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Quickdraws | Everything you need to know

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Quickdraws, something all sport climbers love and need. If you are new to sport climbing and just about to dabble into lead climbing understanding this piece of gear should be your priority, even if you had been lead climbing for years in the gym where quickdraws are already up on the wall.

The purpose of quickdraws is to protect a climber from hitting the ground when taking a fall. Hence, quickdraws are essential gear for all climbers. Quickdraws come in a variety of lengths and carabiner combinations to serve specific purposes.

fear-of-falling
Lead falling

Quickdraws components

Carabiner

A quickdraw consists of 2 carabiners. 1 carabiner will be clipped into the bolt hanger (top) on the wall and the climber will clip the rope to the other carabiner (bottom). The carabiner that is clipped into the bolt hanger will experience more damage such as scratches and cuts due to the metal to metal contact. While the other carabiner where the rope is clipped to will not. Hence it is important not to use the carabiners interchangeably. The quickdraw’s carabiner used for clipping ropes should always be smooth and scratches free so that the rope will not be damaged when climbers take a fall.

The type of carabiners used for the bolt end and the rope end should be different both in nose design and colour. Carabiners with a conventional notch nose design have a likelihood of getting caught on the bolt hanger with the gate open which will drastically reduce the strength of the carabiner if the climber takes a fall. Carabiners with keylock design will not have such issues.

Sling or “Dogbone”

The sling or “dogbone” of a quickdraw is the piece of webbing used to connect the 2 carabiners. Especially when climbing outdoors it is necessary to have quickdraws with different lengths. Depending on the route and the position of the bolts there will be situations where climbers will encounter rope drag when using quickdraws with short dogbone. Using quickdraws with a long dogbone or an extended sling can help to reduce rope drag significantly.

Having quickdraws with different lengths give climbers more options to ensure the quickdraws are placed in the optimum position. There can be situations where the quickdraw’s carabiner at the rope end is resting on a sharp edge which the carabiner may break if the climber takes a fall on the quickdraw. Thus having quickdraws with different lengths can minimize such risk.

PC: Petzl.com

Extendable quickdraws

Extendable quickdraws or (alpine draws) is commonly made up of a 60cm sling with 2 wire gate carabiners. An extendable quickdraw with a 60cm sling will provide climbers with a 20cm length option and when fully extended 60cm. Extendable quickdraws allow climbers a quick way to extend the length of the quickdraw to reduce rope drag when climbing long routes.

Shortening an extendable quickdraw

Put one carabiner through another and clip it back to the sling (both strands), pull to straighten the sling.

Lengthening an extendable quickdraw

Unclip one carabiner from the sling and clip back on a single loop (any one loop will do), pull to straighten the sling.

Quickdraw setup

Quickdraw sling

There are a few things to take note of when setting up quickdraws. The sling has 2 loop ends. 1 loop end is larger with room for the carabiner to move about, while the other loop end will be tight and narrow (some will come with a rubber keeper). The larger loop end is for the bolt carabiner and the tight loop end is for the rope carabiner.

After clipping the top carabiner to the bolt hanger, the position of the top carabiner should not be shifted regardless of the movement of the quickdraw. If the top carabiner is on the snag end of the sling, the movement of the quickdraw may shift the top carabiner away from its strongest position (near the spine of the carabiner) which reduces the strength of the quickdraw.

PC: Petzl.com

The bottom carabiner for clipping rope needs to be on the snug end of the sling. Some quickdraws come equipped with a rubber keeper at the rope end carabiner to prevent the carabiner from rotating.

Carabiner orientation

Quickdraw carabiners can be set up in 2 possible orientations. (1) Both top and bottom carabiners facing the same direction or (2) top and bottom carabiners facing the opposite direction.

(Left) Top and bottom carabiners facing the same direction
(Right) Top and bottom carabiners facing a different direction

Although the quickdraw will work with the carabiners facing either orientation. However, the recommended practice is to have the carabiners facing the same direction. This is particularly relevant for traverse climb as the gate of the bottom carabiner needs to be facing the opposite direction of the traverse to eliminate any chance of unclipping during a fall. With both top and bottom carabiners facing the same direction during a traverse, climbers can have the gate of both top and bottom carabiners facing away from the direction of the traverse. This will ensure the top carabiner is loaded on the spine (the strongest part of the carabiner) of the carabiner and also prevent any possibility of the top carabiner from unclipping from the bolt during a fall.

Top and bottom carabiners facing opposition direction
Top and bottom carabiners facing the same direction
PC: Black Diamond

Check out this great article by Black Diamond on the Opposing Quickdraw Carabiners.

Colour differentiation

To improve efficiency in racking up it is advisable to use different colour carabiners to differentiate bolt end from rope end carabiner. Quickdraws of different lengths should also be differentiated by colours. This allows climbers to easily identify quickdraws and rack up accordingly. When climbing, climbers can simply have a quick glance at their rack and grab the right gear saving precious time and energy.

A highly recommended practice when comes to choosing colour carabiners for quickdraws, is to use dull colours (e.g silver or black) for bolt end carabiners and bright colours (e.g red, green, gold or blue) for rope end carabiners. A bright colour bottom carabiner stands out against the colour of the wall thus easier for climbers to spot the carabiner to clip in.

Conclusion

Quickdraws are critical gear for climbing outdoors. Understanding how each component of the quickdraw works, how to set up and all the possible equipment failures that can take place will make your outdoor climb a lot safer. Different types of quickdraws have specific purposes and functions thus it will be necessary to have a variety of quickdraw sets to deal with different types of climbing.

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Check out the online prices of quickdraws from our affiliate partners on 5C store page

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