For the locking caribiner that connects the person's harness to their rappel device/ropes, should the locking caribiner's gate be toward the top or bottom of the setup when using a screwgate type locking carabiner?

For reference, this is what I mean by up or down.

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Manufacturers all instruct that their screw gate carabiners be used in the upright position when attached to your harness, but in many cases it doesn't really matter as long as it's locked and there aren't any burrs in either end of the biner that could abraid the rope, and your ropes are properly managed. But in general, its always better to orient them up as recommended by the manufacturer, especially if using a device that requires you to feed the rope through the biner.

Often lockers used in anchors will get burrs from metal on metal contact, usually in the end of the axis below the hinge, which can easily shred a rope. It's for this reason also that quickdraws have a rope and an anchor end, it can be disastrous if you swap them back and forth.

Situations where orientation would matter more than others would depend on what type of descender and biner you're using. If you were descending with an ATC and a pear-shaped biner, then you should orient it up so the rope is rubbing on the nice round profile of the ofset. If you're using a figure 8 and a D-shaped carabiner, then it ultimately wouldn't make a difference.

Orienting the screw gate down is a popular "gym technique". Gym techniques are typically implemented in an attempt to eliminate human error and avoid common mishaps, particularly by new or inexperienced climbers, but they are rarely considered proper use by manufacturers or experts.

It's a known flaw of screwgate carabiners that they can come unlocked because of rubbing, or vibrations, which is why many climbers will use pairs oriented with their gates opposite and opposing, but this flaw is also why so many other alternatives to screw gates are available:


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Double Gate:

(My personal favourite)

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Ball Lock:

(Second favourite)

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There are even screwgate biners with devices that will prevent crossloading which also work to prevent the screwgate from opening unintentionally:

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Regardless of your biner orientation, if you find yourself in a situation where your rope or another rope is rubbing on your screw gate, you should stop dscending and manage your ropes before you procede. An upside-down screwgate can just as well be opened by a rubbing rope, though maybe not as easily.

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  • The double gate and magnetron biners look interesting. I've never seen those designs before. I'd be interested to see how they handled. – Erik Dec 6 '16 at 18:09
  • @Erik I love the double gate, but it's sort of an acquired taste because you have to handle it a little different, but once you get around the muscle memory learning curve they're great. Magnetrons are east to use, you just pinch the gate to open the lock, they're just a little pricy compared to the others. – ShemSeger Dec 6 '16 at 18:58
  • The double gate could conceivably open itself if it hits the rock? youtube.com/watch?v=a3XhgVBPuEM – endolith Jun 4 '18 at 15:48
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    @endolith You've got bigger problems than what carabiner you're using if you're smashing your carabiner against rocks while belaying. The concern with gate shutter is if the fall is caught while the gate is open, because carabiners are rated lower with open gates. With double gates, at least one of the gates will always be closed, so there is no concern. Both shutter and flutter occur (when they rarely occur) on the last point of protection, not on the belay. – ShemSeger Jun 4 '18 at 22:30

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