Rock climbing is one of the most thrilling, albeit dangerous sports. It is because of this that all the equipment used needs to be perfectly safe, comfortable to use, and sturdy. Carabiners come under the list of essential equipment used for rock climbing. It is nothing but a metal snap-link made of either steel or aluminum that is used to hold all the safety climbing gear together.
Best Locking Carabiners have a mechanism that opens under finger pressure and the spring-tensioned gate system inside closes the gate. This is a simple push and lock mechanism, where the gate is pushed by the fingers to clip the rope or other equipment and closes when the push is released.
Locking carabiners are often preferred as the gate locks shut to make sure that nothing comes loose from the carabiner. Carabiners are usually reliable and strong because a climber’s safety mainly depends on them. Different climbing tasks demand different carabiners. It is very important to choose wisely based on your requirements. Some things that need to be considered when you are looking to buy a carabiner are shape, type of gate, size, weight and strength.
Here are some instances where it is better to go for a locking carabiner rather than a non-locking one
- Belay Carabiners – when you are securing your belay device, a locking carabiner is essential.
- Belaying a second – when you are belaying a second up to you, you have to attach your belay to your anchor with another locking carabiner.
- Attaching yourself to an anchor – when you want to attach yourself to a fixed or temporary anchor, a locking carabiner such as an HMS shaped one will be good.
- Top Rope Anchors – if you are top roping, you will have to use locking carabiners since you cannot see if the carabiner is opening, hence it is imperative to use one that has zero danger of opening. Two locking carabiners, opposite and opposed will have to be used.
- Bail Carabiners – situations where you have to bail from a route will definitely present themselves to every climber at least once. When you bail you will have to leave behind one or more carabiners while lowering down. Climbers usually use locking carabiners in such situations. It is better to use an older/ cheaper one in such situations.
- Carries – though it is unpleasant you have to drop some important things off during climbs, like shoes, pack etc. It is better to secure them with a locking carabiner as they will reach down safely without opening, making sure you do not lose the items important to you. Lightweight ones are enough for this situation.
- High risk settings – if you are an avid climber who is into various sports originated from basic rope climbing like rope-soloing, zip lining across a river, etc, locking carabiners will be used for other applications.
Now that you know if you need a locking carabiner, here are some of the different locking systems available in the market.
- Screw lock (manual locking)
- Twist lock (auto locking)
- Wire lock (auto locking)
- Triact lock (auto locking)
- Ball lock (auto locking)
- Pin lock (auto locking)
- Eashook (auto locking)
- Semi-permanent connectors (manual locking)
We have discussed when to use locking carabiners and the various mechanisms.
Best Best Locking Carabiners Reviewed
This is inarguably the obvious first choice for locking carabiners and the most popular one. They are durable, dependable, and can handle anything you put them through. They are made with round stock and anodized in a gold color that it is known for. These days the Attache is anodized with a mango orange color, but not much else about the good old HMS lockers has changed.
While very few have complained that the screw lock shuts too easily and the lighter metal wears out fast, its incomparable performance has put it at the top position of any comparison chart. To top it off, it is also affordable, making it a more accessible choice.
It has I-beam construction for the HMS/pear-shaped design that makes its design light weight. The pear-shaped basket is usually used as a belay or rappel device, or even to hold the items clipped in to carry down.
It has a screw gate locking mechanism that a few climbers do not trust as much as some other mechanisms though proven safe, but this has been addressed by the safety stripe feature, which blinks red when the gate is not secure, allowing you to double check the safety.
That being said, it is a slightly larger option in the market, so is used in specific situations where a larger carabiner is preferred. Climbers usually carry some smaller options with them too for various uses.
There can be no complaints about the construction of this particular locking carabiner, and it is of very high quality. The milling is good and the screw lock and gate are perfectly in sync. It is very easy to use, even with gloves which is a problem that climbers tend to face. To conclude, if you need a locking carabiner then this is certainly the best choice for you.
Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron
The Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron is the lightest auto-locking carabiner according to climbers and reviewers. Auto locking mechanism is the preferred choice in locking mechanisms as chances of human error reduce, if the gate has closed then it is locked, no question.
This security is what appeals to most climbers, and is mainly used for belaying or a multi-pitch anchor. It uses a magnetic locking system to keep the gate closed and has two buttons on each side of the gate that has to be pressed in order to open it. This is usually fast and easy but can be a little tricky while wearing gloves without adequate practice.
The catch is that the magnetic locking mechanism that ensures safety can be slightly expensive, boosting the cost of the Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron to almost double the cost of the Petzl Attache. The two are fairly similar, and the choice can be made based on your need. The Attache is less secure but more versatile and easier to use in icy conditions than the Magnetron, which has been reported to jam up once or twice.
It can also be a little harder to open when used on an anchor, because in this situation accessing both sides of the gate to unlock is not easy. That being said, it has been observed that the gate is significantly easier to open over time with practice and experience. Locking the gate is much easier and does not require any effort from your part at all.
A useful pointer would be to keep it clean and not directly expose it to dirt as the magnets can attract ferrous particles and that reduces the efficiency of the locking mechanism. Auto locking carabiners ensure that the gate is locked at all times, and are hence more secure. For anyone looking for the most secure locking system, this would be a wonderful option as it is the best auto locking carabiner available and serves its purpose well.
This is a popular carabiner amongst climbers used for belaying. Cross-loading occurs when force is not oriented across the spine, and manufacturers continuously try to improve their designs to address this issue.
This can especially be a problem while belaying and hence Rhino is popular as DMM found a way around this by adding a small horn, as they call it, to the outside of the spine which prevents belays from moving off the basket and to the spine. This is a very clever solution and deserves to be acknowledged.
The best part about the DMM Rhino, apart from the horn of course, is that it comes with various types of locking gates and you actually have a choice among screwgate, double action and triple action auto locking gate. It must be noted that this option is still light-weight, despite the improvement. The gate action is smooth in all the types of gates available.
The basket is made of round stock that makes it a good choice for sports like rappelling or even belaying, and gives more durability when compared with I-beam lockers. Very few climbers complained that the carabiner cannot spin when hung on a gear loop of the harness since a GriGri works only on the basket of the device.
One should be cautious while removing the locker and GriGri from the belay loop as there is a chance, however slight, that the device could slip off the nose and fall. The screw gate is easy to use, and they have friction ridges to help you manipulate the screws while wearing gloves, which is usually a concern with screw gates. It is said to be among the quickest screw gates to open or close, and is very useful while taking it off the harness.
It does not use I-beam construction as discussed in our earlier options, and withstands more rough usage without wearing down. Since it is an HMS locker, it is on the larger side and can hold a Munter-hitch. The DMM Rhino is an affordable, versatile, durable and safe option for any climber and deserves to be in your top three choices.
Edelrid HMS Bulletproof Triple FG
The Edelrid HMS Bulletproof Triple FG is known for its durability. It has a secure triple action auto locking gate and an internal spring bar that prevents the locker from rotating.
It is good for belaying and top-roping as the steel insert provides a smooth surface for the rope to slide over. Though it is constructed with I-beam stock known to reduce weight, it is on the heavier side and is not preferred on multi-pitch climbs. It is, however, the most recommended locker for a beginner trying their hand at belaying.
It can be a little difficult to unlock because of the triple action unlocking mechanism, but that makes it safer. To unlock this locker, you must first push the sliding locker bar upwards to the nose, then twist it by 90 degrees and then open the gate.
Sliding the bar upwards is not easy to accomplish with one hand, and unless you are very experienced in dealing with such a gate, you will have to either use both your hands or pin the top of the locker against a surface.
This could be a bit of a pain, but if safety is what is most important to you then you can absolutely never go wrong with this particular carabiner. This particular option has many features that are not found in others. It is a durable option that is suitable for belaying and other applications, and affordable too.
Different kinds of locking carabiners are manufactured by climbing gear companies, most of which are specific to certain functions. It is important to assess the situations where you may use the carabiner before choosing one, and then narrowing your options down based on the requirements to perform well in those particular situations. Most climbers own more than one locker, so buying one of each type may actually be a sensible thing to do. Hope you found what you were looking for, happy climbing!