If you asked most of the folks who know me about my fashion sense, they would probably raise an eyebrow and reply, “What fashion sense?”
I’ve never been much for style or image. I wear a lot of bland, earth-toned clothes, many of which I’ve had for many years. I buzz-cut my hair every few months. I drive a mini-van. Most of my choices for the stuff I buy are based on functionality and quality, not aesthetics. In much of my day-to-day, I’m a pragmatist, and my “style” follows accordingly.
There’s one glaring exception to this: I want my quickdraws to look cool. Wait – not just cool – sexy. And it’s not just quickdraws. There’s been a conspicuous move by many climbing companies beyond simply the most functional gear and toward equipment designed with fashion in mind. All of a sudden, harnesses have neon colors that pop against blue-streaked limestone, cams and carabiners are highlighted in the same bold anodization (sure, it’s to make them easier to rack . . . .), and ropes are so bright they reflect off the rock. It’s all so fun: Finally, rather than being the nerdy guy in an awkward helmet burdened with fat webbing loops and heavy chunks of metal that clank over conversations, I get to be clad in pleasant, complementary-colored gear that is lightweight, sleek, and – let’s face it – downright sexy.
Despite the new emergence of style over function in climbing gear, there still is no iconic fashion statement clearer than the quickdraw. If you question this, here’s my proof: What quickdraw company sponsors Chris Sharma? You know you know the answer. We notice these things, and we love it.
So, tangents aside, it should be clear that I really care about the aesthetics of the quickdraw.When I got my rack of Trango Smooth Quickdraws a bit over a month ago, they immediately proved to satisfy both my desires for aesthetics and functionality.
The Trango Smooth is as sexy as any other draw on the market. It has a beefy dog-bone runner connecting two subtly anodized carabiners. Unlike many other anodized ‘biners out there, the Smooth carabiner doesn’t seem to lose its anodization, particularly in the basket where the rope runs (and thusly blackening the rope in the process). Moreover, the carabiners are full-sized, yet their narrow profile makes a full quiver of them hang unobtrusively off a harness. The straight/bent-gate versions have the added benefit of the key-lock design, offering the “smoothness” of operation any serious bolt-clipper expects.
To be clear, I’m comparing the Smooth to other “luxury” quickdraws. These are draws designed for serious sport climbing, when ease of operation and durability (and the ability to snag the “nylon jug”) are paramount. The Smooth is comparable to established draws in the luxury category, the Petzl Spirit Express and Black Diamond’s Livewire draw, and it excels in a few aspects. First, the Smooth draws are priced about a dollar less than comparable quickdraws from other companies. Sure, you can get cheaper draws, but you’ll pay more in interest on your sex-appeal debt. The stronger selling point is weight. The Smooth draw is 5 grams lighter than other beefy sport draws, helping it crossover into the lightweight, trad/alpine draw department.
The lighter weight presents a concern about the durability of the draws, but so far they have held up to heavy abuse, being repeatedly whipped on over abrasive sandstone, coarse granite, and sharp limestone, yet showing few signs of wear.
Overall, I love the Trango Smooth. It’s a high-functioning quickdraw with enough style for the Narcissus in all of us.