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The History of Carabiners

Originally, the term carabineer referred to a type of soldier introduced in the mid-1600s by French commander Jean d'Albret. These lightly armored cavalrymen all used a shorter-barreled riffle than the contemporary standard, called a carbine. In order to bring their rifles into battle, they needed a quick, easy method of carrying them — so the rifles were equipped with a strap that attached to a pair of hooks or clips. These represented the earliest version of carabiners. In 1910, Otto “Rambo” Herzog, a legendary German mountaineer, saw a fire brigade wearing oblong clips on their belts. He adapted the idea into the world’s first climbing carabiner. Notably, early climbing carabiners were unreliable, but around 1938, two storied climbers named Pierre Allain and Raffi Bedayn both developed lighter and more reliable carabiners out of aluminum. The Bedayn carabiner caught on, possibly due to Bedayn’s status as a leading rock climber in the Sierra Club or the fact that he priced his gear not according to market value, but as a service to his fellow climbers. Since then, the carabiner hasn’t changed much. Pear-shaped carabiners are the most common, followed by their oval counterparts. Carabiners have also been adopted outside of the climbing community. These everyday carabiners don’t have the same ruggedness and shouldn’t be used for climbing. Instead, they’re often made from a number of materials and come in many shapes and colors. There are even multi-tool carabiners that offer integrated functionality (think bottle openers, pry bars, and screwdrivers). Today, carabiners remain most famous as a serious piece of safety gear for climbing sports.

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