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For climbers, choosing the right carabiner is essential for the very simple reason that it is often the thing preventing them from falling. Even if you’re not hiking or climbing though, the best carabiners are handy pretty much any time you’re working with some kind of rope, whether that’s latching to a rope anchor when kayaking or attaching a leash to your dog collar. A good carabiner can also be used for small jobs like as a keychain or to carry a water bottle.
For bigger jobs, like suspending a hammock, for example, we like aluminum locking carabiners. Aluminum, the most common material used for climbing carabiners, is lightweight, stiff, and incredibly durable, making it safe for pretty much all uses. The locking function, which securely fastens the carabiner closed (either automatically or with a screw), is an especially important safety feature for any activity that leaves you suspended in air, but is useful anytime you want to be sure the carabiner stays secure (that is, always).
What Are the Best Aluminum Locking Carabiners?
There are a few basic things to keep in mind when choosing the best carabiner for you. We’ve listed three of the most important.
Strength and Size: Carabiners come in many strengths, which are rated in three directions: the major axis (lengthwise), minor axis (sideways), and when it is open. For climbing purposes, all carabiners must pass UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) and CE safety standards, which means these will be plenty strong for anything you need them for. In general, the heftier the ‘biner, the stronger it will be.
Shape: Carabiners come in a D shape, asymmetrical D shape, pear shape, and oval, the most common being the D, or square shape. We like this style because the angle allows weight to be evenly distributed across the carabiner, which makes it stronger. Different shapes may be better suited for specific climbing styles, but for multi-purpose use, we prefer the trusty D.
Lock Style: Carabiners can be locked using a screw method or automatically. Both methods keep the tool securely locked, though automatic locking has the advantage when it comes to peace of mind, since you never need to remember to fully make it lock. In either case, we look for locks that can be secured single-handedly, keeping your other hand free for whatever else you’re hanging on to.
1. XTEK Climbing Aluminum Locking Carabiner Clip
For a truly all-purpose carabiner (as in, one that is actually suitable for climbing), we like this model from XTEC, which is praised for its large size and secure, easy-to-use locking mechanism with excellent spring gate tension.
This is a screw lock carabiner, and the spring-loaded mechanism keeping the gate in place allows you to safely and securely screw the lock in place one-handed. Like all carabiners used for climbing, this model is tested and approved by UIAA, and can hold a maximum tension of 5171 pounds. The symmetrical shape of the carabiner allows it to distribute weight evenly.
Though excellent for climbing, this carabiner is suitable for pretty much all of your outdoor load-bearing needs, be that holding up a slack line or securing camping gear. It might, however, be a little on the bulky side for use as a keychain.
Pros: Heavy duty with a secure and easy-to-use locking mechanism.
Cons: Fairly large size.
2. Ayamaya Aluminum Locking Rock Climbing Carabiner
These D-shaped carabiners are also climber-approved, with a few notable design elements for additional safety. One such element is the specially-designed groove on the bottom which prevents the connected rope from moving around and is therefore more stable when climbing. The manufacturer also notes the anti-lanyard keylock nose, which effectively prevents snags, as well as the screw thread over the gate, which makes for smooth locking.
These design elements work well, allowing for smooth, snag-free operation and preventing the carabiners from moving out of place and tangling the ropes.
This carabiner can support 6,744 pounds of weight.
Pros: Design elements for increased security and smooth operation.
Cons: Too bulky for everyday keychain use.
3. Kimjee 12KN Aluminum Carabiner D-Ring
If you have smaller, non-climbing-related carabiner needs, we really like these compact and lightweight models. Though not recommended for high-altitude games, they are still quite strong, and withstand 2,697 pounds of force. Like the climbing carabiners above, these have a twist-lock mechanism which can be used with one hand, and it works smoothly and easily.
Because these models are on the smaller and lighter side, they are well-suited for key rings, dog leashes, and other similar uses. At the same time, the high-quality aluminum material and secure lock means they can be used effectively for other outdoor sporting equipment.
Pros: Attractive, colorful design. Rust-proof and durable.
Cons: Not certified for climbing.
4. FresKaro 3inch Twist Locking Carabiner Clips
One standout feature of these carabiners is the auto-lock, which is generally a safer carabiner lock type since it snaps back into place without you needing to screw in the gate in order to secure it. Opening the carabiner is a two-step twist and push operation, which springs back into place and locks automatically as soon as you release pressure on the gate. The spring tension is actually remarkably responsive, which feels a little more secure to us.
Weighing in at around a single ounce (about the same as two grapes), this lightweight and medium-sized carabiner is not suitable for climbing, but perfect for clipping items to your belt, attaching keys, or holding water bottles. Though small, it is still sturdy enough to support about 2,698 pounds of pressure, and is great for heavy loads like hammocks too.
Pros: Small and lightweight, makes it perfect to carry around in your pocket while still strong enough for heavy loads.
Cons: Not suitable for large loads.