The purpose of carabiners, in general, is to stay shut. But when you’re well above the ground, you don’t want to take the chance of trusting that it will stay shut. That’s why climbers favor locking carabiners to be extra sure that it’s not coming open until YOU open it yourself.
Some lock automatically while others have screw locks that need to be manually locked, but whichever one you choose, you can feel confident in its ability to hold up. Even expert climbers need to stock up their stash of crabs every now and then because this small yet versatile piece of gear is good for belaying, fixing to an anchor, rappelling and much more. I know I’ve lost my fair share while out on climbs, even when I was trying to be careful. It’s always a good idea to have plenty of them because you never know when they’ll come in handy.
And hey, I’ve even used mine for things around the house too. They even make for a fantastic keychain, but for today’s purpose of choosing the best locking carabiners, I’m going to focus on the ones that will give you the confidence and security you need to reach new heights.
Without further ado, I present to you the 8 best locking carabiners.
I’ve got to make this my top choice simple because it has been around for ages and is absolutely fantastic for all different types of climbs. The pear shape gives it a large basket, allowing you to clip it to many ropes or other krabs at once without overlapping or pinching. The large gate clearance makes it easy to get these things off with quickness too.
So, it’s very versatile plus, it’s lightweight yet strong. You can count on it to belay, rappel, and everything in between. My one complaint is that it isn’t auto-locking. That does mean there is room for error, but it’s a solid choice; nonetheless, one that is very affordable and very reliable out on the crag. I’ve done many multi-pitches with these, and they truly made my climb much easier, oh and most importantly it’s super-affordable.
Another thing I have to mention is that they’re really affordable. You get the confidence of trusting in it to keep you secure without spending a fortune on gear. Oh and by the way, even though it isn’t auto-locking, it has a red visual indicator if the gate isn’t locked so you can check and double-check and see if it needs to be secured before attempting your climb.
2. Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron
Now for an auto-locking carabiner. This option is a bit pricier though when it locks, it locks and you KNOW it. This simple design allows you to close the gate and it locks automatically. No more wondering if you locked your carabiner right. It’s a sure thing.
I love these but, they’re much more expensive at around $30 (check current price on Amazon). They’re a bit harder to remove from harness loops too, but that added security really does a lot for your peace of mind. It helps remove the fear of falling, knowing that if you do, you’re locked into place thanks to Black Diamond’s unique magnetic locking mechanism and will survive.
As mentioned, it’s a bit of a struggle to open because you need to squeeze the two hinge triggers, but it’s a small complaint when you consider once you close it, it’s locked and it’s not coming off until YOU make it come off.
3. DMM Rhino
With this carabiner, you get the distinctive Rhino feature, the horn at the top of the carabiner, which prevents your autolocking belay devices from moving about. Anti-cross-loading, this locking carabiner is convenient to use and gives you no hassles. Also, incredibly versatile, you’ll find it wide enough for belaying as well as anchor usage.
On the downside, it is a bit heavier than others, but that’s a bit forgivable since it doesn’t get in the way should you want to clip your belay device on your gear loop between belays. And it’s not the heaviest one either at least. I’ve found it smooth and easy to use but it can be bulky and heavy for some uses. With a gri-gri, it’s a perfect match though which is why I’ve included it here.
It’s light and easy to use, though I have to admit, the sliding lock made me a little nervous. Ok, so it made me nervous a lot, but it stayed in place. I even tried playing around with it while firmly on the ground and couldn’t get it to unlock accidentally, so that helped reassure me, but I suppose there is a chance it always could.
For my usage of it, once I reassured myself, I couldn’t accidentally unlock it, I found it really easy to use with one hand. The wide basket makes it versatile for lots of things and while compact, it held up. I found I liked it best when belaying as I could keep my eye on the locking mechanism for my own piece of mind. It was fantastically easy to work with though so I must give it high marks for that. It’s a great locking carabiner for these applications and to have on hand in your gear.
5. Edelrid HMS Bulletproof Triple FG
On the other side of things, this Edelrid never gave me even the slightest doubt that it could fail. It features a triple-action auto-locking mechanism, and because of that, it doesn’t come cheap. But the price of complete peace of mind is worth it (Amazon link).
As a belay locker, it has to be among my favorites. You can absolutely count on it, but it does require three actions to get it unlocked. That just means it can’t fail, but the downside is you’ll have to work to get it open, a small price to pay for safety. The stainless-steel insert covering the basket keeps it from wear and tear so if you do choose to invest in it, it’s going to last.
Another great feature is the internal spring bar which keeps it in the direction you want it in at all times. There’s no risk of cross-loading or flipping upside down, another reason it’s worth the cost. It’s heavier than other locking carabiners though, but that’s the tradeoff you make for added security. Speaking of that, it’s really hard to open that autolocking mechanism with one hand. It’s not my first choice for a multi-pitch but I love it for rappelling and top-roping.
6. DMM Phantom
Looking for something lightweight? The DMM Phantom is one of the lightest locking carabiners I’ve seen. While it’s not autolocking, it’s compact and as such, makes lightening your load a snap, literally. I can hardly find a downside to these, unless perhaps if you were trying to belay or rappel with these in place as your main locker.
Yes, it’s not the kind of locking carabiner you’d use to clip a bunch of other krabs onto or use for multiple ropes or knots, but it’s incredibly supportive and useful for just about everything else you’d need a locking carabiner for and weighs much less without taking up tons of harness space. I love these when I go on multi-pitches and always keep a bunch of them in my gear.
7. Black Diamond RockLock Screwgate
In my first experiences with climbing at the gym, this was the first carabiner I ever saw. My friend who got me into climbing had them and showed me how to use them when he set me up to belay him. It’s a tough, tough locker. You could really take a hammer to it and beat the dickens out of it and it wouldn’t bend. Not that I’d advise this, but the ones I have had seriously taken a pounding and are still in immaculate condition.
The screw gate is really smooth and easy to use with light tension. Over time, the spring seems to have a bit of wear on it but we’re talking loads of heavy usage here. That’s pretty good for a budget-priced locking carabiner. With a large, round stock, ropes feed through it smoothly on your belay device and the basket is spacious enough for knots or hitches.
It’s a little bit heavier though, but at the gym, that won’t matter. This is the locking carabiner I keep in my climbing gym bag in my car when I need to blow off steam from work and get a climb in or just want to practice when I have no time to get out to the crag.
Incredibly light, this Edelrid has another unusual feature: the locking mechanism automatically locks when it’s not in use. While that might seem shifty because if it can lock by itself, what if it can unlock?
Again, I had to play around with this one before I felt comfortable getting off the ground with it. You should always be sure in climbing. Just like with the other Edelrid on my list, I played around with it over and over and couldn’t get it to accidentally come unlocked.
That being said, I found it very useful for hanging a belay device and anchoring into a bolt, both occasions where I was there to keep my eye on everything. In those cases, I greatly appreciated the slider. The Edelrid Pure Slider is so easy to use. You can snap it open with one hand and then for locking, the auto-lock takes over. On the downside, it’s a few bucks pricier than other small lockers. If price is a concern, try the other Edelrid mentioned above, but honestly after getting comfortable with this one, I really liked it.
My ultimate advice to you on locking carabiners is this… some of these are going to be a better fit for your gear and other applications. No matter how highly-rated something is, both in legit safety ratings and in reviews from experienced climbers, get your hands on it and try it out. There’s a reason many different brands, types and styles exist out there and that reason is that we all have different preferences and needs.
You may find that paying the most for an auto-locking carabiner to keep you completely secured on your multi-pitch makes you feel more free to enjoy the sport, or you may purchase it with that in mind and find it’s just too bulky to bring along and pop it into your gym bag. You may find the ones you feel iffy about are best for lightening your load, or using to hold your keys.
Whatever you find though, you’re not going to get a good feel for it until you get it in your hand. Go try these out and you’ll see and feel how they work. You’ll gain more confidence in the locking mechanisms and be able to visualize using them in actuality. If you’re new to the sport, it’s even more important to take a hands-on approach so you can pick the locking carabiner that works best for your needs.
Some climbers hate not being able to open an auto-locking carabiner with one hand while others don’t care about that. Whichever one of these locking carabiners you choose, you can definitely do so with confidence. These are top-rated brands that are tested and safety-rated so you can be sure you’re buying something you can count on.
However, if you really want that extra bit of reassurance that you’re locked in place, it’s worth it to pay a heftier price tag for the auto-locking carabiners so you have absolutely no doubt, no matter how many checks you do before your climb.