The carabiner or carbine hook is a useful bit of kit, some even go as far as to say they are the ‘unsung heroes’ of the climbing world. There are however many options in terms of types, parts, shapes, gate options, and finally how you utilize them. In this article we are going to walk you through each of these points, to ensure your kit is set up properly.
Types of carbine hooks (carabiners)
A carbine hook is a lightweight, metal snap-link that is used in a variety of situations for numerous tasks but most often by climbers. Generally speaking, their purpose is to connect one thing to another, but different tasks require different types. Therefore they do come in a number of different types, and if you are looking to purchase, it is important you understand some key differences between those on offer out there.
First you need to ascertain if you need a locking or a non-locking carbine hook. The locking variety are the ones with lockable gates which provides extra protection against accidental opening. The lock is usually created through use of a manual screw type mechanism, or an auto-locking system. The locking varieties are therefore heavier as they have more constituent parts but for safety reasons are the only choice in many situations.
Carbine hooks as you may imagine, also come in a variety of sizes and weights. Larger ones are usually easy to use with their wider gate openings and capacity for holding more inside. Smaller ones however are lighter and take up less room and so could be better in a context where space in the kit bag is key. Lighter ones can often have shorter life spans, and can also erode other equipment more quickly such as the rope. So you have to weigh up all the options.
First let’s look at the ‘D’ shaped carabiner. These are really great for all sorts of climbing. They hold the load to the side that is not gated, which means the off centre load bearing gives greater strength. They are also quite lightweight, despite having the same strength rating as other options. Due to their shape they are also slightly easier to use when clipping in place and so are popular because of this.
The asymmetrical ‘D’ shape works in the same way as a normal ‘D’ carbine hook, but they are slightly smaller at one end and thus even more lightweight. These also tend to have larger gate gaps than the regular sort, and so also makes clipping them on even easier. The only drawback is that they do not have as much room inside as some of the other options.
The Oval carabiner is the original style of carabiner and still one of the most popular due to their affordability and versatility. They are however, slightly less strong than the ‘D’ options, but they are good at limiting load shifting. The Oval style also offers more gear holding capacity and their symmetrical design means they are better for carabiner-brake rappels. One can utilise two reversed ovals with opposing gates in the place of one locking carabiner if needed.
There are a few parts of a carbine hook which you must make yourself familiar with. Firstly the gate. This is the part that snaps open and shut and allows you to latch onto other things. The spine is the longest side of the carabiner which is located directly opposite the gate. The part known of as ‘the nose’ is the bit into which the gate snaps to close the carabiner. And finally the basket, which is the more prominent of the two bends in the carabiner where the rope or gear sits when clipped in.
The standard straight gate is by far the most common – used on protection, bolts, and quickdraws. As the name suggests they are perfectly straight from end to end, as well as being spring loaded for ease of opening and automatic closing. The bent-gate has a concave design which allows rope to slip in easier. This bent gate design does not affect strength or weight as one may expect, but they can (if used improperly) unclip themselves. This means that you should, as always, familiarise yourself with the equipment before use. They cannot be clipped directly onto the protection.
The wire gate model of carabiner gate uses a loop of stainless steel wire as a gate. This creates its own spring mechanism which reduces the overall weight of the carabiner making it a popular choice. It also means some other parts of the gate are not required, and the openings are also quite large.
How to use your carbine hook
Using you carbine hook correctly is imperative. This means knowing the strength of the one you are using and correlating that with whatever you will be using it for. It is a well-known fact that improper use decreases the overall strength of the kit. You have to make sure that the nose and the hinge are fully operable. Also try to avoid allowing the rope to run against the sleeve of the locking carbine hook and place loads on the longest side (the spine). Always regularly inspect your kit, especially before heavy usage.
So you see it is important to consider all of your options when shopping for carabiners. Know what your intended use is, and ask an expert if you are unsure at any point.
For further information on carbine hooks please contact us.
Photo Credit: simplycircus.com, backcountry.com