A belaying device is an integral part of your gear. Some pieces are more complicated than others. Then some items are meant for particular climbing types. For that reason, finding some of the best belay devices could often become a discouraging and confusing experience.
A few decades ago, when I began my outdoor adventures, online platforms didn't exist. So, I was helpless to find the right gear or compare multiple products to make an ideal choice. I used to ask questions and try different products to determine which device will work best for a given task.
In addition to this, I got familiar with the manufacturing processes of belaying devices. I also figured out why some pieces come with two holes. I wrote a post on this topic. You can check it out in case you've your interested in that kind of thing.
Let's return to the topic in question - the best belaying devices you could have this year. Isolating one device from others and rating the best piece can be a difficult task. Despite this point, some devices work best for specific conditions.
That's how we can structure today's rating and buying guide. First of all, we'll check the best and the all-time preferred belay device for a beginner climber. However, before doing that, let's review an organized chart of each belay device on my list here.
A List of the 10 Best Belay Devices
1) GM Rescue Figure 8 Descender with Bent-Ear Rappelling Gear
It comes as an updated version of the regular figure-8 rappelling device. The model offers a few extra perks over its variant. Firstly, it features a bent ear design. The newer design presents more flexibility and ease of usage compared to the standard figure-8 device.
Also, the larger main slot allows you to double or triple up the single rope for a slower descent and added friction. The descender's body is comparatively thicker. So, your rope will incur less wear and tear when it comes into contact with it.
Rappellers could lock themselves off using the bent ears while keeping both hands free; that's a significant advantage. GM's climbing carries a strength rating of 40 KN, which renders enhanced durability for rappelling, mountaineering, and rescue operations.
The descender is indeed among the best belaying devices for rappellers currently. It's durable, affordable, and designed to ensure minimal rope wear and slow descent. With a weight of 9.95 oz, the device shows compatibility with ropes having diameters between 7 mm and 11 mm.
2) PETZL - GRIGRI 2, Belay Device with Assisted Braking
If you carry enough climbing experience and want to pick the best of all belay devices, look no further than Petzl GriGri. It undoubtedly makes your best choice. In my opinion, the product comes with everything you may want in a traditional belaying device. Despite this fact, its higher price might make you cringed.
It comes as a highly reliable and durable device for belaying. You may use it for standard belaying techniques, including catching falls and feeding slack.
Furthermore, you can use it at your climbing gym and for crag climbing scenarios. In case you wish to find out the best gyms for climbing in the USA, check this guide out. I've put all the necessary info not long ago.
The assisted braking system included in Petzl GriGri makes the device stand out even in a crowded market. That means the device will help you stop automatically in the case of an unfortunate fall. For this reason, it carries a higher price tag. Yet, it saves your life amid undesirable incidents.
The equipment is compatible with ropes having diameters between 8.5 mm and 11 mm. Still, the product delivers optimum results with ropes between 8.9 mm and 10.5 mm in diameters. It weighs around 9.6 oz or 272 grams. Here is how to rappel with a grigri.
Moreover, it's effortless to use. Still, some newbie enthusiasts lack info on operating this equipment. So, I've penned down a post - how to rappel using an ATC. If you wish to find out more about the device, check it out now. Coming back to ATC, it has a higher friction mode to ensure more hold (up to 300 percent) and better stopping power than the usual friction mode.
The piece weighs around 64 grams or 2.3 oz. Due to its exclusive design built on machined windows, the piece carries a lighter weight than most other models on the market. The ATC (what does mean ATC in climbing) gives better results with ropes between 7.7 mm and 11 mm in diameters.
It includes a cable for holding its shape under stress. Plus, it doesn't tangle with ropes. After reading all the perks, it's evident that Black Diamond's ATC is perfect for beginners. It doesn't carry a higher price, which is another plus.
Plus, it renders a fair degree of flexibility. You can easily use it for classic belaying techniques with ropes having diameters between 8.9 mm and 11 mm. It's additionally compatible with top-rope and lead climbing.
As far as pricing is concerned, it falls in the medium category. That means you can have it without disturbing your wallet. The device presents a perfect balance between affordability, reliability, and safety. Also, it comes with assisted braking, which is why it's called Lifeguard.
Weighing around 5.4 oz, the equipment is on the lighter side. You can order the device in only Red color. While that isn't my preferred color, it offers better visual appeal to the device. All in all, the product makes a perfect fit for beginners and professionals alike.
Plus, the device works well with abseiling and rappelling. Why? It encompasses a durable stainless steel body and high braking performance. Mega Jul has a small eyelet you can use for releasing a unit while bringing a person up. It's ideal for ropes between 3 mm and 15 mm.
The reason why Edelrid chose stainless steel is the fact that this sturdy material averts early wear and tear resulting from rope fiction. Furthermore, it doesn't burr or form sharp edges that might damage the rope.
The makers have reinforced the potentially vulnerable parts of Mega Jul. So, the likelihood of possible damages is minimal. Mega Jul weighs about 2.2 oz. It means it's slightly bulky compared to the Micro Jul.
6) TRANGO Vergo Rock Climbing Belay Device
In the makers' words, it's among the top ergonomic devices that you can find in any part of the world. It was apparently built for reliability, safety, and unmatched smoothness. That makes it popular for rock climbing. It comes with physical and visual indicators, ensuring easy and correct usage each time.
Plus, it includes dedicated spots for thumbs and index fingers to render enhanced comfort, thus providing relief. The way Vergo feeds a rope makes it stand out from others.
The device provides your rope horizontally instead of the vertical direction that comparable products use. This kind of arrangement supports better arm motion and effective slack management.
The item weighs around 195 grams or 6.8 oz. The recommended diameter (for a single rope) is 8.9 mm to 10.7 mm. If the manufacturing origin matters to you, the device is made in the US. It's difficult to find a belay device as good as Vergo.
It features a beautiful design that mimics the liking of the ATC. Using the device is effortless. Plus, you can depend on it in all situations. It works with a variety of rope diameters.
This Reverso includes single ropes between 8.5 mm and 10.5 mm or half ropes with diameters between 7.1 mm and 9.2 mm. Additionally, you can use it with twin ropes (diameters between 6.9 mm and 8.2 mm). The rope slots have a simple and effective design that allows easy gliding and smooth movements with minimal wear and tear.
The product weighs approximately 2.4 oz, making it a lighter piece for easy outdoor adventures. You can find the device in three colors - Black, Red, and Green.
Still, you can use it as a backup. Designed mainly for rappelling and lead climbing, it comes with a lighter aluminum built. The device weighs around 2.4 oz or 58 grams. When you compare it with other devices, Ovo stands unmatched in terms of lightweight and smoothness. It has been rated well for 20KN.
Plus, it works great for a variety of ropes in different sizes. Sadly, I was unable to find details about rope sizes for the device. However, I'm working on this point. Once I get the necessary info, I'll update this post for you.
The device easily finds its way in the pocket of those with a slim budget. Without pinching your wallet, anyone can order this reliable and durable belaying device. The item does have its shortcomings. Still, you could use it as the primary device provided you use it in view of its limitations.
Eddy has been on the market since 2005. Now, it's considered among the most reliable belaying devices. Essentially, it's a semi-automatic device ideal for indoor climbing. You can also use it for specific lighter sports applications.
The device is compatible with ropes having diameters from 9 mm to 11 mm. As far as weight is concerned, it falls in the category of heavier devices. The device carries a weight of 12.8 oz. Yet, the higher weight comes as no surprise since it features a metal body.
Also, note that the item may include enough greasing when you take it from the box. So, better do the cleaning chore before putting it to use.
10) Geelife The Lightest Rock Climbing Ascender
The device doesn't look promising by its appearance. Yet, it stands as a complex belaying device for various roles in your situations. According to the makers, it's the lightest ascender for rock climbers all over the world. It touches the scales at 3.1 oz or 90 grams.
The lightweight is attributed to a magnesium (hot-forged) alloy body. Such a built supports better durability without increasing weight. The connection hole of the rope grip features a bi-directional system. It connects with the lock on its own.
This device is highly compatible with rope sizes ranging from 8 mm to 13 mm. You may also employ the rope for many other activities, including rock climbing, carving, aerial work, and rescue operations.
Since the device's breaking load stands at 22KN, it's more than required for climbers with any level of experience. It's a cheap and lightweight device you can use for lighter applications. For climbing at higher altitudes, I'd suggest a backup with this device. It's better to use the product as a backup.
How to Choose the Best Belay Device [FAQ]
Tips for picking the best belaying devices
- As you could see, a host of options exists on offer. Yet, your success lies in bagging the best one that matches your specific requirements. The good news is that each of the devices I presented above is best at whatever they're designed for.
- Of course, some devices have their shortcomings as they don't include the emergency braking system. Still, they might be lighter in weight or feature better strength ratings, helping you with your desired load on them.
- You may be allured to pick a low-priced piece. However, that isn't advisable. Since these devices hold your weight and life, I won't suggest you to go after the cheapest option. You may pick a low-priced device as a backup. Although some models provide better value for your money, costly items are recommended in general.
- Also, look for an official certificate. The more certifications the devices have, the more reliable they'll be. Also, figure out where you wish to climb, the difficulties involved in your endeavors, and possible situations thereon.
- In case you want a device for a gym workout, the ATC XP might work well for your situation. However, sport cragging and similar demanding activities warrant a better device. I'd suggest a piece with an assisted barking system (the GriGri 3, for example).
- Get familiar with how belay devices are made.
How do belaying devices work?
When I understand how the gear works, I feel more confident and safer. I usually check the complexities of the item, how it's designed, and the limitations thereon.
To be honest, I won't make you bored by throwing light on the devices' technicalities. You're not here for that. Yet, I think that understanding the working of a belaying device should help you at some point in time.
The working principle is straightforward. Any belaying device puts friction on the rope so that the descent slows down. The way the device creates friction is what distinguishes it from others. Most of the devices use large surfaces or transform your rope into sharper angles to create friction.
Then some belay devices rely on moving parts. That makes them more efficient, but operating them becomes a task. You should learn and employ proper techniques for belaying while using any device. Keep your rope close to the body to maximize the benefits of the gear. If you fail to do that, you could find yourself in trouble.
Working of an assisted braking system and its importance
You might have often heard emergency braking or assisted braking in this segment. Ever wondered what that means! In simple terms, it means a system that enables the device to stop a rope in the event of a fall automatically. In this way, the braking system saves the climber's life.
Basically, assisted braking comes in two types - passive assisted braking and active assisted braking. An active system depends on the rotary cam. When your rope moves past your device steadily, it flows freely. In case the cam spins too fast, it'll pinch your rope, slowing it down or stopping it altogether.
Although simple, it's a highly efficient system. Still, these belaying devices are suggested for experienced players only, for a reason. If in case the brake doesn't activate for any reason, the belayer should be proficient in employing the available techniques to get out of an undesirable situation.
GriGri comes with active assisted braking
Passive braking devices don't have moving parts. Instead, they use the shape of the device. For example, the device may change its angle when the rope gets weighted, which will lock it down. They're usually cheaper to make and priced affordably. However, they aren't as reliable as devices with an active braking system.
Tips for Caring and Maintaining the Belaying Device
- Belaying devices are reliable and durable. They wear out slowly with time. It means you can use the device for years without replacing it, provided you don't damage it in an accident or for poor upkeep. Follow the below tips to keep the device in good condition all the time.
- Store the gear in a safe place to avoid damages. Keep the equipment in a place with good ventilation but without sunlight.
- Do not put the gear in damp areas where mold grows. Also, avoid moisture to lengthen the life-span of the equipment.
- If you climb/rappel close to a sea, check for rusting or salt-build up. Humidity can damage metal climbing gear, including belaying devices.
- Wash the equipment using clean, warm water after returning from a salty climbing tenure.
- Get rid of oil deposits and dirt using a small brush.
- Use general lubricants to lubricate the equipment.
- Never use traditional home cleaning solutions. Also, do not use a pressure washer for cleaning your belay devices, especially if they've moving parts.
To introduce you to a new very interesting topic, related to the types of belay devices, read what are auto belay devices and how use automatic belay device in your local gym.
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