Review: Kong Frog Quickdraws



The Kong Frog is a unique bit of kit, and at £28.99 per quickdraw, you'd hope it's at the top of the range. I took a set out to give them a try at the local climbing wall, and see if anyone could justify blowing a small fortune on adding these to their rack.


What is a Kong Frog?

The Kong Frog is a sport quickdraw like no other and uses a different concept to the majority of the other quickdraws on the market (at the time of writing). It's patented 'connector' style clip for the bolt end certainly catches you a few looks at the climbing wall when you pull them out. In fact, that same connector has been seen on many Kong products previously, such as the Kong Prog Quickdraw Aid. The mechanism is tried and tested, and according to Kong, has been improved for the Frog.


The Frog has a carabiner on the rope end of the draw, as normal, but the bolt end of the draw uses an 'automatic connector' which is designed to stay open until it is pressed against a bolt, when the connector snaps shut automatically. The idea is that you no longer need to 'hook' your draws through the bolt. In fact, you could clip a bolt that's just out of reach, so long as you can push the connecter against it. It's worth noting already that these draws are not suitable for trad climbing. I experimented by pushing the connector against a few of my nuts and wires and saw that the connector only closed after a bit of faff. Not exactly what you'd want after placing a sketchy bit of gear.



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Initial Thoughts

So the Frog certainly looks cool. Its garish color scheme makes it stand out from the crowd, even on a full trad rack full of colored gear, the Frog makes itself known. To tell the truth, I felt a little self-conscious as I geared up at the bottom of the wall. The climbing wall used a total of six draws, so I intended on clipping at least three of them with the Kong Frog, and the alternate ones with 'classic' quickdraws in the form of Mammut Bionic Quickdraws that had held a place on my rack for some time.


The Frogs didn't feel clunky or heavy on my harness, helped by the absence of a second carabiner. They were light and didn't stand out as any different to a standard draw whilst climbing. Except for the countless questions about "what are those things?" and "Are you sure they're safe?" it was hard to tell I had anything different on my harness.


Usability & Practicality

Now the climb had started and it was time to see what the Frogs were like in action. Clipping the first bolt with a Mammut draw just to be safe than on to the second bolt. Now was time for the Frog.


The first thing I noticed about the Frog was that to carry them on the harness you need to hang them by the karabiner end (rope end). For me, I hang my draws from the bolt end karabiner so I find it easier to clip. As the Frog's are effectively hanging from my harness 'upside down' I noticed it was a bit fiddly to flip the gear over while hanging on to a small crimp. After a bit of work though (and a lesson in finger dexterity) I had turned the draw over in my palm and actually making the clip was a breeze. As promised by Kong, the connector did automatically close when it came into contact with the bolt.


The route I was climbing was a fiddly F6b+, packed full of crimps and difficult clipping positions and I had chosen it specifically to see how the Frog's would work under pressure. Clipping the third bolt with another Mammut draw, I knew the forth clip was in the crux of the route and was a reachy clip for the average climber like me.


Kong state that these draws are ideal for clipping bolts that are just a little out of reach so now was their time to shine. Climbing to the crux and finding the best left-hand hold I could, I reached for a Frog. Again it was 'upside down' so I needed to turn it around before clipping.



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Maybe this was through my own incompetency - but unlikely to happen with a 'standard' quickdraw - I dropped the Frog as I was turning it over. Thank god this wasn't a run-out route on the rock somewhere. Reaching for another Frog, the last one on my harness, I managed to turn it and, as Kong had promised, the stiff sling combined with the automatic connector did make the clip a lot less reachy. It meant that I could keep myself a lot more balanced on the route while clipping.



Safety

Ok, so I'd decided that once you get used to the Frogs, they were pretty handy bits of gear to carry with you. Now to see how safe they were. Of course, this is a bit of faux pas question, as all gear has to be certified under EU Regulations, but the thought of those automatic connectors made me feel uneasy, I was eager to see how they held up to a fall. It was for this exact reason I had also clipped the alternate bolts with my reliable Mammut draws.


With my belayer ready, I tentatively let go of the holds and fell into the void. Thankfully the Frogs held the fall, despite a fair amount of noise from the connector colliding with the metal bolt. The main thing was that they were solid, the automatic connector hadn't popped and the karabiner had held the rope. Not that I expected anything less.


Pro's

- Useful for out-of-reach bolts

- Sturdy, and hold up to lead falls

- Demand attention at the wall due to being 'unique'

- Lightweight




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Cons'

- Hanging them 'upside down' on teh harness is a challenge

- Only usable for sport routes, not compatible with trad protection.

- Only available in one colour scheme


Summary

So all in all, should you buy any Kong Frogs? Well they're certainly good to carry if you think you're going to have to reach for a bolt. They're safe and proven, but there's just something about them that for me that doesn't feel right. I'd highly recommend buying two or three and combine them with a set of 'classic' draws. This is just my personal view of course, but the Frogs felt just a little too technical for what you need on a standard sport climb.

Well worth the money, but yoou don't need a lot of them.





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