man climbing while a man sits below

Today we’re going to give you all the best belay device reviews on the market

(For real)

You plop down in front of that computer. What’s out there? What do you need? You type “best belay device reviews” into Google and get firehosed by decades of information. 

Soon you’re inundated with terms like Air Traffic Control and Passive Assisted Braking. Oh boy. Wipe that brow and dive deeper down the rabbit hole Alice, you’re in for a wild ride.

Click, click. Scrolllllll.

What? They call rappelling abseiling in the UK? Hmm abs. You poke your belly and smile. Come to think of abs, you’ve always meant to learn how to belly dance. Load up YouTube. It’s tutorial time.

An hour passes. You’re sweaty now, and may have pulled something, but you’re still no closer to getting a belay device.

Research is hard. We get it.

That’s why we went to the lab to concoct the only article necessary to understand EVERYTHING about the best belay devices in the world. 

Take the Red Pill, Neo. We’re going in.

In this article you’ll find:

Hey! By the way… this page contains Amazon affiliate links. So if you make a purchase after clicking one at no cost to you we may earn a small commission. Thanks for your support!

The Ultimate Buying Guide: Best Belay Device Reviews

Assisted Braking Belay Device Reviews

Beal Birdie Belay Device

teal and grey assisted braking belay device

The Beal Birdie is another actively assisted braking device, the Birdie attempts to address some of the concerns in the Grigri’s design.

Its method of feeding slack often doesn’t require pushing down the on the mechanism with the thumb.

Sometimes it’s still necessary, but sometimes is better than always.

The brake strand is meant to be held parallel to the climb side, reducing possible rope twist caused by a perpendicular Grigri brake strand.

This is slight though. I can’t say I’ve had a twisty rope after Grigri catches.

This thing is all metal. Feels quality but does weigh in a bit more, 210 g.

Pretty standard design from there. It has a lever and smooth catches on lead and TR. You can clip to the anchor and belay but will need that double tube device to get down, without a Biner Block.

It takes ropes from 8.5 to 10.5 mm. 

Price at time of writing: $74.95 on REI

Verdict

A solid alternative to the Grigri. It addresses some of the concerns therein while being significantly cheaper. An absolute marvel of engineering. The only ‘downside’ is that it isn’t designed specifically for alpine/multi-pitch uses. 

No belay device does it all, but the Birdie gets pretty darn close.

Trango Vergo Rock Climbing Belay Device

assisted braking belay device

The Trango Vergo is very similar to the Grigri with slight differences along the way.

Really rad feature alert. When paying out slack on the Grigri, you must hold the camming mechanism with your thumb. This is both touchy to learn and slightly spooky as you hamper the assisted braking functionality.

No need for this on the Vergo.

The way it feeds slack, horizontally across the waist in conjunction with the design enables the safety mechanisms to be intact throughout the motion.

It has tons of ergonomic touches to make sure you use it correctly, which are necessary because it is a unique take on belaying and even clipping it in is funky (you watch the video yet?).

Apart from that, it is very similar to the Grigri. It has a handle and actively brakes a fall. The braking mechanism is slightly touchier, making for a bit less cushy of falls.

You can belay smoothly off an anchor for multi-pitches. Be aware, it can only take one rope, so you’ll need another device or some technical knowhow to rap.

It can handle ropes from 8.9 to 10.7 mm, slightly less than the Grigri. It weighs in at a hefty 195 g.

Price at time of writing: $99.95 on Trango

Verdict

Great actively assisted braking device that addresses a safety concern inherent in the Grigri. A minor learning curve to use, great for cragging. Can be used to belay on multi-pitches but will need another device to rap down.

EDELRID Mega Jul Belay Device

silver and yellow assisted braking belay device

My personal favorite.

The Mega Jul is a Swiss Army Knife. It’s light. It has 2 tubes for rappelling. It has a guide mode loop for multi-pitches. It has auto-locking capabilities. 

The guide mode is effective but can be very frictiony, resulting in fatigue if you’re putting in some really massive days. 

To release the auto-block, there is a thumb loop which must be pushed up. When belaying from the bottom, this is relatively simple and smooth.

When you’re rapping on it, the friction can be very difficult to manage, providing a jerky lower. This is abated over time as you learn the feel of it.

Stick with it. You’ll get it.

Keeping a hand on the brake strand without feeding seems to work for me.

It’s steel for increased durability. 

Full disclosure. I had one for around 6 years that recently broke. The thumb loop snapped off mid-rappel. It wasn’t unsafe, it meant that I was stuck in auto-block mode. I had to figure my way down but never in danger.

Not sure if this is something that is prone to happen but something to keep in mind. I bought another anyway. I love them that much

They also have a device of the same design specifically for twin and double ropes called the Micro Jul. It works with ropes 6.9 to 8.9 mm at 62 g.

The Mega Jul handles ropes 7.8 to 10.5 mm with a weight of 65 g. Crazy weight with this much function.

Price at time of writing: $39.95 on REI

Verdict

Can do everything you’d ever want. You have assisted braking. You’ve got rappelling. You have guide mode. Downsides include increased friction on a top belay and a touchy rappel. Highly recommended.

EDELRID GigaJul Belay Device

black and yellow assisted braking belay device

The evolution of the Mega Jul

The complaints of the Mega Jul are largely friction concerned in rapping and top belaying. The Giga Jul solves this by placing a sliding mechanism within the tubes. When you want assisted braking, slide it over. Want a standard ATC-like rappel? Slide it on over.

Check the website, it describes the device like a MacBook or space shuttle.

In my experience, the assisted braking doesn’t work as well as the Mega Jul. The Mega Jul fully locks most ropes.

The Giga Jul didn’t lock the ropes I’ve used it with. It made it very easy to hold the brake strand and would slow a free fall but wouldn’t have prevented one entirely. Inferior to the Mega Jul in this area.

It retains 2 tubes and a loop for guide mode. 

The high friction areas are steel for abrasion resistance.

The range is 7.1 to 10 mm at 100 g, a bit on the heavy side.

Price at time of writing: $49.95 on REI

Verdict

Definitely fun to play with, it attempts to do all things. It achieves most things quite well, from guide mode to belaying a lead to rapping. The auto-lock function leaves a little to be desired. Might be what you want if the Mega Jul friction irks you.

Black Diamond ATC Pilot

black and grey belay device

Black Diamond ATC Pilot is a single tube device with auto-locking capabilities. 

As it is an assisted braking device, there aren’t any moving parts to keep an eye on.

The big brains over at BD added a tremendous feature in the form of a steel insert on the braking side, greatly increasing durability.

As it only has the 1 tube, it excels for TR/craggy situations but is limited once multi-pitching and rappelling become desired. 

We’ve got a range of 8.7 to 10.5 mm here, with a weight of 92 g.

Price at time of writing: $44.95 on the BD website

Verdict

Great for cragging. The auto-locking functionality is a welcome here, and with a reasonable price tag. Look elsewhere if you want to rap or do multi-pitches.

Mammut – Smart 2.0 Belay Device

single tube belay device

The Mammut Smart 2.0 belay device is Mammut’s version of the Black Diamond ATC Pilot. It shares a single tube design with a similar take on passive assisted braking. 

Great for belaying, in lead or TR settings.

Can’t rappel without some technical voodoo and belaying at the top isn’t optimal at all.

It will handle ropes from 8.7 to 10.5 mm at 80 g.

Price at time of writing: $44.95 on Mammut

Verdict

A solid device if you want to crag safely and smoothly. Look elsewhere for multi-pitch functionality.

PETZL Grigri 2 Belay Device

The gold standard for belaying. The Grigri 2, simply called the Grigri by the Petzl site, has dominated for years.

This active assisted braking device excels when buttery smooth belaying and solid auto-locking are sought after. The lever makes lowering a dream.

Very easy to use in a TR setting. Belaying a leader takes some learning. Practice before you play for sure.

It’s a single tube device. You can clip in into the anchor but will need a double tube device for rappelling. 

It functions as a progress capture for rigging and TR/lead soloing if that’s your game as well.

It works best with 8.9 to 10.5 mm ropes but can handle 8.5 to 11 mm. This honker is 175 g so if alpine objectives are on your radar, keep looking.

Price at time of writing: $109.95 on Petzl

Verdict

The best at what it does. A timeless classic in the realm of giving sweet belays and lowering people. Shrugs its shoulders at rappelling so it can provide you that belaying experience you crave. 

PETZL – GRIGRI + Belay Device with Assisted Braking

orange grigri belay device

The GriGri + is an evolution of the Grigri, of sorts. This device adds an anti-panic handle and TR/lead belay modes to address concerns in the original Grigri.

The anti-panic handle is geared towards new climbers. An inexperienced belay is more prone to panic, yank back on the handle, and dish out all the slack at once when lowering.

The Grigri+ locks up if this happens, giving sendy climber friend above some piece of mind. The handle can make lowering a bit more clunky than the standard Grigri so might not be the best for those who’ve mastered the Grigri already.

The TR/lead belay modes are a novel intro to the line. The lead mode pays out slack very similarly to the standard Grigri.

TR mode ramps up the auto-blockiness, bestowing you with even more safety with less effort. 

Outside of that, it’s a Grigri.

Great handle. Great assisted braking. Great belay off an anchor.

Rapping is a no-go without some finagling. 

It has the same range: optimized for 8.9 to 10.5 mm but can handle 8.5 to 11 mm.

It weighs in 25 g more than the Grigri at 200 g. If you like training weight, you can bring it up multi-pitches to belay. Your call. 

Price at time of writing: $159.95 on Petzl

Verdict

Excellent for the new climber. The anti-panic handle and different belay modes create an added layer of safety and ease atop the already monolithic layer provided by the Grigri. More advanced Grigri users may find the anti-panic handle unnecessary and hindering to the lowering experience.

Tubular ATC Belay Devices

Black Diamond ATC Belay Device

blue belay device with two tubes

The classic tubular belay device. 

It has two different sides, one with higher friction for a safe belay and the other that can be used when you want a smoother ride (stay in high friction normally).

It has 2 tubes so you can rap easily. Consider using a friction hitch backup, aka third hand, with all devices that don’t assist in braking. 

It can handle ropes from 7.7 up to 11 mm.

The ATC XP weighs in at a measly 64 g.

Not many bells and whistles. Just a good, dependable device.

Price at time of writing: $21.95 on the BD website

Verdict

Nothing fancy. Not for multi-pitch stuff. Awesome if you want an entry device that’s good and cheap to learn on.

PETZL Verso Lightweight Belay Device

grey belay device with two tubes

This is the Petzl answer to BD’s ATC XP. 

Like the ATC XP, it has 2 tubes replete with high and low-friction sides.

The double tube design makes rapping a breeze on this one too. 

The Verso takes ropes from 6.9 up to 11 mm.

A little lighter than the ATC XP, the Verso is 55 g.

Like the BD ATC XP, nothing extravagant here. If you’re looking for basic and cheap, you’re in the right place.

Price at time of writing: $24.95 on the Petzl website

Verdict

Basic, entry device. Limited functionality for multi-pitching. Great as an entry device. Incredibly alike the BD XP, a tossup really.

Best Multi-Pitch Guide Belay Devices

Black Diamond ATC Guide

grey multi-pitch belay device

This is the ATC XP, converted into a Plate Belay Device (explained below).

We have the same high and low friction sides with 2 tubes. 

Unique to the XP in this model is the guide mode loop. Clip to an anchor and have a great top belay for your partner.

It has the nice auto-block release hole on the front that takes a biner. Pull up on it to release friction on the top belay.

Range is 7.7 to 11 mm with a weight of 80 g.

If you’re looking to do some alpine stuff with some skinny ropes, check out the ATC-Alpine Guide. Exact same design with skinnier tubes. The range is best at 8.1 to 8.5 mm but can handle 6.9 to 9 mm at 73 g.

Price at time of writing: $29.95 on the BD website

Verdict

A solid belay device that can do all things. Great for multi-pitching and cragging alike.

PETZL Reverso Climbing Belay Device

black multi-pitch belay device

How the Black Diamond ATC Guide is to the Black Diamond ATC XP, the Reverso is to the Verso.

It has the same tubes as the Verso, with 2 friction modes.

You’ll find a loop on the back to enable guide mode. Compared to the ATC Guide, the guide mode here is slightly more resistant to pulling rope through and requires a bit more effort to hold a stationary climber.

The release hole on the front is a bit more spacious than the ATC Guide, making slack easier to dole out.

The Reverso can handle ropes from 6.9 to 10.5 mm at a weight of 57 g.

Price at time of writing: $34.95 on the Petzl website

Verdict

Another dependable choice for anything you wish to send. You can multi-pitch and belay on some good single pitches, Suesca perhaps? Like the Guide ATC, a little lighter while slightly harder to belay from the top.

DMM Pivot Belay Device

red belay device

Very similar in many regards to the ATC Guide and the Petzl Reverso.

It has 2 tubes, with differing levels of friction on either side.

Where the magic happens is in the guide mode loop. It can pivot (how’d they name this?) so if you wish to lower your second(s), you can do so smoothly. This is compared to every other device of the same type, which are jerky and difficult to control.

The range is from 7.3 to 11 mm. The Pivot comes in at 72 g.

Price at time of writing: $26.21, normally $34.95 on Backcountry

Verdict

Another trustworthy guide device. While it isn’t frequent that the follower(s) need slack, it is a pain when they do. This device solves that problem in an elegant fashion that makes my gear nerd senses tingle. Check it out if you want to do a bit of everything. 

Rope Range ~ What The Heck Is That and Why It Matters

Ropes come in a variety of diameters depending on your activity. This is another large topic in itself. Lucky for you, we’ve got your back.

The rules of thumb are:

Twin ropes are around 7-8 mm thick.

Half ropes are 8-9 mm thick.

Single ropes go from 8.5-10 mm and above, depending on the activity.

Make sure that the belay device you use accommodates the ropes that you plan on using. You may need a special device for smaller or very large ropes.

Single or Double Rope Belay Devices

Some belay devices can handle 2 rope strands. Others, only 1. It really depends on the activity.

Are you belaying a lot of single pitch stuff? Single tubes are fine.

Do you plan on rappelling with your device? Double tubes are standard here.

I’ll get into a neat trick for rapping down a single strand next, but it takes some knowhow and you don’t really see it much.

If you plan on doing multi-pitch climbs, especially bringing 2 people up at once, 2 tubes are what you want.

Rappel Devices

Generally, you’re looking for a device with 2 tubes. There are niche pieces, like the Figure 8, but you’ll rarely, if ever, see them. 

As promised sweet, sweet reader, there is a technique for making a single strand something you can rap down. It’s called the Biner Block.

It’s simple enough but with any technique you learn online, make sure you practice on the ground, test it, and have someone who knows how to perform it to check your work.

If you can throw in a Biner Block, you open the world to rapping with things like Grigris.

You’ll usually see people rapping with a double tube device. Less to mess up and remember, and Biner Blocks are relatively unknown as is.

Cool thing to know though. It’s cool to know cool things.

Plate Belay Devices

blue plate belay device
Older Petzl Plate Device. Note the giant loop on the back for guide mode.

When you hear about plate belay devices, there are 2 things you may hear about. There are Sticht Plates and Guide Plates. 

To be honest, not sure I’ve ever seen a Sticht Plate. They aren’t really around anymore.

As a history lesson, they were an original metal belay device, roughly the size of a drink coaster. They generally had 2 holes punched through, making it appear like a cross section of a standard tube device you’d see today. 

Setup and belay were the same as tubed pieces. They fell out of vogue because they are a bit more jam prone and provide that nice, clunky belay experience that no one wants. 

Guide Plates. These look like standard tubular belay devices with an extra loop on the back.

image of guide plate

This loop is meant to be clipped to the anchor, removing you from the system. Oftentimes, this is called “guide mode.” This buys you more comfortable belay experiences (usually), a significantly easier time bringing up 2 climbers, and greater ease in rescue scenarios.

Friction can be high in Guide Plates. High enough that giving slack becomes a daunting, grunt-inducing task.

To help, these devices add a small hole on the front of the device that accepts either a carabiner or its tip. Pull up on the biner, easier if it’s a draw, and you’ll release slack. 

Careful to control the release. It can come gushin’.

Active Assisted vs. Passive Assisted Braking Belay Devices

Down the rabbit hole we are. Take out the microscope, we’re going for the finer points now.

Assisted braking devices are any devices that aid with braking. Kinda in the name on this one. By aid, generally, you’ll find that they completely lock when someone falls on your rope. This doesn’t mean that we get to leave our fine belay skills in the parking lot and slurp down Go-Gurts with our brake hand. Does help a lot in the fall though. 

Both types of assisted braking devices revolve around pinching the rope in some regard. 

Passive devices accomplish this through clever design, utilizing the clip-in carabiner to provide that pressure. The Edelrid Mega Jul and Mammut Smart 2.0 fall into this category, among others.

Active devices have a camming mechanism inside that activates under load. You’ll find the Grigri in this category. They are usually a bit smoother, but also more expensive. 

Grigri vs. ATC

three different belay devices next to each other
Tubes and nothing more? Guide mode? Auto-blocking? No best tool, just tools best for the situation.

Crunchy or Creamy? Tupac or Biggie? Shower or eh, it could wait? You find yourself plunged into another timeless debate.

People give Grigris a lot of love, deservedly. They make TR (top rope) belaying a breeze. Generally safe too.

Be aware, they can lull you into a false sense of security. Grigris are bomber but we gotta be on that brake strand.

For as easy as the Grigri is on TR, they are a bit tricky lead belaying. Feeding slack has a slight learning curve and if you haven’t sharpened those skills, dicey things can befall (count it) your day of sends. 

Story time. 

I was climbing in a large group with a bunch of people who TR belay for their jobs. I split off with my partner to go take some sweet whips around the corner while another crew set up nearby. 

On return to the ground, my partner, Marilla, peered around the corner to see the other belayer paying out slack incorrectly with a Grigri.

Marilla Usain Bolted it over just as the climber took a fall. The brake strand wasn’t in her belayer’s hand (the Grigri had it right?) and lodged itself under the lever, eliminating the autolocking capabilities of the device.

Marilla grabbed the brake line just in time to stop a disastrous lead fall.

Be sure you’re on your game before using a Grigri to lead belay. It’s only dangerous if you aren’t practiced with it.

For all things lead climbing, check this bad boy.

Now, ATCs. ATC stands for Air Traffic Controller. 

Fun, right? 

ATCs are the brand name for BD’s belay devices but you’ll generally hear the term thrown around for all tubular devices. That’s how it’s used here.

ATCs don’t give you that nice brake assist. While this can be a challenge in the very beginning, it ultimately makes you a better climber. At the very least, they’re great learning tools.

You’ll also need one for rapping if you can’t do a Biner Block. Hone your skills on one, then look to a Grigri or some other assisted braking device. 

Figure 8 Descender Belay Devices

man using a figure 8 belay device

Another piece of gear you won’t really see. 

This was a device used back in the day. It consists of 2 metal circles, small on big, connected to each other. Snowman like. You pass a bight through the big loop and around the small loop. Clip that small sucka in and you’re ready to rap. 

You can belay with one by passing a bight through the small loop.

They might still be helpful if you’re planning on rapping a ton, as they dissipate heat well and provide a smooth, if fast ride. 

They’re also great for muddy, icy, thick ropes that just don’t want to go into an ATC as well.

Unfortunately, it kinks ropes up real good.

No real big need to have one. Cool, nonetheless. 

Munter Hitch Belay

example of a munter hitch

Use this hitch if you lose your device. It also sees applications in guiding and rescues.

It’s a fantastic way to twist the crap out of your rope but sometimes is exactly what you need.

As with any climbing skill you learn, do it on the ground with someone who can do it. Make sure you’ve got it before you use it.

The Best Locker Carabiner For Belaying!

neon colored carabiner

Personal opinion, but I’ll describe one of, if not my favorite pieces of gear.

For years, I used standard carabiners to belay with. Rope drag rutted them quickly and I had to retire them. Occasionally, my biner decided to cross-load too, making it waaaaaay less effective. 

Enter the Edelrid HMS Bulletproof FG carabiner. It comes with a steel insert at the top, where rope drag is bound to occur. I’ve had mine for close to 2 years.

In those 2 years, I’ve gone on tons of trips and belayed swathes of climbers professionally for 2 seasons. It’s just now showing any signs of wear. Just now.

Added benefit is a spring bar on the bottom. This little hero clips into your harness so cross-loading is a thing of the past.

Get the biner with a screw or twist gate, your choice you golden stallion, you.

Closing Thoughts

Well kids, that’s been our magic school bus ride into the depths of the belay device universe. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour of the tubular devices.

Boy oh boy, those assisted braking devices were neat, weren’t they? Can’t forget about Guide Plates. Phew, what a full value ride.

Go out in the world and add a sweet device to your quiver. Maybe a sweet hat too. You earned it.

An relax, now you’ve read the best belay device reviews our there.

Take some whippers for me, stay tuned for more.

Love, 

Ms. Frizzle, I mean Andy

For more reading like this see: “Climbing Helmets: Everything You Need to Know and Oh, So Much More” and “10 Best Climbing Gloves: A Crazy-Good Guide to the Best Belay and Crack Gloves

Back to buying guide. 

Back to top. 

Published by Andy Renz

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