How To Buy Quickdraws

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 10–20cm. 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.