Choosing Carabiners (part 1)


Given the vast range of carabiners available, the question of which type to choose for a specific task can be tricky. Our Choosing Carabiners (part 1) guide aims to offer some simple starter advice on the types available. We hope you find it useful. Please also have a read of our Choosing Carabiners (part 2) here. This shares some ideas on what to carry for your climbing adventures.

It used to so simple back in the ‘golden age’ of climbing. At least that’s what the older climbers tell us! All you did was go into your local climbing shop and choose either a snapgate or screwgate carabiner. You’d pay your 3 shillings and that was it. You were now just as ready to climb a new line on Cloggy as summit an 8000er.

Nowadays, you go into your local climbing shop and you will be faced with row upon row of shiny carabiners. There are so many sizes, designs and plenty of colours. So, which type is best for which job? In any good climbing shop the staff member will be able to help guide your choice. However, knowing the basics of what you need beforehand will certainly help. Hopefully the following information will get you on the right track.

EN & UIAA Standards

To understand the information on choosing carabiners (part 1) below it is important to know what the standards mean. EN (European Norm) indicates the standard something has to meet for a particular job. There are standards for mountaineering (adventure) and Industrial.

UIAA markings show that an item has also been approved for use in mountaineering by the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA). For information on the UIAA standards please visit the UIAA web site.

There is another mark you may see which is a CE number. This only means an item has met the requirements a manufacturer set for the product. Products with this mark have not necessarily been assessed to the same standards as those with EN and UIAA numbers. For the purpose of this advice article we will focus on the EN number.

There are 7 basic carabiner types that relate to the categories designated by the relevant European standard (EN12275). This helps us easily distinguish the types on offer. As far as the standard is concerned, a carabiner is an openable device which enables a mountaineer to link themselves directly or indirectly to an anchor or to connect pieces of equipment. In the standards the generic term connector is used to include items that are not carabiners, but do a similar job. An example being a Maillon Rapide.

Type B (Basic)

Probably the most widely used type out there and usually an offset D shape. This shape maximises strength and helps the rope sit in the correct orientation. With the variety of gate options available, basic type carabiners will happily cover most of your biner requirements.

Depending on the model, these carabiners will be available with either snap or locking gates. Snapgates rely on a spring loaded closure whereas locking gates, while initially closing with a spring, have an additional locking mechanism. This is often a screw threaded lock (screwgates) but various autolocking mechanisms are available.

The gates are also available in different designs. Some carabiners have a solid bar and others have a wire gate. Both have their pros and cons. Finally, for solid bar carabiners there are choices between straight and bent bars. Again, both have intended uses that must be considered.

Rope Positioning Connector (T)

These self closing carabiner are designed to ensure loading in a predetermined direction. Sometimes they have an attached sling that is held captive at one end. This ensures the sling stays in the correct orientation along the back bar. They are sometimes used for quickdraws.

Type H (HMS)

HMS carabiners have a curved shape making them suitable for a range of applications. They are often used with belay plates or for use as connectors at anchors. They come in different sizes and it pays to consider the best size for the intended application.

Type X (Oval)

These are self-closing carabiners with a symmetrical shape. This type doesn’t feature too highly on many climbers’ everyday racks, but the shape certainly has advantages in some applications.

Type K (Klettersteig)

These are self-closing carabiners for use in a klettersteig (via ferrata) system. Klettersteig are commonly larger than normal carabiners to facilitate clipping chunky via ferrata cables. They typically have an auto locking system to combine quick opening with good security.

Screwed Closure Connector (Q)

These are connectors with a screw motion gate. The gate is a load bearing part of the connector. They are useful for situations where they might be left in place such as abseil setups but have many other applications. These connectors are often made of steel for durability. They come in a wide range of sizes and shapes and not all meet EN12275 standards.

Special Bolt Carabiner (A)

These are self closing carabiners that close when they comes into contact with a bolt.

The EN12275 Standard

The standard requires carabiners to meet certain strengths in various orientations. It also defines some details about gate opening and construction. Certain information needs to be shown on the carabiner and other details provided in attached documentation.

So, we hope this brief guide to choosing carabiners (part 1) helps inform your choices. As mentioned above, please also have a look at our Choosing Carabiners (part 2) article as well. Please also have a look at our article about Buying a Climbing Rack. This offers some additional information on what you might choose to carry for a standard climbing rack.