Choosing a Belay Device

One of the most common questions I hear when working with beginners is “What type of belay device is best to buy?” Buying your first belay device can seem a little confusing, with many different types to choose from. A simple understanding of how they work will help you make your choice. Here is a brief outline of the the different types available and their common uses.

Standard Friction Device

These are the most common belay devices used by climbers. Whilst they all look a little different, and have some different features, they essentially work in the same way. The belayer will control the rate of descent of a falling or descending climber, by pulling the “dead” rope tight, this causes friction on the rope by forcing it into a tight bend. Almost all standard belay devices can also be used to abseil with.

  • These are the best devices for beginners and experienced climbers alike. Good for all climbing disciplines. Some of these devices, like the Black Diamond XP have small grooves that increase the friction on the rope and can be a good choice if your partner is considerably heavier than you.
 Stitch Plate (Rarely Used Anymore)
Black Diamond ATC

 

Assisted Breaking Devices

These are devices that assist the belayer in arresting a falling climber by locking when the rope moves through them at a certain speed. Often incorrectly referred to as Automatic or Auto-Locking.  Many indoor gyms are requiring ABDs these days.

  • These devices always require a vigilant and experienced belayer. Less versatile than a standard device, as almost all of them can only be used with one rope. Often used by sport climbers when working a route, and also favoured by big wall climbers.

Petzl Grigri 2

Edelrid Eddy

Petzl Grigri 1

Guide Plates

Sometimes known as “magic plates”, these devices generally work in the same way as a standard device, but can also be used in guide mode by instructors to bring up two clients. In guide mode they will lock in the event that one or both of the clients fall onto the rope.

  • Used by instructors and mountaineers, these devices are a little heavier than standard devices and generally more expensive. These are the most versatile of belay devices, sharing most of the characteristics of both assisted and standard devices. Almost always capable of single or double rope use.

Black Diamond ATC Guide

Petzl Reverso 4

DMM Pivot

Single and Double Rope Devices

Most standard belay devices will work with either a single or double rope, but there are some available that are for single ropes only, like the  Climbing Technology Click-Up. Virtually all assisted devices only work with one rope. If you intend to climb outside in any way, then it almost always makes sense to buy a device that can handle two ropes.

Most new climbers will buy the device that they used when learning how to belay.

All belay devices have different characteristics. Some will be better suited to smaller diameter ropes, some have grooves on one side to aid braking, and some don’t. If you require any further help with choosing your belay device, then please feel free to email us and we are happy to answer any questions!

If you are still unsure, or new to climbing then you can join us for our one of our certification courses or better still one of our rock climbing clinics.

About Author

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Patrick
have been doing outdoor activities solo since my early adulthood. Usually when I get involved in a hobby or sport, I don’t let go until I achieve a high level and understanding of the sport. I got my scuba instructors in 2001. In 2006 I took up Kite surfing and am one level away from instructor on kite surfing. I have been doing trips into the wild, the off the beaten path trips for most of my life. I learned to repel and climb at a young age and have always enjoyed camping and backpacking. Over the 6+ years, I have gotten really involved in alpine style mountaineering. With certifications in mountaineering, and instructor certifications in lead climbing, and repelling (abseiling), I enjoy sharing or knowledge and teaching to those who have a passion for outdoors. Now I am working on completing the outdoor wilderness leadership program. People have always heard of my trips, and spoke with envy that they wanted to try such things but didn’t know how. This has inspired me to move to open this company. The Wildfire Expedition Company or “Wildfire Expeditions”

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