Belay device review

Belay – Rappel Device Review So you are in the market for a new Belay – Rappel Device for your next climbing trip? These little peices of steel and aluminum are essential and important pieces of climbing gear. They allow us to safely transfer the load of a falling climber to our harness, and catch them with little effort. The friction developed by these devices is amazing, and the new breed of auto blocking and assisted locking devices are great, but everyone must remember that you really need to learn to use these pieces of climbing gear. If you mess it up, and allow yourself to get sloppy thinking that technology will save you, your climbing partner should be worried. Long story short, when you get a new piece of climbing equipment, read the directions!

Belay device review

To say that there are a lot of belay devices on the market today would be a gross understatement. It seems that every climbing equipment manufacturer has 12 of them. For what its worth, here are our thoughts on a few.

Trango Pyramid review
I bought one of these devices eons ago, and its always been my favorite. The ability to belay a leader and rappel down smoothly and tweek the level of friction by threading it through the big end for additional friction or the small end for silky smooth belays is just great. Some of our guides don’t like them because giving a beginning rock climber a choice can sometimes be a bad thing, but in the hands of someone who understands good design, the Trango Pyramid is a great device with enough stopping power to work with most all of todays new skinny climbing ropes.

Black Diamond ATC review
I’d guess this is the most common device I see around. It’s about as simple and straight forward as they come. There is beauty in a piece of climbing equipment when there is nothing left to add or take away. Cheryl climbed with these devices for a decade or more, and she always caught my leader falls with style. I never thought they offered the smoothness of a Pyramid, but it was probably that I just never worked with them enough to figure it out. Every climber develops his or her personal favorite, and mine was the Trango. It’s a tough call to say one is actually better then the other though. I’d be happy with either, and my climbing guides prefer that I buy ATC’s for our guest to use because there is only one way to feed the rope through them. Simple and time tested… you gotta like that in your climbing gear.

Kong Gi-Gi auto blocking device review
I could be wrong, but I think Kong was the first to put this invaluable guide tool out on the market. So simple and functional that I’ve not found a substitute, and I’ve tried about all of them. If you could belay a leader with it, this device would be perfect. The biggest advantage that it has over devices such as the Petzl reverso or the Black Diamond Guide is that it feeds easier and it’s easier to release. Having a device that you can trust to safely belay 2 following climbers at the same time is an invaluable time saver for a guide or any climber doing a route in a party of 3. Several belay devices do that part very well, but when you are feeding miles and miles of climbing rope through your device every climbing season you quickly appreciate a belay device that allows you to do this with the least possible stress on your aching elbows and shoulders. That’s why I carry my trusted Kong Gi-Gi. Add to the mix that you can quickly clip a full sized carabiner into the lower hole to flip the device to lower a stuck climber or use as an attachment point to lower your guest off a munter, and you have a super efficient tool. You can even rappel with this great device, so on a day of guiding it’s the only device you need carry. One thing to watch though as we all make a move to thinner lighter climbing ropes, if you are belaying your bro on a single rope, make sure you read the directions and learn how to clip your carabiner in so that the rope cannot twist when loaded and become useless.

The Petzl Reverso review
The ability to do everything the Kong Gi-Gi can do, plus belay a leader was a brilliant move by Petzl. I’m very thankful that they created this device as it has made other companies step up innovation and create better gear. I don’t feel that anyone has come up with a better answer though. The only reason you don’t’ find one on my harness full time is the additional friction needed to pull a rope through the device. The metal frame that keeps the carabiner from twisting is a great feature. The frame also allows relatively easy “flip- ability” of this device so that you can release it, which is great if your friends or guest run outa gas half way up the climbing route you are on. The only other downer about this great Petzl tool is that it does become grooved out and sharp, such that its life isn’t as long as it should be.

Petzl Reverso III review

All the benefits of the first device without the sharp edge problem, and less weight. Not quite as beafy as the Black Diamond Guide, but it is what Cheryl and I use when not guiding.

Kong GhostKong Ghost review
I was sucked in by the words “lightest device of its kind in our review.” I’m a sucker for phrases like that. So I laid down my cash and have one hanging on the wall now. Next time I get a chance to go climbing on Double ropes up in the mountains with my friends, I’ll pull it down and take it with me. For day in and day out use though, I don’t have enough energy to pull a 9.8mm rope or larger through the darn thing. It creates such a sharp bend that I get totally worked belaying…maybe that’s the answer to staying in shape while guiding, but the pain on my joints when I’m 85 isn’t worth it. I do enough damage to them just out rock climbing. Over all I think the Ghost is a great design for a very specific use. IE belaying with small ropes.

Black Diamond Guide review
BD has done it again. They came up with another great climbing tool. It took them awhile, but from what several of the Sylvan Rocks guides say, they did a good job. It seems to feed pretty easy when belaying either a leader or a second, rappel with style, and be a great one stop shopping do it all device. I guess the reason I don’t carry one is that you need to have a prussic cord or 8mm sling to thread through the tiny hole used to flip it and release it, and when you have a guest hanging on it that needs to be lowered, I don’t want to take the extra time to mess around with such things. I want to put a carabiner in the darn thing and get the job done. If they would make the hole large enough for one of new OZ carabiners I’d buy a BD Guide and use it daily.

Petzl Gri-Gri review
The original mechanical autolocking belay device. Just try to go in a climbing gym and not see one of these in use. They are everywhere, and for good reason. Like every other device, they are a piece of climbing equipment that you need to learn to safely use. Petzl has no equal when it comes to great instructions, so there is no excuse for not leaning proper technique to safely use this piece of climbing gear. I have noticed that with a new dry treated skinny climbing rope (say 9.8 mm) and a new Petzl Gri-Gri that you need to pay extra attention to the device or risk dropping your friend. You need to keep your break hand on the rope! When setting up a Gri-Gri to belay a second up, you also really need to pay attention that there is enough room for the device to articuate and lock like it should. Ive seen them get snagged on rock and ropes and not perform the way they should in such situations, but it’s user error, and not the fault of a device. The popularity of these devices sing the greatness of this piece of climbing device, and there is not one friend or climbing parter I know of to trust belaying me on a big wall or aid pitch without using an Auto locker like a Gri Gri…’cuz lets face it, most climbers have the attention span of a flash cube, so if I can buy a tool that will most likely save my butt when my belayer is board, I’m all over it!

The Trango Cinch review
The Cinch is similar to a Gri-Gri in several ways. Number one is that it must be properly threaded to work correctly. Read the directions, look at the pictures on the device and test it every time you thread it. Beyond that, I feel slightly more secure with a slick, small diameter rope when being belayed with the Cinch. The rope grabbing action is great, and the belays are super secure, while the ease of feeding is top notch. The release handle seems a little on the weak side and the overall design makes me a little uneasy when I’m belaying off the upper anchor, but you can’t argue with how great it works. It’s the device I whip out if I’m faced with guiding a young guest who might not catch me if a rock breaks on a guide route. It gives me piece of mind, and lets face it, that’s what all this climbing gear is for. Rock climbing is a very mental game you know.

The Trango B52 review
This is another device that I just had to buy and try, but not sure what I’ll do with it now. It seems to be a great backup device for guiding, as you can offer a leader a silky smooth belay and rappel beautifully with it. It even does a heck of a job belaying one follower, but doesn’t seem the best for working with 2 followers and I’ve never figured out how to release a loaded system with one of these. I understand it all in theory, but never truly worked it out on the rocks. You can find great instructions on the Trango website . So I guess I’m not a very big fan, and wouldn’t recommend that you rush out and buy one when there are so many other good devices that do what the B52 does. As a whole I think Trango climbing gear is super great equipment at a fair price, but with this piece, I think I’ll stick with my Gi-Gi until I’ve got enough time on my hands to figure this one out. UPDATE – after looking at this thing hanging around for a year or so, I put it on my harness, learned to use it, and was quite pleased with it. I was even satisfied with the amount of time it lasted. I’d buy another one!