There is s special bond between climbing partners, You train with them, climb with them, they belay you and you belay them. There is a certain level of trust that is required.
As weird as it sounds you develop a similar sort of bond for your climbing gear. You need the same levels of trust in your gear to ensure you climb your limit if you can’t trust your gear you shouldn’t be climbing with it.
Each belay device that is manufactured is engineered for climber’s safety and performance in mind. Sometimes companies will have a specific style or type of climbing in mind. This is why it’s so important to compare the features of each to ensure you find a belay device that is suited to you and the type of climbing you want to do.
Don’t worry if you have never used a belay device before, we will explain all the things you need to look for, what types of devices are on the market and also what we recommend for beginners.
That’s why we have made a list of all our favorite Belay Devices to help you make an educated choice and get a device that suits you – and more importantly one you can trust and rely on.
Click to jump straight to each topic.
- Best All-Round Belay Device
- Best Assisted Braking Belay Device
- Best Beginners Belay Device
- Best Budget Belay Device
- Different Types of Belay Device
Best Belay Devices Reviewed
Best All-Round Belay Device: Petzl Reverso 4
B07GXXNDZ8 So Petzl designed the Reverso 4 to be a lightweight all-around belay device and it worked! It truly is an all-rounder you can rely on for any situation! This can be used for Multi-Pitch, Cragging, Sport Climbing, and Mountaineering or Trad and rappelling!
The Reverso is made out of aluminum which helps give it a lightweight frame only weighing at 57g which makes it one of the lightest devices available on the market today.
Like most of the other options available on the market, you have the option for dual channels for when you need to belay one or two seconds in a multi-pitch climb.
But the versatility of the Reverso is what really makes it.
Petzl has designed the Reverso with the ability to take a wide range of ropes so it doesn’t matter what type of climbing you are doing you know your Reverso can handle it.
Along with being able to take a wide range of ropes, you can also use the Reverso to rappel and thanks to the duel channels which are featured on most belay device these days, you can rappel on two ropes at once if you’re looking for that extra bit of safety.
|Dynamic Single Ropes||8.5mm-10mm|
|Dynamic Half Ropes||7.1mm to 9.2 mm|
|Dynamic Twin Ropes||6.9mm to 9.2 mm|
The Reverso also features “reverso mode” which allows you to use the device as an anchor and belay a second during a multi-pitch climb.
I have also seen a couple of people mentioning that the new style aluminum frame on the Reverso 4 might wear out quicker due to the lighter body. I have yet to see anything backing up this claim and have seen people using their Reverso for multiple years and even though there was some mild wear, it didn’t affect the performance of the device.
If you are also interested in what checks and inspection procedure the Reverso goes through Petzl list them at the bottom of their product page here.
What we Like:
- Versatility – The adaptability of the Reverso is its best feature it can take any rope you throw at it.
- Lightweight – weighing in at only 57 grams this is perfect for anyone trying to get a super light rack.
What we Don’t Like:
- Feed Issues – While the Reverso can take those thicc ropes, anything over 9.5mm seems to have a little trouble feeding smoothly.
Best Assisted Braking Belay Device: Petzl Gri Gri+
So the Pretzl Grigri+ is hands down the best-assisted brake device available right now.
While assisted braking devices might sound like something more suited to beginners its quite the opposite. Assisted brake belay devices should be used by experienced belayers only.
Assisted brake devices are designed for experienced climbers that need to save every bit of energy when belaying. As they will be climbing for long periods of time they can end up spending a lot of time holding their partner’s weight.
The Grigri+ helps take the strain and means you can save your energy for when it’s your turn to follow.
At 200g the GriGri+ might be heavier than your traditional belay device but for the additional features, I think the extra weight is worth it!
So the main difference between the Grigri and the Grigri+ is the anti-panic handle. What this does is cause the rope to tighten and the cam to pinch the rope which stops the descent.
While using the Anti-Panic handle you need to ensure your hand still never leaves the brake side of the rope. This is a good rule to practice with any belay maneuvers.
It’s important to also keep in mind the safety measures added are extras, not replacements for existing safety techniques while belaying.
Another feature that Petzl added onto the Grigri+ is the mode selector. This is a small dial on the side of the device that can change between two modes, top rope or lead mode.
The difference between these two modes is how easy it is to take in the slack. When in top rope mode it’s much easier to take in the slack to give you an easier time while belaying.
As for rope compatibility, here’s what Petzl themselves say about it:
The compatibility between the GRIGRI and the rope used is dependent on more than just the rope’s diameter. The rope’s texture, sheath treatments on new ropes, moisture, the state of wear, and ice play an important role in the performance of your GRIGRI, in belaying, and also in descending.Petzl
If you are curious about what rope size to use please see the table below.
|Dynamic Single Ropes||8.5mm-11mm|
|Dynamic Half Ropes||N/A|
|Dynamic Twin Ropes||N/A|
What we Like:
- Anti-Panic Handle – This is hands down one of the best safety features on the market right now.
- Mode Select A small but welcome feature to help belay comfortably.
What we Don’t Like:
- Anti-Panic Handle – So the anti-panic is a pro and a con, the downside of the safety feature is it can sometimes cause lower offs to come to a stop and needs a little fiddling to get your partner lowering again.
- Weighty and Bulky – The heaviest out of all of our Belay Device choices – not for anyone wanting to travel light.
Best Beginners’ Belay Device: Black Diamond ATC
If you have just started climbing and are getting lost with all the choices available on the market, then the classic old school Black Diamond ATC is perfect for you and let me tell you why.
The key to any good belayer is technique, belay devices will only ever work as well as the user. there is no failsafe and no backup in most devices so you need to make sure you have a good technique as it won’t be you getting hurt if your skills are not up to scratch.
Unlike the newer devices on the market, it doesn’t have any built-in friction grooves, but honestly, due to the different design, it doesn’t really need them.
Due to the shape of the Black Diamond ATC, it has a pretty large surface area and sharp edges. These are exactly what is needed to generate a lot of friction which contains all of your stopping power.
The Black Diamond ATC works best with larger ropes especially those you tend to find in the gym already set up on a top rope.
What we Like:
- Aesthetics – This device just screams old school and gives off those vintage vibes.
- Technique – This device is perfect to build up your belaying technique.
What we Don’t Like:
- Basic – The only downside of the device is how basic it is with no frills such as friction teeth. Perfect for learning but not great for a long term climber.
Best Budget Belay Device: Black Diamond ATC-XP
The Black Diamond ATC-XP is perfect for climbers on a budget. Getting your climbing gear/rack together can be extremely costly so it’s important to try and save where you can.
Let’s talk a little bit about the device, It’s available in several different colors and features two different rope modes.
It’s been designed to be 30% lighter than the original device which was achieved by hollowing out windows in the side to try and keep the weight down as much as possible
The two different rope modes available on the belay device are “regular mode” and “high friction mode” its generally considered that regular mode is for top-roping as having less friction makes it easier to take in the slack.
The high friction mode, however, is usually seen as the go two when using the device for lead or sport climbing, the reason behind this is the friction teeth help you catch any falls and support the climber during rests. The high friction teeth also help when rappeling to ensure you make a steady descent.
The Black Diamond ATC-XP can take single ropes from 7.7mm up to 11mm and feels pretty smooth when feeding out slack on every size.
|Dynamic Single Ropes||7.7mm to 11mm|
|Dynamic Half Ropes||N/A|
|Dynamic Twin Ropes||N/A|
One of the main reasons this is the best belay device to get on a budget is what’s called the “Big Air XP Package” it allows you to pick up a screw gate carabiner at the same time for extra savings.
What we Like:
- High Friction Mode – The Teeth of the device provide great friction when catching lead or sport falls.
What we Don’t Like:
- Weight – The ATC-XP is one of the heavier devices in its class which can be a turn off for some.
The Different Types of Belay Devices
So there are a couple of different styles of belay devices that exist on the market today. I say styles, but it’s more interchangeable features or added extras that have different purposes.
When purchasing a belay device it’s important to understand what all of the different features are for and how to use them in order to make an informed decision.
Assisted Braking Devices
The first and biggest change between belay devices is assisted braking.
Assisted braking is exactly what it sounds like, The device helps you brake the rope taking falls or just taking the climbers weight while they lower off or take a rest.
They can be split into two groups – active assisted braking and passive assisted braking.
How active devices work is usually a rotatable cam, when the rope is moving slowly it is allowed to flow through the device, however, when the rope starts to speed up the cam rotates causing it to pinch the rope and slow it down/stop it.
An example of an active assisted brake device is the Grigri+ that I talked about above.
This assisted braking devices might sound like something you would give a beginner to help them learn to belay, but it’s quite the opposite. Each manufacturer recommends the device be used by experienced belayers only.
This is due to cases where the devices assisted brake might not activate the belayer needs to have good belay techniques and not rely on the device. There can be a variety of reasons this happens and it can be usually attributed to user error rather than the device itself failing.
Each device will have set usage conditions that need to be met such as rope size and weather. Things like an icy or muddy rope can lead to assisted braking devices not activating.
An example of active assisted braking devices is the Grigri+ talked about earlier in this post.
Passive assisted brake devices work in a slightly different manner to active ones, the passive devices rely more on the shape of the device and have no moving parts.
For example, the Black Diamond’s Pilot changes angle once the rope is weighted and this locks the rope down. Like the active assist devices, you still need to keep your hand on the brake rope.
The benefit of this is they are much cheaper to produce however they downside is they don’t work as well as the active devices.
If you are climbing on a budget and want an assisted brake device I would highly recommend going for a passive device.
Tubular Style Devices
So this is the most common style of belay device that you will see on the market and I’m pretty sure most climbers have a tubular style.
Unlike the assisted brake devices this relies pretty much on your belay technique along with friction to give you a helping hand.
Most of these devices have sharp edges to generate friction which is what helps slow down the rope.
These devices can some times come with two slots to allow a climber to belay two seconds or rappel with dual ropes.
Along with the ability to use multiple ropes, it’s quite common to see devices with an additional loop which is called an anchor point.
This additional loop is for when you are completing multi-pitch climbs and you need to belay your partner from above.
If you are new to climbing I wouldn’t worry about if your device has an anchor loop or not, it’s unlikely you will be doing any multi-pitches any time soon.
Figure 8 devices are becoming more and more uncommon and tend to only be seen with older climbers these days. While these can technically be used for belaying they are best used for descending which is where they excel.
Tubular or assisted brake devices will allow you to belay with a lot more ease and are much more user-friendly when giving or taking slack.
However, due to the shape of figure 8 is it extremely good as dissipating heat which does make them amazing for lowering climbers or descending.
What to Look For In a Belay Device
With all the different choices out there it can be hard to know what to look for when trying to get a belay device to suit you.
What you first need to do is decide is what kind of climbing you are going to be doing as it will change what device you need.
This is because certain devices are more suited to certain types or styles of climbs.
For example, the Anchor holes on the Reverso or the Black Diamond ATC Guide are specific features for belaying a second from above. This is only needed when climbing Multi-Pitch climbs.
If you know it’s unlikely you will be climbing multi-pitch then these are not the devices for you.
As a general rule its better for beginners to get basic devices to ensure they learn good belay technique.
If you find yourself working long projects or taking lots of falls than active-assisted brake devices are going to be your belay device of choice.
If you don’t really know what type of climbing you will be doing it might be best to go for the budget option as a temporary measure and then invest in other devices as you need them.
How Does a Belay Device Work?
All belay devices work on the same simple principle which is to create friction on the rope to slow it down and stop it.
The difference between the devices is the way they create this friction. Most devices just use larges surface areas or sharp angles to create friction on the rope while others might use moving parts.
However, all this is useless without the proper belay technique. All of these large surfaces and sharp edges won’t generate any friction if you don’t bring the rope close to your body.
Belay devices are designed to create this friction when the rope is held close to your body, This forces the rope to hit the friction spots on the device which then stops the rope.
How To Attach a Belay Device To a Harness
So this one is pretty easy, All you need is your belay device, a screw gate carabiner, and your harness.
First, you grab a bite of rope and push it through your belay device, next, you attach your screw gate carabiner through the rope loop and the belay devices loop. like the image below.
You then clip it all through the belay loop on your harness. The finished product will look like the image above but also clipped through your belay loop.
Care and Maintenance
So now you own a belay device you need to know how to look after it climbing gear can last twice as long when maintained and looked after correctly.
Take care of your gear!
This one seems pretty obvious but look after your gear! It can be tempting after a particularly grueling session to through all of your gear in the corner and race to the shower. Impacts can add up or poorly stored gear might be knocked or stood on.
A few general tips for storage are:
- Store your equipment in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight (UV).
- • Reserve a specific place for your equipment. Warning: any contact with harsh or corrosive substances (e.g. acids) is prohibited. If you have a doubt, retire your equipment.
- • Never store your gear in a damp place where mold can develop (damp closets, bags and waterproof containers with moisture inside). For long-distance travel, beware of moisture in containers during transit, in ports or airports, especially in salty environments.
Now when it comes to climbing gear pretty much only the stuff made of metal needs maintaining.
The main reason for wear on a lot of metal climbing equipment is due to climbing near the sea. This can cause salty build-ups that rust the equipment.
Luckily for you, this is easily solved by washing your gear in warm water after climbing in any sort of salty environment.
The next killer of gear is dirt and oil this can build up over time when climbing outdoors a lot and exposing your gear to all sorts of dingy quarries or beautiful mountainsides.
Lucky for you the solution is just a nice simple brush, the smaller the better to allow you to get into the joints of your gear.
Last but not least you might need to lubricate gear like cams occasionally this can be done with any general lubricant or WD-40.
While it might be tempting to get it over and done with, whatever you do don’t use a pressure washer on any of your gear, you will just end up damaging it.
Don’t use any other household cleaning products other than water and body soap.