If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best quickdraws are, we recommend the Black Diamond MiniWire Quickpack.
When it comes to sport climbing gear, quickdraws are a classic. They attach themselves to bolts or trad gear to give you a nice place to clip into with your rope as you climb.
While most share a lot of similar features, there are some key differences that are worth noting before you buy your next rack. We’ll talk about what you should look out for when searching for the best quickdraws, and how to pick the right product for your favorite type of climbing.
In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following quickdraws:
- Black Diamond MiniWire Quickpack
- Black Diamond MiniWire Alpine Quickdraws
- Black Diamond HotForge Hybrid Quickdraw
- Black Diamond HotForge Quickdraw
What is a Quickdraw?
I was exclusively a gym climber when I first picked up the sport. And the great thing about gyms is that everything is already taken care of for you – if you’re top roping, just grab a rope and tie in. If you’re sport climbing, tie in, climb, and the protection is already on the wall for you to clip into. It doesn’t get any simpler than that, and makes it really easy to get a lot of routes done in a day.
But because I didn’t have to think about the nitty gritty details and gear involved with climbing, I felt totally unprepared the first time I climbed outside. Thankfully I had a friend with me who was a veteran of outdoor climbing that showed me the ropes and how to use them!
Quickdraws are a vital piece of equipment for every rock climber, but chances are you’ve never been exposed to them if you’ve only dabbled in gym climbing. So before we start diving into our favorite quickdraws, let’s first explain a little more about what they are and how they’re used.
If you’ve been exposed to the climbing world at all (or even if you haven’t), you probably know what a carabiner is. One of the most versatile tools in your arsenal, carabiners are essential for connecting one thing to another, which is precisely what you need for protection while climbing. You connect to the rope, the rope connects to the wall, and carabiners and knots are what make it all possible.
It makes sense, then, that a carabiner is a key component of a quickdraw. In fact, there are two of them. One clips into a bolt that’s been drilled into the wall, and the other hooks around your rope – a sling connects the two of them together. The carabiners don’t lock because they don’t need to, and it would cause a lot more hassle than you want to deal with when placing protection.
Wire Gate vs Solid Gate
All carabiners have a gate, which is the part that bends inward so you can open it up. The gate can either be solid, or made out of a wire, and this design difference has been a topic for debate among many in the climbing community. Which is better? Which is safer? Is there really much of a difference?
It’s not really possible to say which is better, because that’s entirely dependent on what type of climbing you’re doing, your personal preference, and a number of other factors. Wire gates are often considered safer because they aren’t as likely to open when the carabiner hits a solid object, but that’s not to say that solid gates aren’t safe either. In my opinion, the biggest difference comes down to weight.
Wire gates have less material than solid gates, which drops their weight by a couple ounces. And when you’re carrying a couple dozen of these bad boys up the route, you’ll feel all that extra weight. For alpine and trad climbers especially, lighter is definitely better, so wire gates are a must if you’re into these styles. Many sport climbers also appreciate the weight reduction.
Types of Slings
The material that connects the two carabiners together is called the sling. Many store bought quickdraws come with semi-flexible slings a few inches long called dogbones, and for many climbers, this is all they’ll ever really need. However, there can be a pretty significant downside to using a quickdraw with a sling this short.
Not all routes go straight up in a perfect line. Sometimes you’ll climb up to one bolt, and then traverse horizontally to the next before continuing your ascent. This creates a bend in the rope where it connects to the quickdraw, which adds a lot of drag when you try to pull the rope up the wall. When the sling is only a few inches long, the amount of drag is intensified.
To solve this problem, many climbers will make their own quickdraws by getting two carabiners and connecting them together with a runner (usually a long strip of nylon with the ends sewn together to create a giant loop). The sling is now several feet long, and significantly reduces the amount of drag you’ll experience. However, because the quickdraw is now longer, it means you’ll fall farther if you happen to peel off the wall. Only use this extension technique in the places where you think you’ll need it, and not at every gear placement.
One Final Pro Tip…
Over the years, I’ve seen many climbers use quickdraws incorrectly. Now, you might be thinking, “Well, Spencer, it’s just two carabiners and a sling. How can you possibly use it incorrectly?”
I’m glad you asked!
Yes, there might not be that many moving parts, but have you ever wondered if there was a particular carabiner meant for the bolt, and one meant for the rope? Because, there is.
For quickdraws that have two carabiners with solid gates, you’ll notice that one is a straight gate and the other is a bent gate. Even if you don’t know what these gate types mean yet, they’re pretty self explanatory – straight gates are straight, and bent gates curve inward. This added curve makes rope clipping significantly easier, meaning this should be the side that’s left dangling. The straight gate is what clips into the bolt (or cam/nut, if you’re trad climbing).
Wire gates are a little less finicky, which is another reason why they’re so popular. You’ll find plenty of quickdraws where both carabiners have a wire gate, and the reason for the lack of distinction between the two is simply because it doesn’t matter. For hybrid quickdraws (one carabiner has a solid gate, while the other has a wire gate), the solid gate is what will go into the bolt.
Best Quickdraw Reviews
The Black Diamond MiniWire quickpack is what I use for most of my outdoor climbing. They’re about as lightweight as you can get when it comes to quickdraws, making them ideal for those longer routes where you can’t afford to be heavy. The carabiners are connected by a 10 mm dogbone, which helps to keep them in optimal clipping position.
They come in a six pack, as many sets of quickdraws do, which means you’ll want to buy at least 2 sets. Basically every route will have more than 6 bolts, plus the 2 quickdraws that you’ll need for the anchor, if that’s how you go about building yours.
Overall, this quickpack is quite versatile. Not only can you use them to clip into bolts on a sport route, but they’re also great for anchor building, or holding some of your other protection. This is especially true for trad climbers who want to stay light.
– Very lightweight
– Dogbone style makes carabiners easy to clip
– Wire gates don’t ice up as easily in cold temperatures
– Versatile set
– Notched carabiners
I’ve known a lot of climbers over the years who like to make their own quickdraws. Buy a couple carabiners, slap them onto a runner, and you’ve got yourself a few pieces of protection ready to go. However, if you don’t feel comfortable doing this by yourself, the MiniWire alpine quickdraws are a great prepackaged option.
The great thing about alpine draws is that you don’t have to use them in their extended version if you don’t want to. It’s easy to shorten them up again, until they’re about the size of a regular quickdraw with a fixed, dogbone style.
The nylon runners don’t absorb water, which is what you want to look for in alpine draws. The mountains tend to get wet, and the last thing you want is soppy gear that you’re counting on to save your life. Most alpine and trad climbers will also appreciate the wire gate carabiners, keeping things light when you want to climb hard and fast.
– Waterproof nylon runners
– Extendable quickdraw
– Lightweight wire gate carabiners
– Great size
– High quality material
– Notched carabiners
– Only comes in a pack of 3
A nice compromise between the divisive world of “wire gate vs. solid gate,” the HotForge hybrid quickdraw will leave most climbers happy with their purchase. With the lightweight characteristics that wire gates are known for, and the snag free capabilities that makes solid gates popular, this quickdraw truly is the best of both worlds.
One of the features that makes this product a crowd favorite is the color schematic. You can purchase it in either blue and black (pictured to the right), or pink and black. Either way, the brighter colors make it easy to spot on the wall if you’re trying to mentally run through the route before attempting it.
Bear in mind that both sides are not created equal. For most quickdraws that use a dogbone to connect the two carabiners, there is a correct side to clip into the wall and into your climbing rope. One of the carabiners will be able to move freely within the polyester loop – this is the side that you’ll want to clip into the wall. The other carabiner won’t budge if you try to adjust it, which makes it easier to clip your rope into when you only have one hand to stabilize your gear.
– Lightweight hybrid design
– Snag-free keylock carabiner for easy clipping
– Bright colors for an easy target
– Easy to clip and easy to clean
– Not as ideal for trad or alpine
Another type of quickdraw that you’ll find in my personal arsenal, the Black Diamond HotForge lineup is one of my favorites to use. It’s what you’d expect to find when you think of a traditional quickdraw – two solid gate carabiners connected by a dogbone.
Looking at the picture on the right, you’ll be able to see that the gate on the black carabiner is straight. This is the side that goes into the bolt, and the carabiner itself is able to wiggle around quite a bit inside its polyester restrainer. The silver side has a bent gate, making it easier for the rope to slip inside when you’re trying to make that clip.
The colors aren’t as obnoxious as the hybrid listed above, but I’ve never had an issue with this. In fact, I’m a fan of the neutral colors, and am happy to have something that isn’t super flashy. Of course, this is just personal preference, but it’s definitely one of the reasons why I like this product so much. I’ve used them in crags all around the United States and never had a problem with them.
– One straight gate, one bent gate
– Neutral coloring
– Durable material
– Versatile tool
– Works well for aid climbing
– Because the gates are solid, you can definitely tell they’re heavier
Quickdraws are a vital piece of protection for almost every kind of climber. If you do any amount of sport or trad climbing, you know that you need to use them often…which means you generally need to carry more than a dozen on you when you start your climb.
This is why we like the MiniWire Quickpack. Weight can become an issue really quickly, especially when you consider all the gear you need to take up the wall. Shaving off a few ounces on the quickdraws makes a huge difference, and will help you find more success on your next project. They might not be extendable like the alpine draws mentioned in the review, but most of what you’ll be using won’t need to be extendable anyway. The MiniWire quickpack is a nice, versatile tool for most routes that you find yourself on.