Kev Avery puts the ultra-light 19G Quickdraws from Edelrid through their paces to see if light really is right…
Usability: ***and a half
In activities such as alpine climbing, the ‘less is more’ philosophy has been developing for a while. The ‘climb light, fast and high’ style advocated by alpine specialist, Mark Twight in his book, Extreme Alpinism, has been continually evolving with the help of modern lightweight gear. This has has culminated in some awe inspiring ascents in the Greater Ranges, most notably Ueli Steck’s audacious solo of the South Face of Annapurna recently.
But what does this mean to Joe Average, heading off into the hills? And is there a point where ‘light is right’ just goes too far?
Well, when the Nineteen G quickdraws arrived from Edelrid, I did wonder! The karabiners looked more suited to hanging keys up than protecting climbers. However as saving weight, in turn saves me energy, meaning I can go quicker and for longer (at least that’s the theory), then I was certainly going to give them a fair crack of the whip!
So let’s start with some stats. A single 19G karabiner weighs well, 19 grams actually (19.5 to be exact)! One of my standard wire gate karabiners weighs 37 grams, nearly twice as much! But what about strength? Well, the closed gate strength of a 19G karabiner is 20 KN, the minor axis strength is 7 KN as is the gate open strength. With my standard karabiner the gate closed strength is 24 KN, the minor axis rating at 7KN (the same as the 19G) and gate open strength, 9 KN. Reading these stats it’s obvious that there is a strength difference. But make no doubt about it, these are both full strength karabiners. And the reduction in strength is actually not such a great deal when you consider the reduction in weight.
Whilst we’re on with stats, particularly weight stats, I’d just like to mention the weight of a full 19G quickdraw. It weighs in at 45 grams! That is two 19G karabiners joined with a 10cm (18cm lengths are also available), 8 mm Dyneema® quickdraw sling. My standard quickdraw with 2 standard wire gate karabiners at 37 grams each and a more durable 14mm, 10cm dyneema sling, weighs 82 grams. Again, this is nearly double! Twelve standard quickdraws weighs in at nearly a kilogram (984 grams). Twelve 19G quickdraws weigh just over half a kilo (540 grams) meaning an instant weight saving of 444 grams. Sounds good hey?
So, like I said earlier, light is good in lots of ways. The most obvious being that you use less energy and can move quicker and more efficiently while climbing. I’ve really enjoyed using the 19G quickdraws over the last 6 months, in a range of different situations from trad rock climbing to alpine mountaineering. Clipping a set to my harness, I instantly noticed the saving in weight and this is definitely a bonus.
But what is the down side? Ok, well the main down side with Edelrid’s 19G quickdraws is the size. This (small size) is actually a big positive in some respects, as it takes up less room in your pack but it also causes one or two potential issues. The main one being handling. When I first received the 19G quickdraws I did think that they would be nigh on impossible to use as the karabiners just seemed too small. It was nice to be proved wrong! The 19G karabiners are fine to clip and use without gloves on. I had to adapt my clipping style a little (as shown below) but whilst trad and sport climbing, I managed to clip without too many fumbles.
I probably wouldn’t use a full set of the 19G quickdraws for my rock climbing as I like the the extra versatility of a full size karabiner (being able to clip a couple of clove hitches into one karabiner etc) but I would definitely supplement my rack with half a dozen or so. I have also started adding the karabiners to 60cm slings to make extendable quickdraws.
Where the 19G quickdraws really came into their own for me, was on classic alpine terrain. Last summer I spent a lot of time climbing in the French and Swiss Alps. Travelling light on long routes at altitude means you move more quickly and this also makes things safer. I climbed routes such as the Italian Ridge on the Matterhorn and Kuffner Ridge on Mont Maudit using these quickdraws. I was wearing gloves on both these routes but as the climbing is not technical, I could generally use 2 hands to clip the rope so did not have any fumbling issues.
I have also used them on more technical ice and mixed ground where I had to clip with one gloved hand and as long as my gloves were reasonably thin and dexterous, I did manage. I wouldn’t want to lead a hard mixed pitch with a full rack of 19G quickdraws though as I think it could lead to some fumbling and ‘gripper clippers’!
For those climbers who want the ease of clipping that a full sized karabiner provides, but some of the weight saving benefits then you may also want to have a look at the Mission Light Set; a 19G on the top end for clipping to pegs, bolts, gear etc and a larger Mission karabiner for clipping the rope into.
One minor concern I had was how the karabiners would sit when clipped into pitons as I have found this to be a problem in the past. However I didn’t find this to be any more of an issue than with other karabiners I have used.
So, to sum things up. The 19G quickdraws from Edelrid are a well made, full strength and ultralight quickdraw, best suited to classic alpinism, but also a great supplementary addition to your trad or sport rack. Their small size means they are not as easy to clip, particularly when wearing gloves but they do a great job of reducing the weight on your back or around your waist, meaning you can move quicker and more efficiently. Light really can be right!
10cm £2018cm £22
- To find out more visit the Edelrid website.