How to Choose Carabiners for Climbing

how to choose a carabiner

Carabiners stand as crucial instruments in the realm of climbing, with the intricacies of their production often overlooked. The technology embedded in carabiner crafting is paramount, serving as a lifeline for climbers regularly and contributing to the climbing ethos for nearly a century. For enthusiasts of rock climbing, the significance of acquiring dependable carabiners cannot be overstated, as these devices play a pivotal role in ensuring reliable support and protection. Delve into the essential aspects of carabiners to guide your choice of optimal equipment on your upcoming climb.

Lock vs. Non-Locking

fusion climbs different types of carabiners


In situations where an open gate poses a risk of injury or system failure, the use of locking carabiners is imperative. The primary advantage lies in the unwavering assurance that a locking carabiner, securely containing the rope and other safety equipment within its grasp, is resilient to external pressures or impacts. In specific scenarios, the preference for two locking carabiners facing opposite directions becomes evident, particularly in activities involving prolonged movement or usage without regular inspection, such as climbers opting for this setup when traversing on a rope team in mountaineering to counteract potential untwisting over time.

  • Screwgate: Considered the pinnacle in locking carabiners, screwgate lockers stand out for their simplicity, lightweight design, and user-friendly operation, easily managed with a single gloved hand. A noteworthy feature to seek in certain screwgate carabiners is a thick red line positioned above the threads on the gate, serving as a straightforward indicator to alert users if the carabiner is not securely locked—an invaluable aspect for enhanced safety.
  • Auto Locking: Upon mastering the opening mechanism, auto-locking carabiners prove to be swift and consistently efficient. With the majority of auto-locking designs facilitating the rapid opening and closure of carabiners in a fraction of the time required by screwgate counterparts, this specialized feature becomes particularly advantageous during frequent clipping in and out of protection. It guarantees that the carabiner is securely locked with each movement, streamlining the process for enhanced ease of use.


Non-locking carabiners, known for their lightweight and versatile nature, find their purpose when an open gate won't result in injury or system failure, often used alongside other carabiners in various scenarios.

Despite the excellence of locking carabiners, the preference for non-lockers persists due to their efficiency in swiftly attaching items to harnesses or securing oneself to climbing protection. Additionally, their generally lighter weight and lower volume prove crucial when stacking multiple pieces of equipment onto limited harness gear loops. This versatility makes non-locking carabiners indispensable in situations where quick attachment and minimal weight are paramount.

  • Solid gate: the sturdiest among non-lockers, boast versatility and durability, albeit with a slightly heavier build. Many come equipped with a smooth keylock nose, preventing snagging during clipping and unclipping, making them suitable for general use. However, wire gates often outshine solid gates in various aspects.
  • Wire gate: considered the gold standard among non-lockers, are lighter than their solid gate counterparts, offering a plethora of options. While the lightest models remain sufficiently strong, they may wear out faster than their heavier counterparts. Wire gates also exhibit a lower susceptibility to freezing shut in cold, snowy conditions compared to solid gates.
  • mono wire: carabiners present an option. Although racking gear with mono wires might be a pricey endeavor, they offer the weight-saving benefits of wire gates with a single wire serving as the gate. This design, coupled with the keylock nose, resembles the advantages of solid gate carabiners. As always, opting for lighter-weight equipment may involve some trade-offs in long-term durability.

Size & Shape

fusion climbs different size carabiners


Different types of carabiners come in a range of shapes and sizes, each with its own set of benefits. Larger carabiners can easily accommodate large-diameter fixed lines, clove hitches and extensive gear, but they can be bulkier, heavier and harder to clip into smaller spaces. On the other hand, smaller carabiners are ideal for fitting into tight spaces, are exceptionally lightweight, and occupy minimal space on a harness gear loop. However, the tiniest carabiners may not have enough room for a clove hitch and can be challenging to manipulate, even with bare hands. Ultimately, the choice of carabiner depends on the specific activity requirements and the balance between size, weight, and functionality.

  • Asymmetric D: carabiner boasts a wide gate opening, making it an excellent all-around option suitable for various purposes, including personal anchors, mountaineering, and securing to fixed lines.
  • Pear Shape: with its wide gate opening, proves advantageous for belaying and rappelling, catering to specific needs in these activities.
  • D-shaped: featuring a medium gate opening and a limited clipping space, is well-suited for applications involving hauling systems and attaching to climbing protection.
  • Oval shape: characterized by a small gate opening and ample clipping space, is a practical choice for tasks such as using ascenders and personal tethers, providing versatility in different climbing scenarios. Each design caters to specific needs, emphasizing the importance of selecting the right carabiner based on the intended use.


Carabiners exhibit a range of sizes, each offering distinct advantages. Large carabiners, characterized by larger gate openings, are generally easier to handle and clip, making them ideal for applications such as belaying and rappelling. Their spacious design allows for holding a greater amount of gear inside, enhancing their utility.

On the other hand, smaller carabiners, while lighter and occupying less space on a rack, can pose a challenge when it comes to clipping due to their reduced size. The trade-off between size and ease of handling highlights the importance of selecting carabiners based on the specific requirements of the activity, balancing considerations of weight, convenience, and gear capacity.

Weight & Strength

While minimizing weight during a climb is generally advantageous, opting for superlight carabiners may not always be the optimal choice. Their reduced size can make them more challenging to use when clipping the rope or a bolt, compromising efficiency. Additionally, the use of narrower rod stock in lightweight carabiners can result in lower gate-open strengths and shorter lifespans.

The inherent narrowness of these carabiners may contribute to increased rope wear, as the slender ends can act like edges, potentially causing friction and biting into the weighted rope as it slides past. Balancing the desire for lighter equipment with considerations of usability, strength, and durability becomes crucial in selecting the most suitable carabiners for a climbing venture.

Carabiners undergo strength rating assessments in three dimensions: lengthwise (major axis), sideways (minor axis), and while open (major axis open or "gate open"). These crucial strength indicators are commonly labeled on the spine of the carabiner. Meeting UIAA and CE standards is a prerequisite for all climbing carabiners, ensuring ample strength when used correctly.

The most notable variations in strength ratings are observed in gate-open strength and minor-axis strength, highlighting the importance of understanding these specifications to ensure the appropriate selection of carabiners based on the specific demands of climbing activities.

So, which one do you choose?

different types of carabiners on a tree stump

Once you grasp the impact of shape, gate type, size, weight, and strength on performance, it becomes crucial to consider how you'll be utilizing the carabiners.

The features that render a carabiner excellent for one type of climbing may not necessarily make it equally suitable for another. For instance, small wiregate carabiners excel in keeping racks light or crafting lightweight trad quickdraws, but their smaller size may make them less straightforward to clip compared to larger, heavier counterparts.

Experienced climbers often develop preferences for carabiners based on size, shape, and gate type. For those starting, here are some general recommendations to guide your choice.

  • Belaying and Rappelling: Pear-shaped locking gate carabiners
  • Trad-climbing: Wiregate asymmetrical D-shaped carabiners
  • Sport-climbing: bent gates and/or wiregates, straight gates Asymmetric D carabiners

Find what you like

Determining the right carabiner for your needs often involves hands-on testing to assess their feel and functionality. Consider factors such as ease of handling and the sense of security each carabiner provides. While color is largely a matter of personal preference, some climbers opt for hues that enhance visibility during movement.

Conducting tests with various options allows you to identify carabiners that align perfectly with your specific requirements. By exploring different choices, you'll gain insights into which carabiners suit your preferences, ensuring a personalized and optimal experience for your climbing endeavors.