There are many belay devices out there. We encourage you to try them all, more than once. Photo: Kate Erwin

The act of belaying should never be taken lightly. In fact, it is an art and when done properly, it can make a climb memorable for the person on the end of the rope. If it is done poorly, the climb might end with a hospital visit, or worse. There are many belay devices available and depending on the style of climbing, application of use, and your weight/size, personal preferences will determine which device is best for you. We’ve rounded up a few options to help you choose.

Petzl GRIGRI+ ($150)

The Petzl GRI GRI +. Photo: Courtesy of Petzl.

Peztl’s GRIGRI, which is a mechanical brake assisted belay device, is likely the most popular belay device for sport climbing. Just like other devices, if you have never used it, it might take a little time to give a “good catch” aka smooth belay. But once mastered, the GRIGRI can give climbers and belayers confidence while working projects. The “plus” is the third generation of the GRIGRI and features an anti-panic handle as well as a specific mode that increases comfort during top-rope belays. The GRIGRI+ can be used for belaying from above or below. Check out this video to see how it works.

Black Diamond ATC-Guide ($30)

The Black Diamond Guide ATC. Photo: Courtesy of Black Diamond

The term “ATC” stands for “air traffic controller”, which was originally the name of one of Black Diamond Equipment’s belay devices, and has now been the standard term for all the brand’s devices with the same design. The ATC design contains a durable cable with a metal tube shaped with grooves that allow the rope to catch and sit well in the the device. The difference between the guide ATC and regular ATC is that the guide’s tube features an extra eyelet that allows you to belay from above on multi-pitches.

Mammut Smart Alpine (8.7 – 10.5) ($50)

The Mammut Alpine Smart. Photo: Courtesy of Mammut.

When used properly, the Smart devices will lock automatically, providing a “back-up” for a the that captures the rope in the device when the climber takes a fall. Of course all brake assisted devices can be compromised by human error, but when used correctly, can make belaying easier and safer.

The Mammut Smart comes in a single strand option, called the Smart 2.0 which is just for belaying and lowering. The double strand options come in half rope size and 8.7 – 10.5 rope size and is also suitable for rapelling and "autoblock" belaying. Check out how the Smart works here.

Wild Country Revo ($145)

The Revo by Wild Country. Photo: Courtesy of Wild Country.

The brand-new Wild Country Revo is another brake assisted device, but is the only mechanical brake assisted that is ambidextrous. The Revo’s “assisted braking” only occurs when there is a fall from the climber, unlike the GRIGRI that is always locking with load. The Revo does not catch immediately, but rather when the spinal (wheel inside) passes four meters per second it automatically engages a break. See the video here to explain the inner workings. The Revo is a little bit heavier than the GRIGRI, and cannot be fed backwards.

Ederlrid OHM assisted braking resistor ($116)

The OHM by Edelrid. Photo: Courtesy of Edelrid.

The Ederlrid OHM is NOT a belay device but another piece of of equipment that helps small people belay larger people. This often happens and using the OHM can help the larger climber feel more confident that their smaller belayer can catch them safely. It also gives the belayer a piece of mind that they will not be thrusted into the rock or wall (for indoor climbing) when their partner falls. The climber must first clip OHM in the point of safety in the chain (first bolt, first piece of gear, etc.). There is no noticeable difference to the belayer or climber. If the heavier climber falls, the OHM is activated and increases the braking in the safety chain – almost like an extra device. This will decrease the force of pull on the belayer.

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