After taking a lead climbing class and/or learning to lead climb outside, the next step for a young climber is to buy her own rope and rock climbing quickdraws. Quickdraws are simple equipment which will allow you to climb any outdoors route which is already pre-equipped with bolts. Routes with bolts are called ‘sport routes’. There are also ‘trad routes’, which require considerably more gear and knowledge. Most gym-to-crag climbers start with sport climbing outside, as lead climbing outside is very similar to lead climbing in a climbing gym.
In this article, we’ll review the parts of a quickdraw, the uses of quickdraws, and review some of the more popular quickdraw options.
What is a Quickdraw?
A quickdraw can be defined as any two carabiners, attached together with a sling or “dogbone”. Modern sport climbing quickdraws are made of two non-locking carabiners, attached with a rigid dyneema dogbone. The rope-side carabiner is usually held in place with a small rubber piece, which prevents rotations. The bolt-side carabiner can rotate freely.
Sport Climbing Quickdraws
The carabiners on a sport climbing quickdraw are connected with a rugged “dogbone”, usually made of sewn dyneema. Dogbones come in thick and thin varities, but most beginner sport climbers prefer thick dogbones, as they’re easier and comfier to grab when you’re struggling on a route.
Trad Climbing Quickdraws
Trad climbers use “alpine draws“, which replace the dogbone with a long dyneema or nylon sling. A couple alpine draws can be useful for sport climbing routes which wander or go under roofs, but in general, bolted routes avoid features like that. Leave the trad gear for after at least a season of outdoor sport climbing.
How Many Quickdraws Do I Need?
It depends on what your local climbing is like. But in general, between 10 and 15 quickdraws is enough quickdraws to start climbing.
Keep in mind you’ll need one quickdraw for every bolt on your route, plus at least two more for the anchors.
If you plan on doing a lot of top-roping, it can be a good idea to customise two of your quickdraws with steel locking carabiners, which will last forever — regular aluminum quickdraws will wear out quickly if they are regularly used for top-roping.
Best Quickdraws / Quickdraw Reviews
Black Diamond Freewire
Pros: Cheap(ish), cool colors, thick 18mm dogbone
Cons: Wiregate carabiners on both sides, can easily snag on bolt hangers
These are great draws, from a reputable brand, and pretty cheap. The main downside is these draws have wiregate carabiners on both sides, which can often get hung up on bolt hangers. Still, a great choice for a budget-conscious climber who doesn’t want to go with an even cheaper mark like Mad Rock or Omega Pacific (see below).
Black Diamond PosiWire Quickdraws
Pros: Keylock biner on bolt side, wiregate for rope; good beginner draw
Cons: Expensive; a bit heavy; so popular that you may get yours mixed up at the crag
A classic beginner quickdraw, the PosiWire is tried and true. Unfortunately, due to the increasing popularity of sport climbing, Black Diamond has recently increased the price of this model to a whopping $100 for six draws. They used to be considerably cheaper. Still, this is a great beginner set.
Petzl Ange Quickdraw
Price: $25.95 on Amazon
Pros: Super lightweight, great carabiners, top-of-the-line
Cons: EXPENSIVE!; skinny dogbone isn’t great for projecting
The Petzl Ange Quickdraw is one of the most expensive quickdraws on the market. That said, the premium, ultralight carabiners and slim dogbone speak for themselves. For the weight-conscious climber, these puppies are the way to go. They are not available in a multi-pack, so maybe buy one or two and see how you like them, before commiting to a full set?
Petzl Djinn Axess Quickdraws
Pros: Nice feel; high quality; good dogbone; keylock biner clips to bolts easily
Cons: Keylock biners on rope side add a bit of weight
If the Petzl Ange quickdraws are a bit too expensive for you, try the Djinns. The Djinn quickdraws have keylock carabiners on both ends, which means nothing will get hung up in the carabiner notches. This does mean they’re a bit heavier than other quickdraws in this roundup, however. Still, Petzl is renowned for high quality products, and we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Omega Pacific OmegaLite 4.0
Price: $46.98 on Amazon (pack of 5)
Cons: Carabiners aren’t as nice, bolt-side carabiners can snag on gate notches
Omega Pacific has a long history of making affordable, safe climbing gear. Their quickdraws fall into this category as well. As one of the cheaper options on the market, these are a great starter set of budget quickdraws for the cash-strapped climber. The action on the carabiners isn’t quite as smooth as some of the more expensive options in this roundup, but they’ll catch a fall just fine.
Mad Rock Concorde Quickdraws
Cons: Carabiners a bit smaller than ideal
Mad Rock is one of the cheapest rock climbing brands out there. You will see many boulderers using their crash pads, because they are consistently the cheapest on the market. It’s important to remember, cheap doesn’t mean unreliable. All climbing gear on the market is designed and tested to meet rigid safety requirements. So don’t feel as if you need to buy a more expensive product in order to be safe.
The Mad Rock quickdraws work just fine, and are hard to beat for the price. The small dogbones aren’t great for grabbing, but they will definitely hold you when you whip, instead.
Quick Draw FAQS
These all look the same
At the end of the day, these are all quickdraws. We can compare grams and carabiner types and the “gate action”, but ultimately, they are all very similar devices. Price and personal preference will play the biggest role in deciding which quickdraws to buy.
Don’t overthink it.
As a beginner climber, the simple truth is you should buy the cheapest draws you’re comfortable with. By the time you need to buy new ones, you’ll understand a lot more about what you like and what you don’t like.
Can I make my own quickdraws?
Absolutely. You can switch out the carabiners and dogbones at will. Many trad climbers make extendable alpine quickdraws using spare slings and carabiners. You can do the same.
Some climbers like to make “locking quickdraws” by attaching small locking carabiners to dogbones. These can be used for top-roping or on bolts where you’re worried that a carabiner gate might come unclipped.
It is generally NOT cheaper to make your own quickdraws.
Does quickdraw length matter?
Not really. Sport climbing routes tend to go in a straight line, which means there is little need for long runners. It’s a good idea to have a couple quickdraws with longer dogbones (17cm), for bolts where a standard quickdraw might lay against an edge or a roof.
In general, 10 or 12-centimeter dogbones are standard.
The paint is rubbing off on my quickdraws. Is this safe?
This is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL and TOTALLY SAFE. What you see in the photo above is just the anodization (colouring) wearing off the carabiner. When the rope runs over the aluminium, in a fall or during a lower, it scrapes off the anodization. This is normal and should be expected.
Eventually, with enough use, the rope will start wearing deeper grooves into the carabiners. When this groove starts to get a couple millimeters deep, then it’s time to start thinking about replacing your quickdraws.
Should I mix and match my quickdraws?
Generally we’d recommend buying all one type. This just makes it easier to pick a draw off your harness — because they’re all the same! If you are trying to pick and choose a specific draw, and they’re all totally different, you will waste more time and energy trying to figure out what’s going on – pumping you out and making it more likely you’ll fall!
So just stick to one type of draw for convenience.
Sport climbing isn’t rocket science, and neither is buying quickdraws. Find a set in your budget, and buy 10-15 of them. Make sure you’re comfortable clipping while lead climbing and lead belaying, then get out there and have some fun!!