Those of you who climb understand the importance of carabiners. This simple, sometimes overlooked piece of gear is often the thing that keeps you (and your partner) from careening down the side of a cliff.
When I first heard of a new autolocking carabiner that uses magnets to keep its gate from springing open, I was skeptical. I was not skeptical of the integrity or safety of the design, but rather of its usefulness and necessity. Although outdoor gear, regardless of the discipline, is constantly getting lighter, shinier, and sexier, I viewed a carabiner locking via magnets as a superfluous, silly gimmick.
However, after first using the Black Diamond Magnetron RockLock Carabiner, I changed my mind. Although you do not need a brand new, sexy ‘biner with a name that sounds like something out of a “Transformers” movie, it’s hard to go back after owning one.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Magnetron, here is an excerpt from Black Diamond’s press release from July 2012: “Magnetic attraction to a steel insert in the carabiner nose keeps two independent arms securely locked… Locking arms must be individually depressed before the gate can be opened. Symmetrical design allows for easy one-handed operation (right or left).”
The simple and user-friendly design sold me on this carabiner. As someone with small hands, I find most standard autolocking carabiners challenging to open nimbly with one hand. Perhaps I am not coordinated enough to do the standard push-up-pull-down-and-twist motion that most autolocking carabiners require, but nonetheless, the Magnetron was much easier to open.
Because of this, I decided to use the Magnetron as both a belay ‘biner, and also for my personal anchor system. It was easy for me to hold onto the rock with one hand and deftly open the gate of the Magnetron to slide into the anchor. Because of its user-friendly design, I found that I was not using the carabiner for making top-rope anchors, for example, but rather for tasks requiring me to constantly open, close, and move around the carabiner.
In addition, I have noticed that some of the standard autolocking carabiners’ gates fail to twist back to a locked position. Sometimes, this happens due to ice or dirt jammed in the hinge that attaches the gate to the rest of the carabiner. This can prevent the carabiner from automatically snapping into a securely locked position, which can be extremely dangerous for the climber. So far, I have found that the Magnetron consistently and securely locks up once I have released the gate, regardless of the environment.
An added bonus to this carabiner is that the “keylock” nose prevents it from snagging on obstacles like ropes, bolts, and other pieces of gear. So far, I have not found anything that makes me doubt its integrity, despite the many skeptics who consider the magnets to be an unsafe gimmick.
Perhaps if the earth’s magnetic poles reversed, or a giant chunk of magnetic rock from outer space slammed into Earth, things might go horribly wrong for all proud Magnetron owners. Until then, the Magnetron is arguably as safe and easy to use as any other autolocking carabiner out there. I think it’s pretty darn stylish, too.