Gear Review: Black Diamond GridLock Screwgate Carabiner

The GridLock in action. No rope twisting - GOOD!
I got my first look at the Black Diamond GridLock carabiner last fall before it was available in stores and couldn't wait to try it out. Since then, the GridLock made it on to Climbing Magazine's Editor's Choice gear list along with other innovative pieces of gear like Petzl's Grigri 2 . Andy, the incredibly passionate and knowledgeable owner of East Ridge Outfitters, explained the GridLock's purpose and sent me one for testing.

At first glace, it's obvious the GridLock isn't your typical carabiner. It is specifically designed for belaying and to prevent cross loading. Though it looks similar to a pear shaped screw gate carabiner, it's narrower at one end. The gate features an extra prong of metal that keeps the belay loop in place and the carabiner properly oriented. The belay loop stays locked at one end of the carabiner while the belay device and rope stay locked at the wider end.

Once the system is set up, nothing shifts and there is no danger of cross loading (pictured below left - bad!). Essentially, this means that the belayer won't look down and see that the carabiner has turned and either their belay loop or the rope is laying against the gate. It's amazing how frequently this happens, particularly when lead belaying. This position greatly weakens the carabiner itself. Carabiners are designed to take loads on their longest axes, vertically, not width-wise. Depending on who you ask, they're only one half to one third full strength when loaded horizontally.

A pear shaped screwgate 'biner cross loaded - BAD
After testing, I can definitely say the GridLock works as it was intended. I felt comfortable using it and like the added security. The carabiner's designers address a serious problem and solves it without added weight. I typically belay with one of many pear shaped carabiners in my climbing bag, including the Black Diamond Rocklock, Black Diamond Vaporlock and the Petzl Attache. At 2.7 ounces (76 g), the GridLock is certainly comparable in weight thanks to Black Diamond's hot forging techniques. (Take a look at the manual here.)

The only issues I can see with the GridLock are cost and ease of use. At $19.95, it's a little more expensive than your average carabiner. However, the GridLock takes care of cross loading and to me, that's priceless. The other downside of the GridLock is that it's only designed for belaying. I don't mind adding a carabiner with one purpose to my pile of gear, but that might not be true for everyone.  Though the design is intuitive, it takes several uses to figure out how to clip and unclip it efficiently. Once you do, you're set.

The GridLock from start to finish, right to left.

Bottom line - I'd definitely recommend the GridLock, and can see it becoming a vital piece of gear for me. If you're a Pennsylvania climber, head over to East Ridge Outfitters and pick one up!

I got my GridLock from East Ridge Outfitters as a complimentary sample, but as always, the opinions expressed here are my own.

Comments

Whoa, 20 bucks for a biner.  Yeah no thanks.  I like that it prevents cross loading but why not lower the price a bit so it is worthwhile as an essential tool for everyone.  Does it really cost that much more to make than other biners?  I don't know I'm not an engineer...
Justin Hook said…
Great review. I've been interested in this since I read about it in climbing magazine.  I'll definitely be getting one for belaying.  Thanks for sharing!
Gif said…
Nice review, Katie.  I recently picked one of these up and they are pretty sweet!  They are completely useless for multi-pitch in my opinion.  But for single pitch, they are awesome.  I put the small end on my belay loop and the large end has the device.  Opposite to your picture.  Seems fast to set up that way.  
Katie L. said…
Thanks Gif! I can imagine if you have a Grigri or other larger belay device, you'd need to attach the device to the larger end, which still seems perfectly acceptable to me. My belay loop is almost too wide to fit in the smaller end, so I prefer the setup in the photos. And yes, I could see how it might be a pain for multipitch climbs, but I climb almost exclusively single pitch, so it's not an issue right now :)
Katie L. said…
awesome, Justin! come back and tell me what you think of it.
Katie L. said…
It's true; the GridLock is almost twice the price of most 'biners I use for belaying, and it's really only good for belaying. But I think between the hot forging technique (which makes it lighter) and the functionality, it's worth it. I doubt it costs more to make, though I'm not an engineer, but the cost could more likely come from the fact that it's a really unique, new technology designed to keep us safer. To me, that's priceless!
Amy Jurries said…
Great review Katie! I am hoping to get one for single pitch ice climbing next winter!
Katie L. said…
oooh, good call Amy! I'll have to test it out when it gets cold again.
according to the manual if you use a grigri you attach it to the smaller end. There is a skull and crossbones picture with it rigged the other way.

Have you tried rappelling on it? seems like if your belay loop won't fit through the small end, neither will two ropes.
Katie L. said…
I could see rappelling being tricky....this device definitely seems most suited to single pitch climbing.
Paul said…
I'm just curious why you believe this biner is "only designed for belaying." Where did you here that from? I have this biner, but have not used it yet. I plan using it for rappelling. Just looking at it, it appears to be fine for that function too.
Katie said…
I think it could be fine for rappelling, agreed. It certainly functions the same way, if not better than any other carabiner you'd use for rappelling. But I know finagling with the extra prong could be an issue for me when I'm hanging out at a set of anchors. But I think if you dial in the use of the extra prong and rope management, though, it could definitely be used for rappelling. If you do use it for rappelling, let me know! I'm curious as to how it'll work when you're not on the ground. Thanks for the question!
Jako said…
First pic is complete nonsense. Never use the biner That Way!