Snap hooks have long been used in a number of industries to temporarily suspend or secure an object or load. From everyday carry applications to sport climbing and industrial rigging, these strong components have become commonplace in society. In this blog, we will discuss the history, types, and applications of the two most popular forms of snap hooks: carabiners and bolt snaps.
The first iteration of snap hooks came from the German inventor Otto Herzog, who noticed a military unit equipped with a pear-shaped hook on their belts that would secure a carbine in place. The German portmanteau for carbine-hook, karabinerhaken, influenced the etymology of carabiner, which is still used to describe the hooks today. Herzog began making carabiners out of different shapes and mostly marketed them to the climbing community, who previously had no quick or safe way to connect their ropes to installed protection. Further innovation came in the 1930s when a French inventor began to make carabiners out of aluminum, which was much lighter than the traditional steel that Herzog used. Following the switch to aluminum, engineers began implementing a D-shaped design that is still used today in many applications.
The design for the first bolt snap was finalized in 1924 by Ohioan inventor William Schleicher. Originally used for farming applications, the snaps featured an eye on one end and a slide gate ring on the other. This simple yet innovative design has stood the test of time, with current bolt snaps differing only slightly from the original. Modern bolt snaps come in a variety of configurations and materials, each providing a different application-specific function.
Carabiners are still primarily used by climbers, who initially made the invention popular, although anybody needing a fall-arrest mechanism could benefit from their use. Other such applications include rope rescue, construction, whitewater rescue, and hot air ballooning. What makes carabiners particularly useful is their weight rating, which is on average mandated to be 20,000N or 2040kg times the force of gravity. There are four shapes of commercially available carabiners on the market today, those being the D-shape, offset D-shape, HMS, and oval. D-shape carabiners are closest in design to the original and ensure correct load placement since the rope should naturally fall into place. Offset D-shape carabiners have a larger opening and are the most popular because of that. HMS carabiners are oversized versions of the D-shape models and are used exclusively in belaying applications for both rescue and climbing. Oval carabiners are still widely available but losing popularity due to their weaker design and higher weight.
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