If you haven’t thought about getting a carabiner, you’ll be a convert soon after trying one. It’s an incredibly useful tool, and you don’t have to be a mountain climber to appreciate it.
Aside from using them for climbing, rappelling, or caving as intended, ’biners have all sorts of improvised functions, including, but not limited to, rigging a shelter, acting as a tourniquet (when coupled with a cord), being used as a striking implement, and linking smaller packs to your get-out-of-dodge bag. Of course, you can use them for more mundane roles, such as a keychain or to attach a water bottle to your hiking pack.

The predecessor of the carabiner was made in the 1800s for French cavalry troops called carabiniers, who used metal spring hooks and slings to carry their carbines whilst on horseback. However, it wasn’t until after the 1910s when legendary German climber Otto Herzog is credited as having created the first modern ’biner by incorporating a springloaded gate (the component that opens and closes). The German term karabinerhaken means “spring hook,” but translates literally as “carbine hook.”

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Today ’biners generally come in four types: asymmetric D-shaped, D-shaped, oval, and pear-shaped. The other important element is the gate, since it’s the part that opens to connect to another object and closes to ensure it stays connected that way. There are three gate types: straight, bent, and wire. Gates can further be grouped into locking and non-locking.

While there are many more factors to consider if you’re using carabiners for load-bearing activities, we’re not delving that deeply here. However, the seven carabiners here give you a quick glimpse at the wide array of options available on the market now. Their uses are limited only by your imagination.

Bison Designs LLC

G10 ClipTex Carabiner

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Materials
G10

OAL
2.75 inches

Weight
0.7 ounces

MSRP
$14

URL
www.bisondesigns.com

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The ClipTex is advertised as the world’s first carabiner made of G10. This glass-based epoxy resin laminate was originally made for use as a base in circuit boards and is now widely used for firearm grips and knife handle scales. Why? It’s strong yet lightweight, as well as non-conductive, non-corrosive, and resistant to extreme temperatures. It also doesn’t shrink or absorb water. This makes for an incredibly durable carabiner, but note that this asymmetric D-shaped ’biner isn’t rated for any load-bearing functions.

Pros:

  • A featherweight at less than an ounce
  • Super strong and durable
  • Wire-gate opens smoothly and closes quickly
  • Comes with a keyring

Cons:

  • Not rated for load-bearing activities

Black Diamond Equipment

RockLock Twistlock

Materials
Aluminum

OAL
4.5 inches

Weight
3.1 ounces

MSRP
$19

URL
www.blackdiamondequipment.com

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As Black Diamond’s largest belay and rappel locking carabiner, the RockLock features a twistlock gate that can be operated with one hand. Simply rotate the gate sleeve clockwise, then pull it back to open. To lock it, simply let go and it returns to the closed position automatically. Since it’s made of aluminum, it’s tremendously strong — the RockLock has a closed-gate strength rating of 24 kiloNewtons (or 5,395 pounds), yet is quite lightweight. Plus, it feels great in hand in our medium-sized hands. Made in the USA.

Pros:

  • Automatic twistlock ensures solid lockup
  • One-handed operation
  • Awesome strength-to-weight ratio
  • Slightly curved spine allows for easy gate opening

Cons:

  • Cons? Um … let us think about this one.

Tuff Writer

Aluminum Carabiner – Red

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Materials
6061-T6 aluminum

OAL
3 inches

Weight
1.1 ounces

MSRP
$40

URL
www.tuffwriter.com

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Tuff Writer makes some of the industry’s best tactical pens. Now the Arizona-based company has teamed up with D22 Manufacturing to turn its sights on carabiners. The Aluminum Carabiner is made out of, well, aluminum — 6061-T6 to be exact — and features the same precise machining and balance between form and function as the Tuff Writer pens. Also available in black blue, and purple, as well as with an aged brass frame (for $80) and a flamed titanium frame (for $120). Made in the USA.

Pros:

  • Strong wire-gate spring that’s smooth to open and snaps shut.
  • Light yet durable
  • Hybrid oval-shaped ’biner is aesthetically pleasing and works well as a keyring retainer

Cons:

  • As a keychain accessory, it isn’t rated for weight-bearing activities.
  • Smaller size means its gate opening is a tad narrow.

Kikkerland Design Inc.

Key Tools

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Materials
Anodized aluminum

OAL
2 inches

Weight
1 ounce

MSRP
$10

URL
www.kikkerland.com

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Kikkerland is known for putting a fresh twist on common light-duty devices by redesigning them in clever ways. (See our review of the Kikkerland Wood Axe Multi Tool in Issue 24.) But let’s be clear: The asymmetrical D-shaped carabiner that comes with this Key Tools set isn’t fooling anyone. Its sole purpose is to act as a means to attach the key ring and the included bottle opener and two screwdrivers (flathead and Phillips) to your pack or belt loop. Beyond that, it’s not likely to impress many.

Pros:

  • The included screwdrivers work well in a pinch, and their key-like shape helps provide torqueing leverage despite their short length.
  • The Key Tools set as a whole is a smart, convenient idea.

Cons:

  • The spring in the gate is barely strong enough to keep the gate closed.
  • We were unable to determine its materials before press time, but we suspect the carabiner is soft aluminum.
  • This ’biner and its gate opening is teeny.

Nite Ize

S-Biner Dual Carabiner Stainless Steel #4

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Materials
Stainless steel

OAL
3.52 inches

Weight
1.6 ounces

MSRP
$3

URL
www.niteize.com

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Colorado-based Nite Ize impresses us with not only the diversity and quality of its products, but also how brilliantly they’re engineered. Case in point: The S-Biner lineup. They come in a variety of sizes and materials, but we reviewed the #4 (second largest) model from the stainless-steel series. It’s an oval-shaped carabiner that features dual wire-gates on either side, making it much easier to connect and disconnect items. Not intended for climbing, this tough yet lightweight ’biner is rated to hold up to 75 pounds.

Pros:

  • Dual-gate design
  • Strong and tough, yet lightweight
  • Crazy affordable price
  • Good quality despite being manufactured in China

Cons:

  • Though it can hold up to 75 pounds, it’s not rated for climbing or rappelling.

Nomad

Carabiner – Lightning

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Materials
Stainless steel and polycarbonate

OAL
3.75 inches

Weight
1.7 ounces

MSRP
$30

URL
www.hellonomad.com

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In this Digital Age, it was only a matter of time before someone did it — Nomad Goods has combined the frame of an asymmetric D-shaped carabiner with a charging cord, giving you a light-duty ’biner that doubles as a backup Lightning cable. It’s USB 2.0 certified to charge up to 2.4 amperes and sync your iPhone or iPad. (Micro USB and DSLR versions are also available.) Not meant to be a primary charging cable, the Carabiner – Lightning is ruggedly built … even if it’s not meant for climbing.

Pros:

  • Ideal for the minimalist commuter or an emergency situation in which you need your iPhone for communication or navigation
  • Surprisingly rugged construction
  • Lightweight and versatile size

Cons:

  • Short cable, forcing you to keep your phone within 5 inches of the power source.
  • Not for load-bearing functions

Petzl

Am’D Triact-Lock

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Materials
Aluminum

OAL
4.5 inches

Weight
2.6 ounces

MSRP
$23

URL
www.petzl.com

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Fernand Petzl was a caving expert who founded his namesake corporation in 1975 to mass produce quality gear for technical rescue workers and vertical sports athletes. Since then it’s developed a strong global reputation. The Am’D Triact-Lock continues that legacy. It feels great in hand, has an auto-locking gate, and can handle 27 kiloNewtons (6,070 pounds). Though this is the tactical (all black) version, the Am’D is also available in various colors with a ball-lock or a screw-lock. Made in France.

Pros:

  • Aluminum frame offers some serious strength in a lightweight package
  • Size has greater gate opening, making it easier to link up.
  • With its asymmetric D-shaped body and automatic Triact-Lock system, it’s ideal for belaying or holding equipment.

Cons:

  • The Triact-Lock isn’t the easiest to unlock with one hand; you must push the gate sleeve up then, while holding it up, rotate it clockwise before pulling it back.
  • This triple-action gate opening is especially awkward for lefties to operate.

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