Tried & Tested Reviews
By Stewart Moody
I can recall a few occasions when I’ve looked down at my own belay device and found it to be calling out for my attention. As belayers, most of us have experienced poor karabiner alignment and the knock-on possibility of cross loading in the event of a fall. The ovaLock removes all such risks with innovative safety features. The ovaLock is made with a clean and simple I-beam oval gate and looks good. It has a good strength to weight ratio too. I was surprised by how light it felt in my hand, yet it felt reassuringly solid at the same time.
Having used belay karabiners in the past, the thing I like the most about the ovaLock is that it requires just one single action to open and close the gate by employing a spring loaded arm. Just unclip the arm, which then springs around by 90° and the gate is ready to be pushed open. There is no need to unscrew the gate manually. So the action of the ovaLock is fast, but you do need to give the arm a little bit of grunt to unclip it, so it feels safe too.
If, like me, you are used to using a standard karabiner for your belaying, you will feel a compromise is being made here. The obvious benefit of the safety features is played off against some small, but repetitive, faffs. When the arm is sprung it projects out, which can make it a little awkward to get onto your belay loop, or to attach to your gear loops when not in use. Being an oval, I also found myself occasionally struggling to tell which end of the gate was hinged when the arm was sprung. With a little practise, growing familiarity, these faded, but didn’t vanish entirely.
The ovaLock is good for climbing walls. But, since the spring loaded arm can’t be removed, it is not especially versatile, so I wouldn’t be taking on a multi-pitch trad routes. The ovaLock is as good as any of its peers in the market, but not especially better, in some areas it is better, in others it is not. It solves the same safety problems that all belay karabiners address, and whilst ovaLock has a quicker action to open and close, it can feel a little awkward and lacks the versatility of something like the DMM Belay Master whose arm is removable to make it a standard HMS.
The ovaLock is a belay specific karabiner aimed at eliminating cross loading. The oval shape helps ensure the karabiner remains correctly aligned in use, however, the key innovation is with the locking mechanism. This ensures a smooth, speedy access to the karabiner, and the intuitive lock allows just two options: open or closed, avoiding potentially dangerous situations of a karabiner being closed but not locked.
Total weight 67g, strength long 25kN/cross 10kN/open 8kN