Around 1970, climbers borrowed some language from westerns, or possibly the cartoon Quickdraw Mc Graw to describe a doubled sling with carabiners at both ends ready to be quickly deployed for protection. Later, the construction rigger’s term dogbone, which is sometimes used for the sling, crept into the lexicon. When sport climbing, bent gate and then wire gate carabiners, followed by ergonomic hot-forged models came on the market, the choices became a little bewildering for the average climber.
The humble quickdraw, however, remains the central component of every climber’s rack. Whether you use bolts, trad gear or ice screws, you are more than likely attaching it to your rope with these universal pieces of hardware. It’s a simple enough concept. A strong, sewn sling linking two carabiners, usually, except in the case of draws that have two wire gate style carabiners, one biner has a wire or bent gate to facilitate rope clipping. A gasket can hold one or both carabiners in place, but if there’s only one, it usually keeps the rope end biner stable to help clipping.
Carabiners can be cold or hot forged, but both types provide strong biners. Hot forging allows a greater variation in shape. Likewise, sling material varies from polyester to nylon, but both are very strong. Nylon can be more water absorbent, and polyester is more abrasion resistant, but neither of these issues are really drawbacks for either material when used in quickdraws.
So how do you choose the right drawn given how man models are out there on the climbing store gear walls of the world? Focus on your main type of climbing. If you like working sport routes, or if you are trad climber, select draws with wider, more abrasion resistant slings and heavier-duty carabiners. If you want your draws for onsighting or multi-pitch routes, get lighter models with narrower slings.
Other features, like extra wide carabiner openings to give the rope a big target when clipping are also nice, but generally mean a larger, slightly heavier draw. Specially shaped carabiner bodies are also nice for hooking into bolts, but can be fiddly in stick-clips. Wire gates are light but can be less stable than traditional gates.
Given all these choices, we have used the best draws on the market extensively and assessed their best application.
Length: 10 and 18 cm
Weight: 100 g (10 cm)
Sling Material: 11 mm Polyamide
Price: $23 and $25 CAD
The German climbing rope pioneer’s basic draw set is packed with features. The hot-forged Pure carabiners come in bent and straight gate styles. The gate is a keylock style that allows for snag-free clipping. A wire-gate option is also available. Although the carabiner is small, the basket is deep and the Pure clips like a standard-sized carabiner.
The slings are made from polyester webbing in 11 mm polyamide webbing. The 18 cm draw is sewn at one end, leaving a loop on the straight-gate end. This allows the draw to twist to accommodate the direction of the rope and minimize rope drag and lift on trad pieces. Edelrid’s Antitwist gasket on the lower carabiner is burly and looks like it will survive lots of abuse.
Great workhorse or beginner draws. Pros: Burly draws with a great sling for handholds Cons: Not the lightest or most featured carabiners
Wild Country Session
Length: 12 or 17cm
Weight: 99/103 g
Sling Material: 16mm Nylon.
Price: $20.95 CAD
Wild Country’s Session carabiner is considerably less expensive than their top-of-the-line Helium 3.0, but it still has a lot of features, like a key-lock gate and a hot-forged I-beam design to minimize weight. The basket is not as wide or deep as some models, but the carabiner clips smoothly.
The nylon sling is wider and easier to grab than thinner draws. The purple and green colour scheme of both the sling and the carabiners makes it easier to quickly spot which carabiner goes up. The 17 cm draw is sewn at one end, to minimize rope drag and lift on trad protection. Great, economical draws for working routes, beginners or anyone looking for a tough, workhorse draw.
Pros: Durable, sling makes a good handhold
Cons: Not the lightest quickdraw
Wild Country Helium 3.0
Length: 10 cm
Weight: 73 g
Sling Material: 10 mm Dyneema
Price: $35 CAD
The Helium carabiner is truly a work of art. It is hot forged, so its I-beam construction maximizes size while minimizing weight. The hooded nose (known as a clean nose) protects the top of the wire gate. The benefit of this is that it prevents the admittedly rare instance of the top of the wire gate being opened by rubbing against the rock and makes it easier to unclip from bolt hangers, especially when lowering off. The biner has a big basket and clips very smoothly.
The rope-end carabiner is red anodized and the pro-end carabiner is silver, making it easy to get the orientation correct at a glance. The Helium’s flat, curved wire gate does prevent it from accidentally clipping into or out of gear, but it the gate can be pushed out of alignment by the thumb, which can be disconcerting when clipping, but it always righted itself when released.
Pros: Lightweight, easy to clip and perfect for redpoints or long routes
Cons: Price. The narrow Dyneema sling is lightweight, but not the most comfortable to pull on
Metolius Inferno II Go To Quickdraw
Length: 15.24 cm
Weight: 79 g
Sling Material: 11 mm
Price: 18 $ USD
The Inferno carabiner is a lightweight biner with a massive, 27 mm gate opening, which, combined with the easy-opening wire gate, makes it one of the easiest clipping biners around. A little rope well helps to keep the rope in the strongest place on the biner. The Monster Sling is 36% Dyneema, 64% nylon, so it is incredibly strong. The 11mm sling makes a good handhold if needed. The gasket on the rope end carabiner has been replaced by an insert that keeps it vertical and easy to clip. It also avoids Gasket breakage.
The sling is sewn at one end which makes it flexible, a good feature for trad climbing. The carabiner was very easy to clip with the wire draw opening very smoothly yet snapping shut reassuringly quickly. The hook for the wire gate protrudes from the nose of the carabiner, so it is prone to get caught on hangers when being unclipped, but we only found this an occasional problem limited to situations where the carabiner is weighted. The gate itself, unlike some wire gates, is stiff enough to stay reassuringly in alignment with the hook, even when pushed open with the thumb. A solid, workhorse draw that is light enough for alpine climbing and onsighting.
Pros: Price. Simple, lightweight but full-sized
Cons: Hook can get caught on slings or hangers
Length: 12 cm, 16 cm
Weight: 100 g, 103 g
Sling Material: 18mm polyester
Price: $18.95, $20.95 CAD
The HotForge is, of course, a hot-forged carabiner. The I-beam shaped stock allows for a wider radius at the rope end and a slender, snag free keylock for clipping tight hangers or pitons. The rope end biner has a solid curved gate. The pro-end biner is silver and has a straight gate. Both biners have a big, 27mm gate opening, and a deep basket. These features all makes them pretty easy to clip. The 11mm polyester sling keeps the lower biner in place with the Straitjacket insert that avoids breakage that can occur with external gaskets.
Carabiners with standard gates are usually much more expensive than wire gate biners, but Black Diamond has managed to offer these draws for only a little more than most wire gates. The gate springs are quite stiff, which makes it necessary to have a stable grip on the carabiner when clipping. Highly recommended for beginners and those who are hard on their draws.
Pros: Price. Durability, massive gate opening
Cons: Heavier than some draws.
Length: 12, 17 cm
Weight: 107, 113 gm
Sling Material: polyester
Price: $22.95, 24.95 CAD
The Djinn carabiner is a heavy-duty workhorse Petzl has positioned as a more durable version of their slightly lighter Spirit draw. Extra material at rope contact points gives it superior longevity and avoids wear. The bent back spine of the biner makes it fit well in the hand for clipping. The disadvantage of this shape, however, is it is fiddly with some stick-clipping devices. The stiff draw and the rubber String gasket on the rope end of the draw make it easy to keep the draw stable when clipping.
A 2.4 cm gate opening is an easy target for the rope. The gates on the carabiners gates on carabiners are snappy but easily manipulated. The polyester draw makes a solid handhold. Although Petzl markets these as beginner draws, they will also appeal to experienced climbers seeking a featured draw that clips easily and can put up with the abuse of long trad leads and red-pointing.
Pros: Ergonomic Shape. Good handling. Sling makes a good handhold
Cons: Price, weight, fiddly in stick clips
Length: 12, 18, 25 cm
Weight: 112, 117, 122 g
Sling Material: 25 mm nylon
Price: 35.95, 36.95 CAD (12 cm, 18 cm)
The Alpha Sport, by a small margin, is the most expensive quickdraw in this review. but the Alpha Sport carabiners are also some of the most featured biners on the market. Welsh company DMM pioneered the hot forged carabiner in the 90s with their original Mamba quickdraw with a captive quickdraw and curved spine to facilitate clipping. The idea was copied in many other draws. The Alpha Sport, however, is a more conventional design, without the captive draw. The Carabiner itself is the easiest to hold, partly because of the ribs of the back of the spine that offer more index finger friction while clipping.
The 25 mm gate opening and deep basket make clipping speedy. The clean, narrow keylock nose will fit into tight hangers and even old pins. The flat inside surface of the gate increases the space inside the locked carabiner and makes it slightly more secure. Grooves on the gate give the fingers purchase while clipping. The 25 mm sling makes a good handhold while working routes or aiding. One disadvantage of the Alpha Sport is that its complex ergonomic shape can make it hard to use with stick clips, although ours worked well in two different clipping devices. Highly recommended to anyone who wants a top-level highly engineered draw that can take long-term abuse.
Pros: Ergonomic shape, handles extremely well, big gate opening