Rock climbing is a technical sport that requires physical strength, balance, mental fortitude, and high levels of endurance. As a sport, rock climbing truly came into it’s own globally in the 1960’s and 70’s. What began as a sideproject to mountaineering, today is one of the fastest growing and more popular sports in the United States and elsewhere.
If you’re just getting started, you’ll need to consider what items of gear to accumulate first. It may not be in your best interest to begin investing in ropes and anchor building materials when you have yet to build the basic knowledge and skill set to keep your climbing partner safe.
A great place to start is a pair or climbing shoes, a harness, and of course, a belay device. Belay devices, or commonly known as “belay plates” are integral in ensuring your personal safety and the safety of your climbing partners when both indoor or outdoor rock climbing.
Climbing gear is often expensive and it can take time to build your “rack” or arsenal of climbing gear before heading outside. This article will help to introduce you to some of the best belay devices on the market to ensure that your next purchase is money well spent on a device that will keep you safe for years to come.
Our top picks
|Petzl Grigri 2 Belay Device||Auto locking, assisted breaking||8.9-11 mm||0.4 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|Black Diamond ATC Guide||Auto-blocking system through guide mode||8.9-11 mm||0.19 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|Grivel Master Mega Twin Gate Belay Kit||Patented Grivel, Twin gate, Carabiner||8.9-11 mm||1.9 oz||Check price on Amazon|
|CAMP USA Matik Belay Device||Auto locking||8.6-10.2 mm||10.1 oz||Check price on Amazon|
|Trango Cinch Belay Device||Auto locking, assisted breaking||9.4-11 mm||7.2 oz||Check price on Amazon|
|Black Diamond ATC-XP||Machined windows for weight saving||7.7-11 mm||0.14 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|EDELRID - Eddy Belay Device||Auto locking||9-11 mm||0.3 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|Trango Pyramid Belay Device||Machined Cooling Fins||9.7-11 mm||0.25 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
Things to Consider Before Buying
While this article does not claim to train you in how to properly belay and in turn does not ensure your personally safety while rock climbing, we will go over some of the basic things to consider before investing in a belay device.
The size of your belay device may not matter to your if you are taking your first few climbs in the gym. However, if you’re carrying your gear long distances or climbing multiple pitches, the weight and size of your belay device may be integral to your decision making.
While size in many cases may refer to the item itself, in this case it refers to the corresponding rope size that you’ll be using with your belay device. Climbing ropes are typically between 7-12 mm in diameter. Most belay devices are fit for this range, however, if you have a specific climbing rope double check the diameter before purchasing your belay device.
Most climbers prefer slim, light, and simple gear. The more complex, the more likely it is that you may make a life threatening mistake. Weight plays a factor in this in that typically more heavy gear is simply more complex.
However, as we mentioned before, if you are properly trained in the use of your gear, your can use your technical ability to make sure that you staying safe.
The weight of your gear may not be your top priority now, but as you progress as a climber towards more technical climbs, you may want to consider purchasing a device that you can continue using as your skills grow.
You’ll want to find a belay device that quickly and easily attaches to your climbing rope and harness. There are various weighted and sized belay devices in this review so if this is something that catches your interest, be sure to take a closer look at the dimensions table listed above.
Belay devices, traditionally, were simple metal plates. The rope would pass through the plate, through a locking carabiner which was attached to the belayers harness, and the belayer used specific techniques to ensure that friction caused the rope to brake in case of a fall. As rock climbing has become more sophisticated, so has gear design.
Autolocking belay devices are a simple example of this. Autolocking belay devices help to ensure the safety of your climber. How? Most have a system that when the climber side of the rope is weighted, the device simply closes on itself, making sure that now slack can pass through to the climber side of the rope.
Belay devices designed specifically for rock climbing guides or multipitch climbing have a tendency to be more sophisticated as well. They are often designed for top belays, an autolocking option, or other systems to make belaying for simple and safe for both the climber and belayer.
Carabiners have become more sophisticated as well. From autolocking carabiners to the twin gate carabiners, new designs can help to ensure your safety; only with proper training!
Today’s Best Belay Devices
It can be downright daunting to shop for a belay device, especially when you’re just a beginner. If you are open to recommendations, you should check out these products below.
Petzl GRIGRI 2 Belay Device
Dimensions: 2 x 5 x 8 inches
Best use: Indoor or outdoor rock climbing, technical rope ascension, single rope technique rappel
The Petzl GriGri 2 Belay Device is one of the most well known autolocking belay devices on the market. It’s notoriety is well earned through it’s easy to use, safe, and sophisticated design. This device is simply a smaller, lighter, and slightly shinier version of the original GRIGRI.
Used in climbing gyms and outdoor climbing areas around the world, the GRIGRI is one of the easiest to use belay devices to date. Following the diagram found of the face of the belay device, you weave your climbing rope through the device and close the top, attaching a locking carabiner to the device and again to the belayer’s belay loop.
With the GRIGRI, if your belayer were to pass out, or simply release their brake hand, the device will clamp shut and using friction, stop the climber from falling.
Aid climbers, arborists, and rescuers also commonly use the GRIGRI for technical rope ascension. The one drawback to the GRIGRI is if you are not properly trained, lowering can be a challenge. You may lower your climber especially quickly or especially slowly which can be more annoying than dangerous.
- Autolocking and assisted breaking
- Well known and commonly used by climbers globally
- Great for top belays
- Lowering can be a challenge if you are a new or inexperienced belayer
- Larger ropes can be caught in the autolocking system
- Difficult to use on a lead belay from the bottom
Related: In order to use this belay device, you’ll need a locking carabiner, a harness, and a helmet comes highly recommended. You don’t want to wind up with a rock in the face, or in your skull, from falling debris. Consider purchasing the PETZL Hera Attache Carabiner, PETZL Corax Climbing Harness, and PETZL Elios Club Helmet to round out your system.
Black Diamond ATC Guide
Dimensions: 3.15 x 3.15 x 4.72 inches
Best Use: Top rope belaying, double rope technique rappel,
The Black Diamond ATC Guide is a sophisticated and yet simple belay device. Both expert and beginner climbers can use this device to ensure the safety of your climbing partner. When used in a traditional ATC or belay plate mode, it works simply enough with a wide variety of rope lengths.
The “teeth” on the belayer side of the device provide added friction to the rope to ensure your climbers safety on a lead or top rope fall. The sophisticated nature of this device really shows its true colors when used in guide mode.
If attached to your master point, guide mode can be an excellent way to top belay your climbing partner on a multipitch climb after a long lead.
When in guide mode, the device works as an auto-locking system which provides added security and allows your top belayer to rest easy as their climbing partner follows and cleans their latest line.
Be sure that you are technically trained in how to use this device when in guide mode or not as it is easy to get confused which, when combined with the inherent risk of rock climbing, can result in disaster.
- Lighter system
- Guide mode
- Does not have an autolocking system when used traditionally
- Not for beginners
Related: In order to use this device in guide mode, you will need to use two locking carabiners. Consider purchasing both the Black Diamond Rockblock Carabiner and the Black Diamond Positron Screwgate Carabiner to ensure your safety on your next climb. Both are pear shaped carabiners which can be used for belaying or rappelling.
Grivel Master Mega Twin Gate Belay Kit
Dimensions: 4 x 5 x 8 inches
Best Use: Belaying, rappelling
Not unlike the ATC guide, the Grivel Master Mega Twin Gate Belay Kit comes with a standard belay plate fit with machine cut windows to save on weight. The sophistication in this system comes from the carabiner rather than the belay device itself.
Most carabiners used in belayer systems are locking carabiners, screwgate or autolocking. However, this carabiner provides a different level of sophistication by providing a twin gate carabiner. Redundancy is key in rock climbing, we ensure our safety by employing multiple systems to do a single job: keep our system from falling apart.
This carabiner is a new innovation in carabiner design to ensure that your rope doesn’t become unattached from your carabiner during use.
The redundant twin gates take the place of a traditional autolocking or screwgate carabiner allowing you to move more quickly from attaching your belay rope to and from your harness or attaching your personal protection to your anchor when completing a climb.
With sophistication comes responsibility, so make sure your properly trained and technically savy before using this carabiner on your next climb.
- Twin Gate carabiner
- Light-weight belay device system for climbing of all sorts
- Twin gate carabiner system may be difficult for new or beginner climbers
Related: While the twin gate may take some getting used to, your belay device can be used with any traditional locking carabiner. It never hurts to have an extra locking carabiner in your arsenal just in case. Consider purchasing the Mad Rock Ultra Tech Carabiner to round out your system.
CAMP USA Matik Belay Device
Dimensions: 2 x 5 x 9 inches
Best Use: Indoor/outdoor rock climbing, belaying, rappelling with a single rope technique
The Camp USA Matik Belay Device is another belay device that finds itself in between sophistication and simplicity. The design of the device, similar to the GRIGRI, is an autolocking and assisted brake device. Meaning, that when belaying, it autolocks if your climber were to fall and provides added friction when lowering your climber from the top.
The biggest different between this belay device and the GRIGRI is size and weight. This smaller device cuts a few ounces lighter than the GRIGRI and fits in the palm of your hand. In addition, the autolock, or assisted brake, provides a gentle amount of force on the rope providing less wear and tear.
- Autolocking system provides added safety
- Lighter and more compact than other autolocking or assisted brake belay devices
- A relatively new product
Dimensions: 2 x 11 x 6 inches
Best Use: Indoor/outdoor rock climbing, mountain rescue, belaying, rappelling with a single rope technique
One of the other more reliable autolocking belay devices on the market, Trango has been producing the Trango Cinch Belay Device for a number of years and has received high customer satisfaction. Slightly less bulky than the GRIGRI, the Cinch is well known in climbing and mountain rescue communities.
It never hurts to have a third hand while belaying, rappelling, or ascending which the cinch provides. Similar to the GRIGRI, it uses friction and directional force to pull the belay device shut in case of a fall or in case the descender loses control while climbing.
The cinch can be great for slightly smaller diameter ropes than some of the other belay devices in this review. In addition, it’s slightly easier to feed slack through the device to your climber if lead belaying.
- Autolocking system for extra protection
- Assisted brake when lowering your climbing partner or descending
- Slightly smaller and less bulky than other autolocking devices
- Not great for larger diameter ropes
- Requires a higher level of technical understanding
Related: This device will also require you to purchase a locking carabiner. Consider purchasing the Mad Rock Super Tech Carabiner for a lightweight belaying and rappelling system.
Black Diamond ATC-XP
Dimensions: 3 x 4 x 7 inches
Best Use: Belaying, rappelling with a double rope technique
Potentially the simplest, lightest, and most basic belay device in this review, the Black Diamond ATC-XP is the standard belay plate 2.0. Why? The teeth found on the brake side of the belay plate provide extra friction when belaying or rappelling.
Important to note: this belay device DOES NOT come with an autolocking feature unlike many of the others on this list. As a result, it’s lighter, cheaper, and potentially easier to use than your autolocking belay device. However, in order to secure the same amount of redundancy that you can easily find in an autolocking device, you will need to secure a “third hand.”
There are a series of different systems to work a third hand into your belay system but the most simple is having an extra climbing partner act as a back-up belayer. Be sure that you are properly trained in belaying BEFORE you decide to take this belay device outdoors or to your local climbing gym.
- Light, cheap and simple
- Easy to use
- Teeth for extra friction when belaying or rappelling
- No autolocking feature
- Cannot be used in technical rope ascension without further technical systems
- Requires a third hand when rappelling or belaying
EDELRID – Eddy Belay Device
Dimensions: 2 x 4 x 7 inches
Best Use: Indoor/outdoor rock climbing, belaying, rappelling with a single rope technique
Similar to other autolocking belay devices on this list, the Edlrid – Eddy Belay Device is a great belay device for top roping, rappelling, ascending, arborist techniques, and mountain rescue.
This device is slightly easier to use for a lead belay than other autolocking systems in this list as it has a special feature that allows you to easily provide slack to your climber. The difference between this belay device and other autolocking systems is it does not advertise itself as an assisted brake device.
More specifically, if lowering a climber on a top rope, or rappelling down from a climb, you will need to pull a lever on the belay device to release slack. Once this lever is pulled, no matter the amount of force excerted on the device, or direction of pull from said force, the device will not autolock or slow down your descent.
That being said, to engage the autolocking system, simply let go of the lever and the force exerted on the device will cause it to clamp shut on the rope and stop your descent quickly and effectively.
- Autolocking system for ascending, descending, and lowering
- Easy to use system
- Lightweight and fits snugly in your hand
- No assisted brake when lowering, rappelling, or ascending
- More expensive than a simpler belay device
Related: Similar to the other devices on this list, you’ll need to buy a locking carabiner to finish out your belay or rappel system. If you’re looking for a few back-ups for a good price take a look at Ayamaya 30kn Carabiners.
Trango Pyramid Belay Device
Dimensions: 0.1 x 0.5 x 3.2 inches
Best Use: Belaying, rappelling with a double rope technique
The Trango Pyramid Belay Device is the closest device on this list to a traditional belay plate. Similar to the ATC Guide, listed above, this is used by passing a bight of rope through the belay device, attaching a locking carabiner to the device and bight of rope and again attaching the locking carabiner to your harness. This same system is used for both belaying and rapelling.
This belay device is light, simple, and easy to use. However, it lacks the benefit of an autolocking belay device like the GRIGRI or Cinch. In addition, it lacks the ability to enter guide mode and thus can not be used at a master point for a top belay.
If you’re new to climbing, looking to keep your budget from breaking, and interested in starting your repertoire of gear, this could be the right device for you.
- Simple, light, easy to use
- No complex design features that may cause confusion
- No autolocking feature
- Doesn’t come with a locking carabiner
Related: In order to round out your system, you’ll need to include a locking carabiner. Consider purchasing the Petzl Attache Screwlock Carabiner for its lightness and durability.
Investing in a belay device is the first step to ensuring your fun and safety when rock climbing with friends and family in the gym or outdoors. Before using your belay device, make sure that you are properly trained and have the technical skills to ensure your personal safety and that of your climbing partner.
Every belay device is slightly different but all rely on YOU, the belayer, to be safe and secure. If you’re looking to improve your skills, consider taking a course or visiting a local climbing gym before heading outside.
Don’t forget that the most important part of rock climbing, just like any outdoor pursuit, is to have fun! So get out and enjoy yourself, and bring your belay device with you! So what’s your favorite belay device? We’d love to know your preferences in the comments!