Strongest Links: The 6 Best Carabiners

Life is all about connections. The connections you have to your family and friends offer joy and purpose. Your connections in business create opportunity and riches. And your physical connections to your gadgets, gear, or the cliff you are scaling keep your stuff in easy reach or keep you from falling to your death. Certainly we can all agree that the last one is the most important, and to keep your gear close and your existence on this mortal coil closer, you need a good carabiner.

Carabiners used to be only seen hung on the packs of serious rock climbers or dangling from the pommel of ice axes of an arctic adventurer, but these days they can be found used as keychains, placed into tactical and survival gear for a quick and easy method of connection, or used as fashion accessory. Each year the simple device sees new upgrades and styles for a multitude of purposes from boating to zip-lining made of every kind of material under the sun. Odds are good that if you are looking to make better connections in your life, all you need is one of the 6 best carabiners.

Camp Compact Oval Carabiner

Camp Compact Oval Carabiner

Pro: Symmetrical and tough to snag
Con: Weakest carabiner design

Push and Pulley: Oval carabiners are not much beloved due to their inherent structural weakness, but if you are a pulley fan when speed lining branches, a spelunker, or a rescue worker, you’ll want to have at least a few of these on hand just in case. We liked the Camp Compact partly because it didn’t take up much space that could be better used for D-shaped carabiners that will actually see action nearly every day. These also had some of the highest stress ratings of any oval we could find. On the major axis you’ll get 24 kN (5,300 lbf) worth of hold. On the minor axis you’ll find right around 10 kN (a little over 2,000 lbf) with the gate able to take 7 kN (nearly 1,600 lbf). This puts it on par with some very respectable D-shaped carabiners, though naturally it suffers some on the minor axis by comparison. We suggest you use this as your carrying clasp that can still do heavy work in a pinch. Very handy for racking wires and almost never snags, so use it in tight spaces. [Purchase: $10]

Wild Country Helium

Wild Country Helium

Pro: Extremely lightweight
Con: Wire gate

Believe the Hype: Even if you’ve never done anything more than walk by a climbing wall in a gym while some mountaineer was lacing up his rock climbing shoes then you’ve heard about the Wild Country Helium. It came onto the scene with a bang in 2003 and has been dazzling ever since. At only 33 grams it is light enough for the most serious rock hopper to lug to the summit but still capable of giving 24 kN (5,000+ lbf) worth of support along the major axis, 10 kN (2,000+ lbf) along the minor axis and a gate hold of 7kN (~1,600 lbf). Not the strongest D-shape around, but for one that uses a wire gate and weighs so little, it’s a miraculous design that allows you to pack many more than you ordinarily would for extra long, tall ascents. Hot forged and still able to outclass the competition for endurance climbers, the sole complaint is the price, but for those that need it, the Helium is worth every penny. [Purchase: $14]

Petzl William

Petzl William

Pro: Comes in multiple locking styles
Con: Very large

Wide Mouth: You can use this as a belay when you’re doing your climbing, but we found that it often works best for attaching to a zipline since it can accommodate the larger cables and straps without causing undue friction as you head down the slope trying to talk your bladder out of betraying your fear. It can organize your belay station as well and fits with a Munter hitch like it was made for it in case you prefer not to use a belay mechanism while you climb. It is aluminum so you won’t get the longevity or the same strength as steel, but you shouldn’t really be using it for much in the way of heavy lifting. The minor axis and gate can withstand 7 kN (~1,600 lbf) while the beefy major axis will take on 25 kN (5,600 lbf). Those who don’t trust a machine to do a man’s job will enjoy the screw lock, but it comes in both ball and triact auto-locks if you’re lazy or prefer it work faster. Easily one of the smoothest and most open pear-shaped ‘biners you can find. [Purchase: $16+]

Omega Pacific Jake Quick-Lock Carabiner

Omega Pacific Jake Quick-Lock Carabiner

Pro: Side-swing gate
Con: Heavy

Belayed Order: Modern American climbers no longer use a Munter hitch on their belt anymore, preferring a belay device, but if you choose to go old school and get a greater sense of control from being able to stop a fall with your knot, then you’ll find this carabiner will do right by you. Even if you never really need it, knowing the Munter method of belaying can save you if your belay device slips away. It has a side-swing gate that opens the mouth wide to accommodate multiple ropes if necessary without trying to cram. Along the major axis the force test is at 23 kN (5,000+ lbf)) and 10 kN (2,000+ lbf) on the minor. With the gate open, you’ll still get a full 8kN (1,800 lbf) which is higher than average for non-industrial products. Weighing in at 105 grams, it’s a bit on the bulky side, but a very reliable fallback and can be true salvation in a pinch. [Purchase: $19]

Black Diamond Rocklock Magnetron

Black Diamond Rocklock Magnetron

Pro: Auto-lock can be opened with one hand
Con: Expensive

Reinventing the Wheel: A carabiner really is just a loop of metal with a clasp, so there isn’t a whole lot that you can do to make it better, unless you’re one of the innovators at Black Diamond. This carabiner redefines the way that auto-locking mechanisms work in that rather than choosing a ball, a screw, or another specialized locking apparatus, this employs magnets set into the head that attract a steel rod in the gate to hold it closed. These magnets are powerful, but also give you an automatic lock that is easy to open even with one hand without snagging or hooking during activity. These aren’t made for industrial use yet, but they are more than enough for any tree climber or mountaineer that wants a new kind of ‘biner to impress their friends. Major axis strength is 24 kN (5,000+ lbf) while both the minor axis and the gate offer only 7 kN (~1,600 lbf). [Purchase: $25]

HANDGREY Carabiner

HANDGREY Carabiner

Pro: Comes in titanium, brass, and copper
Con: Doesn’t work as a true carabiner

The Height of Fashion: Some people prefer to look good rather than to hang off the side of a mountain. For these fashion-conscious men, there is finally a carabiner that isn’t just another retread of the options already available, but rather a fully realized fashion accessory that marries form and function together to give you a keychain that’s stunning but also has hidden depths. From the maker of the Bauhaus line of carabiners, the Handgrey is specifically designed to carry keys with a dedicated key loop that makes adding and subtracting keys a simpler process. Chromed out with Ti6Al4V grade 5 titanium, this looks amazing and prevents any of your keys from falling away. The angular design slightly roughened finish is certainly masculine without being too kitsch or woodsy. It is only tested at about 25 KG worth of stress, so trying to use it to anchor yourself as you dangle over the abyss will leave you, you know, dead, but it can keep a ring of keys, small tools, or folding pocket knives well in line. Comes in brass and copper as well as titanium. [Purchase: $39+]

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