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You hate to admit it, but you do have a soft spot for your favorite carabiner. Let’s face it, what other piece of your climbing gear has so many pet names – is yours a crab? a biner? a snap-link? Or do you have another name entirely?
The history of the seemingly humble carabiner is long and diverse. Read on to learn more about the origins of your favorite piece of climbing gear.
First of all, where on earth did that name come from? Well, no points for guessing that it is of Germanic origin. But you can go straight to the top of the class if you know what it means. I for one would not have guessed that Karbiner comes from the German word “Karabinerhaken”, which means “hook for a carbine”. Doubtless your biner has never been near a carbine in its life, so let’s talk mountains instead.
The first steel carabiner made specifically for climbing was created in 1910 by a German climber called Otto Herzog. Steel carabiners were well-used by paratroopers in World War II – the carabiners locked paratroopers into tag lines on board planes before they jumped down into battle.
The early carabiners were made of steel which was strong but also very heavy. Today’s favored climbing carabiners are made of alumninum. Although they are not as strong as their steel counterparts, they have a much higher strength to weight ratio and, used properly, are designed not to fail.