Non-locking carabiners come in all shapes and sizes. Another big difference are all the configurations that the gate comes in. The gate can be solid or wire and can be be straight or bent. Below we cover what that looks like and why you’d choose one vs the other.

Non Locking Carabiner Gate Types 1

Solid vs Wire Gates

Nearly every locking carabiner made today has a solid gate (1 exception), but non-locking carabiners come in one of two types:

  • Solid gate – A machined or forged piece of solid metal
  • Wire gate – A drawn and bent piece of wire

In addition to looks and weight, what the gate is made of affects the shape of the nose of the carabiner, how it opens and closes, and its overall strength. Depending on where you use them, both options have some pros and cons.

Solid Gates

Solid gate carabiners are the most common type of carabiner made today. They are often fairly compact in size, and have a robust ‘solid’ feel in the hand because the gate and body are made of a similar thickness of material. There are about twice as many solid gates on the market as wire gates and most them are offset D shaped, one of the strongest carabiner shapes.

The Petzl Djinn is a solid gate carabiner. This particular gate is straight although it also comes in a bent gate version.

Solid gates usually have a milled slot in the end where the gate meets the nose of the carabiner when it is closed. This slot is precision cut to pair up with the body of the gate, making for a very strong connection. Most solid gate carabiners use a keylock construction which means solid gates are usually shaped to accept a nose that is smooth and not hooked, which is much less prone to snagging on things when you unclip them.

The spring action that closes a solid gate is also quite snappy thanks to a spring steel insert that pushes the gate closed. Many climbers prefer a solid gate on the top carabiner of their quickdraws as they find them easier to press into a bolt hanger, and that satisfying ‘snap’ gives them that feel-good auditory feedback that they are properly clipped.

Because the gate is the same thickness as the rest of the body, a solid gate takes up a bit more space in the basket of a carabiner than a wire gate, which usually means a smaller gate opening. This can make them a little less versatile for situations where you need to clip or unclip multiple things, or for tying knots or hitches.

The thick solid gates also absorb forces from sudden loading (say when you take a whip with a small amount of rope out) and transfer it to the tip of the gate, sometimes creating a situation known as ‘gate flutter’. This flutter can mean your carabiner might open in certain specific circumstances and be much weaker than its closed and rated strength. You can check out a post explaining this complicated and nuanced phenomenon here. Bottom line: a momentarily open solid gate is weaker than a closed/stretched wire gate. This was a big conversation in the 2010’s but since no known fatalities have been cited to this disadvantage, it’s rarely mentioned today.


  • Strength – More material and a solid connection at the nose means solid gates are often a few kN stronger than their wire counterparts
  • Snappy – Solid gates have stiff springs that push them closed
  • Minimal snagging – For keylock solid gates (and most are keylock)


  • Narrower Gate Opening – The gate is thicker, so it takes up a bit more space
  • Heavier – More material means more weight when compared to other options
  • More prone to ‘gate flutter’ – When solid gate carabiners are suddenly loaded, the inertia can cause the gate to quickly open and close, reducing the carabiner’s strength

Popular solid gate examples:

Wire Gates

Traditional wire gate carabiners use a piece of bent stainless steel wire instead of round aluminum stock for their closure. The wire is formed to pass up from the body and over a hooked nose then back down. Both ends of the wire are riveted through the bottom of the carabiner with a slight gap between them which essentially makes the gate itself a spring that keeps itself pressed against the nose, closing the carabiner.

The CAMP Nano 22 is a popular lightweight wire gate carabiner. It has a straight wire gate, as the wire is straight where you would put your finger to open it (it's not considered bent even though the wire bends to fit around the nose of the carabiner).

With less material at play, wire gates are lighter and tend to have larger gate openings than solid gates. This means they can also be made smaller in size without sacrificing clipping space, which makes them a desirable choice for lightweight mountaineering, multi-pitch trad, alpine, and aid climbing, where weight can matter a lot. Many trad climbers rack their cams on wire gates to keep them as light as possible. The open gap in wire gates also allows dirt and ice to easily pass through them, which makes them less likely to freeze up in icy conditions.

The trade-off of switching to wire requires the gate to have a highly positive connection to the nose via a hooked shape. This hooking over the notch is necessary for the closed gate to transfer force to the nose when the carabiner is pulled. The hooked nose on most wire gates can be a bother to some folks when it comes to unclipping them from gear, especially thinner soft goods like slings and cord which are much easier to snag on.

Wire Gate Pros

  • Light weight – Less material means lighter carabiners
  • Lower profile – Wire is much thinner, and a thin carabiner can fit in more places
  • Larger gate opening – Smaller diameter gates leave more room for things to be clipped

Wire Gate Cons

  • Hooked noses – To maintain their strength while using wire, the nose of the carabiner has a hook that can be prone to snagging (except for keylock wire gates, described below)

Wire gate carabiner examples:

Keylock Wire Gate

In recent times, several brands have engineered novel ways of reducing the snag issue of a traditional wire gate. So far there have been a couple of approaches: either to shield the hooked nose with extra metal, or to eliminate the hook altogether by modifying the gate. The idea is to allow the carabiner to be light like a wire gate and snag free like all the keylock solid gates.

climbing_technology_berry_w 4
The Climbing Technology Berry W is an example of a straight keylock wire gate carabiner. The extra pieces of metal by the nose prevent any items from snagging.

Something to look out for: the keylock design can often require the nose of the carabiner to become larger, which might make it less ideal for some narrow clipping applications. However there are a couple of models with unique approaches to the ‘key’ and ‘slot’ design such as utilizing specially shaped wire or even moving the hook from the nose to the gate. Of course, these state-of-the-art designs come at a premium price; they’re usually the most expensive non-locking options out there.

Overall these ‘keylock’ wire gates offer some options for the weight conscious climber who prefers a large gate opening and a snagless nose and doesn’t mind spending more for the best-of-both-worlds approach.

Keylock Wire Gate Pros

  • Lighter than solid gates – Less material means a lighter snapgate
  • No-hook noses – Hooded noses or specialized gates mean no snags

Keylock Wire Gate Cons

  • Most expensive option – Materials and extra manufacturing steps make these a more costly option
  • Bigger noses – Many models have large noses that can be tough to clip in small places

Different keylock wire gate examples:

Bent vs Straight Gates

The shape of a carabiner gate plays a big role in its feel and clip-ability in a handful of specific ways. The shape that works best for you can depend on where you use it, what you connect with it, its orientation, or even the size of your hands.

Straight Gate Carabiners

The vast majority of carabiner gates are classified as straight gates. Whether they are solid or wire (or locking and non-locking), a straight gate is the easiest shape to make and forms the strongest connection between the bottom and the nose of a carabiner. Because they are easier to form, straight gates also tend to be the cheapest.

This Wild Country Proton has a solid straight gate. Although there is a slight curved angle on the gate to increase finger traction, that does not make the gate bent.

The flat, smooth edge of straight gates makes them the easiest to clip into stiffer things like bolt hangers and other carabiners, which makes them great for quick draws and anchor components that clip into chains. Straight gates are a great choice for clipping into things where the action is to simply press the carabiner onto its clipping destination and have it clip smoothly without manually opening the gate first.

Straight Gate Pros

  • Flatter, stiffer feedback – a smooth, flat gate makes clipping bolts and carabiners a breeze

Straight Gate Cons

  • Smaller gate opening – the gate can only tilt so far before running into the carabiner body, meaning a slightly smaller gate opening

Straight Gate Examples:

Bent Gate Carabiners

Some carabiner gates are made with a slight bend or curve in them. These bent gates are specifically designed to make it easier to clip a rope into them. Curved gates are intended to help hold and guide the rope into the basket of the carabiner as you clip it, particularly when the carabiner is hanging upside down with the opening at the bottom. This makes them an ideal choice for the bottom of a quickdraw or the racking carabiner on a piece of trad gear, which both hang upside down once placed on or in the wall.

The Wild Country Electron pictured here has a solid, bent gate.

The amount and shape of the bend of a carabiner gate will vary from a slight curve to a pretty extreme banana shape. More curved gates can feel like they practically eat rope all by themselves, where lesser bends can take a little more work to clip rope into. Folks with smaller hands often prefer a more extreme bend as it essentially makes the carabiner narrower from spine to gate, and thereby easier to fit in the palm with a bite of rope.

Bent Gate Pros

  • Smoothest rope clipping – The bend in the gate makes a perfect spot for the rope to rest, making clipping extremely easy
  • Larger gate opening – Curved gates are bent out of the way of the nose and create a wider opening
  • Comfy for small hands – The gate is bent toward the spine of the carabiner allowing for a narrower grip

Bent Gate Cons

  • Work Better Upside-down – Not the best feeling in the hand for clipping into things, work better when hanging for things being clipped into them (smaller hands have a better time)

Bent Gate Carabiner Examples:

Which Gate Type is Best?

It all comes down to: what feels best in your hand and what does your brain intuitively trust. There is no inherently right or wrong choice for gate types on non-locking carabiners.

That said, here are some common overall preferences:

  • Those seeking solid, durable workhorses tend to use more solid gates for their everyday purposes because they are cheap, available, and hold up to a lot of use.
  • When it’s time to cut some weight or get gritty and icy, wire gates tend to be the most common choice, though they do tend to cost a bit more.


Most climbers like straight gates on top and bent gates on bottom. The solid vs wire gate debate is age old and comes down to questions like: Do you like the snappy-ness of a solid gate? Does your brain trust a wire gates? How far are you hiking the weight in?

Racking Carabiners

Trad and ice climbers often like to rack their gear on the lighter carabiners which draws them towards wire gates. Since wire gates freeze less often, they’re also a preferred choice in cold and wet conditions.

To Find The Best Carabiner

We recommend trying out the carabiners your climbing partners and visiting as many gear shops and handling as many carabiners as possible. Often, you will know ‘the one’ after you test it, it’ll either fit in your hand really well, or somehow just make life easier.

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