Climbers Soon To Trust Life To Magnets

They won’t be available to consumers until July 2012. But this week Black Diamond Equipment announced an unusual and potentially game-changing piece of gear for climbers. The RockLock and GridLock Magnetron carabiners will use “magnetic fields” instead of screw gates or spring-loaded sleeves to lock shut. The company touts the ‘biners as “more secure versus other spring-locking mechanisms on the market” and “a stronger and more reliable system than possible with springs.”

Magnetron carabiners.jpg

Black Diamond Magnetron carabiners

As described in the press materials, unlocking the carabiner requires overcoming the magnetic force between the “locking arms” on the gate and a steel insert in the nose of the carabiner. As the carabiner opens, the magnets repel each other, keeping the tiny locking arms from dragging. This allows it to close and lock again easily and without interference, the company says.

There are two independent actions required to unlock the gate: First, a climber must squeeze the levers on either side of the ‘biner gate. Then, the climber has to push open the gate and “overcome a magnetic force on each side of the carabiner” in order to release the gate. Once open, the opposing magnets will hold the arms apart until you’re ready to clip and “lock” the carabiner again.

Magnetron biners.jpg

Pinch the tiny arms and push in to overcome the magnetic field and open ‘biner gate

A neat innovation for sure. By the looks of it, Black Diamond has put a ton of engineering horsepower into the Magnetron carabiners. But would you trust your life to magnetic fields and tiny locking arms? By next summer, climbers will have that option, trading long-used spring-loaded ‘biners for the magnet-activated type.

Magnetron biner close-up.jpg

Close-up: Magnet arms and tiny steel insert in nose of ‘biner

More information and a demonstration video are here on BD’s “Journal” blog.

—Stephen Regenold

Posted by T.C. Worley - 07/13/2011 03:18 PM

Any word on the weight verses more traditional biners?

Posted by Jordan - 07/14/2011 11:41 AM


Posted by Sam - 07/23/2011 09:47 AM

Cool, but I am not sure this will see wide acceptance in the climbing community – unless its significantly cheaper and lighter (both of which I doubt) than a screwgate, I don’t see why anyone would prefer to trust their life in a magnetic mechanism over the easily understood and perfectly safe Newtonian mechanics of screwgates.

Posted by jpc - 07/26/2011 10:42 AM

The magnets simply pull the lock closed. The climber does not ‘trust their life’ to the magnets.

I think it is clear that anyone that understand and uses locking ‘biners on a regular basis would love to replace their screwlock or ball-lock ‘biners with these.

Posted by 54 - 07/29/2011 01:14 PM

Magnets sometimes loses their magnetism when knocked hard or dropped. Something to think about.

Posted by Stu - 08/02/2011 06:08 AM

What if the biner is jammed between two points? it could pinch both sides leaving it unlocked.
As with twist gates (not screw) it lock automatically, i don’t want that because ill have to use the little buttons every time i open it even if its on my harness.
it looks a bit chunky.
Is likely to be far too expensive and is in no way a revelation like BD describes it as.

Posted by Kieran - 08/05/2011 01:15 PM

The magnets are gonna get clogged with little pieces of metal ore containing rock fragments any time they spend time near the dirt. But otherwise, I like.

Posted by Lil' Pete - 08/06/2011 12:21 PM

“I think it is clear that anyone that understand and uses locking ‘biners on a regular basis would love to replace their screwlock or ball-lock ‘biners with these.”

Hell no!!!! I like my rigging, locked down and immovable. I’m sure these are bomber but I want to play with them to destruction before I use them anywhere.

Posted by Dutchy - 03/11/2012 01:02 AM

I believe they weren’t the first.
Skylotec has one available since March 2011.

Posted by Trevor - 11/27/2012 06:12 PM

In no way is anyone “trusting their life to magnets”, this is just an alternate way to ensure the gate doesn’t open on it’s own, which is very rare to even happen in the first place.

Posted by Kend0 - 06/23/2013 08:18 AM

Magnets and compassess don’t mix!

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