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:
- “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.