A decade ago, color-coded carabiners were virtually non-existent but now there are plentiful options. If you’re unsure whether color-coded carabiners make sense for you, or if want to find the best rack pack for your climbing style, read on.

Just want a list of all the rack pack options out there? Read our post detailing every rack pack.

What are racking carabiners?

Simply put, a racking carabiner is any carabiner used to keep gear on your harness. They are most necessary while trad climbing as a way to hold all the cams and nuts on your harness or gear sling. Technically, racking carabiners can be any carabiner you have – they become a racking carabiner when they start holding, or “racking” your gear. Traditionally all gear was racked using whatever standard carabiners were available. Racking carabiners available today are used because they are generally small, lightweight and come in a variety colors, enabling easy identification of the size/color of your protection

 

Racking carabiner testing
note how each racking carabiner matches the cam sling color

 

Most often, manufacturers consider their smallest and lightest carabiners as racking ‘biners. Racking gear requires a substantial number of ‘biners making it an ideal place to reduce weight and bulk. Today you can easily pick out carabiners designed for racking because of the myriad of colors. Here are some examples:

 

Racking carabiner lineup
left to right: Edelrid 19g / CAMP Nano 22 / Trango Phase / Cypher Ceres II / DMM Alpha Light / Black Diamond Neutrino / CAMP Photon

 

What are rack packs?

Rack packs are a group of carabiners sold in an array of colors that are anodized to coordinate with cam colors. They are often sold in sets of 6 or 8 carabiners. It may also be possible to by each color individually, depending on the brand and stock of the shop.

Note: 6-color rack packs cover most cam colors, but 8-color rack packs often include orange and black to account for Metolius Cams. Some companies, like Trango, sell their racking carabiners in both a 6-pack and an 8-pack.

 

Trango Phase 6 pack
Trango Phase Rack Pack (6)
Trango Phase Mega 8 pack
Trango Phase Mega Rack Pack (8)

 

Why rack with colored carabiners?

Pros

  • Easier to quickly glance down and see what cams you have left
  • Help ensure you’re grabbing the size you want, especially if time wasn’t taken at the belay to rack in order

Cons

  • Encourages you to buy more carabiners (to replace all the boring silver ones)
  • Rack packs don’t account for doubles – so you may need to purchase colors individually

Aside: How to Rack Carabiners

If you’re new to racking, here are some tips for how to rack gear from Climbing Magazine.

If you’re wondering why it’s beneficial to rack only one cam per carabiner on your harness versus saving weight by doubling/tripling up the gear hanging from each carabiner it’s worth reading this friendly Mountain Project forum post.

See how Beth Rodden racks for a long multi-pitch trad route on YouTube.

Andy Kirkpatrick also has a great article about racking your nuts.

Can you use racking carabiners elsewhere?

Yes. All racking carabiners will be rated using the same strength standards as all the other carabiners on the market.

As quickdraws: In some instances racking carabiners might not be the most ideal size/shape for clipping, since that wasn’t their intention. But many of the carabiners sold in rack packs are perfectly acceptable for use in quickdraws. Note: it’s nice to consistently use a silver carabiner for the bolt side and a colored carabiner for the rope side (or vice versa) to avoid getting small burrs in the rope-bearing basket that could damage the rope.

As “normal” carabiners: Sometimes rack packs just offer a ton of extra colors that can make your harness fun. Nobody should fault you for liking to spice up your climbing with a little extra color.

What is the best racking carabiner?

If you need help choosing we have some tips. The easiest way to get a sense of what carabiner would work best is figuring out your priorities in terms of price and features. We’ve picked 3 great carabiners for a few different climbing types. It’s totally possible that you find yourself with more than one great option, in which case, getting them in-hand and playing with the carabiners in person will be the ideal way to determine the best carabiner for you.

Are you an…

alpine climber

who cares most about weight and seeks the lightest, smallest carabiners

Edelrid Nineteen GEdelrid Nineteen G19 g$10.95
CAMP_Nano_22_redCAMP Nano 2222 g$6.95
Metolius_FS_MiniMetolius FS Mini23 g$7.50

*note: these options are small carabiners, especially Edelrid’s Nineteen G, the lightest carabiner on earth. Small carabiners definitely take some getting used to to clip and unclip with ease.

ice climber

who wants a full-size carabiner to use with gloves, but still cares about weight

CAMP_Photon_Wire_Straight_GateCAMP Photon29 g$7.95
Wild_Country_HeliumWild Country Helium33 g$13.50
DMM_Alphatrad_purple_1DMM Alpha Trad34 g$14.95

luxury climber

who has some cash to spend on the best performance keylock carabiners

DMM_AlphaLight_blue_1DMM Alpha Light32 g$13.95
Wild_Country_HeliumWild Country Helium33 g$13.50
DMM_Alphatrad_purple_1DMM Alpha Trad34 g$14.95

budget climber

who makes low price a priority above all else

FS-Mini-Black-1Metolius FS Mini II
(Summer 2015)
22 g$5.95
Cypher_CeresIICypher Ceres II30 g$5.95
Trango_Phase_Straight_Wire_2_0Trango Phase30 g$5.95

utilitarian climber

who wants the best mix of price and features (weight & shape / keylock / full-size)

CAMP_Nano_22_redCAMP Nano 2222 g$6.95
BlackDiamond_OzBlack Diamond Oz28 g$8.95
CAMP_Photon_Wire_Straight_GateCAMP Photon29 g$7.95

 

To see all the rack pack options, listed by weight, without hints and categories, read our rack pack post that lists every option available.

Some rack pack buying options:

[apwizard]+rack +pack -Thule -bike -dakine -yakima -ratch -utility -quickdraw -rockymounts | +rackpack -quickdraw | +carabiner +5 +pack -quickdraw -aero -orbit | +Metolius +jet +set,100,,,,,- [/apwizard]