I really appreciate innovation. It doesn’t always result in the lightest, best or most versatile piece of gear but I admire the vision and drive to push the possibilities. Sadly, there aren’t that many truly innovative products these days.
Grivel’s Twin Gate carabiner system is firmly in the innovative category. It’s a completely new take on the locking carabiner, pairing two opposing non-locking gates to, effectively, create a ‘locking’ carabiner. Though there is no physical lock — screwlock, twistlock, magnetic, or otherwise — opening the gate is near-impossible without manipulating it with your fingers. I can imagine scenarios in which the gate could be opened by an object, but these are so far-fetched that even if the gate were to magically open, I doubt the ‘biner would come unclipped.
There are several iterations of the Twin Gate system including a dedicated belay-loop capture biner, and several regular biners. Strength ratings are on par with comparable biners, the only differentiation is the unusual Twin Gate configuration.
So how does it work? It’s simple enough to use, and once you’ve practiced it a bit, operating the biners becomes second hand. Clipping them into something is even easier, and there’s never any ‘locking’ to be done afterwards, either. That said, whenever you hand one of these to a less-gear-geeky climber, they peer at it suspiciously and tentatively work the gate(s). Generally, they’ll try this a few more times before declaring it ‘odd’ and insisting on using their ‘regular’ lockers.
The Twin Gate system comes in several flavours: dual-solid, solid-wire, and dual-wire. I’ve used each type a fair bit, so I’ll address each one separately.
Dual-solid, the Mega K6G
This is a traditional pear-shaped belay biner with dual solid-gates. It weighs 84g and is rated at 27/10/10kN. It’s a great shape, and a nice size. I really like the rounded bar-stock on the top, the rest of the biner being an I-beam shape. The gates each have a raised section that functions as a catch, letting you either push or pull the gate open. These are quite small, however, and rather hard to operate with bare fingers. They’re nearly impossible to open with gloves on, even those of the thin, mixed-climbing variety. Additionally, these small, raised ‘catches’ are — just — too wide for a GriGri2’s opening except in one particular orientation. If, like me, you use a GriGri2 a lot this is rather frustrating and annoying. The gate does fit through the hole, but it requires precise alignment and I’d just rather not have another thing to pay attention to. Using it as a regular belay biner is simple and pretty straightforward.
Solid-wire, the Sigma K8G
The Sigma is a larger D-shaped general-purpose biner. It weighs 54g and is rated at 30/11/9kN. It’s a good size, and not too heavy. The inner gate is solid while the outer one is a wiregate. There’s a slight gap between the gates that makes this biner much easier to operate than the Omega. Even with thick belay gloves on there is enough of a gap and ‘catch’ that you can push the wire gate open. The solid, inner gate is a bit harder to open but I’ve found myself pushing the wiregate open with my thumb, then pulling back the inner gate with my index finer. It’s easier done than described. This is my favourite type of Twin Gate, as I feel it’s the easiest to open, and it also looks quite secure with that beefy solid gate on the inside. It’s a thicker and bigger nose than most other lockers, with a different shape as well, and as a result it doesn’t fit through chains, is harder to pass through bolts and it is much more difficult to slip a clove hitch or other knot off. But that’s about the only downside, and this is my favourite of the Twin Gate biners to use.
Wire-wire, the Plume K3G
This looks like a smaller version of the D-shaped Sigma. It weighs 36g and is rated at 25/8/7kN. It’s a small biner, a great size for anchors or personal lanyards. Thanks to the dual wire gates it’s easy to open, with or without gloves. Due to the Twin Gate design, however, the Plume’s wire-gates are on the wider side making it less practical than it would seem: you have to create a much larger opening (in webbing, rope, etc.) than the beam to fit the gate through. It’s hard to describe but it’s kind of awkward, as with most other lockers the nose is the narrowest part of the biner whereas on the Plume the ‘nose’ aka ‘outer gate’ is its widest section. It’s a great biner, but like the Sigma it’s somewhat harder to use than a regular locker.
The Twin Gates are an interesting take on the locking biner concept. They work, and they work well. They can be finicky to operate, even for an experienced user, but by far their biggest downfall is their biggest upside: innovation. Someone who’s gotten used to the idea, or is curious about new gear, will learn to use them quickly and effectively. But pass them to your partner on a multi-pitch route and they look at them with distrust. It’s a great concept, it really is, but it will take a while for the general climbing population to become accustomed enough with the Twin Gate system for it to be widely adopted. For those willing to try something new, prepare to be questioned.
Pros: innovative, effective, fool-proof
Cons: so different not everyone gets it, gates bigger than other lockers
Overall: A fabulous exercise in possibility but a cautioned tale for early adopters.
The Alpine Start received some of these from Grivel, others I bought. I’m not really sure which is which anymore. They’ve all been used, and anyway we say what we want so who really cares where the gear comes from?