A while back I left a top roping rig at the top of my local crag. It was stupid to forget it up there but it was starting to rain and I thought Ben had grabbed it and Ben thought I had grabbed it. All in all I lost four lockers and some nice Sterling 6 mil PowerCord, which by the way is pretty awesome. Not exactly the end of the world but not exactly cheap either. Since then, every time I’ve been climbing I’ve felt like I was short a locker or two, which is easily remedied by two opposing regular ‘biners, but it still would have been nice to have the extra locking carabiners.
So I finally got off my rear and went to REI to pick up a few lockers. Picking out locking carabiners is actually a non-trivial event for a climber because by virtue of having to use a locking carabiner you are signifying that what you are doing is especially important and it needs to be more secure than what a regular ‘biner can provide. Whether that is building a top roping anchor, belaying a partner or tying into a glacier rig, you are using a locking carabiner because the extra security of locker is important.
Having said that, here are a few things to keep in mind when you are picking out new locking carabiners.
Not all screwgates are created equal, some are a lot smoother than others. I play around with the actual ‘biner I’m going to buy to make sure it is easy to lock/unlock with one hand and to make sure the screwgate doesn’t get easily stuck at the top or bottom.
Check the diameter of the ‘biner. A rope will run smoother around a fatter ‘biner but in general fatter ‘biners weigh more and an ounce here, an ounce there and all of sudden your overnight pack is 65 lbs.
Look at the basket of the ‘biner and see if it is wide enough to properly hold a clove hitch with your rope. Remember a clove hitch requires a flat surface to be full strength. So for a clove hitch, this is a good ‘biner (link) while this is “less good” ‘biner (link). If you don’t know the parts of a carabiner the American Alpine Institute has good article. (link)
What about auto-locking carabiners (link) to use with our belay device? The simple answer is don’t event think about getting them. Not only are they are a pain in the butt to use once they get “in the real world” but what is a dealbreaker for me is that even the slightest bit of ice will render these absolutely useless. While on the topic of ice and ‘biners, my quick tip of the day is, in cold weather with screwgate locking carabiners, tighten the screwgate and then back it off half a turn. This should help prevent the ‘biner from freezing shut.
Well, I think that is all I’ve got to say about locking carabiners. If you have any questions or if I’ve missed something feel free to drop a comment.