Têra Kaia Collective

A Complete Guide of Carabiners and Their Uses

This article contains in-depth knowledge about climbing carabiners, starting from its origin as far back as 150 years ago, to life hacks, their various uses, and so much more. If you find you need more help understanding the uses of carabiners, you can always reach out in the comment section. We are more than willing and always available to help!

Carabiner Image #1

Today in this piece we will be discussing the following carabiner topics:

  1. What is a carabiner?
  2. The gate mechanics of a carabiner
  3. Carabiner terms you should know
  4. The different uses of carabiners
  5. Are shape and weight important for carabiners?
  6. Types of carabiner certifications

1. What is a Carabiner?

Carabiner (noun): A metal loop with a gate that is used to quickly connect components.

Diagram of a Carabiner

There are two ways in which the word can be spelt: carabiner or karabiner. The spelling that is most popular in America is the one with the letter “C” (carabiner). It originates from the German word “Karabinerhaken”, which translates to “hook for a carabine”. A carabiner, in lay man’s terms, is a metal loop with a gate, responsible for the quick connection of components. They are designed mainly for the fall protection industry. However, they have other ‘life hack’ uses that we will look at later in this article.

2. The Gate Mechanics of a Carabiner

The gate mechanics of a carabiner are divided into two main categories, which are non-locking carabiners and locking carabiners.

The non-locking carabiner, otherwise known as “stright gate” or “bent gate”, have gates that open when pushed. There is room for the user to push open the spring-loaded gate and place another connection point inside, like a rope with a loop.

Non-locking carabiners are used for non-critical and redundant points in a climbing system. Examples include carrying gear, quickdraws, alpine draws

With locking carabiners, also known as “screw” or “twist lock”, a couple more steps are required in order to open the gate. A sleeve is used to secure the gate. For some, a screw action is needed to secure it, and for others, a twist action is required. Locking carabiners should be used at any point in a climbing system where failure could equal catastrophe.

Points Locking carabiners should be used include:

  • Carabiners used for belaying (above & below)
  • Personal anchor systems
  • Toprope anchor systems

3. Essential Carabiners Terminology

Cross-loaded carabiner: Cross-loading occurs when the load from the gate to the spine is along its latitude, and this can be dangerous, because carabiners are supposed to be loaded along their longitudes. Cross-loading makes them four times weaker.

Petzl Minor Axis Loading (cross-loading) Image

Carabiners for gate opening: This refers to the wideness of the gate when opened. Gate opening is very important when it involves fall protection. The functionality of the carabiner can be limited depending on the opening size, as well as how it is clipped to racks, rope, and the likes.

Full size carabiner: This enables you to differentiate between the normal size carabiners and the smaller carabiners that are presently on the market.

Nose hooked carabiner: We have already established the dangers of cross-loading, but nose hooking is even more dangerous. A nose hooked carabiner can break when the carabiner mistakenly gets hung on a bolt or sling by its nose.

4. Popular Uses for Carabiners

So we all know carabiners are used often while climbing but they can come in handy in everyday life as well.
Below are some life hacks that anyone with carabiner can try!
  • Grocery bag carrier
  • Cabinet lock
  • Key chain
  • Wrench organizer
  • Fake chain lock
  • Locking tent zippers on the inside
  • Linking gear together
  • Hairband or rubber band organizer
  • Hammock hanger
  • Water bottle holder
  • Support for a dog leash
  • Anchor point while kayaking
  • Belt organizer
Carabiner uses for fall protection:
  • Sailing
  • Arboriculture
  • Rope rescue
  • Window cleaning
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Industrial rope work
  • Acrobatics
  • Climbing
  • White-water rescue
  • Climbing
  • Construction

5. Are Shape and Weight Important for Carabiners?

The short answer to this question is yes. To find out why, keep reading…

Different materials for carabiners: Steel carabiners are the most used for industrial rigging and rescue purposes. They are a lot more durable, heavier, and stronger than aluminum carabiners. The aluminum carabiners light and are made for recreational climbing or indoor and outdoor rock climbing.

Below are the most common shapes and types of carabiners:
1. D-Shape carabiner (Equal D):

Just as the name implies, these carabiners are shaped like a capital “D” and are very versatile. D-shaped carabiners are the best tools to use when it comes to clipping into protection, locking anchor points, and quick-draws. What this carabiner does is direct the force toward the spine of the carabiner reducing the chance of incorrect load positioning. They are generally lighter than most carabiners and have a wider gate opening.

2. Offset D-shape carabiners:

Offset D-shape carabiners can also be referred to as “asymmetrical” or “modified-D” carabiners. They look similar to D-shaped carabiners, but the difference is in the design, which creates an even wider gate opening. Amongst the other types of carabiners, the offset D-shape is the most popular design, mainly because they have improved functionality as a result of the large gate opening, strong design, and are light.

3. HMS, a.k.a. Pear-shaped carabiner:

Simply known as the oversized versions of the offset D-shaped carabiners, these are basically made for belaying purposes. Most climbers prefer this type of carabiner when they want to belay because the basket is rounded and wide making it a nice surface for the rope to travel across be it a hitch (munter, clove) or through a belay device.

4. Oval carabiner:

Oval carabiner: This carabiner has been in existence for years. They are cheap and best used for climbing. However, it is important to know that they are weaker than other shapes, because of the transfer of weight between the spine and the gate. They also have a narrower gate and are a bit heavy, too.

6. Types of Carabiner Certifications

Carabiner Image #3

As we already know, carabiners have been in existence for more than 150 years. As far back as the 1800s, soldiers carried carbine rifles with straps connected by a hook with a gate. As the years went by, they kept evolving and improving, and now, certifications are printed on carabiners.
The list of certifications to take note of are below.
  • Rescue Certifications for Carabiner, United States – Carabiners that are used for rescue purposes are addressed in ASTM F1956. For light use carabiners, the ASTM requirements are 27kN MBS on the long axis and 7kN on the short axis, while for heavy duty rescue carabiners, the ASTM requirements are 40kN MBS for the long axis and 10.68kN for the short axis.
  • Fire Rescue carabiners are divided into two classes: technical use and general use.*
    • Technical use rescue carabiners require a minimum breaking strength of 27kN gate close, 7kN gate open and 7kN minor axis.
    • General use rescue carabiners require a minimum breaking strength of 40kN gate close, 11kN gate open and 11kN minor axis.
  • Fall Protection Certifications for Carabiners, United States – These are referred to as connectors and must meet the requirement for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Standard 1910.66 App C Personal Fall Arrest system. This system has specifics responsible for drop forged, pressed or formed steel, and a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 lbf (22kN). The ANSI (American National Standard Institute) requirements are a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 lbf (22kN), and an auto-locking device with a minimum breaking strength of 3,600 lbf (16kN).

*Fire Rescue Certifications for Carabiner, United States – The minimum requirements in breaking strength and calculations for rescue carabiners used by NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) compliant agencies are set forth in the NFPA Standard (1983-2017 edition).


Want to read more climbing related topics? Check out the links below:
Pelican Rope & Têra Kaia
Pelican Rope & Têra Kaia

This article is a collaboration piece between Pelican Rope and Têra Kaia. To find out more about this piece please visit the link below.

Lauren Breitenbach

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