How to Choose Quickdraws for Rock Climbing

A review of the different types of quickdraws, the advantages and disadvantages of their design and what type of climbing each one is intended for

Photo Camp
Photo Camp

Quickdraws are an essential element in rock climbing. They improve the connection between bolt and rope, which until the second third of the 20th century was only made with a single carabiner. The existence of a sling between two carabiners minimizes friction and therefore allows longer pitches, transmits less movement to the bolts, and prevents as much as possible the risk of accidental opening of the carabiners.

Before continuing, we recommend that you review the article on how to choose carabiners in case you are not clear about any concept, although the ones we are going to name here are always going to be type B non-locking carabiners.

Anatomy of a Quickdraw

Behind this seemingly simple design (two carabiners joined by a sling known as a "dogbone") there is a little more development and design than it may seem. On the one hand, the loops on the ends of the dogbone through which both carabiners are passed are different and so they have to be. The loop through which the straight carabiner is passed is made significantly wider so that the movement of the rope during climbing does not affect the position of the straight carabiner, which will remain in a longitudinal position, where it is strongest. The carabiner for the rope, however, is held in place to the quickdraw by a narrow eyelet that prevents it from turning, so that it works in solidarity with the latter and facilitates clipping. In this way it is also forced to position itself on its longitudinal axis, achieving the same effect as with the straight carabiner but with diametrically opposed strategies.

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Barrabes
Correct assembly of a quickdraw:
1. Bolt-side Carabiner
2. Wide loop for bolt-side carabiner
3. EN-566 UIAA-104 quickdraw with minimum strength 22 kN.
4. Smaller loop for rope-side carabiner, optionally with rubber keeper
5. Rope-side carabiner, optionally curved
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If you assemble your own quickdraws, it is important that you take this into account so that you don't make a mistake and place it upside down.

Quickdraw Length

Although there are almost as many sizes as there are quickdraws, they are usually found in standard lengths of 12, 18 and 25 centimeters in their closed version, with the option of 60 centimeters for alpine climbing. In certain cases, even longer extensions can be made.

The 12 and 18 centimeter lengths are usually intended for sport routes without significant overhangs, with the longer versions being chosen for trad or alpine climbing. The choice of a longer sling on a particular bolt is basically determined by rope drag management, which is uncomfortable when climbing, and by safety in the event of a fall, since the straighter the rope goes the more it can absorb the impact force of the fall.

Barrabes
DMM Shadow quickdraws with 12, 18 and 25 centimeter dogbones

However, there are more criteria for choosing a longer length draw while climbing. Even on straight sport climbing routes, we can also find protrusions in the rock that make the carabiners work in shear by positioning them dangerously over an edge, where they are prone to break. In such cases, use a draw of sufficient length to allow the carabiner to hang or rest freely along its entire length.

Quickdraw Material

Among the materials used in quickdraws are nylon and Dyneema. Along with Dynex and Spectra, Dyneema is a brand name for “Ultra High Molecular weight Polyethylene” (UHMwPE). Occasionally we also find polyester slings replacing or complementing nylon or Dyneema. Because Dyneema is stronger, it allows the use of a much narrower and lighter sling to achieve the same strength as nylon, making it the preferred choice when we want to save weight and space in our harness.

Barrabes
Photon Wire by CAMP, with Dyneema quickdraw. Same strength, more lightweight and less bulky
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Carabiners are always made of aluminum, although there are some models on the market with steel reinforcements for fixed lowering stations or to be used as the end of the route on a top rope. In quickdraws for climbing gym walls, the bolt-side carabiner is replaced by a quick link to improve safety, since the weight and speed of clipping do not influence in this case.

Uses of Quickdraws

The basic and essential use of an express set is to stop a fall on an intermediate belay, but not infrequently express belays have an artificial progression function, especially on multi-pitch routes where it is more important to exit at the top than to exit free. The ultimate in artificial progression quickdraws are the increasingly popular "cheater" quickdraws, very long and very stiff quickdraws with special carabiners that close when hanging from the bolt and allow for clipping and progression in less exposed conditions than traditional draws.

KONG
Cheater draw Kong Panic allowing us to clip from farther below the bolt. Photo KONG

They should also be used as release belays for top-rope climbing so as not to selfishly wear out the collective material, placing the triggers opposite to each other (opposite) of each express set to avoid a fatal error of unintentional opening. Sometimes they are also mistakenly used as substitutes for the anchor line in rests or meetings, although in these cases they should not be used, as we explain in the article on approved anchor lines.

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Omitting these special cases, as we have already mentioned, the main use of quickdraws is to clip the rope to bolts on a climbing route.

Quickdraws for Sport Climbing

For sport climbing, we find very robust quickdraws designed to withstand constant falls and have a very high durability. Usually they use wide nylon dogbones, which allow you to grab them if necessary.

Sport draw carabiners tend to be robust trigger carabiners as the inner spring can be designed to have an easier opening (wiregate carabiners tend to be harder to open) and weight is not issue while red pointing, when you're going to leave the draws on the route while you make several tries. However, the increased safety of wiregate carabiners, which are less prone to gate lash (when a carabiner opens due to vibration caused during a fall), means that many models opt for a combination of a solid gate for the bolt-side biner and a wiregate for the rope side.

SCARPA
Wide nylon dogbones and solid-gate carabiners for sport climbing. Photo SCARPA

Quickdraws for Trad, Alpine and Ice Climbing

Quickdraws for trad climbing and multi-pitch routes are usually designed to optimize weight and space, as it is common to have to carry a significant amount of them in your harness or in chest sling. This makes the climb somewhat smoother and is also noticeable in the approach to and return from the route.

Thus, quickdraws are usually made Dyneema of great length and a fairly thin thickness that allows to make the best use of a high strength and light weight and good friction management on winding routes, and also places the carabiner in the optimal working position next to the carabiner's major axis. On the other hand, their thin dogbones made of slippery Dyneema makes them hard to grab on to, which means they are less than ideal for sport climbing. Also noteworthy is the water-repellent property of Dyneema as a very interesting feature for using Dyneema draws in snowy alpine conditions or ice climbing.

For their part, carabiners are usually very light weight, with lowered profile and thread trigger, and although there may be medium or even large size especially when they are to be used in mountaineering or ice climbing and we must handle them with gloves, they are usually quite minimalist in size for reasons of weight and space and because the clipping is not usually as agonizing as those of difficult sport climbing the usual is that its size is quite minimalist for the reasons referred to weight and space and because the clipping is not usually as agonizing as those of difficult sport climbing. Another reason for being more stylized, especially at the nose, is to facilitate plating on old burin plates or nails that have become too flush with the wall.

Álvaro Lafuente
'Long Dyneema webbing with wiregate carabiners. Photo Álvaro Lafuente
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Although significantly less in demand than in the past, energy-absorbing slings are still of great importance in ice climbing or trad climbing on precarious anchors. In the event of a fall impact, the webbing seams tear, thus absorbing a large part of the energy generated in the fall. The fact that they are expensive and have only one use is a major drawback to their popularization, coupled with the fact that modern ropes and belay systems are usually dynamic enough to minimize a high impact force on their own.

Obviously, these configurations we have described are not completely set in stone. You can find almost any combination of the elements that make up a quickdraw to best suit your type of climbing, personal taste and skill level.

Web store: www.barrabes.com

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