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Carabiners are one of the most important pieces of climbing gear. Those little pieces of metal are responsible for (literally) holding your life. But not all carabiners are made equal. And even the best carabiners come in a variety of styles for different needs. Add dozens of brands and you have a marketplace that’s harder to navigate than the face of El Capitan.
What Are the Best Climbing Carabiners?
Whether you’re belaying, rappelling, sport-climbing or simply racking gear, the best carabiners should be durable enough to bear a heavy load. Below are some of the most important factors to look at when buying a new set of carabiners.
Shape: Carabiners typically come in one of four shapes: D-shape, asymmetric D, oval and pear. Oval-shaped is the classic, offering maximum space for gear and no weight shifting issues due to the symmetry. D-shape carabiners provide a slight upgrade because they keep gear away from the gate. Asymmetric D (a.k.a. offset D or modified D) is by far the most popular carabiner shape because it keeps gear away from the gate, but also allows for a large gate opening and a lightweight design.
Size: If you just need your carabiner to hold a single rope or one more carabiner in a chain, smaller is better. If you have a hefty job with large ropes or lots of extra gear, a larger carabiner is necessary. This size difference might be less than half an inch (say, a four-inch versus a 4.3-inch), but that changes things quite a bit.
Gate: Carabiner gates come in many varieties, but we kept our list to locking gates only. Locking gates utilize either a screw lock or a twist lock. Screw locks are more secure but require more time to screw the sleeve over the gate. Twist locks are faster but less secure and often use auto-locking technology that snaps the sleeve over the gate whenever the gate is closed.
Strength: The best climbing carabiners on our list can hold enormous weight, but there is still some discrepancy that warrants attention. Carabiner strength is typically noted in Newtons (kN) and hovers in the low 20s. So, if a carabiner has a kN rating of 25, it can hold 5,620 pounds. Sometimes you’ll also see a kN rating for the major and minor axis loads. This means how much the carabiner can hold lengthwise (major axis) and sideways (minor axis).
Material: Most carabiners use aircraft-grade aluminum for the material’s lightweight strength. However, some climbers prefer steel for certain jobs because steel is stronger, although heavier.
1. XTEK Climbing Carabiner
This climbing carabiner from Xtek features the old-school oval shape. This means you have maximum space for gear such as ropes and other carabiners. The uniform oval shape also limits jarring load shifts. This means its ideal for carabiner-brake rappels, aid climbing or any job that requires a lot of gear.
The Xtek carabiner is made of very sturdy steel, boasting a capacity of 25kN (5,620lbs). This, combined with a screw lock, makes the Xtek very strong, although the steel construction adds some weight.
2. CARAPEAK Carabiner
If you’re looking for a reliable set of D-shaped carabiners, we suggest this four-pack from Carapeak. The heavy-duty ‘biners have a strength rating of 25kN, and as with most D carabiners, they’re very versatile for a wide range of climbing and rappelling needs. Although many D-carabiners have a twist-lock gate, these utilize a strong screw lock. This means the Carapeaks are ideal for locking anchor points or belaying.
3. Storesum Climbing Carabiner
Asymmetric D carabiners are the most popular choice for a reason. They’re extremely versatile for almost any job, effectively carry weight and aren’t too heavy. One of our favorite offset D carabiners is this one from Storesum. They’re super lightweight, coming in at just two ounces apiece, but aircraft-grade aluminum keeps them strong with a maximum capacity of 24kN. Plus, a twist lock ensures easy clipping and release.
This pack gets you a set of three carabiners.
4. Lazzo Climbing Carabiner
Another great set of asymmetric D carabiners are these from Lazzo. One of the standout features of Lazzo’s carabiner is a big 0.78-inch gate opening, as well as a large overall length of 4.21 inches. This makes it easy to slip in large ropes and other carabiners without a hassle. Add a twist-lock mechanism to boot and you’ve got a very versatile, easy-to-use piece of gear.
It works for everything from belaying to building anchors to racking trad gear, but it does have one downside: no certification from the UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation).