Black Diamond Magnetron GridLock Review: Fast, Light, Screw-Free Carabiner

For those who participate in rope-centred sports or performing arts, the carabiner is one of the most important items you own. It's what keeps you attached to your rope, and thus, your head attached to your spinal column. But locking carabiners have always been unwieldy and hard to manipulate. Black Diamond wants to change that -- with magnets.

What Is It?

A locking carabiner that uses magnets for the locking mechanism, instead of a knurled screw-down sleeve.

Who's It For?

People who frequently clip in and out of a harness and want the transition to be fast and effortless.

Design

Gorgeous. At only 78 grams, it feels featherweight but solidly built. The heart of it is the double-sided magnetic locking mechanism.

Using It

You simply pinch the sides and fold the arm in. Put the rope through, let go and it clips closed.

The Best Part

It is so incredibly easy to use. One-handed operation (right-handed or left-handed) is fast and breezy, but it's just as secure than those pain-in-the-arse barrel-locking mechanisms. Having spent a lot of time with carabiners over the last 20 years (rock-climbing, and, yes, low-flying trapeze work -- shut up), this actually feels revolutionary. For what it's worth, I never use that word in reviews.

Tragic Flaw

They're kinda expensive. $42.95 RRP in Australia for the belay version we tested, and $34.95 for the standard version. You can get a Black Diamond 'biner with the same specs for strength for a lot less -- so these are only worth it if you clip in and out a lot or if speed might be an issue.

This Is Weird...

Each of the locking gates has a magnet in it, and they are attracted to two magnets inside the cradle (where it closes). The magnets in the gates oppose each other, so when it's not disconnected, the gates are held wide open without springs. Then they clip themselves in when they reach the cradle. Weird and genius.

Test Notes

  • There are no sharp edges to catch and fray your rope, which has been a problem with literally every other carabiner I have ever used.
  • My worry was that the locking mechanism could get pinched between a rope and your body (or a rock wall) and accidentally release. I spent about 15 minutes trying to to make that happen and I could not. I wouldn't think it's as 100 per cent foolproof as a barrel lock, but I couldn't make it fail.
  • I did everything I could to break the mechanism. Slammed it on the ground, rubbed a bunch of zen magnets all over it and crammed enough dirt in there to make the hinges freeze. But after a single tap on my shoe, it was clear again. Very solid.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. If you use caribiners regularly for work or sports, absolutely. If the price wasn't quite so high, I'd replace all of my 'biners with this one. It's exceedingly rare that I get to use the term "breakthrough", but that's exactly what this feels like. I am head over heels for this thing.

Black Diamond Magnetron GridLock Belay Carabiner

• Gate type: Auto-lockT • Gate open clearance: 21mm • Strength (major axis closed): 22 kilonewtons • Strength (major axis open): 8 kilonewtons • Strength (minor axis): 7 kilonewtons • Weight: 78g. • Price: $42.95 RRP in Australia

Music: Everlone