There’s something very different about buying carabiners.
You see, when you’re looking to buy other pieces of equipment, there’s usually some kind of expectation that you’re going to be replacing it at some point in the future, whether that’s in few months or even a year or two.
Things break eventually, or they get replaced by higher end gear which complements the improvements in knowledge and technique that you’ve acquired in the time being.
There aren’t many things out there that can ever truly be considered to be lifetime products.
However, a carabiner is something that truly can be a lifetime product… if you buy the right one.
And buying the right one really matters for something like this. I mean, the entire point of the carabiner is that it never breaks.
If you can’t trust that your carabiner will keep your harness secured to the belay device, then you’re essentially gambling with your own safety, or if you’re into lead climbing, then you’re gambling with your own life.
Even if your belay device breaks, you can just tie a Munter hitch and use the carabiner as an HMS. A good carabiner is basically your most indispensable piece of gear.
While there’s a few different types of carabiner, each of which with their own pros and cons, a good carabiner will both be multi-purpose, and truly last a lifetime.
But don’t worry, I’m going to show you a bunch of excellent carabiners and help you decide which carabiner is the best for you, no matter what your skill level, budget, or requirements are.
So, let’s start by taking a look at the absolute best overall carabiner.
The Best Overall Carabiner: AYAMAYA Auto-Locking Carabiner
The AYAMAYA Auto-Locking Carabiner is an absolute godsend for beginner climbers and advanced climbers alike.
“Why is that?” I hear you ask.
Well, it’s because it has everything that you want in a carabiner, coupled with a build quality that’s sturdy enough to last an entire lifetime of crazy cliff-side adventures.
Like I said before, a carabiner’s something that you really want to never break. That’s practically the entire point.
This carabiner can handle a maximum of around 6,600 lbs of tension along its major axis, while the gate itself can handle around 1,500 lbs, and the spine of the carabiner can handle around 1700 lbs sideways. Not that you’d usually be applying any force to these sides anyway, but it just shows how absurdly strong the construction quality is.
Basically, in the context of climbing purposes, this thing is indestructible. You’ll never have to worry about exceeding the limits of its strength no matter how much you push it.
So, it’s off to a good start. But there’s a few more things about this carabiner which truly make it the best overall for beginners and experts alike.
This is what I meant when I said it has everything that you’d want in a carabiner. So, let’s take a look at this “everything,” starting with its two stage auto locking gate.
Two Stage Auto Locking Gate
The way this carabiner works is simple. To open it, you have to twist the gate first, which means it’s impossible to accidentally knock the gate open, or for it to become jerked open after taking the brunt of a long fall.
Then, once you’ve hooked your harness onto the short end and the belay device on the longer end, you can let go of the gate and it’ll shut and lock itself automatically. Amazing.
It’s the same principle as child-locked things, except I guess you could say that it’s adult-locked. It’s designed to be foolproof, so even the most incompetent of climbers couldn’t possibly mess up with using it.
Peace of mind doesn’t get any better than that. Not only for beginners, but for experienced climbers too.
It’s easy to get complacent when you’re using this kind of equipment day in, day out. Especially if you’re an indoor climber using an auto belay device.
The AYAMAYA Carabiner’s auto locking gate means you don’t even need to think about it whether you’ve secured it properly.
With a screw gate carabiner, you’ll be thinking, “Did I screw it tight enough?” and with a manually locking carabiner you’ll be wondering, “Did I actually lock it properly?”
Sure, you might think that double checking that your carabiner is secure is simply enough to give you peace of mind, but how do you know you really secured it properly?
It’s a bit like when you double check that the cooker is off when you leave the house. You take a few steps towards you car, and then the thought hits you, “Did I really turn the cooker off?”
Then you start to doubt that you actually double-checked it, and inevitably go back to check again. Now times this feeling by a million, because the worry is going to be about your immediate safety, not some far off low risk fire hazard.
The difference is that in climbing, you’re guaranteed to fall at some point, and you’ll fall often if you’re pushing yourself enough. That is to say, if you’re having enough fun.
So get an auto-locking carabiner like this one, where it’s obvious that it’s locked. It even has a locking indicator: a green bit which shows up when it’s locked.
When you have something like this, you don’t even need a manually locked gate.
“But then won’t it be a pain to hook things onto the carabiner if it isn’t a manually locked gate?” you wonder, furrowing your brow, “Surely I’d be fighting to keep the gate unlocked while hooking stuff onto it?”
Not at all, and there’s one simple reason for that: its capability for one handed operation.
One Handed Operation
The great thing about a carabiner being operable with one hand, is that it completely eliminates all the fiddliness of opening the gate, meaning you’ll never be awkwardly fumbling around with it.
On top of that, it means there’s no reason to ever choose a manually locking gate over an auto locking one; it’s not like manual gates are stronger either.
“So, what’s the best way to operate this carabiner?”
You’ll find it’s pretty self-explanatory. You can comfortably hold it in one hand, and while you’re doing that, you’ll notice that you can easily use a couple of fingers and your thumb to twist and pull open the gate.
In fact, because of the pear-like shape of the carabiner, the gate is angled in such a way that it feels like it’s almost ergonomic, because it’s where your fingers and thumb naturally rest.
The “slightly jutting out” profile of the gate and grippy texture really help as well. They basically make it operable with your eyes closed… not that you’d actually be using it with your eyes closed.
On another note, the pear shape of this carabiner making it nice to grip in your hand is only a byproduct of what it’s actually useful, in case you didn’t know. The pear shape is no coincidence, and there’s some really interesting things about it that make it essentially superior in every way to your standard, cookie cutter D-shape carabiner.
A pear-shaped carabiner is essentially like your standard D-shaped carabiner, except the top end is wider than the bottom end. It’s a bit like an upside-down pear.
“Why is this useful?” you ask. Well, there’s one huge reason why this wider end is not only useful, but absolutely necessary in many circumstances.
It all comes down to the kind of belay device that you’re using.
The wider end means that it can bear a load across as a wider area. This means that it can effectively distribute stress from a munter/italian hitch or a double rope through a belay device, if you’re into lead climbing.
As you can imagine, this can do wonders for your safety.
For starters, the ability to use a munter hitch effectively if your belay device fails or falls is absolutely golden. The only other options you’d have, is to either carry backup equipment or to go home; the first option is cumbersome, and the second option is tiresome.
Not only that, but it might even be impossible. If you’re climbing a multi-pitch route, you won’t have the luxury of carrying spare equipment up the route with you, or being lowered back down without a belay device.
In times like this, the pear shape of your carabiner makes it a reliable fallback option that requires no extra equipment, and costs no extra weight.
Also, the little dip in the shorter end means that this carabiner automatically aligns itself along the major axis when under tension, which completely counteracts the tendency of pear shaped carabiners to slightly misalign, which, in turn, makes them distribute force upon the spine of the carabiner less effectively. The spine is supposed to take the brunt of the force along its length, and it does that perfectly with this carabiner’s clever little design trick.
In terms of weight and proportions, this carabiner is pretty standard. It comes in at around 3.2 ounces and at 2.95 by 4.4 inches, which is nice and light and a good size.
The construction is a hot wrought magnesium-aluminium alloy, and it’s both CE certified and UIAA certified. That’s the best you can get, basically.
You can click here to view the AYAMAYA Auto-Locking Carabiner on Amazon.
The Strongest Carabiner: The Camp USA 10mm Quick Link
Okay, this one’s a bit unnecessary. It can handle 50kN of force along its major axis, and 10kN along its minor axis. This comes to 11,000 lbs of force along its major axis, and 2,200 lbs of force along its minor axis.
That means you could hang three pickup trucks off of one of these. Madness.
Of course, the downside to the sheer insanity of its strength is that it weighs a ton for its size. Well, not actually a ton: it weighs 4.9 ounces even though it’s only 2.9 inches long.
There’s no way you could run a munter hitch or more than one rope through this, but it’ll certainly work for everything else. You can even use it to set up anchors, or pass a rappel ring through it for rappelling.
It’s CE certified, so you can rest assured that it’s built to a high standard of quality.
As I mentioned before, it can handle 2,200 lbs of force along its minor axis, but there’s something special about the shape of the quick link which makes it less liable to twisting during a fall, which would ordinarily lead to force being applied to the minor axis rather than the major axis.
And that… is its oval shape.
You see, even if this carabiner is misaligned, it’ll flip to the proper direction it should be pointing as soon as force is applied. This means that, on top of the minor axis being around 35% stronger than the AYAMAYA one, it’ll be less likely to take the full impact of a fall in the first place.
This carabiner’s screwgate is strong, and that’s a huge upside of going for a quick link style carabiner.
As for the downsides? Yep, you guessed it: it’s a manually-locking screwgate.
Sure, you might be able to just about operate it with one hand, but it’s definitely fiddly. You’re better off steadying it with one hand and unscrewing it with the other.
Since it’s manually locking, it’s not so bad that it basically requires two hands. After you’ve unscrewed the gate, you can just hold it with one hand while you hook whatever you want onto it, and then screw it shut again.
Just don’t try running a munter hitch through it. The continuous movement of the hitch, combined with the tight amount of space, make accidentally unscrewing the gate a real possibility…
Unless of course you tightened it so hard that you’d need a wrench to untighten it, which is just impractical.
That being said, this gate won’t ever come undone during proper use. In terms of reliability and sheer strength, the The Camp USA 10mm Quick Link is hard to beat.
It comes in three colors: stainless steel, zinc, and zinc plated. Click here to view it on Amazon.
The Best Lightweight Carabiner: The GM Climbing Ultra-Light Screw Locking Carabiner
This carabiner weighs 1.87 ounces, and despite that, it’s CE certified to handle 5,300 lbs of force along its major axis, and around 1,600 lbs along its minor axis.
Granted, it’s roughly half as strong as the AYAMAYA carabiner – the one which I’ve called the best overall – but it also weighs half as much.
Considering that it’s extremely, extremely rare for loads at the belay to ever get even close to 4,500 lbs of force, there’s basically no need for excess strength. 5,300 lbs is more than enough for climbing purposes, so you’re not going to be sacrificing safety for the sake of shaving off that bit of extra weight from your gear.
The Locking Sleeve
This carabiner has an interesting design for its gate.
Essentially, it’s a locking “sleeve” that you twist and pull down to disengage. Then you can pull open the gate like you normally would.
Even though the gate automatically springs itself shut, you’ll still have to re-engage the lock manually. To do this, you push up the sleeve and twist it shut.
All of this is doable with one hand, but because it’s not an automatically locking mechanism, it’s not quite as smooth as operating the gate of the AYAMAYA carabiner.
It is, however, obvious when the locking sleeve is closed properly, unlike with a full screwgate where you can’t tell whether it’s tightened enough. You’re not going to have any doubts about whether the gate is locked, and it’s simple and intuitive to use, so the only way this style of gate could be considered a downside is if you like the peace of mind and slight edge in speed that an automatically locking gate gives you.
A Well-Designed Shape
It’s more of an offset D-shape than a pear shape, but you could still use it with a munter hitch if you needed to.
The advantage of this carabiner’s shape, however, is that it automatically aligns the load along the direction of the major axis, like how the quick link does. The difference, here, being that it has the wider end at the top which makes it far more versatile for belaying than a simple oval.
Carabiners which don’t align perfectly along the major axis end up putting a small portion of the load on the minor axis because of the angle that they’re at. Unintentionally putting stress on the minor axis is something that won’t happen with this carabiner because of its offset D-shape, so you can rest assured that the strength of its major axis will be consistently used to its full potential.
Also, the inside edges of this carabiner are smooth and nicely rounded, so there’s no abrasion against any rope being pulled through.
It’s a nice touch that gives this carabiner an edge in consistency and stability while you’re using it.
The GM Climbing Ultra-Light Screw Locking Carabiner comes in three colors: black, green, and red. Click here to view it on Amazon.
The Cheapest Carabiner: The Kintaz D-Shape Locking Carabiner
I was quite surprised by this one.
It’s CE certified, and can handle 5,600 lbs of force on its major axis, but that’s not what’s surprising about it.
It has a two-stage twist lock – a bit like the AYAMAYA one.
For a fraction of the price, you can get something that has similar features to the AYAMAYA one, and a build quality that’s good enough for climbing purposes, though perhaps without the utility of a full pear-shape. The offset D-shape has its advantages though, as I explained before, in that it keeps the carabiner aligned along its major axis.
This is something that’s nice to have in a cheap carabiner, because then you’ll not have to worry about the sides taking on excess strain. You see, because of its shape, you can trust in this carabiner to remain able to use the full strength of its major axis, despite it being a cheaper buy.
Normally you wouldn’t want to cheap out on safety equipment, but in this case I wouldn’t call it cheaping out. This carabiner is a solid choice, if a little unremarkable, and that’s why it’s so cheap.
The inside edges are quite square-ish, but still smooth enough to handle rope running through it. Pretty much, this carabiner will suffice for any and all climbing purposes.
It comes in two colors: black, and blue. Click here to view the crazy cheap, Kintaz D-Shape Locking Carabiner on Amazon.
adam d says
are we really sure the kintaz is CE marked? kintaz has no website, sells mostly fashion apparel, and looks a lot like a knock-off company. that’s not what I want in my carabiners. if they don’t have background in safety equipment, the CE mark seems likely to be counterfeit. who verifies these things?
Jake Traynor says
Yeah, that’s what these Chinese carabiners are like. They’re core designs that are CE-certified, and then resellers like Kintaz buy them wholesale, rebrand them, and sell them with some markup.
Even the AYAMAYA one is like this. I’ve seen the older model of it rebranded under the company “ASOL,” usually at a higher price. I’ve chosen these “editions” of the core carabiner designs in particular because of the stable supply and lower cost compared to other resellers’ “versions.”
As for the CE status, it depends on how much you trust Europe’s handling of the sale of imported CE-certified products. The CE certification changes the procedures through which the trade happens, so a product shouldn’t be able to get through without their CE status being verified.
Here on Aliexpress is the exact same carabiner as the “Kintaz” one but rebranded under ASOL, and here is just one example of a German import of that same carabiner.
For those who don’t trust the China / Europe dynamic, I can totally understand. In that case, I’d recommend going for the ultralight GM Climbing carabiner if you want a product that has solid evidence of its UIAA status. This is the actual UIAA certificate for that exact product.
Thanks for the input Adam.