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. 

Types of Carabiners - Which Carabiners to Use When Climbing
Types of Carabiners: Which Carabiners to Use When Climbing?

What Is a Carabiner? 

A carabiner 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, firefighter rappelling, technicians, and mountain climbers among the professionals who commonly use them. 

What to Look for When I’m Choosing a 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. 

What Are the Different Carabiner Shapes?

Let’s explain the different carabiner shapes available for climbing and rappelling.

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. 

What are the pros of oval carabiners:

  • 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

What are the cons of oval carabiners:

  • 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.

What are the pros of D-shaped carabiners:

  • Solid and durable
  • Facilitates stable load balance

What are the cons of D-shaped carabiners:

  • 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 that provide an effortless clip-on.

Many climbers utilize the modified D carabiner.

What are the pros of modified D carabiners:

  • 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

What are the cons of modified D carabiners:

  • Fairly expensive
  • Less effective than D-shape carabiners

4. Pear-Shaped Carabiner

Pear-Shaped Carabiner

Pear-shaped carabiners are suited explicitly for belaying and rappeling.

Containing a large gate opening, this type of carabiner ensures your gear is safe and secure.

Pear-shaped belay and rappel 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.

What are the pros of pear-shaped carabiners:

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

What are the cons of pear-shaped carabiners:

  • Costlier and somewhat heavier than most carabiners

What Are the Different Carabiner Gates?

Let’s explain the different carabiner gates available for climbing and rappelling.

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.

Pros of Screw Locks:

  • 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 of Screw Locks:

  • 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 of Auto Lock carabiners:

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

Cons of Auto Lock carabiners:

  • The auto-lock carabiner is a shadow of the triple-action auto lock’s security
  • Tedious gate opening process, you have to loosen or unscrew its sleeve

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 of Triple-Action Lock carabiners:

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

Cons of Triple-Action Lock carabiners:

  • 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 of Straight Gate carabiners:

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

Cons of Straight Gate carabiners:

  • Weightier than wire gate

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 quickdraws 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 of Bent Gate carabiners:

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

Cons of Bent Gate carabiners:

  • Weightier than a 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 of Wiregate carabiners:

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

Con of Wiregate carabiners:

  • Less durable than bent and straight gate carabiners

Carabiner Weight, Strength, and Size Explained

Let’s explain why it is important to check the carabiners’ weight, strength, and size before deciding which type of carabiner to buy.

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. 

Carabiners should have CE and UIAA strength standards

When choosing your carabiner, ensure you go for that with the 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. 

How to Decide Which Is the Best Type of 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 toward 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 for the types of carabiners:

  • 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 the different types of carabiners and identifying their suited activity, you should pay a visit to your local climbers’ shop.

Sample a few designs, check how efficiently 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 appeal to you.

Types of Carabiners FAQ

What are the different types of carabiners, and what are their uses?

There are several types of carabiners, including:

  1. Non-locking carabiners: These are the most common type of carabiner and are used for basic tasks like attaching gear to a backpack or securing a rope.
  2. Locking carabiners: These carabiners have a locking mechanism that ensures the gate stays closed, making them ideal for situations where safety is a priority.
  3. Screwgate carabiners: These carabiners have a threaded locking mechanism that requires the user to manually screw the gate shut.
  4. Auto-locking carabiners: These carabiners have a self-locking mechanism that automatically engages when the gate is closed.
  5. Wiregate carabiners: These carabiners have a wire gate instead of a solid gate, which reduces the weight of the carabiner and makes it easier to clip onto the gear.

What are the key features to look for when selecting a carabiner for climbing?

When selecting a carabiner for climbing, there are several key features to consider, including the shape, gate type, size, weight, strength rating, and locking mechanism.

The carabiner’s shape should match the intended use, with D-shaped carabiners being more versatile and pear-shaped carabiners being better for belaying.

The gate type should be either a solid gate or a wire gate, with wire gates being lighter and less likely to freeze in cold conditions.

The size and weight should be appropriate for the intended use, with larger carabiners being stronger but heavier.

The strength rating should be at least 22kN, and a locking mechanism such as a screw gate or auto-locking gate should be used for added safety.

How do you choose the right carabiner for a specific activity or sport?

Choosing the right carabiner for a specific activity or sport involves considering several factors, such as the type of activity or sport, the weight and size of the load, the type of rope or webbing being used, and the required strength and durability of the carabiner.

For example, a smaller, lightweight carabiner may be suitable for rock climbing or mountaineering, while a larger, heavier carabiner may be better for industrial or rescue applications.

It is important to also consider the locking mechanism of the carabiner, as some activities may require a specific type of locking mechanism for added safety.

It is recommended to consult with a knowledgeable professional or refer to manufacturer guidelines to ensure the right carabiner is chosen for the specific activity.

What are the differences between locking and non-locking carabiners, and when should each be used?

Locking carabiners have a mechanism that can be locked to prevent accidental opening.

In contrast, non-locking carabiners do not have this mechanism and rely on the gate’s tension to stay closed.

Locking carabiners are recommended for situations where safety is a primary concern, such as climbing or rappelling.

In contrast, non-locking carabiners are suitable for activities like attaching gear to a backpack or securing a tent.

It is essential to choose the appropriate carabiner for the activity to prevent accidents and ensure safety.

How do you properly care for and maintain your carabiners to ensure their longevity and safety?

Proper care and maintenance of carabiners are essential to ensure their longevity and safety.

Here are some tips for caring for and maintaining your carabiners:

  1. Regularly inspect your carabiners for any damage or wear and tear, such as cracks, dents, or sharp edges.
  2. Clean your carabiners after each use to remove dirt, sand, and other debris that can cause them to wear out quickly.
  3. Lubricate the moving parts of your carabiners with a silicone-based lubricant to keep them functioning smoothly.
  4. Store your carabiners in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture.
  5. Avoid using carabiners for purposes other than climbing or rappelling.

Can carabiners be used for climbing as well as other outdoor activities such as camping and hiking?

Yes, carabiners can be used for climbing as well as other outdoor activities such as camping and hiking.

They are commonly used to secure gear to a backpack, set up tarps and hammocks, and attach equipment to a harness when climbing or rappelling.

Are there any safety guidelines or regulations that need to be followed when using carabiners, and how can one ensure that they are using them correctly?

Yes, there are safety guidelines and regulations that need to be followed when using carabiners.

The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) sets safety standards for carabiners.

It is important to ensure that the carabiner is rated for the intended use and that it is properly attached to the equipment and rope.

Carabiners should also be inspected regularly for signs of wear or damage, and any damaged carabiners should be immediately replaced.

Additionally, it is important to properly use and lock the gate of the carabiner to prevent accidental opening.

Proper training and education on the use of carabiners can also ensure safe usage.

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