Check your Draws! Rope side and Bolt side Carabiners

One of the golden rules of using quickdraws is to be consistent about using one side for the bolt and one side for the rope. But why do we do this?

Because this can happen.

Bolt worn rope-side carabiner

Normal Wear on Rope Carabiner(closeup)

Bolt wear on a Rope Carabiner(closeup)

Carabiners are made of strong, but soft aluminum. Bolts can very quickly cut sharp burrs and edges into the metal, things you don’t want your soft rope to be running over.

Pssh. It’s just a scratch. 

Actually ...DMM has conducted tests and indicated that in just a few, normal(Factor 0.4) falls on a bolt-worn carabiner, nicks and grooves like these can cause  severe damage on a rope.

click to watch DMM’s video

Whether or not a bolt worn biner causes immediate danger to you, at the very least it will greatly accelerate rope wear, and no one wants that.

Identifying Rope and Bolt Side

With solid gate carabiners, the straight gate is the bolt side, the bent gate is the rope side of the quickdraw.

straight gate up

With wiregate carabiners, both gates may be straight, or one may be very slightly bent and hard to tell, and so it is absolutely essential that your wiregate draws have different color carabiners. If for some odd reason that’s not possible, consider using colored tape to mark the top biner.

make sure your wiregates have different color carabiners

If you are not sure which side is bolt side, look at the dogbone; the tighter side of the dogbone is the rope side.

Make sure to be absolutely consistent in which side you use.


-Prevention: Don’t share draws, but if you must , be careful about who you give your draws to, and make sure they understand which side is which.

-Regular Inspections: This is just another reason to do periodic checks of your gear. This particular bad draw was spotted while cleaning my gear, which you should be doing regularly anyways, especially if you go to sea crags like Long Dong. In fact, you should do it now! Go on, we’ll wait for you.


Climbing is a dangerous activity. Your safety is your own responsibility. This article and other information on this site is meant to supplement and not replace professional climbing instruction. 



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