Black Diamond announced carabiners with magnetically-locking gates — dubbed Magentron — in mid July 2011. They were slated to come to market a year later, in July 2012, however only now have they started showing up in gear shops.
I first saw, and played with, the Magentron ‘biners at the 2011 Outdoor Retailer market. While definitely a cool – for lack of a better word – invention, they raised more questions than they answered: will the metal bits rust? will the magnets attract dirt? will they freeze? what if they do freeze? how will they handle with big gloves?
Of course, none of these questions could be thoroughly answered until I could get at least one of these ‘biners out into the wilds of a Canadian Rockies winter…
So as soon as I got my hands on one, a RockLock, it went onto my harness and we headed for some ice. My impressions so far are very positive. The magnetic gate appears bulky, but is in fact not much bigger than regular screwlocks, and easily passes through bolts and belay devices. Nor is it significantly heavier than a screwlock mechanism – about 3 grams on my scale. It snaps closed with a satisfying thunk, and the whole thing feels quite solid in hand. Despite my worst intentions, the magnets didn’t freeze or attract any more dirt than my other lockers. Neither have the metal inserts rusted, despite being left intentionally wet overnight in my garage.
My only niggle, and I’m nitpicking here, and I’m also sure it’s something that time will take care of, is the actual action of opening the gate – squeezing the two ‘prongs’ and pulling back is unnatural when you’re used to either screw- or twist- locking carabiners. But, as this is a whole new way of doing things, I’m sure a few days of use and it will feel as natural as any other mode of opening.
Only time will tell if prolonged use will reveal any faults in the Magnetron design but so far it looks like a great new addition to locking carabiners!