Carabiners are the most multi-functional pieces of gear that climbers use. The vast majority of models can serve many purposes. There are certain climbing styles and situations where it can be helpful to know the available and/or commonly preferred styles and features. We break down the different styles of climbing in this post to go over when/where/why you might choose one carabiner type over another. 

And for future reference, we’ve used the filters on the carabiner page on WeighMyRack to make it easy to find and choose carabiners based on the different designs and features. The (?) icons next to each filter share tips of when you might want to choose each carabiner type.

The filters (and sort) on are a great way to sift through and compare every carabiner on the planet.

Carabiners for Belaying

The standard for belaying these days is a brake assisted belay device (required in many gyms). Many of these devices (like BD Pilot, Mammut Smart, Edelrid Jul series) lock quicker and better with a carabiner that has a more rounded top that adds more resistance (versus a carabiner with a very thin top area).

The mechanical brake assist devices, like the Petzl GriGri or Trango Vergo, can use any belay carabiner whether it has a rounded or thin top.

It is also pretty common to use an auto-locker for belaying as they give a bit of extra peace of mind when you connect to the rope and yell, “belay on!”

If you prefer a screw-gate carabiner but are looking for alternative safety measures, many brands have gate warnings on their lockers to help climbers visually see that a carabiner needs a bit of extra attention before your climber leaves the ground.

If you prefer to use a tube style device, HMS carabiners made with round material on the basket help the rope move more smoothly through the device. This can also be helpful if you’re rappelling 

The basket on an HMS carabiner is also wide enough for belaying or rappelling with a Münter hitch in case you drop your belay device, or if you happen to be feeling a bit old school.

Some folks enjoy a locker with a keeper gate to keep the carabiner oriented to prevent cross-loading, but you can also use a smaller and compact carabiner to keep the device in close instead.

Carabiners for Top Rope

There are several situations where climbers climb on a top rope hanging from an anchor. If you climb indoors, the gym will already have a system for connecting your rope to the wall, so all you need to worry about is what you use for belaying.

When it comes to climbing outside, you’ll need to have some gear to keep the rope up. In a modern crag with bolted anchors you usually only need a handful of locking carabiners to build a solid anchor for a full day of climbing.

Most climbers use locking D carabiners for their anchors. This can also be a great place for auto-locking carabiners that can’t be opened by dragging on rock, as you know they’ll stay closed when they are out of reach and visibility.

Depending on how close the anchor bolts or chains are, you can also get away with simply using two quickdraws, though some folks prefer to save the wear and tear on their draws.

Often trad climbers (or anyone building a non-bolted anchor) will use multiple pieces of protection. A few wire gate carabiners are useful for equalizing these pieces and then tying into the anchor with a locking carabiner.

Stainless steel lockers or aluminum ones with steel inserts are also great at reducing carabiner wear and keeping ropes clean when used as toprope masterpoints (these can also be handy for belaying with tube-style belay devices or assisted braking belay devices).

Carabiners for Leading

When it comes to leading on bolts, climbers use quickdraws made of 2 non-locking carabiners connected by a ‘dogbone’ of webbing. Quickdraws come in a variety of combinations depending on preference. Straight gate carabiners are the most common for the bolt end of the quickdraw, while bent gates make clipping the rope side easier. Climbers also have the option to use solid gates or wire gates, depending on snappiness or weight, and you can even mix and match them in the same quickdraw.

When leading trad routes, most climbers use wire gate carabiners to help cut on weight (that is added by carrying cams and nuts). Trad climbs can take a lot of gear, and each piece needs to be clipped to the rope, so keeping the weight down is helpful.

In addition to quickdraws and slings, some trad multi-pitch climbers may carry a few loose wiregates to clip to gear like nuts, hexes, or ice screws, which aren’t usually racked with their own individual carabiners.

trango_phase_matte_rack_pack 1

Some brands sell non-lockers in ‘rack packs’ of multiple colors which are handy for color matching to cams and are usually a little cheaper than buying individually.

When leading aid pitches, big wall climbers often have a sling of carabiners over a shoulder for any utility. The need for BIG lockers in aid climbing is nearly endless, as there are a ton of situations involving hauling and fixing gear, with multiple anchors and sometimes huge amounts of weight all clipped together and sharing anchor points.

On Multi Pitch Climbs

Taller climbs that require multiple pitches aren’t too different from a day of single-pitch cragging when it comes to carabiner needs, with a few small additions. ‘Multi pitch climbing’ involves a climber leading to a high point and building an anchor, then belaying their follower(s) up to the anchor, where the whole process starts anew. This is essentially combining everything from leading, belaying, and top roping into a single endeavor, so expect to combine the carabiner needs of all of those activities.

A petzl Reverso being used in guide mode

Belaying from above is a form of top roping that typically involves a guide style tube belay device which hangs from a locking carabiner on the anchor (a small locking D shaped carabiner works great here). The rope then passes over a locker that ensures the rope runs through the belay device (another good place for a round stock HMS).

Once you’re up off the ground, you’ll need some extra locking carabiners to secure yourself to the anchor while you wait to climb the next pitch. Some climbers prefer to use the rope to fix themselves to anchors, so a nice wide HMS locker is handy, but you can also use a PAS and a couple smaller lockers to give yourself some adjustability or flexibility while you ‘hang out’ at the belay.


Finding the best carabiner comes down to knowing where it will be used and what are it’s goals. For example, depending on the job you’ll want a locking or non-locking carabiner. Locking carabiners are great for belying and anchor building. Non-locking carabiners are ideal for quickdraws and racking carabiners. Both sport and trad climbing can utilize carabiners in many different ways and we’ve just touched on the main uses in this post.

The biggest difference in carabiner usage comes in indoor climbing vs outdoor climbing. In the gym, often only one belay carabiner is needed, but going outside requires a lot more gear and knowledge. Finding a guide (or gym to crag program) is a great place to learn what gear is necessary to be safe climbing outdoors.

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.

Want to See All The Carabiners (over 1000)?

At WeighMyRack, we list every carabiner and give you filters for shape, gate type, gate opening, price, weight, brand, and features like visual warning, keylock, available in a rack pack, or if it has a belay keeper. You can also filter by on sale carabiners with discounts >20%.