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What is a quickdraw and why do climbers use them?
Quickdraws are used by rock climbers to connect their climbing rope to protection (e.g. nuts, chocks or bolts attached to the rock face) while lead climbing. Quickdraws consist of a piece of webbing attached to two carabiners, one at either end of the webbing. Typically, one of the carabineers is a non-locking bent gate carabiner and the other is a non-locking straight-gate carabiner. The straight gate carabiner is clipped to the protection (e.g. a bolt or an anchor on the rock face) and the rope passes through the other, bent gate, carabiner, which hangs freely away from the rock. The main purpose of quickdraws is to reduce rope drag – they help to ‘straighten’ the path of the rope, making it easier to pull.
How many quickdraw do you need?
The number of quickdraws needed on a route varies, so plan ahead to make sure that you have enough with you to complete your route safely. Routes typically need anywhere between six and 20 quick draws. While climbing, Quickdraws are typically kept either on a sling around your chest or on a harness.
What are the factors to consider in buying a Quickdraw?
There is a lot of choice as quickdraws are available with a wide variety of carabiner styles and sling lengths. Criteria to consider when purchasing a quickdraw include:
- Carabiner size/shape: the larger the carabiner, the easier it is to clip and unclip. The shape of the carabiner can also affect how easy it is to use – which shape works best for you is a personal decision, depending on the size of your hands.
- Sling/dogbone length: Dogbone come in many different lengths (often between three and seven inches). There are pros and cons to each. A shorter quickdraw reduces the length that you will fall, while a longer quickdraw reduces rope drag.
- Sling/dogbone material: Whatever they are made of, all quickdraw slings must meet the UIAA-required minimum strength of 22 kN. Traditionally, slings are made from pure nylon but some are now made of nylon blended with Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene or UHMWPE (often branded as either Spectra or Dyneema). Slings that are made of UHMWPE are stronger that their pure nylon counterparts, thus allowing them to be lighter and thinner while still maintaining their strength.
- Weight: some quickdraws weigh almost twice as much as others (a typical range is 60 to 100 grams). You need to trade off the benefits of having a lighter quickdraw versus the likely disadvantage that having smaller carabiners might make them harder to clip and may not be as strong as their heavier counterparts.
- Carabiner strength: Carabiner strength is measured in 3 different directions
o Major Axis (lengthwise)
o Minor Axis (sideways)
o While open (gate open/major axis open)
- Types of carabiner: Although traditionally the bottom carabiner in a quickdraw is a bent gate carabiner some quickdraws now use wire gate carabiners instead.
As with all climbing equipment, safety is paramount. So, before you climb, make sure that you have the right equipment and that you know how to use it. In particular, it is very easy to use quickdraws incorrectly and cause a serious accident. Make sure that you get the right training and advice before heading out and if in doubt, ask an expert.