Back in the 70s
it was not uncommon to see climbers clipping gear with two krabs as a flexible link between the rope and the runner. Pretty soon people realised this did precious little to reduce drag, but also that it was potentially dangerous!
The stitched nylon sling, book ended with two solid gate krabs, then became standard issue for all styles of climbing during the 80s
These days of course we are more specialised and quickdraws have split off into two main design types: the skinny and light trad style (with wire gates) and the chunky and robust sport style (with solid gates).
This makes sense when you consider that in trad climbing we tend to carry large racks, so weight saving is essential, whereas in sport climbing, particularly redpointing, resistance to abuse is more important.
Sport style quickdraws such as DMM Alpha Sport
have thicker nylon slings; nylon is hard wearing; plus the thicker slings are much easier to grab hold of when you’re working a route and dogging between bolts! On some designs, such as the Petzl Spirit
, the rubber retainer on the bottom krab provides a supportive notch making them even more secure to yard about on with your hands.
Trad quickdraws, such as the DMM Alpha Trad
have narrow dyneema slings. Dyneema is very strong and light - couple that with a pair of wire gate krabs and you have an incredibly light quickdraw. Check out the DMM Phantom
and prepare to be astonished!
There are also a few hybrid style quickdraws, such as the Black Diamond Quickwire
which features a solid gate krab at the top end and a wire gate krab at the rope clipping end. These are popular on the continent and they do make sense for climbers who do a lot of sport or multi-pitch sport but don’t get too involved in redpointing.
There are significant weight differences between the wire gate, solid gate and hybrid quickdraws. For example, a dozen DMM Phantom wire gate quickdraws are about half a kilo lighter than a dozen DMM Shadow
solid gate quickdraws. Check out the Quickdraw Weight Comparison Chart
which covers our current range.
Quickdraws come in a range of lengths and it pays to have a selection of different lengths on your rack. Even if you are sport climbing there will be occasions when it is important to reduce drag with a longer sling.
Most modern quickdraws have a rubber loop to hold the bottom ‘clipping’ krab in place. This makes them easier to clip (especially when they are hanging in space behind your head!), but also ensures that the krab stays correctly aligned in a safe position.
It is very important to make sure you always clip the same end of the quickdraw into the bolt or wire. The rubber loop is a good reminder of how the quickdraw should be orientated but on sport quickdraws it’s even easier to spot the difference. Just remember: always clip the straight gate into the bolt and leave the bent gate hanging below to clip the rope in.
This matters most on bolts because the hangers (when weighted) will inevitably gouge small notches into the inside edge of the krab. If you then flip the quickdraw round and clip your rope into the gouged krab you risk tearing the sheaf of your rope if you fall or lower off on the quickdraw.
How many quickdraws should you have on your rack? The answer depends on what style of climbing you do the most. If you do a lot of sport then you won’t need more than a dozen for most situations, but do bear in mind that there are some very long clip ups out there. For example, Clash of the Titans F6a
on the Skyline Buttress in the Dinorwig Slate Quarry
has 16 bolts, plus you’ll need a few more for the belay!
For most trad routes, 12 – 15 will suffice, but if you head out to big sea cliffs like Gogarth it pays to carry more, perhaps 18, depending on your chosen route?
Finally, most people opt for one style of quickdraw for their whole rack – the advantage to this approach is that you get used to clipping the same style of krab. Flitting across different gate styles can lead to the dreaded ‘fumble clip’!
That being said, it is worth replacing the clipping krab on one or two of your quickdraws with a DMM Revolver
– these feature a pulley roller which greatly reduces drag. They are heavier than normal krabs but the extra weight is worth it if you consider that most pitches have at least one awkwardly positioned bolt or gear placement destined to generate epic amounts of drag.