CHOUINARD CARABINER IDENTIFICATION & TIMELINE, 1957 - 1989.
Back in 2010, I made an attempt to provide some history on Chouinard carabiners on a now defunct climbing website. I can now easily summarize that history in one long paragraph:
Chouinard started manufacturing carabiners in Ventura, CA in 1957. He used the German Salewa factory to make one model for him from 1972-74, then went back to manufacturing carabiners in Ventura. His climbing hardware company became The Great Pacific Ironworks in 1972 then changed back to Chouinard Equipment in the early 1980's. Chouinard Equipment went bankrupt in 1989 and disappeared as a brand, although Black Diamond cataloged and sold some Chouinard carabiners through 1991. Chouinard’s clothing brand Patagonia continues to prosper.
But we climbing gear historians & collectors want more details, & with the help of many contributors, details were provided. I'll share the high-points here.
My reference sources are: information on Super Topo, some great help by Clint Cummins, Marty Karabin, & others, my own memory of carabiners I’ve acquired since 1970, and my collection of Chouinard and Great Pacific Iron Works catalogs. My catalog set is: 1968, winter 70, 1972, 75-76, 78, 80 - 89. Of course Chouinard Equipment was purchased by his ex-employees who started Black Diamond in 1989 and I also have the 1990 Black Diamond catalog, which still has a bunch of carabiners that are stamped CHOUINARD. My thanks to Black Diamond, for allowing me to post Chouinard catalog images on Redpoint.
What I have tried to achieve is a “timeline,” with catalog photos, of when various models of Chouinard carabiners were sold.
Chouinard also put a "Chouinard Firsts" timeline near the front of his catalogs from 1972 to to 1983. Here's the 1983 First's list, showing his first carabiner was produced in 1957 -1958.
As of 2018, there has also been a wealth of information posted on this thread about the 1957-67 Chouinard Alcoa carabiners! After an early 2018 back & forth between the enthusiastic & knowledgeable collector Marty (Karabin Museum), & the biographer of Tom Frost & collector, Steve Grossman, it appears there were only two significant variations of the first Chouinard Alcoa carabiners, although 3 models are implied in the 1960 DOLT catalog, the first catalog with a photo of the Chouinard Alcoa carabiner.
The earliest Chouinard Alcoa carabiner is without Chouinard on one side. As of spring 2018, only 14 known examples have shown up in collections. Here's both sides of one. Roots shared the photos.
The 1st Chouinard Alcoa carabiner was likely from a very small run that Alcoa produced for Chouinard in 1957 or 1958. The second batch had CHOUINARD in small & somewhat faint letters in raised letters on one side of the carabiner body, along with the Alcoa information on the opposite side. It stayed in production until 1968. While quite uncommon, there are likely many hundreds of these around, although they only show up on EBay a few times a year.
Here's both side of the 2nd Chouinard Alcoa carabiner.
Here's the Chouinard 1966-67 catalog page on that carabiner.
In 1968, Chouinard published a new catalog with a new carabiner. It is only marked CHOUINARD & it lasted until 1972.
In the best known Chouinard catalog, which was published with slight changes 1972 through 1974, a new carabiner is noted as having production moved to the Salewa factory, which was in West Germany. My thanks to Black Diamond, for allowing me to post Chouinard catalog images on Redpoint.
In June 1972 Chouinard issued a recall on the Chouinard/Salewa carabiners. All recalled carabiners were tested and the carabiner bodies were stamped T for Tested. All subsequent production of the Chouinard/Salewa carabiner had the gate stamped tested, & then by 1974, West Germany was added to the opposite side of the gates.
Advertisement in Off Belay Magazine, June 1972.
Most climbers with social skills returned their non-tested Chouinard-Salewa carabiners to Chouinard for free testing & free postage back. Although none were noted on the thread, several of us thought there had to be ones out there that were not marked T or Tested. I finally found one this spring.
In my photos of carabiners, I note information put on the carabiners in Bold, model of carabiner, dates of production, and weight of carabiner from my digital postal scale.
Chouinard Salewa Carabiners, lower not marked T or tested, upper with a T for Tested.
Chouinard Salewea Carabiners, lower stamped Tested & the upper is Stamped Tested & West Germany.
OK, much more to follow. Feel free to post up your pre-1974 Chouinard carabiners, comments, photos, or questions.
toby last edited by
@FritzRay Cool stuff, Ray! Thanks for posting this up!
ACOPA last edited by
Way cool, thanks for posting!
The history of climbing is entwined with the history of product development. Each generation pushes its limits as far as existing gear will allow. When they are ready to go beyond that, they demand improved performance. When manufacturers achieve that, it enables climbers to push themselves, and their new gear, to new limits.
Thanks folks, for sharing your approval of this thread.
The Chouinard timeline notes a new carabiner style in 1974. It is described in the 1975 - 77 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog, with a cover photo of Machapuchare in Nepal, by Chouinard's business partner Tom Frost .
The new "D" carabiner was made in Chouinard's factory in Ventura & was his most popular carabiner to date.
toby last edited by toby
@FritzRay Heh, after your thread starter post I was telling myself that I needed to break out the camera and get some shots of their successors.
Should have known they'd be forthcoming.... Good on ya, Fritz!!
As for the "Simple Rapelling System". Worked just dandy in a pinch but not something you'd want to do every day. I wonder how many of the younger generation has a clue about reversed gates, prusik knot backups, swami belts, and 1" webbing leg loops. Ouch! Definitely wanted to be a hard man w/some hardened leg muscles and then slow and steady as she goes, boys...
Toby! I have used the carabiner brake system described in the 1975 - 77 Chouinard Great Pacific Iron Works catalog more than a few times. Always worked like a charm & I haven't been killed using it yet!
In Chouinard's 1978 - 79 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog, three new carabiners were introduced. The catalog cover was of Cerro Torre & its satellite peaks in Patagonia. Since Patagonia clothing was now out-selling the climbing gear, it got its own section in the back of the catalog.
The Chouinard "Firsts" timeline shows one of those carabiners, The Featherweight, being introduced in 1977. It is made of hollow aluminum tubing and is very similar to hollow carabiners that Salewa came out with at about the same date.
Salewa also produced the hollow carabiners for Robbins, but it appears the Chouinard Featherweights were produced in the U.S. The 1980 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog asserts the Featherweights are made from aluminum tubing produced for Boeing.
In 2015 I discovered one of my Chouinard Featherweights is incised 1700 KG-U.S.A. In the 3 catalogs I have for the history of this carabiner, 1978, 80, & 81, it is described as 1600 KG-U.S.A. By fall 2018, Marty Karabin had shared another 1700 KG Featherweight. After seeing a very few more of the 1700 KG model on EBay, I think this was the first production model of the 1978 Featherweight, but the marking were quickly changed to 1600KG, after a very-short production run.
Here's the two.
And here's the 1978 catalog page for The Featherweight.
Chouinard also introduced an Oval carabiner in the 1978 catalog. Ovals would stay in the Chouinard line for the next 12 years, but with slight changes in design, mostly a flattening of the round aluminum rod used for the 1978 - 80 Oval. There was some disagreement between Marty Karabin, who has a very discerning eye, & me, on how many model changes there were, but after getting more input from collector friend Harley H, I have caved in. I now say 5 changes in Oval design, one prototype that was anodized black, & dates to 1984 or 85, with only 5 examples of that black oval known to me, & a Chouinard/Black Diamond Oval identical to the 1989 Chouinard Oval, except for the addition of the Black Diamond logo. Here's the whole lineup from 1978 to 1991.
The 1978 Oval catalog page.
The real thing, note how round the aluminum rod stock is.
A little more detail on the first 3 models.
And on the 1985 -87 models, including the black anodized prototype. Note the larger hinge pins on it.
And the last two variants, from 1988 to 1991. Note the raised Black Diamond logo just right of CHOUINARD on the 1990 - 91 variant.
And lastly, Chouinard introduced a new D carabiner in 1978. This part gets a little complicated, which starts with his catalog photo & description, which notes a lower profile (nose) on the carabiner gate latch. That nose profile makes it easier to clip into bolt hangers, but the photo shows a higher nose 1975 style D.
There are five different variants of the 1975 & 1978 D carabiner, but only two of those got into Chouinard catalogs, the 1975 model marked 4,000 lbs. & the 1978 model marked 2,200 KG.
The first new variant looked just like the 1975 D, but was marked 2,100 KG, the second 2,100 KG variant has the lower nose of the 1978 D, & the other variant was a prototype and I'm only aware of 5 known examples of it. It is marked only on one side <C> USA. There are quite a few of the 2,100 KG variants out there, but the final version marked 2,200 KG stayed in the line from 1978 - 1984.
Here's all five, including the 1975 model marked 4,000 lbs.
And here's the final 1978 - 1984 D at top & the closest to it in looks 2,100 KG variation.
OK! Time for lunch & some outside work. Much more to follow as we visit the 1980's Chouinard carabiners.
Please note that newest posts are just below this one. For a start to finish tour of the Chouinard carabiner timeline, scroll to the bottom for 1974 & then work back up the thread
Tobia last edited by
I have a copy of that 1975-1977 catalog and many carabiners purchased between 1978 & 1983. They are the oval and D versions.
I will have to take some pics of the stamping.
FritzRay last edited by
In the 1980 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog, a new carabiner is introduced: The Light D. The catalog was likely a major investment by Chouinard, with a larger 8 1/2 x 10" size, 30 pages of climbing gear, accessories, & advice, & 20 pages of Patagonia Software clothing.
The carabiner section had an introductory page.
The redesigned, slightly flattened, Oval was explained.
And then the new Light D, which would stay in the line for the next 9 years with slight changes along the way. Of course its popularity was likely enhanced by the advice on how to use it as a beer opener.
The Light D had minor changes along the way. By 1984 The information on the Light D carabiner was in raised letter on the body, instead of stamped on the gate, and it continued that way through 1989. The shape of the aluminum rod near the gate also changed at least once along the way, per this photo.
1981 brought major changes to the Chouinard/Great Pacific Iron Works/Patagonia Software catalogs. Although Chouinard published a Great Pacific Iron Works catalog that combined the two divisions of his empire, with 32 pages of his climbing gear & another 17 pages of Asolo Boots & other accessore, & 32 pages of Patagonia Software, he also published separate Chouinard & Patagonia Software catalogs. For the next 8 years he kept the two companies in separate catalogs & Great Pacific Iron Works did not appear on more catalog covers.
1981 Combined catalog cover.
1981 Chouinard catalog cover.
1981 Patagonia Software catalog cover.
The only thing new to his carabiner program in 1981 was that each carabiner was now factory- tested & stamped tested.
1982 brought big changes with the introduction of his first locking carabiners. He liked the new Big D so much he put it on the catalog cover.
The Big D was a hit & stayed in Chouinard's catalog, with only minor changes until the end in 1989.
In 1988 the texture on the locking knob was changed on Chouinard's locking carabiners. In this photo the upper Big D has the 1988-89 locking-knob, & the bottom Big D has the 1982 - 87 locking knob.
Chouinard also introduced a Light D & Oval Locking carabiner in 1982. The Light D was also a hit & stayed in the line until the end, but the Oval Locker was dropped from the line by the 1983 catalog. It is now quite rare. I've only seen 3 Oval Lockers on EBay in the last 15 years.
In the 1983 Chouinard catalog two new locking carabiners are introduced, the very-large Pearbiner & an anodized version of the Big D, the Marinabiner for salt-water use.
1983 catalog copy on each model.
Here's a page from the 1984 Chouinard catalog that shows the line of large Lockers a little better.
Chouinard also introduced a new solid aluminum version of the hollow Featherweight in the 1983 catalog & named it the "Improved Featherweight."
This solid version of the Featherweight stayed in the line until 1984 & then with the very slightest of changes, it was renamed the New Standard, in what I think was a Marketing Department move. The New Standard stayed in the line until the end. In this photo the oldest variant is at bottom.
In his 1988 catalog Chouinard introduces the new Quicksilver carabiner. It's design allows the gate to open wider.
In the last Chouinard climbing gear catalog in 1989, a new Bentgate Quicksilver is introduced & the Marinabiner Anodized Locker is no longer in the line.
For various reasons, Chouinard declared bankruptcy for Chouinard Equipment at the end of 1989, Chouinard’s clothing company Patagonia was a huge money maker for Chouinard & the climbing & ski hardgoods division was not. There was also a substantial liability risk with selling climbing & ski gear. Chouinard Gear employees formed Black Diamond. Black Diamond initially used the Chouinard tools & machinery & much of what they sold for the first two years was still marked Chouinard. Chouinard continues as chief owner of Patagonia.
In Black Diamond's first climbing gear catalog in 1990, the carabiners are all still marked Chouinard & would be at least for another year. However anodized versions of the Quicksilver & Bentgate Quicksilver are introduced in 4 colors.
Those first Anodized Quicksilvers & Bentgate Quicksilvers, were likely part of the inventory Black Diamond bought from Chouinard Equipment, but after a while a Black Diamond logo was added, just to the right of Chouinard, per this photo, with the carabiner with the Black Diamond logo at bottom.
Anodized Quicksilvers & Bentgate Quicksilvers do not show up often on EBay, but with some patience I have acquired a color range of each. It appears, the ones without a Black Diamond logo are uncommon. Marty Karabin has manged to convince a reluctant me, that each type is a variant and a collection of 4 colors in each variant is necessary for a complete carabiner collection. I have not achieved that.
If you have variations of any of the above carabiners, or questions, please post them up.
zBrown last edited by
Youzz guys are thorough
To say the least
Gives the lie to the old old saw
"Seen one carabiner - seen 'em all"
@zBrown I confess to not having covered the rich subject of Chouinard Mini-biners, which were presented as a "key" accessory in his catalogs starting in 1984.
The 1984 - 87 version came in two sizes, 60 & 80 mm. This is the larger 80 mm size next to a Light D. carabiner. An E-Bay seller sold me two of these years back as regular Chouinard carabiners.
In 1987 Chouinard kept the metal mini-biners in the catalog, but introduced plastic carabiners with an unique warranty. "unconditionally guaranteed to be our weakest carabiner." I've never seen one, & if any survive, they would be among the rarest Chouinard carabiners.
In 1988 a new Anodized Mini-biner was introduced & previous mini-biners were discontinued. The Anodized Mini-biners were also In Chouinard's last catalog in 1989 & the first Black Diamond catalog in 1990. Another rarity, that I have never seen.
zBrown last edited by
I guess we're gonna have to call that "an honorable mention". Happy (belated) New Year Fritzee.
FritzRay last edited by
Darn: To finish up a horrid year, I missed an EBay Buy It Now! auction for one of those rare plastic Chouinard key-biners. I noticed it after it sold for $19.95 & contacted the seller to see if he had more. He did not.