Gear Review: Black Diamond Magnetron
Black Diamond Magnetron Carabiner
With the spring climbing season quickly approaching (gotta think positive, right?), there will be lots of new climbers looking to outfit themselves or their friends and loved ones with the essentials of rock climbing: a harness, climbing shoes, belay device and locking carabiner. It’s important to note that climbing equipment has been rapidly evolving these last few years, with things like belay devices and shoes now being designed with unpronounceable materials and developed using technology that probably doesn’t really exist yet. One critical component of this start-up package however, has consistently remained neglected in the evolutionary background: the locking carabiner. For the longest time, locking carabiners just didn’t have the same cool-factor as say, a high-tech Gri-gri or a hot new harness. You know, the kind with 38 gear loops and adjustable leg straps that don’t actually need to be adjusted, but could be adjusted if their standard adjustment wasn’t adjusted just right. Because of this, the locking carabiner has always been the most overlooked and under-appreciated component in a climber’s arsenal. Until now.
Enter Black Diamond’s new Magnetron locking carabiner. To call it “unique” among locking carabiners would be like calling your last belay partner “sketchy;” It just doesn’t do it justice. This innovative and state-of-the-art biner is indeed groundbreaking, in that the locking mechanism it uses to secure its gate utilizes the properties of magnetism to produce an extremely secure and user-friendly design. Nothing like it has ever been seen before in the climbing world, and the initial release of the Magnetron was unsurprisingly greeted with plenty of raised eyebrows and cautious skepticism. This distrust was quickly proved unfounded as review after shining review came forth applauding the creative new design from the Black Diamond development team. Never ones to take someone else’s “yes” for an answer however, your friendly-but-cynical guides at V.R.O.S. decided to see for ourselves.
Pinching the buttons on either side of the gate releases the magnetized arms, allowing the gate to pull open. Note the metal insert in the anti-snag, keylock nose.
For months of daily use in every aspect of rock climbing, we put this biner through its paces to see what all the hype was about. From standard belay duty to rappelling, anchor building and multi-pitch applications, we compiled a list of strengths and weaknesses to help you make a better informed decision. Rest assured: the pros greatly outweigh the cons. What we like most about this carabiner is its ease of use. The Magnetron offers the security and convenience of an auto-locking carabiner with an ease of opening approaching that of an unlocked screw-gate. The Magnetron’s gate is unlocked by simply squeezing or pinching easy to find and feel buttons on either side of the gate. This action essentially levers the two magnetized arms away from the metal insert in the key-lock (anti-snag) nose of the biner. This allows the gate to be pulled back, revealing a generously large opening we had no problem loading with a rappel device stuffed with thick double ropes. Let go of the gate and it will snap back into place, the metal insert in the nose pulling the magnetized locking arms back into place instantly.
When the gate is open, the magnetized arms strongly repel each other ensuring that it will close and lock smoothly.
The advantage was immediately obvious: here was an auto-locking carabiner that didn’t require the dexterity of a piano-playing surgeon to unlock and open quickly. The design is 100% ambidextrous, takes hardly any effort to affect and we found it to be surprisingly easy to open even while wearing gloves. Additionally, the gate and locking mechanism is uncannily streamlined; no longer do you have to put up with the added bulk and weight of standard mechanical auto-locking biners. In fact, the Magnetron is even smoother and less snag-prone than the time-tested screw-gate! This means that it is far less likely to get stuck cross-loaded (tensioned along the shorter, weaker axis) in a belay situation, as well as easing the “clip-and-flip,” a common practice in trad and multi-pitch climbing to quickly get the gate facing the safest direction. The full size HMS-style design allows for versatility of use, and its full strength rating provides peace of mind. There are even reports of testers placing this biner in a vice in an attempt to get the gate to fail below its rated strength, all unsuccessfully.
The author on belay with the Magnetron, a few pitches up the East face of Seneca Rocks, WV.
So what are the cons, you ask? Inevitably there are a few. While highly effective at both top-rope and lead belaying, we preferred the screw-gate locker for building anchors as it was just a little bit quicker and easier to get our ropes in. And while the Magnetron also shines at rappel duty, we again opted for the screw-gate in multi-pitch environments for anything other than belaying and rappelling, where the ability to get ropes clipped in and locked safe with only one hand is often a necessity. Finally, while this is a full size HMS carabiner, it falls a little short when used with its namesake munter hitch. Not because of the size or smoothness but rather because it takes two hands to load either a munter or clove hitch into the Magnetron. The screw-gate wins here again. In summary, we found the Black Diamond Magnetron to be a fantastic carbiner for every day belay duty as well as for use with a rappel device. Plus, the cool factor can’t be overlooked. Stop by our gear shop and see for yourself!
Stay tuned for more tips, reviews and skill clinics coming your way from the guides at Vertical Rock Outdoor School. Interested in trying your hand at outdoor climbing or learning the ins and outs of backpacking efficiently? Call or email us today to start setting up your next outdoor adventure!
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