The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Black Diamond Oz Carabiner: So Hot Right Now
Posted on: August 28, 2010
Weight: 1 ounce (28 grams)
I recently toured the Black Diamond factory around the time when they installed a new hot-forged carabiner production line. First in the industry to handle hot forging in-house, BD was understandably excited about this technology, which takes superheated aluminum-zinc rod stock and presses it into designs that radically reduce the weight of a 'biner. The popular Neutrino carabiner was then released in a hot-forged model called the Oz, netting a 22-percent decrease in weight with only a 16.5-percent decrease in strength. With the Oz, BD was advancing the use of traditional materials and using massive amounts of test data to carefully shift the line of strength in carabiners to a sufficient, albeit lower standard.
This spring I tested the Oz, and found a hot-forged, wire-gate beauty that weighs just 1 ounce (28 grams) and shaves 8 grams off a Neutrino. The Oz mirrors all Neutrino specs except for closed gate strength, which drops to 20 kN (4496 lbf) versus 24 kN (5395 lbf) in the Neutrino. The 22-millimeter gate opening works well, even in high load, or high stress situations, and its wiregate allows snow to pass through, an essential in the alpine.
Assuming a typical trad rack consists of a double set of cams from a .3 to 3 Camalot, 6-8 stoppers, 8 alpine draws, and 6-8 spare biners, the average rack has 30-40 non-locking carabiners. Thus, replacing Neutrinos with Oz 'biners would shave between a half and three-quarters pound from your rack. Does this matter? If you apply this strategy to every item in your backcountry kit, it really does. Take your 36-pound pack, reduce each item by 22 percent and you end up with a 28-pound pack—the same as removing a gallon of water.
I climb and guide primarily in the Cascades, where long approaches are the standard. In an effort to lighten my pack, I initially changed out big items such as my pack, sleeping bag and cooking system, and then moved on to smaller things like carabiners, cams and slings. I also changed my strategy, eliminating unnecessary gear and carrying a shorter rope when possible.
Lightweight gear usually comes with a downside, and the Oz is no exception. In addition to a higher price tag ($8.50 per 'biner), you have a weaker, yet appropriate overall strength. Perhaps most critically, the lighter and smaller Oz is a bit harder to clip than a full-size 'biner and has a flatter, edgier shape, which makes it easy to fumble with cold hands. Its classic design still has a nose that catches the wiregate—and, unfortunately, can snag on a sling or piece of gear on occasion. While these are downsides, they are reasonable compromises to make in the interest of going lighter.
It would be inappropriate for everyone to replace their 'biners with the Oz, but in the alpine, or other situations where weight is a critical component, the Oz is a pretty hot piece of work. While there are other great lightweight 'biners on the market, the weight and quality of the Oz make it an outstanding piece of gear worthy of the Alpinist Mountain Standards medal.
Pros: Hot-forged construction makes this 'biner extremely strong and lightweight; wiregate allows snow to pass through; gate opening works well, even in high load or high stress situations.
Cons: Harder to clip than a full-size 'biner; easy to fumble with cold hands; nose can snag.