an upturned lip on the nose that catches the gate of the carabiner to ensure a snug enclosure but it can also get stuck on bolts and cause carabiner failure.
Keylock Carabiners: Key lock carabiners make cleaning steep lines a cinch and eliminate the nasty opportunity for nose-hook failure. The gate of the carabiner slides into the nose like a key into a key hole, eliminating snagging on bolts.
Weight: It is important to remember that the weight of a rack multiplies as it grows. Most racks contain at least a dozen draws — more for long, multi-pitch lines — so their respective weight adds up. At the end of the day, you will never regret having more than enough draws. Wire gate draws are almost always lighter than straight gates while sacrificing only minimal strength. Smaller biners can save weight but the smaller gate clearance can be difficult to clip for larger hands. Quickdraws come in strong, light and cheap — pick any two of the three.
Sling Style: Quickdraw slings come in many shapes and sizes.
Length: The length of the sling is important in reducing drag during leads — the longer the sling the less drag. Sizes range from 10-20mm. For sport climbing, always stick to the shorter side because it saves weight. Climbers can transfer carabiners over to different slings for long trad lines.
Width: Wide slings are nice because they don’t twist when clipped although they weigh just a little more than skinnier slings. Make sure slings come with a rubber sheath that keeps the rope biner in place during clips. This comes in handy when making a clip when gripped on a steep line or long run out.
Extendable Slings: Quickdraws with extendable slings are used almost exclusively in trad or multi-pitch climbing because of their versatility to be clipped at half or full lengths. Most climbers fashion these themselves with their own carabiner/sling combo. Some people replace the bottom rubber sheath with a hair tie or rubber band for faster clip-ups.