Many moons ago I wrote a blog post on here about choosing Quickdraws that has always proved quite popular over the years, but the products listed are now old or discontinued and new options and styles are available.
As a quick summary, tl;dr on our Quickdraw range there's the table below:
But what do all those headers mean and how important are they? Well here's the breakdown ...
First of all regarding manufacturers, strength and safety; don't worry! All are perfectly strong enough, quality control is on it and you don't need to worry about any of ours being cheap and unsafe. If you're worried about your old ones, consider replacement quickdraw tapes as the soft slings are the part that might have gotten UV damage or a bit too frayed, the metal work unless there is obvious deformation should be as strong as the day you got them.
Clean-nosed karabiners are useful for two reasons. With regards to Sport Climbing they make it easier when stripping the route to get the quickdraw off the wall, a bolt clipping end with a notch in the nose can sometimes get caught on the hanger when under tension which makes it harder to get the quickdraw disconnected. With regards to Trad climbing when clipping gear especially wires if you're a bit blasé you could get the wire in the notch and the gate held open, though this is rare. These days almost all Solid-Gate Sport 'draws are clean nosed, whilst for Wiregates, clean-nosed (often called shrouded nose) biners are harder to produce and bump the price up.
Solid gate biners tend to have a nice spring action and as mentioned above are almost certainly clean-nosed, they can also be made cheap. In theory they can be prone to gate-flutter where in extraordinary situations the vibration of a tensioned rope can vibrate the gate open but this is very rare, with wire-gates this is far less likely.
Advantages of wire-gates are the lack of flutter but also when used in snow and icy conditions they're much less likely to freeze up.
Finally there's the Hybrid like the Hotforge Hybrid or Shadow/Spectre options with a solid-gate on the bolt clipping end so they're easy to strip but a wiregate, lighter rope clipping 'biner less prone to gate flutter.
Most quickdraws come in one of three lengths give or take a centimetre or two. The usual Sport rack contains a number of 12ish centimetre draws for a small local crag 7 or 8 might suffice, going to the continent on huge 30, 40m routes over twenty might be needed. Some people have a preference for 18cm for the bulk of their Sport draws but tends to be the exception. Then it's also worth a few longer 'draws if the bolts placed in an odd place and the quickdraw needs to be extended a bit further to clip easily and safely, these tend to be 25cm and not that many are required, two or three?
With Trad the lengths tend to be skewed to the longer end, with the majority of quickdraws being longer lengths 18cm or even 25cm (although because I'm short these hit my knees and annoy me so I tend to stick to the middle length). A couple of models used regularly for Trad/Alpine climbing have 60cm sling options - Phantoms and Chimeras - these can be racked up in such a way that on the harness they 20cm long but extend to their full length when placed.
Fat, Sport Climbing quickdraws like the top of the range Petzl Spirits and DMM Alpha Sports make pulling up on them easier if you're working the route, when pulling on a fat quickdraw tape is easier than climbing the tiny holds you're trying to climb on. With Trad climbing the opposite is true, skinny, flexible dyneema tapes are the best option to reduce gear lifting out.
Now in the previous article I don't think I dared say this but times have changed and especially if you're a Sport Climber, perhaps the most important thing is that you think they look cool, that they're a good colour. Unless you're climbing at the cutting edge limit, which Quickdraw you use isn't going to make and break things and so if you like 'Hot Pink' go for the Hotforge Hybrids. 'Green'? How about the Alpha Sports.
- Pete -