the new Grivel double-gate biners have been available for about a year now. the idea goes back a while, with a few esoteric companies producing similar concepts, but its taken grivel – who are still secondary players in the biner world – to make it really happen. Grivel have their own slice of the climbing supply chain, consistently bringing out innovative, aesthetic and laterally thought out product for a century. with Italian flair they are good at keeping hardware from going down the road to boring mass consumerism. and these new biners get it right.
Stevie ‘aston doing the promo videos is all good and well, but just showing them being used in a tv studio doesnt really mean much. of course they will look good. likewise, fiddling with them at trade shows and in the shop has more to do with fetish than it does real world use. annoyingly the ‘reviews’ all reflect this.
out in gritty reality the concept and product is noticeably different. after millions of biner clicks, these take a degree of relearning. in some ways they are easier, in others fiddlier, but all up usability swings well towards the good side. these things are not cosmetic gimmick as they can appear, this is a serious step in climbing safety. so far in Japan only the Mega K6G (the HMS version) and the Sigma K8G are available, so they are the ones weve played with, but its the Sigma K8G that stands out.
the Mega K6G HMS is certainly safe and strong but the gates are harder to use, more so with sweaty, tired or gloved hands and chunkier to fit thru devices. the general shape is great for HMS-type demands, but getting them off the harness is harder. they dont have the intuitiveness nor ‘WOW’ factor the Sigma K8G does.
simply the Sigma K8G is a quickdraw-style D shape, perhaps slightly larger then normal, with a regular solid gate then a regular wire gate ‘upside down’ on the outside. minus the wire gate its a classy design and artfully forged to have rope directed strategically thru it. with the wire gate it becomes stronger, safer and slicker to use. the choice of which gate goes where has been carefully thought thru for ease of clipping, rope safety and maintaining strength during ‘snap-back’. load this thing however you want and all the issues of a single wire gate or solid gate are gone. you cant cross load across the wire gate, you dont lose strength if the gate snaps-back, gate opening width isnt compromised, it cant freeze shut. combining 3 gate pins and one gate of spring steel now means the gate isnt the primary weakness.
and its rated to 30kn, something usually reserved for steel biners. these are impressive bits of hardware.
in use-wise, once theyve been played with a few times the ergonomics kick in and they are no harder than normal, even with gloves. the outer wire gate is much easier to manipulate than the solid gate of the Mega K6K and thinner to thread thru stuff. it also opens wider due to the greater ‘give’ of the design, whereas the solid gate on the Mega K6G is stuck to a certain range of movement. this sounds like obsessive gear-geek over-thinking, but in actuality its a significant difference.
the main thing that changes the game is they provide locking-gate safety minus the problems of freezing, being forgotten to lock or undoing themselves. no doubt there is some tiny percentile where it could occur, tho its very hard to forsee. for guides these things are great, knowing clients wont have primary connections undone – once they get how to use them. in complex systems or under duress, knowing these things are locked makes a noticeable difference. checking is easy as to not be fully engaged would require very noticeable indicators, and checking by touch is simple. for primary connections like haul bags, ascenders, belay devices etc where an unlocked biner is a time bomb, these bring an added level of security (tho all caveats still apply of course: NO biner should be assumed 100%, things can still go wrong).
would we replace every locking biner with them? i see no reason not to, perhaps the only anomaly is clips that are in difficult spots like corners wont accommodate the outer gate. several new designs are showing up, with further varieties of gates. it may not be too long before every biner – even quick draws – can be locking.