Does size matter? This question, historically the domain of trashy women’s magazines, is now relevant to the ever-evolving climbing gear industry–in particular, rapidly shrinking carabiners. The Metolius FS Mini wiregate now stands as the smallest full-strength carabiner on the market. It looks and feels like the imitation ‘biners my non-climber friends use as key chains, but with a strength rating of 22 kN.
As manufactures make gear lighter, they often make it smaller. “Small” becomes “nano” and nano becomes “mini.” The savings of a few grams per ‘biner on a full trad rack translates into a major reduction in weight. But at some point, the shrinking size begins to seriously undercut in-the-field utility.
Available in a melange of colors to match various cams (or color-coordinated outfits), the FS Mini is significantly smaller than similar offerings from competing companies. Even though the C.A.M.P. Nano 23 is 2 grams lighter, for example, it’s significantly larger than the FS Mini.
On an early fall excursion up The Diamond on Colorado’s Long’s Peak, the small gate opening and my cold digits made for several frustrating fumbles on desperate clips. In fact, its size resulted in a near total inability to open and close the gate after clove hitching ropes with diameters larger than 9.4mm. While testing the FS Minis with a set of 8.1mm half ropes, the opening felt spacious and tying clove hitches was a snap. Unfortunately, the twin and half ropes that fit so well were frequently paired with gloved hands. My decreased dexterity made clipping and tying into the ‘biners just as frustrating, even when the rope size was no longer a problem. The small interior also made it difficult to triple-up a two- or four-foot sling into an alpine draw. I was aggravated as all but the smoothest and skinniest Dyneema runners bunched up when I racked for the next pitch.
The FS Mini works well as an accessory carabiner to hold my chalkbag or approach shoes, but not as a knot-bearing workhorse. I’d recommend larger models like DMM’s Phantom or C.A.M.P.’s Nano 23 that have similar (or lighter) weights while maintaining their functionality in a wider range of situation.
There is definitely such a thing as “too mini” when it comes to carabiners. So does size matter? Yes.
A note to readers: In researching the FS Mini for this review, I came across conflicting weight specs. Some websites and retail stores reported that the ‘biner came in at 25g. Others, including metoliusclimbing.com, reported 23g, which would make it the lightest carabiner on the market along with the Nano 23. To resolve the discrepancy I weighed numerous FS Minis from my local gear shop on a postal scale and came up with a consistent 25g.
Pros: small size saves room in pack; lightweight (but not the lightest).
Cons: limited gate opening doesn’t work for cloves hitches, wide runners, or desperate clips.