Best Belay Devices
For those who may be new to the climbing world, the belay device is one of the essential climbing equipment, if climbing with a friend. This method of climbing offers more support and safety to the climber, as one person will be doing the climbing and another will be on the ground.
The belayer gives slack when the climber needs to ascend and applies force to the climbing rope when they stop moving to keep them still in their position. It is a small device that is essential to your safety and gives you that extra insurance, so you enjoy your climb and are confident you will be safe.
In any situation involving climbing, be it on a mountain, a cliff face or a human-made climbing practice wall, the best equipment is essential and can mean the difference between being safe or incurring a debilitating injury.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 12 hrs of research
The exterior is built with a stainless steel friction plate and cam
Besides climbing, this is a great device for roofing jobs and tree-work
In operation, it is very smooth and easy to use
Top 10 Picks
1. Petzl GriGri 2
The exterior is built with a stainless steel friction plate and cam
Besides climbing, this is a great device for roofing jobs and tree-work
In operation, it is very smooth and easy to use
There are some portions that are crafted from plastic, not metal
This came so close to a perfect rating, but alas it comes as close to perfect as you can get. The GriGri 2 may be universally claimed as the best in the world and it is not difficult to see why.Read more
The GriGri 2 puts an emphasis on safety. First off, it features assisted braking so when the cam pivots and pinches the rope it increases the braking action until the rope stops sliding. Plus, for the safest descent possible, it has an intuitive design that allows gradual release of the rope. For whatever reason you may want, there are additional color options available. These include dark gray, light gray, turquoise and yellow.
Ease of Use
Really, the most convenient aspect of this device is the means in which you operate it. By utilizing a classic belay design with both hands being able to hold the rope, a fall can be thwarted by tightening the free end of the rope.
Being constructed with a stainless steel friction plate, the belay device itself is built to withstand anything and built-to-last for an extended period.
At only 185 grams, it is slightly smaller than the original GriGri device.
This device is compatible with dynamic single ropes between 8.9mm and 11mm in diameter, although it is best with 9.3mm to 10.4mm. It is a great accessory for top-roping or lead climbing.
Perhaps the only reason this did not achieve the full monte here is due to some plastic parts being utilized in the design. However, while it would have been nice for all the parts to be crafted from metal, it does reduce the overall weight of the device.
2. Camp USA Matik
The Anti-Panic system blocks the rope if you lose control of it
An intelligent design prevents a carabiner from clipping unless the device is completely closed
Very easy to load
It is very heavy
With thicker ropes, it can get locked up easier
Camp USA built its Matik Belay Device to withstand anything and provide an immense amount of safety. However, this comes with the small hindrance of excess weight. Compared to others, it is rather heavy but it is hard to argue against its usefulness.Read more
With assisted braking, this device delivers an unparalleled amount of safety and control when belaying. In addition to this, an Anti-Panic system will automatically block the rope if you happen to lose control of it during your descent. Plus, with its design, there is no possibility of clipping a carabiner to the device if it is not entirely closed.
Ease of Use
To allow the carabiner to rotate through the hole for an appropriate angle, the attachment hole was designed very wide. For a fluid amount of control during use, the lever is double-hinged.
Hot-forged aluminum of the main body and stainless steel for the crucial components that come in contact with the rope ensure a long-lasting device. Also, the gradual camming action manages to reduce the overall wear and tear of the rope.
Indeed, this is a rather heavy piece of equipment. Weighing in at 0.62 pounds, which works out to about 280 grams, it is much heavier than other devices on the market.
Fit this device with any climbing rope between 8.6mm and 10.2mm. It has been said that this product tends to lock up when used with thick old ropes. However, climbing with ropes like this isn't advised anyways, so make sure all your equipment is safe and up to date and you'll be good to go.
If you look past the immense weight, as compared to the competition, you will see a belay device with unparalleled durability, safety, and convenience. It is hard to ask for much more.
3. Climbing Technology Alpine-Up
If you incorrectly install the rope, the belaying will still be safe
At a very light weight, it is very compact
The device locks hard on the rope for a great feeling of security
Past a single rope, you should not use it for a vertical descent
While this device may slip under the radar, it should not as it is one of the best in the world today. The lack of being able to rappel (which refers to a vertical descent) outside of a single rope is a bit of a downer but for a belay device, it does what it is designed to do as good as any on this list.Read more
Thanks to the V-shaped friction notches, if the rope happens to be incorrectly installed, a safe belaying will still result in safe braking. Besides this, the design moves in a way that prevents the rope from running through the device once it is weighted. While both are listed at the same price, you can select between either a green or gold-plated version.
Ease of Use
This gem of a device is easy to use with just one hand. You can use it in one of its three modes, Click-Up, Dynamic, or Guide. However, any stiff rope or rope thicker than 10mm may encounter a bit of struggle when feeding through.
Like most others, the body of this device is built to hold up for a long time.
Weighing in at only 175 grams, it is incredibly lightweight and compact to use.
Being optimized and suitable for single ropes that range between 8.6mm and 10.5mm, it adapts to a wide range. Also, while lowering the climber, this device allows you to control the speed easily.
This is a great and pure example of nothing but quality. Anytime you are presented with equipment that excels in quality, no matter what else, you are guaranteed that it is worth your investment. But, be aware, past a single rope it is not suitable for rappelling.
4. Mad Rock Lifeguard
The rope feeds through easily thanks to the cam requiring more force
Can be used to ascend and descend a rope
It is constructed with hot-forged aluminum and stainless steel
When giving slack, it can lock up at times
The handle does require precise control as it is fairly short
Handling of the Mad Rock Lifeguard can occasionally provide you with issues but, most of the time, if you use precise control you will be in all the clear. It is worth doing so as you will soon find out, this device is worth putting in a little effort.Read more
Mad Rock designed their Lifeguard to provide as much safety as possible. Most notable is the fast camming action as it will stop your descent immediately after you release the handle.
Ease of Use
There are no new techniques that you must familiarize yourself with or hand positions to learn. It is a great device for children to learn on as well because it functions similarly to an ATC.
For increased durability and a longer shelf-life, the body is crafted from stainless steel and hot forged aircraft-grade aluminum.
Mad Rock is not lying when they claim theirs is the lightest on the market as it weighs in at only 0.06 pounds (which works out to around 27 grams).
There are many single ropes that you can use with this one ranging from 8.9mm to 11mm. It's a great companion for both top rope and leads climbing on single pitch climbs.
Undoubtedly, the Lifeguard’s weight is its most notable feature. When it comes to compactness, no one can touch Mad Rock. It also helps, however, that the quality and craftsmanship are up to snuff, as well.
5. Black Diamond ATC Guide
There are multiple friction modes for both belaying and rappelling
The durable cable holds its shape
It is extremely lightweight and compact
To lower a second person, it requires a bit more rigging and can prove difficult
Wear and tear results in the ridges of the channel
It does not matter if you wish to belay or rappel with one or two people, the Black Diamond ATC-Guide can perform it. It may not appear as heavy-duty as other belay devices, but it certainly performs as well as any in the world.Read more
When you are lowering with the ATC-Guide, the multiple friction modes ensure that an optimal amount of force is used to stop when needed. Plus, with the guide mode, it can belay multiple climbers off an anchor safely. If you so choose to, you can decide between versions with a black frame and a white rope or a green frame and a black rope.
Ease of Use
This device has been described as "almost dummy-proof." It is a great device for beginners. To accept smaller carabiners, the auto-block release hole has been enlarged.
The cable that is connected to the main body of this device is constructed to be durable and resist getting caught between ropes. However, the ridges in the high-friction channel tend to wear down quickly.
Thanks to how the body is crafted, the device manages to be very lightweight at only 0.19 pounds.
For both vertical ascent and descent, this device will handle ropes between 7.7mm and 11mm.
Over the long haul, the durability of the ridges in the channel may become an issue. However, its lightweight nature, versatility, and safety ensure it to be a great addition to your climbing gear repertoire.
6. Edelrid Mega Jul
It almost feels weightless when you use it
It will do everything for you including working with single and double ropes and as a belay or rappel
Features a rapid payout option which will pay out the rope faster
If you feed the rope too quickly, it will overheat
Rappelling can be a major hassle
The Mega Jul works tremendously, but not so much when rappelling. While it certainly can be used for both activities, it is much better suited as a standard belay accessory.Read more
The entire design of the Mega Jul revolves around the brake performance. With a featured brake booster, while fielding a fall, the belayer is fully supported.
Ease of Use
Featuring a convenient small eyelet for the carabiner, the unit releases easier when you are bringing up your partner. It is a very versatile device and has an autolocking feature that keeps your hands from getting tired.
For an optimal amount of durability and long-lasting nature, the main body of the Mega Jul is crafted from solid stainless steel.
With a weight of only 65 grams, the Mega Jul is one of the most compact and lightest devices that you will find in the world.
This device is suitable for single ropes of 7.8mm to 10.5mm and can be used for rappelling.
Ignoring the massive pain of rappelling with this device, as it is difficult to pull up on the metal loop without having the rope run over your hand, it is a massive thumbs up. What truly makes it great is it combines durability with compactness.
7. Wild Country
The oversized carabiner hole enables you to fully rotate the carabiner
Adapts for ropes from 7.7mm upwards
As it is trimmed of all excess features, it remains extremely lightweight
In locking mode, the eye diameter of the anchor is too narrow for the barrel of carabiners
As we continue down this list, it becomes abundantly clear that only one or two design flaws hinder the overall quality of each entry. The Wild Country device follows in the same footsteps as it is a great piece of equipment, but one flaw keeps it from climbing any higher.Read more
When you are operating the device in guide mode, the device will lock into place perfectly every single time. This makes it ideal, in conjunction with its efficient braking slots, to bring up multiple followers. You have two color options at your disposal: gunmetal and red. However, please take note that they are not the same price. The gunmetal variation is slightly more expensive.
Ease of Use
Overall, the operation for this Pro Guide Lite is smooth and user-friendly. What also assists in this is the large release slot as this ensures an easier release under a load.
Besides the frame of the belay devices, genuinely noteworthy here is the extremely durable and flexible cable leash.
Compared to others on this list, this is very lightweight with a mass of only 77 grams; which works out to roughly 0.17 pounds.
This device can accommodate a wide diameter of ropes. Ropes between 7.7mm and 11mm will function well with the Wild Country device.
The design flaw that was previously alluded to is that in the locking mode, the diameter of the eye that the anchor clips on are too narrow. It does not accommodate for some carabiners. But, past this, there is not too much to gripe and complain about.
8. DMM Pivot
Integrates a pivoting clip-loop for assisted braking
Releasing the brake takes little to no effort
Offers a great amount of friction
Lacks an auto-block for belaying a second person
Heavier than other belay devices
Before you know anything here, let’s get this out of the way. There is a huge caveat with the DMM Pivot device and that is that it lacks an auto-block (or guide mode) feature. Thus, it may not be suitable and safe to belay more than one with this device.Read more
For assisted braking, the Pivot integrates a pivoting clip-loop which only adds an ounce of weight. This pivoting design provides an optimal amount of protection when belaying from an anchor or harness. There are three different variations of the same thing with options for blue and titanium, green and titanium, and red and titanium. Note, the blue and titanium version is cheaper than the other two.
Ease of Use
In times when you need to lower a second person off a ledge, the innovative pivoting hinge provides an extra amount of leverage and smoothness. However, as stated before, the lack of a guide mode hurts in this area.
As with several other devices, DMM crafted their Pivot with tough and lightweight aluminum.
With a weight of 0.64 pounds, this is much heavier than a majority of the rest of the devices on this list. While still not “heavy,” you can tell the difference in weight.
With a single rope, this device can handle diameters of 8.7mm to 11mm. For half or twin ropes, this device is compatible with 7.3mm to 9.2mm.
It can’t be put more bluntly than this; the lack of a guide mode brings this one down a little bit. For those wondering, even though it is not there, this is still safe to use thanks to its pivoting design.
9. Petzl Reverso 4
With the asymmetric side groves, the braking power is increased for top-rope falls
To reduce the risk of losing the device, the keeper cable prevents it from moving up the rope when belaying
Has a very lightweight of 59 grams
It can be very difficult to unlock when belaying
Sharp edges on the tubes can result after long uses
It is worth noting that Petzl, who is responsible for the number one entry on this list, makes another appearance here with their Reverso 4. Again, a few flaws hold it back but there is also a lot of greatness that makes up for it.Read more
With the V-shaped friction channels, there is a greater amount of braking power when utilizing thinner ropes. For larger ropes, Reverso mode increases the braking pressure. The choice is yours from apple green, light gray and violet. This time, all the prices are the same, no matter the color scheme.
Ease of Use
As a belay or rappel device, this addition from Petzl is quite easy to use. It has a minimalist and straight forward design. In Reverso mode, there is a simultaneous belaying for swapping leads.
While the body is constructed from a hot-forged aluminum, durability is one of its biggest caveats. From several long belays and rappels, sharp edges can begin to form along the tubes.
All this bad boy weighs is 59 grams, and if you have been paying attention, you should know that this is light when compared to the rest.
This one will work for all rope types; this includes twin ropes of 7.5mm or greater and single ropes of 8.9mm or greater.
The durability issues aside, there is enough quality here to warrant an investment. It is entirely understandable if the durability concerns you, but it is still worthy of your collection.
10. Mammut Smart Alpine
It accepts a wide range of ropes
Has a very smooth auto-block friction
Even if you exert a small amount of force it will still lock
When using it for rappelling, it handles poorly
While a climber is resting, the rope will still slowly pull requiring the belayer to use extra strength
Mammut caps off this list with their Smart Alpine. Due to its placement, it is obvious that it may not stand head and shoulders above its competition. However, do not think it is incapable of holding up in its own right.Read more
Mammut used an updated design to ensure the maximum amount of safety here. The device will pinch the rope during a fall for easier catching and holding. Plus, this will lock even when you only exert a small level of force.
Ease of Use
With its integration of an auto-lock option, you can comfortably belay more than one climber below the anchor. Besides this, the device itself accepts a wide range of ropes from 8.9mm to 10.5mm.
Durability should not be an area of concern for you, as this should satisfy even the toughest of climbers.
A weight of 0.3 pounds, which works to around 135 grams, lands it in the middle of the pack in terms of weight classes.
The black and red version, which is the one that has been documented, adapts for rope diameters of 8.9mm to 10.5mm. But, the silver and red variation accept ropes from 7.5mm to 9.5mm.
This resembles a smart kid in a class full of geniuses. Even though it is great, others are too great and outshine it. But, you can never have too many smart kids in a classroom, right?
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Spoiler alert, climbing is a hazardous sport that can result in death if accidents happen. For first aid, prevention check our guide on the best first aid kits. Thus, safety will always be at the forefront when discussing specific pieces of equipment that aid in the climbing process.
For belay devices, this is no different. However, there are a lot of features that you can look for when glancing over various devices. While it is difficult to name every single one in one small section, anything that aids in safety is a noteworthy feature. For example, if the device features assisted braking, which will increase the braking action when the rope stops sliding. Also, how about when rappelling? Does the device immediately stop the descent as soon as you release the handle and does it allow for a gradual release?
Of course, sometimes user error is at fault for accidents. Some features will combat this, such as a system that will block the rope if you lose control of it and still allow for safe braking if the rope is incorrectly installed. Lastly, you can lookout for a mode called guide mode, or an auto-block feature, which significantly aids in safety when belaying multiple people in a multi-pitch climb.
Ease of Use
Besides the fact that climbing can be dangerous, it can also be a stressful and challenging activity to learn. As such, it is nice when designers integrate convenient features into their device to make life easier for you. Such examples are creating a device that requires no new hand positions or techniques to familiarize with and allowing for a fluid amount of control and smoothness while belaying.
Of course, it is also lovely when they handle a wide range of ropes and allow for both belaying and rappelling. Firstly, you want to ensure that the rope you plan on utilizing will adequately fit in the device. If it does not, you could be risking your safety off the get-go.
However, take note of the devices that allow for rappelling. Remember, rappelling is a vertical descent, and belaying is a vertical ascent. If you make it to the top of the mountain, you do need to come back down eventually.
When investing your hard-earned money into something, you want to ensure that you are getting your money’s worth. But, how do you do this? Even more important than quality, you want to be certain that what you are investing in is built-to-last for a significant amount of time.
Of course, durability is also dependent on how you care for the product. However, manufacturers still need to craft their products to last. For these devices, you probably noticed a trend right away. As opposed to other features, the construction of the device is typically the same from designer to designer.
Most of the time, you will see devices that are crafted with both hot-forged aluminum and stainless steel. Both of which are tremendous alloys and provide an optimal body that will, user-willing, last you a long time. In addition to this, you will also encounter some that utilize a cable leash. If so, look out for specifications for the cable leash and how durable it is.
As opposed to the first few criteria which are vitally important to ensure your safety, investment, and ease of use, this is not necessarily a deal-breaker. But, with that being said, it is still a worthwhile feature in its own right. Granted, there may be some of you sitting there wondering how a few extra grams can make any difference whatsoever.
Well, a few grams will not, but sometimes it ranges from 20 to 300 grams, and that is quite a difference. Of course, you may still have the naysayers bringing up that as long as it is under a pound what could be wrong?
Truthfully, there is nothing wrong with a device that weighs a little more (and do not be fooled and think that light devices are not built strongly) but when you are belaying every gram does count. Think about it, climbing is not exactly an easy adventure, and it helps to be in peak condition. If not, that 0.5 pounds of extra weight can begin to take its toll very quickly. Especially, when you consider all the other rock climbing gear you will be using.
When you are finding the ideal device for yourself, knowing what diameter of rope the device is compatible with is important. Before we dive into the diameters, we first need to understand the different types of ropes that are available.
We can start with dynamic and static ropes. Dynamic ropes have more elasticity and have the ability to absorb the impact of a fall. Static ropes have very little elasticity and are better suited for leading, rescuing, or hauling loads. Aside from this, you’ll also find single, half (aka double), or twin ropes. Each is ideal for different types of climbing.
As you may have guessed from the name or from personal experience, this rope is not used in conjunction with other ropes. Single ropes are the most popular climbing rope and the easiest to use. They are ideal for top-roping, sport climbing, or trad climbing. You can easily identify a single rope by looking for the marking at the end of the rope, it will be marked with a 1.
Half ropes are also commonly referred to as double ropes. These are the most versatile ropes and can be used clipped together or separately. These ropes require a bit more skill to use and usually run about 8-9mm in diameter.
They are ideal for zig-zag faces, multi-pitch climbing, ice climbing, or mountaineering. Using these ropes in unison reduces drag and also provides you with a back-up rope if one goes awry. One of the downsides to half ropes is that they are heavier than carrying one, single rope. You will be able to spot a half rope by the ½ marking on each end of the rope.
Again, from the name or personal experience, you know that these twin ropes are always used in unison and tend to be about 7-8mm in diameter. They are ideal for long, straight, non-wandering routes, mountaineering, and ice-climbing. Because they are thinner than a traditional rope, you can clip in both strings as if it were a single rope.
One thing to note is that they should never be mixed and matched. Not between brands, lengths, thickness, anything. Twin ropes are popular for being lightweight and less bulky. You can identify a twin rope by the infinity symbol marking on each end of the rope.
Now, on to the diameter of the ropes. It is important to check the compatibility of the specific device with your ropes. The most popular and easy to use diameter falls between 9.8mm to 10.2mm. A thicker rope is easier to use but heavier to haul. It is easier to grab and easier to secure into the device. However, if the rope is too thick, it can jam up in the device when taking in or feeding slack. If you prefer a thinner rope, you should know that they are less durable and require more skill to maneuver.
Before going out on a big climb, it’s a good idea to practice your technique with a thin rope and make sure that your device comfortably accommodates the rope. If the device is not made to accommodate a thin rope, it may not securely lock up to brake. A 9.4mm rope is great for multi-pitch climbs and tends to be lightweight.
However, at this size, it is not as durable or abrasion resistant moves through the device much faster and will need to be replaced more often as it is not made to handle as many falls. A 9.5mm to 9.9mm rope is very versatile. It is both lightweight and durable and great for trad and sport climbing. A 10mm rope is quite thick and is best used for indoor gyms, top-roping, big walls, or high-intensity situations.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
It goes without saying that you need to be fully prepared and concentrated when you have your friend's life in your hands. Before anything, clean up the area around you. Are there any rocks, pebbles, banana peels? Once started, keep an eye on your partner constantly and always be prepared for the worst. Just one quick slip and cause a long fall.
Communication between you and your partner is incredibly important. You can't be shy when you need to tell them that their ropes are in the wrong places or that they Z clipped. Make sure that your partner isn't too far to hear you and that they can easily understand you.
Other Factors to Consider
Okay, you may be scratching your head here. But, in all honesty, the above four sections are the most critical design features that you need to be aware of. Think of this as a feature to satisfy your needs, but not one that is mandatory for belay devices to perform the way you want it to. Most of the time, you will see sellers provide you with a few color choices to decide from.
For whatever reason you may seem fit, you can then decide between the color that appeals to you the most. Again, this has no bearing on the actual performance or quality. But, is there anything wrong with wanting a design that looks “cool.” Of course, do not prioritize one that has a better color because this is the least important out of all the criteria.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: When should you replace a belay device?
Just like anything else in the world, the belay devices are not designed to last you forever. This is most likely not news to you, but are there signs that signify that it is time to replace them? In fact, there are some signs you can think of and they are pretty obvious if we are being honest.
For example, if you see any of the following deficiencies and/or damages consider replacing your device. First off, look for any visible cracks in the main body or heavily worn portions of the device. Second, if the device happens to fall from a substantial height, even if you do not see any noticeable damage, you may want to play it safe.
Also, check for any sharp edges as that will cut your rope while you are belaying. Finally, look for grooves that are forming on the edges of the device. For additional safety, read our guide on the best climbing helmets.
q: How can you improve belaying?
Belaying is not the most straightforward activity in the world. To get good at it, you are going to need a lot of practice and experience. Very little in the world can replace experience, but to get that experience, you must belay as much as you possibly can. Along the way, you will develop some tendencies and learn your craft.
But, all in the meanwhile, there are subtle steps that you could be taken to improve your belaying skills. For starters, consider investing in some belay gloves as gripping the rope can chafe your hands and cause discomfort.
Gloves can prevent rope burns and provide you with a superior grip. Also, whenever you are not feeding slack to the leader, be sure that your other hand is in the locked position. Another area is at the beginning as when the climber is low to the ground, ensure that you do not have excess rope out as you do not want them to hit the deck.
q: If this gets hot can it melt the sling?
This is an interesting question that was brought up and looked at by personnel at Black Diamond. They encountered the issue of whether or not a hot belay could melt the slings when you are climbing. Through extensive research, they conducted a study to solve this very question.
Without going into heavy detail about their process and findings, they concluded that because they could not mimic a realistic scenario in which a device would reach the temperature to melt a sling, it should not be a concern.
However, Black Diamond did come up with a list of remedies for those who still worry about this issue. They recommend that when you are rappelling, you do so at a slower rate, rappel with slower loads, anchor with two slings and use nylon slings to anchor with.
q: Why do some devices have two holes?
When you first get your hands on your new belay, you may notice that it has two holes. From the get-go, you may be confused to why the manufacturer integrated this design element into the device. No, it is not for aesthetics. Instead, it does have a use. In some instances, these devices are made individually, so the two holes provide a different amount of friction when in use. In other cases, you may want to climb with two lines of anchors.
If so, the two holes play a crucial role as they make it incredibly easier to belay a two-rope climb. Of course, the two holes can also be utilized if you want to loop a rope around an anchor and to place it through each eyelet. However, if you are not obligated to use both holes, then you do not have to.
q: What happens if the device is dropped during a multi-pitch climb?
For some people, the most frightening scenario is when they are belaying, and the device is dropped hundreds of feet below (depending on how high you are when it is dropped). Thankfully, there is no reason to panic when this happens; there are other means to perform a safe belaying.
One surefire remedy to combat this occurrence is to apply what is known as the Italian hitch. To get a better idea of what this is, you may want to look up a tutorial (as it is much easier to see it with your own eyes) of the Italian hitch. This is a type of knot that will utilize the carabiners. In this situation, when you are performing a multi-pitch climb, you can use this knot for belaying the second climber of the group.
q: Is it dangerous to belay with an inexperienced belayer?
Nobody can get experience without actually getting it. As stupidly apparent as that sounds, it means that everyone will be a novice at some point in their belaying career. Your partner who plans on belaying may be inexperienced, or you might be. But, should this be a concern, and is it dangerous?
Here is the deal, if someone is new to belaying, then they should get experience at a gym with a teacher. It is not smart to start in a real-life situation. Instead, develop the skills at a training facility.
Besides this, and this explains why this guide is so essential, the specific device being used is critical. They need to have practice with it and may want to have a tool that is easier to utilize than others.