The Magnetron GridLock and RockLock carabiners: Black Diamond’s newest, terrific gear innovation buzzes even non-climbers. Basic amateur youtube videos were up immediately during Summer 2011 Outdoor Retailer Trade Show. The videos show the carabiner’s basic function, but not the salient points.
Here’s how Black Diamond’s website introduces their carabiner innovation, “Throughout the decades, we’ve been at the forefront of revolutionary carabiner design here at Black Diamond Equipment—from Yvon Chouinard’s original ovals; to the climbing world’s first-ever wiregate, the HotWire; to the crossload-eliminating belay carabiner, the GridLock. Never satisfied with the status quo, we’re always striving to develop the next great carabiner design innovation, which has led us to our latest game-changing advancement: Magnetron Technology™.
What’s so special about Magnetron Technology? One word: magnets. Yes, that’s right—locking carabiners that utilize magnets and not twistlocks or screwlocks on the gates. Available on select locking carabiners in July 2012, our patent-pending Magnetron Technology is so revolutionary we decided to share a sneak preview with you now to get you stoked. Here are the basics: using the power of magnetic fields to reinvent the locking carabiner, the Magnetron GridLock and the Magnetron RockLock locking carabiners combine maximum security and ease of use like never before.
The Black Diamond video’s a bit better demo-ing the Magnetron. But, still, questions.
Questions we heard at OR’s late July hands-on echoed those of BD’s on-line forum:
- Will the magnets attract/be activated by other nearby ferrous metal objects like ice axes, nut wires, safety pins?
- Wouldn’t a spring-loaded slider be simpler, more dependable and cheaper?
At $25.95+ at retail, every carabiner conceivable is cheaper than the new Magnatron. Otherwise, no.
The magnets BD employs don’t project a magnetic field beyond the immediate width of the ‘biner gate end. And no, you don’t have to worry about the magnetics sweeping up spare bobby-pins or metal filings: the force field only reacts when the gate’s held open. When closed, the magnets are locked solid and “covered” by the metal embedded in the carabiner’s nose. Unless you open the gate on a pile of metal shavings, magnet contamination isn’t an issue. And in any event, by the time the device arrives at outdoor stores summer 2012, I’d bet the BD engineers have even this far-fetched contamination scenario mastered.
Now the spring-loaded question’s the heart of BD’s material innovation. The old screw gates, as we all know, take a moment to, well, screw. If the threaded surfaces are aligned, “lubed,” clean and dry, climbers can do this automatically, smoothly with one digit, with practice. Sometimes you have to look at the gate; sometimes “work” the screw at bit. Spring-loaded twist-locks have similar encumbrances. And twist-lock springs are at their “strongest” when the gates’re open. When twist-locks are closed, the springs are at their weakest compression.
With the new BD Magnatron, a smooth “pinch” with two fingers and the lock opens. The move’s smooth because the gate’s ergonomically friendlier than any other locking design, while also rivaling any non-locking ‘biner gate. The lock stays open by magnetic repulsion, no springs. After opening, the gate can be held open with one finger. When released, the gate closes (powered by a conventional spring at the gate’s pivot point) and locks by magnetic attraction at its highest degree. The actual locking mechanism’s subtle. But we couldn’t see any contingency by which the lock might be accidentally disengaged. While the locked “look” is not as burly as sleeve or screw locks, the Magnatron could replace all ‘biners on your rack without looking weird. And, did I mention, they lock? According to BD test data, the magnetic lock’s at least as strong as any screw or sleeve gate. So no worry here; as with any locking ‘biner, test failure will never occur at the lock.
But what’s even safer about the Magnatron is what we like most: it’s so simple and perfectly intuitive to handle. Grab it like an ordinary carabiner. Touch the opposite side of the gate with a simple “pinching” gesture and swing the gate open with one finger. Just like a non-locking ‘biner. No looking, no learning curve, no delay. Release the gate and, as usual, the gate closes…now securely locked by magnetic force. Quicker, smoother, simpler, lighter, intuitive. This unit’s got to be one of BD’s biggest hits yet.
Now about the name? Maybe a “Transformers” suggestion is apt.