A Guide to Types of Climbing Carabiners

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Confused about climbing and mountaineering carabiners? Well, in this guide we hope to help you out.

A carabiner or karabiner (colloquially a crab, D ring, krab, or biner) is a metal loop with a gate.

The word comes from the German word Karabinerhaken, which means a hook for hanging a Carbine, a type of rifle.  Nowadays it refers to the metal loops used in climbing and mountaineering.

The gates are either sprung or non-sprung.  Sprung gates can be manual locking, auto locking or non-locking.  The opposite side to the gate is referred to as the spine. Carabiners also differ in shape.

So, what carabiner do you need and how can I tell which one is suitable for my needs?

Carabiners have lots of stuff stamped on them. Typically it has UIAA, CE and EN standard markings stamped on it. This gives the basis of its use.

The UIAA, the Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme, is a standards organisation that regulates climbing equipment. They do not have their own set of standards but in effect follow the EN standards. To ensure your safety, all carabiners you use should be stamped 'UIAA'.

CE standards closely follow EN standards and a more relevant to equipment used for occupational purposes and as such not covered by this guide. 

The EN standard for carabiners is EN12755. All carabiners sold in the EU must be stamped with an EN12755 to be suitable for use.

The EN12755 standard is broken down into 6 sub-types i.e. B, X, D, H, K and Q.
So, to recap, look for a UIAA and EN12755 standard marks as a basic starting point.

Now, an explanation the sub-types of the EN12755 standard.

K (Klettersteig) - for use when participating in Via Ferrata. Carabiners attached to a Via Ferrata lanyard must carry this sub-type mark. They must have auto-locking gates.

X (Oval shaped) - various designs of oval shaped carabiners with a strength rating for all axis.

D (Directional) - various designs of sprung gate not rated with a gate open strength. The type usually used in quickdraws where all the weight should be taken on the major axis.

H (HMS) - short for Halbmastwurfsicherung a big German word for Munter (Italian) Hitch, a type of belay knot. Carabiners of this type will be suitable for use with a knot of this type i.e. pear shaped.

Q (Quicklinks) - Mallions, manual screw gate, strong and basic links. A whole other topic really.

B (Basic) - Do not be confused by the term. These are the strongest of carabiners under the EN12755 standard. Use is based on design.

If your looking for an HMS carabiner for instance get either an H type or a B type that is pear shaped with a sprung manual locking gate. Some confusion can be found here because in climbing parlance an HMS carabiner will be any carabiner that can be used with a Munter hitch regardless of whether it’s an H type or a B type of the correct design.

Best piece of advice is this. Don’t buy a carabiner that does not have the UIAA and EN12755 marks.

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