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Gear Myths: Gates In, Or Gates Out?

Friday, October 13, 2017
Gates in, or gates out? What’s the deal? In the first installment of Gear Myths, we search for the answer to this perplexing question by chatting with several pros to find out whether or not there is a correct way to rack your gear.

Beatles or Rolling Stones? Vanilla or chocolate? Gates in, or gates out????

These are the polarizing, yet crucial decisions that define who we are. OK, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but seriously, do you rack your gear with the gates of the carabiners facing in—as in pointing toward your hips—or facing out? And WHY? More importantly, let’s address the real nagging question: Is there a “correct” way? In other words, is racking “gates in” more efficient than racking “gates out,” or vice-versa?

In case you don’t follow, check this out.

Here we have Exhibit A—a classic “Gates In” racking method.


And Exhibit B, demonstrating a “Gates Out” racking method.


In this first installment of BD’s Gear Myths, we talk to some hard-hitting pros and local crushers about their preferred racking method, and then nerd out with climbing category director Kolin Powick (that’s right, the omniscient QC Lab gear guy) about which method is the actual BD “approved beta.”

First up? Rad trad dad Mr. Sonnie “Sunshine” Trotter. BD Athlete Sonnie Trotter has been climbing hard for nearly two decades. From 5.14d sport climbs to 5.14 trad FA’s, Sonnie has been there and done that. It goes without saying that he knows a thing or two about racking a LiveWire quickdraw or Ultralight Camalot.

We quickly discovered that asking a veteran like Sonnie whether he’s “gates in or out” is like asking a devout hip-hop fan whether they like Tupac or Biggie (yes, we just went there). Sonnie wasted no time getting to what he felt was the “truth” of the matter.

“It's always better to rack up with the gates facing out, because they lay flatter on your hips and there's less likely a chance of them flipping on your gear loop,” said Sonnie.

He even took it a step further to accentuate his point.

“Rack up six or seven biners with gates facing in and notice how they stick out, and how easily they can flip upside down. Then rack up the same with gates facing out, and notice how clean they hang off the loop.”


Image: Kolin Powick

With a little probing, more proponents of the Gates Out tribe quickly came forth.

BD athlete Colette McInerney feels that racking gates out gives her more “control.”

“I would argue it’s easier for me because of the way my thumb has a bit more control in being able to remove the biner with the gate facing out,” she said.

When asked how she started racking that way, she said it came by way of Joe Kinder and Dave Graham.

“I definitely remember having a discussion about this on a climbing trip with Joe and Dave back in the day,” said Colette. “I remember their ‘talk’ about which was the best way to rack draws. I actually think they both racked them gates facing out.”

Now, according to Colette, the gates-out maneuver is just habit.

BD Ambassador and adventure filmmaker/photographer Tim Kemple had a simple explanation as to why gates out is the only way to go.

“Because it’s better,” said Tim flatly.

When we pressed him for “why” he reiterated Sonnie’s sentiment.

“The gear lays better that way.”


Image: Andy Earl

OK. So maybe gates out is the way to go? With all these bad-asses staunchly advocating for this method, it’s hard to argue. Even the undisputed Queen of Maple Canyon and local lady crusher Ellen Powick chimed in.

“Gates out—all the way!”

Then Ellen got deep with some tech-speak.

“Opening the gate with your thumb and turning your wrist out seems more natural and ergo-friendly than twisting your wrist up like you do if gate is in,” she said.

Wow, “ergo-friendly.” Now we’re talking.

Nothing, however, is set in stone (pun intended) until the real gear guru speaks—this being Ellen’s husband, Mr. Kolin “Engineer Savant” Powick.

Turns out … KP, the climbing category director for BD—yeah, that means the guy who basically oversees the design and production of our gear—is GATES IN all the way. And when we hit him full-force with all the gates out tech speak, including “ergo-friendly,” he lost it.

“Not sure if Ellen understands what ERGONOMICS means!!!,” blurted KP.

“The way you need to cock your wrist, twist your elbow and tweak your shoulder just to get a draw on “gates out” is INSANE. Gates in is WAY more ergonomically friendly.”


Image: Will Saunders

And to top it off, he added:

“I’ll go toe-to-toe speed-race-racking vs. E-Pow any day of the week!”

After he simmered down, KP did elaborate on his racking preference.

“I think it’s faster to get the draw or cam off your harness, because it’s a more natural motion. Down, hit the gate, pull it up. When you see people who rack gates out, they have to cock their wrist weird. So, yeah, it’s faster. And I need all the help I can get.”

Since KP is heavily involved with the design process of carabiners leaving the BD factory floor here in Salt Lake City, the obvious question was whether or not the design engineers actually consider the racking method (gates in or out) during their development.

“That’s a good question,” said KP. “We talk about it for sure, but if we developed a carabiner that only racked well one way, we would catch that, because some of us rack gates in and some of us rack gates out.”

Ah ha! Through talking with KP, it seems we’ve struck the heart of the matter and in turn, answered the penultimate question. If a biner that leaves the factory floor of BD is designed to rack well both ways, then that could only mean one thing … both methods are actually “approved.”

“To be honest, I don’t think it matters,” added KP. “You see a ton of different climbers racking both ways.”


Image: Andy Earl

CONCLUSION

Despite a strong showing from the Gates Out crowd, the truth is that both methods are valid and BD approved. However, a great thing to take away from this article is the awareness of how you rack, and more importantly, how your partner racks.

“A good partner is cognizant of the way the other racks,” KP adds.

So, think about that the next time you’re mid-route on a multi-pitch and swinging leads with your partner. Do they want the gear sling handed off with gates in? Or gates out?

Oh, and one last thing. We’re aware that we were a little heavy with climbers who champion the gates out method. Because of that, we wanted to even the score.

In case you were wondering, BD Athlete Alex Honnold—when he does rack gear—prefers gates in.


Image: Kolin Powick

Why?

“Because I’ve always done it that way,” he says. And in typical Honnold fashion he adds:

“I don’t think it makes a difference.”

Per usual, Honnold is right.

—BD Content Editor Chris Parker


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