How to Choose a Quickdraw

Please note: The content in this post is purely informational and does not substitute professional instruction. If you have questions or need education on the proper and safe use of climbing equipment, please contact your local climbing gym or a certified guide and/or instructor. * 

You may have noticed that there is more than one quickdraw available on our website. That’s not really a unique thing. Anybody that sells quickdraws has a variety of options. They all serve the same function. The rope goes in one end, protection goes in the other. It doesn’t matter if the protection is trad gear you’ve placed, a permanent anchor or a sport bolt and hanger. The quickdraw connects your rope to your protection. So, what makes them different? To answer this question, we’ll talk about the carabiners themselves in their different shapes, sizes, gates and strengths. We’ll also talk about the slings and their lengths, thicknesses and materials. What are the kinds of environments you might or might not find certain quickdraws? You’ll find awesome information in this post that will help you understand the components in a quickdraw and give you a bit more confidence in making your choice.

In the following chart, Cypher has laid out some technical specifications about each of our quickdraws. This is an easy tool that will help you compare the features between draws and should help guide you to your choice. One especially useful data point on the chart is the last column: “Best Use”. This will help you narrow down the best options based on the style of climbing you’ll be using the draws for.  

All carabiners are stronger one direction than they are the other. The strongest axis is called the “major axis” and carabiner shapes are designed to sit most comfortably in a position that loads the major axis. The first carabiners were oval shaped which is a great shape for natural loading. Oval carabiners evolved into something with more of a “D” shape. An advantage of the D shape over the oval is that the gate of the carabiner could open wider. You may have noticed that there aren’t many quickdraws available on the market that are oval shaped. A simple reason is because clipping the quickdraw (into either protection or the rope) is easier when the gate opens wider. This is a specification that you might consider when comparing quickdraws. A smaller opening may be lighter, but it might also be harder to clip.  

Next, let’s look at the gate of the carabiner. Some gates are made of wire, others are a solid piece called a straight gate. There is also a variation of a solid piece with a little bend in it called a bent gate, or you may have seen a quickdraw sling that has a locking carabiner in one end or the other. These last draws don’t usually come as standard. The three pieces are purchased separately and combined by the person purchasing them. One important consideration is weight, wire gates are the lightest and then comes either the straight or bent gates. Something else to think about is how easily do you want the gate to open? A bent gate will open more easily and is frequently used in a climbing gym for this reason. You might choose this gate for the rope side of your quickdraw. You might not want your quickdraw gate to open by itself for example, when setting a top rope system outdoors, you may choose to create and use a quickdraw with locking gates to spare the wear on the fixed anchors. Another system is using two opposing quickdraws which also creates a locking system and increases surface area for the rope. 

Any quickdraw can be used in any situation, it’s connecting your rope to your protection. However, you might make different choices depending on your style of climbing. There are factors about a quickdraw that might make it more convenient for alpine climbing than projecting a single-pitch sport route. Alpine climbing is high altitude where the air is thin, the climbs are long and energy savings is of paramount importance. A lighter alpine quickdraw may be a better choice than a heavier sport climbing quickdraw. Conversely, you could absolutely use an alpine quickdraw on a single-pitch sport route. The sling from an alpine quickdraw might even be useful to bring the rope away from the rock and decrease rope drag making climbing easier. You may find that a heavier draw becomes more predictable in your hand when you’re clipping. This could be crucial when you’re climbing a route that is difficult and you’d like to clip quickly. 

Now, let’s talk about slings. All slings are required to meet a strength requirement to catch you if you fall. They are made of webbing which is susceptible to wear. This can be combatted with slings of different thicknesses or materials. Dyneema is a popular material for quickdraw slings due to its durability. Something else to consider with thickness is handling, a thicker sling may be easier for you to handle while clipping. Another difference between slings is the length. A longer sling may be useful in some applications for decreasing rope drag, this same thing may also be true of a short sling. This is one of those “depends on the scenario” variables that is hard to explain without hands on experience. Hopefully you get the principle explained here and can find someone to demonstrate to you or experiment yourself. A nice thing about alpine slings is that they can be adjusted between being fully extended and a fraction of their full length. 

Don’t discard color in your choice. Climbing is a social activity, the more friends at the crag the better. Sometimes strangers become friends and gear is borrowed or mixed and matched on harness loops. Choosing a color that speaks to you can help you distinguish your quickdraws from others. Knowing things like what kinds of gates are on your quickdraws and how long your slings is also a good indicator of what draws are yours. You may have noticed that carabiners for quickdraws are sometimes sold individually in a color assorted package. Did you also notice if the colors of the carabiners match the colors on your trad climbing gear? Color might just be something to consider when keeping yourself organized on the wall. 

For a tool that connects your rope to your protection, there are a lot of variations. This post isn’t comprehensive, but you should understand a few differences between the quickdraws like weight, durability, good use scenarios, gate opening, and security.  As an additional tool, here is a guide to Cypher quickdraws and their specifications as well as recommended climbing style. You should be able to see key differences quickly and have a better idea which Cypher quickdraws to add to your rack whether you are just building up your rack or are ready to retire your well-loved draws. 

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