Beal Be Free Rubber Quickdraws
If you hear the name Beal you'll probably think ropes, but the brand has a range of hardwear too. The new Be Free Rubber is a sport climbing draw with a rubber cover over the sling, designed for easier grabbing.
One piece of gear that you can't do without whenever you are roped climbing is a quickdraw. Whether sport climbing or trad climbing, you always need something to clip your rope into. In the past most climbers have made do with a single set of quickdraws for all their climbing but, as is the way these days, the manufacturers have now made more specialsed quickdraws aimed at different styles of climbing.
What Is A 'Trad Quickdraw'?
The main assumption made when designating a quickdraw as a 'trad quickdraw' instead of a 'sport quickdraw' is lightness being favoured over durability. A sport draw will see falls, it will get sat on and it will get pulled on. A trad draw, on the other hand, may go months or even years before seeing a single fall. When sport redpointing, quickdraws are rarely even carried on the important ascent, yet trad draws need to be racked up every time, and often plenty of them. So the key attribute for a specialised trad quickdraw is that it should be light and this is usually done at the expense of durability and in some cases a small reduction in gate-open strength.
In this review we have looked mainly at lightweight offerings from the major manufacturers. We have considered how they handle and what sort of gate and action they have. We have also looked at the connecting slings, what lengths they are available in and the method used for retaining the lower krab so that it doesn't flip upside down.
We have considered them based on their lightweight trad attributes. Some are better suited as all-rounders and, although we have mentioned this, the review is aimed at people wanting a specific lightweight trad quickdraw option.
Most of the krabs are hot-forged, which allows manufacturers to move metal from areas of natural strength (such as the krab's back bar) to areas of natural weakness (the corners/angles). This enables strength with lightness to be acheived although there is a trade off and the gate-open strength for most of the krabs in this review is only 7kN. This is about the minimum value acceptable and krabs have been known to fail at this level with a high fall factor (fall factor explained here). Those wanting a little more security, or quickdraws that can double up for sport climbing, may want to look at more substantial quickdraws with a gate-open strength of nearer 9kN.
All the krabs featured here have wiregates which are lighter than solid gates. Most are the conventional looped 'paperclip' style wiregate which catches on a hook to give the gate closed strength. The spring in the krab comes from the twisting action on the wire itself. This can make them stiffer than solid gates, although most manufacturers have managed to balance this correctly nowadays. A plus factor of wiregates is that they are less prone to freezing up when winter climbing. It is worth noting that you should closely inspect your wiregates regularly to ensure that the wire still snags on the hook otherwise you will be operating a quickdraw with a gate-open strength of 7kN - a level that can be easily acheived in a high fall factor.
The term 'clean nose' refers to the closing hook on the krab being shielded by some system to prevent rope, tape or wire getting snagged in the nose hook when clipping. This is sometimes done in the forging process, or by use of a shielding bar.
Slings are made of either dyneema or nylon. Dyneema allows very narrow and light slings of greater comparable strength. Slings like this tend to be harder to grab which makes these quickdraws less suitable as allrounders for sport climbing. Nylon slings are heavier but can be stronger in shock loading tests although the difference on slings of this length is minimal. Slings are sometimes offered in a series of lengths and most trad climbers will want a mixture of lengths on their rack since using two quickdraws to make a long extension is a lot heavier and more wasteful on gear than using one with a long sling!
Most of the quickdraws use some sort of retainer system to hold the lower krab in position so that you avoid the problems of upside down krab clipping. Over the years there have been several different solutions to this problem but, as yet, no-one has come up with a fully satisfactory solution. External rubber retainers work well on holding the krab and they usually allow some flex of the lower part of the sling which is useful to reduce the (very small) possibility that a twisted quickdraw may unclip itself. However they wear out quite quickly and often need replacing. Internal rubber retainers are more protected from ebrasion, hold the krab well and always allow flexibility of the lower part of the sling but some styles have become easily detached in the past making them worthless and impossible to replace. The final method is to use tight stitching to hold the lower krab in posiiton. This is hardwearing, can be lighter but usually makes the lower krab very stiff on the sling, and also tends to loosen with time.
The Petzl Ange Finesse quickdraw uses the Ange S, or slightly larger Ange L, karabiners with finesse dyneema slings. The Ange S uses Petzl's MonoFil keylock technology which uses a single stem of wire to lock the karabiner, instead of the normal looped 'paperclip' wire found on other wiregates. The benefit of this is said to be durability due to the krab using a separate spring for the gate and it also offers a clean-nose.
We had the slightly lighter Ange S version to test. This came in at a very manageable 64g and had the smallest of all the carabiners we tested at only 83mm long. The clipping action certainly feels solid but also slightly unusual at first. The gate opening is a small 24mm which makes you think it will be more difficult to clip but in our experience it was fine to clip both gear and rope, however it was a little awkward to get your fingers around sometimes especially for those with large hands.
The sling is a very solid narrow dynema which offers the lightness of a narrow sling with the sturdiness of a wider sling making it slghtly more grabable if you are in extremis (or sport climbing). The sling also has an external rubber retainer but one that is quite durable and one which will probably still work even after the lower section has worn through. The stiffness though means that the lower krab has relatively little flex in it. It is offered in two lengths.
Style: Mono wiregate with clean-nose and external retainer.
Summary: A durable quickdraw featuring a unique gate system designed for long life operation. A decent sling with a good external retainer but it allows little flex on the bottom krab. Slightly awkward clipping action, especially for those with big hands, but becomes better when you get used.
The Mammut Wall Express set is a standard wiregate quickdraw with hotforged krabs, no clean nose and an internal rubber retainer for the lower krab. It is aimed at both trad and lightweight alpine climbing, weighing an impressive 61g for the shortest length. It is also offered in three lengths plus a slingdraw 60cm length.
The hot-forged wall krab is small but not too small to feel fiddly and has an impressive gate-open strength of 8kN despite weighing only 26g per krab. It has a smooth clipping action and had a nice feel overall although it doesn't have a clean nose.
The three separate length options - 10, 15 and 20cm - for the dyneema sling make it a versatile choice. The manufacturer's label is sewn in such a way that it dangles around the lower krab. This would make me want to cut it off in the long run.
The Wall set uses an internal rubber retainer system. Unfortunately this ripped out with a sideways pull - we gave it quite a tug but not the sort of tug that wouldn't happen from time to time in use, and also less of a tug than other quickdraws with internal retainers managed to survive. Once separated the retainer does still function if you push it back together but would probably need an external one adding in the long run.
Style: Standard wiregate with no clean-nose and internal retainer.
Summary: A solid versatile performer that has an excellent string and light krab with a good clipping action. It comes in three lengths but is let down by the poor internal rubber retainer.
The Mission Quickdraw from Edelrid features I-beam Mission krabs connected by an 8mm nylon polyamide sling. It has a conventional wiregate with no clean-nose and a thick rubber 'antitwist' retainer.
This has the exceptionally light Mission krabs which weigh just 24g. They give an excellent smooth clipping action which still feels reassuringly solid. The absence of a clean-nose may be a drawback for some.
The latest model now uses a nylon sling. Edelrid say that this is to make the quickdraw more versatile so that you can use it for sport climbing as well although with only a 7kN gate-open strength, you will need something more susbstantial for long term use. The nylon sling also nudges the weight up a bit but Edelrid do also supply a superlite quickdraw using a dyneema sling and their 19G krab to fill the ultra lightweight position. The external rubber retainer is likely to wear out and need replacing although it does have a lot of flex on the bottom krab. It only comes in one 10cm length although Edelrid also have an excellent sling-draw option which offers three lengths of extension with the same lightweight krabs.
Style: Standard wiregate with nylon sling and external rubber retainer.
Summary: A versatile all-round choice, not as light as it could be but still pretty light. A good action but no clean-nose on the krabs and a slightly fragile external rubber retainer.
The CAMP Nano Quickdraw is the smallest and lightest of the quickdraws tested. It is a wiregate with an I-beam construction, a 7kN gate open strength and no clean-nose. The sling is dyneema with no retainer.
The CAMP Nano krabs have been around for a while now yet they are still amongst the smallest and lightest available. The quickdraw itself almost feels like it is one of those novelty keyrings yet it still manages a 7kN gate-open strength. In handling it is certainly a bit fiddly for small hands and the clipping action slightly on the stiff side. The finishing on the wiregate is also a little rough leaving a slight burr on the end wire which can catch on the sling.
It comes with a short 10cm sling which is sewn tight on one end in an attempt to retain one of the krabs. It isn't really successful in this and most will want to add an extra retainer system, or rubber band, since the lower krab can easily flip but it does allow some flexibility. It comes in only a single short 10cm length. Update - for the 2014 season this will come with an external rubber retainer.
Style: Standard wiregate systemwith dyneema sling and no retainer system.
Summary: Incredibly light and has reasonable handling if you have small hands. The clipping action is stiff, there is no retainer system at present but one coming in 2014 and the finishing on the wiregate poor but it is good value for a very lightweight quickdraw.
The Plume quickdraw is the lightest one produced by Grivel at 64g. It uses Plume krabs and has a dyneema sling with an internal rubber retainer on the lower krab. It has no clean nose.
The Plume krabs have a nice action and also an attractive anodised finish (for people who like to look stylish). The wiregate is msooth is double-kinked which makes it easier to clip when pulling down. The krab has an open-gate strength of 7kN which is comparable to most of the others in this review.
The sling is an 11cm dyneema with a 24cm option also available. It offers good articulation on the lower krab. The quickdraw uses internal rubber retainer system which pulled out with a sideways tug. This was quite a strong tug but not one that you couldn't envisage happening during normal day-to-day use. Once the intenral retainer was detached it needs removng since the sling isn't sewn tight enough to still function with the loose rubber retainer. This then leaves a quickdraw with no retainer at all.
Style: Standard wiregate system with no clean-nose and internal retainer.
Summary: An attractive performer that has a good action and features the excellent Plume krabs. It comes in two lengths but it let down by a poor internal rubber retainer.
The Black Diamond Oz quickdraw is the lightest one made by BD. It uses their HoodWire technology on hot-forged Oz krabs and a standard dyneema sling with an internal retainer. It comes in at a very light 63g for the set making it by 1g the lightest in our test set.
The Oz set offers a standard wiregate construction with the hoodwire giving it a clean-nose. This has the obvious advantage of reducing snagging on wires, gear loops and bolts if you need to use it for sport climbing. The clipping action is quite smooth although it does become slightly stiffer as the gate reaches maximum open width. The wide gate allows for easy clipping of both rope and gear but the finishing of the wire on the krab leaves a burr which can snag with the sling.
It comes with a solid dyneema sling with an internal retainer and plenty of flex in the sling. In the past internal retainers have been weak and become easily separated from the sling. We tried vigourously to break this one but weren't successful. It comes in a single 12cm length.
Style: Standard wiregate with clean-nose and internal retainer.
Summary: A good very light quickdraw with decent action and clean-nose. Slightly poor finishing on the wire detracts.
The Wild Country Astro quickdraw features hot forged I-beam Astro krabs connected by a dyneema sling and with a standard wiregate with a slight kink in the wire to get a better lock on the nose. It comes in three lengths and has a rubber external retainer and no clean-nose.
The Astro krab has a good action and is big enough to suit most hands sizes. It feels a little more substantial than the lightest offerings yet the full quickdraw still only weighs 64g. It doesn't have a clean-nose, and Wild Country do have the slightly heavier clean-nose Helium quickdraw on offer for those who prefer this. The gate is double kinked giving it an easier grip when clipping.
It is available in three lengths of dyneema sling and has an external rubber retainer. The retainer itself is the smallest of the external retainers on show and it is held in place by two thin straps - should one of these go then it will lose its retention capacity however it does feel pretty tough. It also has a fairly tightly sewn sling underneath hence it can still function reasonably well without a retainer and still offers good flexibility. It is offered in three lengths.
Style: Standard wiregate with dyneema sling, external retainer and no clean-nose.
Summary: A good value option with an excellent action and lightness without being tiny and fiddly.
Climbing Technology's Lime W quickdraw set is a wiregate system with a dyneema sling. It has an external rubber retainer and no clean nose on the krabs.
The Lime quickdraw is a bit heavier than some of the others featured and feels robust enough to double up as a sport krab, although the gate-open strength of 8kN is less than expected for such a solid feeling krab. It has a straight wiregate with a slightly stiff action, but the bigger krab size makes it easy to use. The hooked nose was quite sharp on the model we had which could snag.
The dyneema sling comes in three good lengths - 12, 17, 22cm. It has an external rubber retainer that is made of fairly soft rubber but which appears to be almost indestructable in pull tests. It is quite minimal so that if something did go, then it wouldn't work, however the sling was very tightly sewn which gives you a good back up retaining system. Despite this tight sewn sling and rubber retainer it still manages to give a decent amount of articulation on the lower krab.
Style: Standard wiregate with no clean-nose, dyneema sling and external rubber retainer.
Summary: A good versatile solid-feeling quickdraw with an excellent retainer system and comes in three lengths. A little heavier than others and the krab has a nose hook which seems to be a bit sharper than necessary. Very reasonably priced at £12.00
The Rockit Wiregate quickdraw from AustriAlpin is a versatile offering with a nylon sling and hot-forged krabs in a key-lock design designed for easier handling. It is the cheapest of the quickdraws on review.
It is the heaviest of the quickdraws we reviewed at 104g and should be considered more of an all-rounder than a specialist lightweight trad quickdraw. The click action isn't particularly smooth but does feel reassuringly solid. The use of a nylon sling adds weight but does allow for the sling to be sewn close enough to the rope-end krab to provide effective retention without the need of a rubber retainer. The shape of the krab also helps in this respect meaning that you should never have to clip an upside down krab with these. It only comes in a single short 11cm length.
Style: Standard wiregate, no clean-nose and nylon sling without the need for a rubber retainer.
Summary: A good value quickdraw for all-round use ut way too heavy for those who are looking for a dedicated trad quickdraw. The tight-sewn sling retainer solution makes it a hard wearing all-rounder at a very good price.
The Alpha Trad has a unique shape, different to the others featured within the review. The steeply angled top bar was designed to create a secure basket for the rope/gear to sit within, therefore helping to prevent cross loading in the event of a fall. This shape also fits neatly into the palm, even more so due to the addition of the grooves along the back bar/base of the gate. The gate is double kinked giving it an easier grip when clipping.
The Alpha Trad also features a hot forged clean-nose gate, identical to that of the Wild Country Helium. Whilst it may not be the smallest or lightest in the test, its focus is on usability and safety - as a result it is a good all-rounder for both summer and winter climbing. For those after extra weight saving, DMM also have the Alpha Light which comes in at 73g for a 12cm quickdraw.
It comes in three lengths of dyneema sling, including the excellent 25cm option, with an internal rubber retainer. As with the BD Oz, these retainers have previously been susceptable to ripping out. The latest version appears to be stronger making it a robust retainer system.
Style: Standard wiregate with dyneema sling and internal rubber retainer.
Summary: An excellent quickdraw with a good shape and nice action. A good retainer system but a little heavier than other options.
In general the quickdraws we reviewed are all good quality products that you can't really go wrong with. For someone after pure weight-saving then 12 CAMP Nanos will weight roughly the same as 10 Edelrid Missions. Where every gram counts this might be the difference between success and failure. Having said that it is almost certain that on most long trad pitches, rope drag is going to add a lot more than the weight of a quickdraw to slow you down, so a good mixture of longer quickdraws and extension slings like the 25cm DMM Alpha Trad will be more beneficial to help reduce rope drag. Those who are prone to fumble clipping might want to steer clear of the very smallest krabs and go for a good clean nose style like the Black Diamond Oz.
During writing this test I have had a trad rack consisting of at least one of all the quickdraws in this review and I have found myself choosing the quickdraw based on the placement - long ones for runners to the side, short ones for the low runners, clean nose for the grip clip, leaving the very lightest ones for the top. I wouldn't advise carrying 7 different styles, but a mixture of lengths and styles is definitely worth considering.
|Price||QD Weight||Gate Open Strength||Nose||Sling Length||Retainer||Rating|
|Petzl Ange Finesse||£21||64g||9kN||Clean||10, 17cm||External rubber|
|Mammut Wall||£15||61g||8kN||Normal||10, 15, 20cm||Internal rubber|
|Edelrid Mission||£20||64g||7kN||Normal||10cm||External rubber|
|Black Diamond Oz||£16.99||62g||7kN||Clean||12cm||Internal rubber|
|Grivel Plume||£15||64g||7kN||Normal||11, 24cm||Internal rubber|
|Wild Country Astro||£15||64g||7kN||Normal||10, 15, 20cm||External rubber|
|Climbing Technology||£12||79g||8kN||Normal||12, 17, 22cm||External rubber|
|AustriAlpin Rockit Wire||£12||104g||10kN||Normal||11cm||Stitching|
|DMM Alpha Trad||£19.50||77g||9kN||Clean||12, 18, 25cm||Internal rubber|
Comparison table - weights and prices are for the shortest option on offer.
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