Is good design always in part as much luck as judgement? When the Black Diamond Hotwire karabiner was released to the global climbing community I wonder if BD had any idea just how good a krab they had made? For any non-climbers who have been interested enough to read this far, until the Hotwire was released in, I think, 1995 all karabiners used a metal bar with a spring inside for the opening gate. Often now called ‘solid gates’ (as opposed to ‘wire gates’ like the Hotwires), the original design was more complicated and heavier. BD in using the wiregate design found that they could actually make the karabiners stronger – the few grammes saved by the gate design could be transferred to other parts of the karabiner body meaning a burlier design was possible at a relatively low weight – strong and light being the holy grail for climbing equipment designers. Wiregates also resist freezing better and don’t suffer from gate-flutter (which is too geeky to explain to anyone who doesn’t know what it is, but – in short - it ain’t cool).
Now I think every manufacturer that makes karabiners offers wire gate version – many just adding a wire-gate to a previous solid gate design. But the Hotwire was designed from the ground up as a wire-gate and has been unchanged for 15 years because the design was pretty close to perfect from the start. Other manufacturers now have wire gate krabs that are as good, but often after going through various less successful models to get to that point. But the Hotwire was not only the first ever wiregate krab sold to climbers, but for a long time arguably the best. Sadly, this year Black Diamond has removed the Hotwire from its range – but 15 years is a pretty good run for an item of climbing equipment. But happily they are replacing it with the new Hotwire (hurrah!) – they look great but have a pretty big legacy to live up to.