As the link between the climber and protection, quickdraws are mandatory kit. And while almost any draw will work in most climbing situations, companies now offer units optimized for specific types of climbing. Consider the following factors before making a purchase:
While lightweight draws offer valuable weight savings on long gear-intensive pitches, much of the weight savings come from smaller biners and thinner slings. These small biners may be less appropriate when climbing winter routes with gloves or during desperate sportclimbing clips. The thin slings can also be problematic when sport climbing, as they provide a less secure grabbing-handle for working the route.
Carabiners come with straight, bent or wire gates. While climbers can use traditional straight gate biners in almost any situation, they are not as easy to clip as bent or wire gate biners, so save the straight gates for the bolt-end of the draw.
Bent gates help direct the rope into the biner and are ideal for desperate clips. Unfortunately, their rope-guiding bend also encourages accidental unclipping so use them only on the rope-end of the draw.
The flat surface of a wire gate helps channel the rope into the biner, making them incredibly easy to clip. Wire gates are also less likely to freeze-up in alpine situations, while their low mass makes minimizes gate flutter during falls. Finally, the lightweight gate makes these biners a top choice for ultra- light draws.
Other things worth considering are the width of the biner’s rope-bearing surface (wider is easier on the rope during falls) and perhaps using a keylock top biner to avoid hang-ups on bolts, slings and wired nuts.
Spirit – $21
This classic draws has gone almost unchanged since it was introduced. The keylock biners are a perfect size for sport or trad climbing, the weight is reasonable and the variable width nylon webbing is the best solution for sport climbing while remaining light enough for difficult trad climbing. The large rope bearing surface won’t chew up ropes during repeated falls and the high gate-open strength calms the mind when venturing onto run-out routes. Perfection?
Dash – $18
The new Omega Pacific quickdraw embodies the versatility and performance desired by many all-around climbers. The midsize wiregate biners keep the weight down while retaining usability with gloved hands or fat ropes. Omega’s mid-width Dyneema webbing offers similar level of balanced performance and provides excellent durability, reasonably low weight and enough thickness for easy grabbing during desperate sport clips. A versatile draw.
FS Mini – $17
FS Mini’s toy-like proportions might initially cause climbers to question the draw’s usefulness, but when situations require light weight and low bulk, these tiny rigs are a top choice. The wire gates provide effortless clipping and a surprising amount of internal working space. A 10mm-wide Monster sling is slightly heavier than other ultralight slings but offers significantly more abrasion resistance and security. While not a first choice for sport climbing, these are an excellent specialised trad climbing draw.
Inferno – $18
Whereas Metolius’ FS Mini quickdraw is ideally suited to a few specialized instances, its bigger brother the Inferno targets climbers seeking exceptional performance over a wide range of climbing situations. Consisting of two mid-size wire gate biners and a strong 13mm-wide Monster sling the Inferno draw is light enough for desperate climbing and offers easier clipping for climbers with bigger hands.
Shield – $25
The Shield is the only carabiner that tries to combine the snag-free performance of keylock biners with the easy-clipping of wire gates. It avoids hang-ups on bolt hangers, nuts and slings, but the single wire-width gate near the nose can make the rope roll away during clipping, leading to fumbled clips avoided by conventional wire gates with their wide, flat clipping surface. Otherwise, the biner exhibits the typical exemplary DMM quality.
Phantom – $21
The Phantom’s small size does not limit its performance and while it may not be the best choice for pure sport climbing, its low weight and high strength make it an ideal candidate for challenging trad climbing or any situation requiring a big rack.
Shadow – $23
At first the Shadow seems like most keylock draws but a closer look reveals a versatile hot-forged biner with relatively low-weight and exceptional gate-open strength. The keylock nose eliminates fumbling when clipping bolts or gear and the straight gate’s flattened face improves grip when attempting to clip bolts, nuts or cams. Unlike some biners built with a very narrow radius webbing-basket, the Shadow’s generous proportions ensure compatibility with wider after-market sport climbing slings.
HotWire Quickdraw – $17
Using the new hot-forged HotWire rope-end biner and a snag-free keylock Positron upper biner, the new HotWire draw is ideal for sport or trad climbing. Most climbers will instantly notice the new and significantly lighter hot-forged HotWire biner which offers excellent clipping, high gate-open strength and a rope-friendly basket-radius. The keylock Positron biner avoids hang-ups on bolts, wired nuts and slings and complements the HotWire’s easy-clipping performance. While the thin Dyneema sling is perfect for trad or alpine climbing, dedicated sport climbers might prefer a wider and easier-to-grab nylon draw.
Orbit – $23
With its sleek mid-size keylock biners and 16mm-wide nylon sling the Orbit draw excels in almost any climbing situation. The Orbit’s keylock biners clip easily, won’t snag on bolts or slings and are light without being too small for sport climbing or for climbers wearing gloves. The nylon sling is not as light as some shoestring Dyneema draws, but it offers a greater margin of safety against abrasion and is easier to grab when working routes. A solid and well-made option.
Element Keylock Indicator – $18
Mammut’s Element biners deliver excellent clipping and versatility thanks to their mid-size body and keylock nose but it’s the Indicator draw that really sets these apart from the competition. Mammut sandwiches a red core into the specially constructed webbing. When you can see the red, retire the draw.
Vireo – $16
This straight-forward looking draw performs surprisingly well in a variety of climbing situations thanks to the easy-clipping keylock biners and 16mm nylon sling. Edelrid’s medium-size biners offer plenty of room for rope and fingers without being unwieldy. The beefy nylon draw resists abrasion and offers a better grip when working routes than Dyneema slings. Finally, Edelrid uses a rubber biner holder which prevents biner shifting and protects the nylon draw from abrasion.
Astro – $18
With its low weight and minimalist proportions, the featherweight Astro draw is ideal for long, gear-intensive trad climbs. The sleek body and easy-clipping wiregate ensure fumble-free clips. Perhaps a touch too small to be ideal for sport climbing, the Astro is top choice for gear routes.
Nito – $18
The Nitro quickdraw is an almost identical but upsized version of the popular Wild Country Astro draw. As such, it’s a better option for a desperate sport climbing clips, winter routes or for climbers with larger hands. The thin Dyneema draw reduces weight but is less suitable for sport climbing where a thicker sling provides a better grabbing option.-
Gym Safe Express – $21
Occasionally, because of poor rock quality, a lack of adequate clipping stances or heavy traffic sport routes require fixed draws. In the past these have usually been made with nylon or chain runners and aluminum biners. These systems worked, but the conventional aluminum biners would wear quickly and require frequent replacement or would flip about in the draw, making clipping more difficult. Thankfully, the Gym Safe draw solves these issues. The steel gate biner body is incredibly durable while the bent gate helps funnel the rope into the basket during tenuous clips. A screwed-in cross bar at the small end of the biner captures the webbing preventing flipped biners and the risk of cross-loading. An easily replaceable nylon sling allows easy length adjustments and the beefy maillon resists grooving from hangers. This is an excellent fixed-draw option.