What are carabiners?

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Carabiners are metal clips used in various activities such as mountaineering, rock climbing, and industrial work. ANSI sets safety standards for carabiners used for waist attachment, requiring compliance with strength and functionality requirements. Accessory carabiners used for rigging do not require ANSI standards. Carabiners are tested for vertical and lateral strength and are available for various applications.

Carabiners are oval, oblong or pear-shaped metal clips with a spring or screw closure. They are commonly used in mountaineering and rock climbing, repelling, sailing, tree climbing, fire and rescue, and industrial work such as construction and window washing. There are different types and grades of carabiners and safety rating standards.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets standards for products in the United States while working in partnership with international organizations. A carabiner used for waist attachment must comply with ANSI standards. They will meet certain strength and functionality requirements, such as self-locking and self-closing.

Other ANSI safety requirements require that the carabiner be unlocked with only two distinct actions, with a third action required to open it. Those in this category must also meet a minimum strength requirement of 5,000 pounds (about 2,268 kg). Many aluminum and steel carabiners meet these standards, although aluminum is preferred for mountaineering because it is lightweight.

Accessory carabiners used for rigging and similar purposes are not required to meet ANSI standards for life support. Steel ones, generally stronger than aluminum, are often used when the weight of the clips themselves isn’t an issue.
Manufacturers usually print the breaking strength of a carabiner on one side. This rating reflects the minimum force required to fail the clip. Carabiners are tested in two ways: for vertical strength and for lateral loading, although they are generally not intended to take lateral loads. Because the rating is based on force rather than weight, the numbers refer to kilonewtons rather than pounds or kilograms. A sufficiently accurate conversion to pound-force can be obtained by multiplying kilonewtons by 225; giving a carabiner rated at 25 kilonewtons a nominal force of 5.620 pounds (2.549 kg).

Carabiners are light, strong, economical and easy to handle, even in the home, workshop or office. Many people use them for key rings or hammock rigging, or for hanging tools. They are also used for water ski lines, camping gear and a multitude of other applications. Carabiners are available at sporting goods stores, outfitters, boating and marine dealers, and recreational outlets of all kinds. Brightly colored ones are often displayed on home improvement store cash registers, although these are intended for simple uses that don’t require safety considerations.

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