Most of us know the carabiner as a form of mountaineering equipment — these days, you'll generally find them in the climbing section of sporting goods and outdoor gear stores. However, the origin of this name hints at its original use. Carabiner is derived from karabinerhaken, German for carbine hook. The earliest carabiners were used by German riflemen in the 1930s to attach gear to belts. But you don't have to be a mountain-climber or a soldier to see the value of this ubiquitous tool.
Carabiners serve a myriad of purposes for hiking, backpacking, camping, and emergency preparedness. The most obvious of these is — just like the original karabinerhaken — to retain gear on a belt, strap, rope, or ridgeline. A carabiner can snap a loose accessory onto PALS webbing on a plate carrier, hook a handbag to a piece of luggage, suspend a hammock, connect a water bottle to a backpack strap, or stow your keys on a belt loop. We've used them to hang gravity water purifiers, bear bags, and lanterns in the backcountry. A large carabiner also works well as a carry handle for multiple heavy shopping bags, and you could even use one as an improvised weapon in a pinch.
As a result of these uses, we make a point to have a carabiner (or a few) close at hand. Some of these are heavy-duty climbing tools that could be used for rappelling, while others are of the multipurpose every-day-carry variety. Some of the latter category incorporate other functions, such as a bottle opener, prybar, bit driver, or even an integrated USB power bank.
Much like a traditional carabiner, the Heroclip is constructed of solid billet aluminum and available numerous anodized colors. It features a spring-loaded wire gate, and an asymmetrical body that's larger on one side. Where it differs from tradition is its patented dual-jointed hook and swivel.
When not in use, the Heroclip's hook encircles the top half of the carabiner, remaining relatively compact and unable to be dislodged in transit. To open the hook, the user must press on the gate and rotate the hook to the side. It swivels a full 360 degrees, and also pivots 180 degrees to reach the opposite end of the carabiner.
The hook can now be looped around objects that the carabiner wouldn't otherwise fit onto, such as large railings or tree branches. Additionally, the Heroclip hook has a “beak” tip that's designed to grab flat surfaces — ledges, walls, tabletops, and so on. The beak has a rubberized insert that provides additional grip and reduces slippage.
The Heroclip is available in three sizes, with the following specs:
The polymer-encased swivel may not look strong, but it feels quite sturdy and had no problem carrying the maximum rated weight during our testing.
Color choices include various two-tone schemes ranging from silver on gray to bright teal on orange, as well as the monochrome Stealth Black seen in our photos. In case these options aren't sufficiently high-vis for you, the company offers patterns that include blue digital camo and rainbow.
We tried out a trio of Heroclips in various sizes to determine if this design adds value for practical use in the outdoors. As we mentioned earlier, one place we commonly use a carabiner is on a gravity water filtration setup, so we set out to see how the Heroclip fared for this purpose.
A quick aside about the setup seen here — it's based around a Hydrapak Seeker reservoir with a quick-disconnect cap and hose. This reservoir holds 3 liters of dirty water, and is suspended from a tree or other elevated surface. Gravity feeds the water down through a Sawyer Squeeze filter using the included inline adapter caps. The clean hose can be inserted into any other reservoir, usually a Klean Kanteen bottle or another hydration system. Total cost for the hydration gear was less than $50, weight is minimal at roughly 6 ounces, and it packs down easily.
We like the Hydrapak Seeker for this purpose because it has several built-in attachment points. Normally, we'd use a plain-jane carabiner hooked around a small forked tree branch. However, we've run into cases where most nearby branches are too big for a carabiner to fit around, or too small to hold enough weight. In some environments, you may have a tough time finding anything to clip the carabiner to. Rather than rigging a paracord ridgeline or MacGyvering something temporary out of zip ties and duct tape, it's helpful to have a more versatile solution.
The Heroclip excels at this task — it actually seems made for it. The water weight will never exceed its carrying capacity, and the rotating hook makes it simple to attach our gravity filtration kit to virtually any nearby object. This includes flat surfaces, like the edge of a wall or rock outcrop. This is a case where the Heroclip is clearly easier to use than a regular carabiner.
So what about other carabiner-y uses?
Obviously, the Heroclip is not intended for climbing, and using it for this purpose would be dangerous. It's also not suitable for use on a hammock or in other high-stress settings. On the other end of the spectrum, it wouldn't be our first choice for retaining keys or other small accessories. It's a bit bulkier than an EDC-specific carabiner like a Nite Ize S-biner or a Keybiner, and we don't foresee needing to suspend our car keys from a ledge any time soon.
That said, when you find a situation where you need to attach Thing A to Thing B and your carabiner won't fit around both, the Heroclip helps tremendously. For example, you might want to hang your 35-pound backpack off the ground and away from critters, but said backpack is heavy enough that it'll snap any of the small branches that would fit inside your carabiner. The Heroclip hook lets you suspend it from a much larger branch — even if the hook doesn't clear the whole branch, its “beak” will hold on to most surfaces.
Speaking of that beak, we found that it tends to slip on smoother surfaces. Its hard rubber construction is more like a hockey puck than a pencil eraser, and it lacks texture. This is one area we feel could be improved, although it's not an issue you'll notice in most cases.
At the end of the day, the Heroclip isn't a replacement for your existing carabiners — at least not most of them. It is, however, a great alternative for the situations when you need to suspend gear from uneven or unusual surfaces. And when you're not using the hook, it works as a decent (albeit rather bulky) carabiner. We'll certainly be using one in our gravity water filter kit from now on.
For more info on Heroclip, go to MyHeroclip.com.