How to Choose a Carabiner

How to Choose a Carabiner

For a first timer browsing through the climbing hardware at their local outfitter, the sheer number of carabiner variations can quickly become overwhelming.

But these slight differences in shape and function do serve a purpose. Depending on how and where you climb, along with personal preferences, you'll find a different carabiner to be the best tool for your job.

Carabiners are typically differentiated by three characteristics —

  • Shape
  • Gate Style
  • Size & Composition

Let's take a look at these characteristics and see how they may impact your climbing experience.

Shapes of Carabiners

Asymmetric D Shape

The asymmetric D shape, also known as offset D or modified D, is the most popular shape of carabiner. It features a slightly smaller profile at one end to reduce weight, while still maintaining a larger gate opening for easier clipping. This design is versatile and widely used across different climbing styles.


  • Strong and comparatively lightweight
  • Large gate opening


  • Often more expensive
  • Not as strong as a classic D shape carabiner

Pear Shape

Pear-shaped carabiners are designed with a broad top that facilitates easy belaying and rappelling. Similar to asymmetric D carabiners, they have a large gate opening, making for easy clipping.

Pear-shaped carabiners are sometimes referred to as HMS carabiners, for their ability to handle a "Halbmastwurfsicherung" (half clove hitch belay). 


  • Large gate opening
  • The shape works particularly well for belaying and rappelling


  • Often heavier and more expensive
  • Not as strong as other shapes

D Shape

D-shaped carabiners work well in a wide variety of climbing scenarios. Loads are kept off-center on the stronger non-gated side, giving them a great strength-to-weight ratio.


  • Strongest shape


  • Gate not as large as that on an asymmetric D shape carabiner
  • More expensive than a classic oval shape

Oval Shape

Oval is the classic shape for a carabiner, and it's still around for good reason. Oval carabiners work well in a variety of scenarios, and are affordable. The shape limits load shifting, and offers capacity to hold more gear than a D shape carabiner.

They're ideal for aid climbing, as well as carabiner-brake rappels.


  • Less load shifting due to the uniform shape
  • Capacity to hold more gear than D-shape carabiners


  • Heavy and with a smaller gate opening 
  • Less strong than other shapes

Carabiner Gates

In addition to a distinct shape, each carabiner you consider will have a distinct gate type, which will offer advantages and disadvantages for various climbing scenarios.

Straight Gate

As the name implies, a straight gate is perfectly straight from the tip to the pivot point. They are strong, durable, and simple to use. You'll often find straight gates on quickdraws. They're also frequently used for racking gear. 


  • Durable and straightforward
  • Some include a "keylock" nose, for consistently snag-free clipping


  • Not as light as a wire gate

Bent Gate

Bent gates feature a concave shape that makes it simple to quickly clip a rope. Because of this, they're often featured on the rope-end of quickdraws. Like straight gates, certain models include a keylock nose for snag-free clipping.


  • Shape makes for easier clipping
  • Durable
  • Some include a "keylock" nose, for consistently snag-free clipping


  • Not as light as a wiregate

Wire Gate

Wire gate carabiners utilize a stainless steel wire for their gate, reducing weight and increasing gate clearance. They are resistant to freezing in cold conditions and are less prone to "gate lash", or vibrating open, during falls.


  • Lighter weight
  • Less likely to freeze
  • Less likely to experience gate lash


  • Less durable than traditional gates

Locking Gate

Locking gates provide an extra level of security, with gates that can be manually or automatically locked. They are essential for belaying, rappelling, and other placements where safety is paramount.

Locking gates can be either a screw lock (manually screw the sleeve in place to lock it) or auto-lock (lock engages automatically when the gate is closed).


  • Provides an added level of safety


  • Heavier than other gates

Size, Weight, and Strength

Size: Carabiners come in various sizes, each offering advantages in terms of handling and gear capacity. Larger carabiners typically have larger gate openings, while smaller ones are lighter and more compact.

Weight: While lighter carabiners reduce overall climbing weight, they may sacrifice some ease of handling and durability compared to heavier counterparts. Balance is key depending on the climbing scenario.

Strength: Carabiners are rated for strength in different directions (major axis, minor axis, gate open). In general, all climbing-rated carabiners are strong enough for their intended activities, when used as designed. However, once you've narrowed down your carabiner search to a couple models, strength can be a useful metric for making your final decision.

Choosing the Right Carabiner

To select the best carabiner for your needs, consider your specific climbing style and preferences. Whether for belaying, quickdraw setups, or gear racking, each type and design offers unique benefits. 

Most climbers develop preferences after just a few seasons of climbing. Visiting a climbing shop to handle different models can also provide valuable insights into their usability and comfort.

Or if you just need to make a reasonably informed decision, consider following these guidelines —

 Use Recommendation
Belaying and Rappelling A large pear-shaped carabiner with a locking gate
Sport Climbing Quickdraws Asymmetric D carabiners (straight, bent, or wire gate is a matter of personal preference)
Trad Climbing Quickdraws Assymetric D carabiners with wiregates
Racking Trad Gear Assymetric D, standard D, or Oval carabiners



No how-to guide can be considered a substitute for proper training and technique. You are solely responsible for your own safety on the mountain. Climb safe!

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