A Paddler’s Guide to Karabiners

Karbiners, Carabiners, Krabs, Steelies, Screwgates, Snaplinks, Wiregates… It all gets a little bit confusing. They all essentially do the same job – that is to safely attach one item to another – but in different ways. There’s literally hundreds of different types out there, so hopefully, this guide should help you work out what you need.

On the river:

For canoeing and kayaking karabiners get used for lots of different jobs – towing kayaks, clipping gear in to boats, live baiting and as part of pulley systems. The three main ones that get used are below:

Left to right: Large  “River” snapgate, HMS Screwgate, Twist-lock

  • “River” snapgates are mainly used for towing other boats, using a sling or tape. Their large profile allows them to fit over chunky grab handles on boats. Similary, they can be clipped over a paddle shaft, to be used in a paddle-javelin rescue with a throwbag.
  • HMS Screwgate karainers get used for pretty much everything on the river. The screw lock is designed to stop the gate popping open, making them more secure than a normal snap gate – ideal for rigging pulley systems, where they are left unattended. This extra security also makes them the karabiner of choice for clipping on to bouyancy aids for live bait rescues. Their shape allows them to accept an Italian hitch, so they can be used to abseil on (or more likely, take up the slack on a 4:1 “pig rig” system).
  • The gate on twist-lock karabiners need to be pushed upwards, then twisted to open. This makes them less likely to come undone than a screwgate (which occasionally can come undone if the gate rubs on an edge). Twist-locks are the karabiner of choice to use as paddle hooks to clip on to pinned boats, as the gate snaps shut automatically and they’re unlikely to come undone. They can be used for other things, but they tend to baffle those that haven’t seen them before! You don’t see them being used very often , but it is worth familiarising yourself with them.

What about “not for climbing” karabiners?

Krabs stamped with “not for climbing” are not load bearing. Useful for clipping gear on to your rucksack maybe, but they will snap at shockingly low forces. Avoid.

What should I carry?

Most people will carry a snapgate river karabiner and a sling/tape on their person, to tow boats in a rescue scenario. I find myself doing this more on lower grade rivers and resorting to just shunting boats in to eddies on anything over grade 2. When paddling as part of a group on white water, I think its worth carrying three screwgates – one on your throwline and one in your bouyancy aid, with your prussik loops, with the other used to clip gear in to your boat. As a group, you then have enough to deal with pretty much anything! If you’re coaching others on white water, you can’t always assume they’ll be carrying them, so it’s worth carrying enough screwgates to be able set up a Z-drag on your own. Use them to clip kit in to your boat and you won’t even notice they’re there.

The short answer: 1 x river snapgate, 3 x HMS Screwgates*

– Usual proviso about opinions applies…

*One of your HMS screwgates can obviously be used to tow with. It’s a matter of what works best for you.

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One Response to A Paddler’s Guide to Karabiners

  1. Some really good advice here! imagine your river leader’s swam, ends up on the other side of a 30 meter wide river, there boats pined in the middle and because there you’re leader they have all the safety gear in there boat and on them in person. How are you going to rescue them?

    Opens your eyes a bit!

    Nuff Said.

    These twist lock crabs… were to start eyyy… well going into a shop and playing with one. OOOO these are pretty cool, I’ll get one of these they’ll be well use full.
    NO resist the urge. I’ve done it and then realised it was a mistake.

    There great for climbing with beginners for setting up belays as they don’t know how to undo them so the climbers safe.

    The kayaking snap gate is just brilliant, you can get it around paddles, easy to clip on grab handles and most of all really easy to use when your freezing cold at the end of the day when someone’s just taken a swim and the boats pinned in the middle of the river. They snap on really easily and really user friendly.

    Screwgates are the best thing since kayaks were made. They offer that extra bit of protection especially when live bating (would be good to see a little blog post on that 😉 ) and should be used when ever a human is ivolved. when you learn about live bating you’ll find out why this is exactly.

    But when your next out on the river, mainly white water, take Ians advice! Take responsibility, get your self some basic safety kit. 1 snap gate, 2 screw gates, tape or sling, knife, throw line. by my estimates that adds up to £8 + £20 + £8 + £10 + £25 = £67 not a lot for someones life or £800 boat and £300 paddle.

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