Customers are often confused about what exactly the difference is between different quickdraws. Why get a $50 quickdraw instead of a $30 quickdraw? When a climber might be buying up to 15 quickdraws, that $20 per quickdraw really adds up. In this guide, we hope to give you a few pointers to look for when evaluating the wide range of quickdraw options available.
There are a few considerations to make when choosing carabiner on the ends of your quickdraw. Firstly, whether or not it’s a keylock. A keylock carabiner, like the one on the Black Diamond Livewire, will be slightly more expensive but has the advantage of being significantly less likely to get caught or stuck on anything.
Secondly, the weight. If you have 15 quickdraws hanging off your harness, that's a total of 30 carabiners - so every gram counts, especially if you add a trad rack into the equation. With modern forging techniques, it’s possible to have extremely light carabiners, for example the Wild Country Heliums .These light carabiners are typically just as strong as their heavier counterparts, but they do tend to wear down from rope-rub quicker.
Finally, the shape and size of the carabiner is important. A carabiner with a deeper "basket" (the bottom part of the carabiner where the rope sits) will be easier to clip when the pump is setting in. The shape of a carabiner can almost impact how well force is transferred through its spine, which is the strongest part of the carabiner, during a fall.
Both solid? One solid one wire? Both wire?
In Australia, with its long history of carrot bolting, a combo of one solid gate and one wire gate, as found on the Black Diamond Posiwire, is common. This is because wire gates are lighter and easier to clip, making them the preference for many climbers, but they’re too thin to safely use with carrots and bolt hangers. As old routes get rebolted with modern techniques, this is becoming less of an issue.
In other areas of the world, double wire-gated draws are already quite common. The big advantage of wire gates is that they are lighter, reducing the chance they will vibrate open during a fall (which can temporarily - but dramatically - decrease the strength of the carabiner). Quickdraws with wire gates and both biners are great for trad climbing as they will be lighter.
The other consideration is how wide the gate actually opens - a wide gate opening allows you to easily clip the rope without risking your finger getting jammed up inside the carabiner. The wide opening and clean nose of the Mammut Workhorse draws make them a premium option.
The dogbone is the name given to the sling that connects the upper and lower carabiners. The primary considerations are length, thickness/stiffness. For length, it’s a good idea to have a collection of various lengths. This way, you'll always be able to choose the correct length draw to avoid unnecessary abrasion and force, as well as minimise rope drag.
The thickness and stiffness of a dogbone affects its handling, with a thicker/stiffer dogbone, like on the Black Diamond Livewire, being easier to handle and clip. However, the flip side of that is less mobility of the draw leads to more rope drag in wandering routes. A thick dogbone is also easier to grab if you’re pumped out and feeling sketchy and absolutely have to clip - even if it does ruin the send attempt. Quickdraws with extendable slings like the Trango Alpine phase draws are extremely useful on longer, wandering pitches and on multi pitch routes. A long draw can also be beneficial when redpointing a route and trying to best negotiate an awkward clip.
How many draws you buy depends on the area you’re climbing in. Around South-East Queensland, 10-12 draws will get you up the majority of routes, but if you venture further afield you may run into longer routes. Ideally have a selection of different lengths to your quickdraws for maximum versatility. The best thing to do is check with local climbers and guidebooks as to how many draws are recommended for the area you want to climb in.
There you have it! These are the primary factors to consider when buying new quickdraws - hopefully you'll be able to pick the ones that are right for you!