Quickdraws (draws for short) are just two carabiners with a sling (sometimes called a dog bone) between them. Right?? Well that’s all they look like and we’re not far off, but there is quite a bit more to choosing a sport rack that will suit your needs and keep you clipping happily for many years.
As Harry mentions in his blog, you need at least ten or twelve draws in your sport climbing rack. This will cover you for most crags and will allow you to do all the routes. Most guide books will tell you how many quickdraws each climb will need, sometimes fifteen or twenty are needed but that only for some longer routes at taller crags. For trad climbing, some standard draws are best complemented with some alpine draws. An alpine draw is a 60cm sling with two carabiners folded in a specific way so it can be used as a short draw (20cm) or easily extended with one hand to make the draw 60cm long.
A full trad rack including alpine draws.
I personally like having some of my draws in different lengths. Sometimes the bolt or gear is sitting in a strange position that needs a longer or shorter quickdraw to prevent the bottom carabiner dangling over an edge (this makes it much weaker) or is in a position that will damage the rope or draw if I fall. On some sport routes the bolts aren’t in a straight line and having some longer quickdraws reduces the rope drag as you’re getting to the top. When I’m projecting and my draws are already on the route, having some longer draws means I can clip more efficiently instead of having to pull up high to clip the draw on bad holds. Most quickdraws come in two lengths, about 12cm and about 17cm but each brand differs slightly. You can also buy dog bones separately and make your current set into longer draws. I’d recommend a few 30cm dog bones and having a 60cm sling option for bolts in bad places.
Wild Country Astro quickdraws of different lengths.
Which carabiners you have on your draws plays a big part in many ways. Weight is a big factor when you are clipping fifteen or twenty of the shiny Petzl Djinns to your harness for the first time. Compared to the Ocun Kestrels, the Djinns will weigh you and your harness down a lot more but give you a draw that is easier to clip your 10.0 Mammut Galaxy Classic rope into. Between the rope and my fingers, the bigger the gate the easier I find it is to clip. You need to find the right size gate for you. If you already have a smooth clipping action then maybe consider a smaller biner so you don’t have to carry the extra weight.
Jasmin about to clip using a Mammut Bionic Express draw.
Speaking of weight and the gates on the biners – wire or solid gate? What about a hybrid (solid gate on top, wire gate on the bottom)? The choices are many and the solution is not obvious. Generally the gates on the biners don’t matter, they are both just as strong as each other. Solid gate biners look sturdy and feel like they are the way to go. They will, more often than not, have a key lock system that will mean that the carabiner is smooth and easy to remove from a hanger. This system is easier to use but is not the be all and end all. The wire gate carabiners are lighter than solid gates but often come with a carabiner that has a hook on the nose which can snag on the bolt when you are unclipping it. As technology and manufacturing processes develop there are a few options of wire gate carabiners that have a smooth nose, so you get the benefit of a light weight carabiner as well as easy clipping and unclipping. I personally like the hybrid quickdraws. I like the solid gates for clipping and unclipping bolts but I enjoy the feel of a wire gate biner when I am clipping the rope.
Tyler clipping an Ocun Zoom draw in Boven.
What about the bit that joins the two carabiners together? You get thin dog bones (10mm wide) like the Mammut Bionic Express quickdraw, medium dog bones (16mm wide) like the Ocun Falcon quickdraw and thick dog bones (25mm wide) like the Wild Country Hybrid Sport Draw. Because they’re made with different processes and materials they’re all the same strength (22kn) but they have different advantages and disadvantages. Thin dog bones are lighter, absorb less water and can rotate easily if pulled in a funny direction to keep the carabiner correctly oriented on the rope. Thicker equals heavier but more durable and, for those working hard routes, easier to grab onto when working through crux sections.
Tegwen clipping a Wild Country Astro draw in Boven.
So now you have your quickdraws, where should you clip them? If I’m not familiar with the route I spread them out evenly over my harness, short ones in the front and long ones towards the back with a good balance on each side. Some routes have most of the bolts on the left or the right so it’s good to put more draws on that side of the harness. If you’re running out on one side, stop at a good hold and transfer them over before you need them and they’re not there.
Quickdraws are a piece of gear that should last you over the length of your climbing career so spend a bit extra and get a draw that you’ll be chuffed to use in five or ten years. At the end of the day, we know you are probably going to pick the pretty ones and that’s okay. All the gear we have in our shop is something we believe in, so happy shopping.
See you at the crag, Richard.