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8 Best Belay Devices for 2023
A good belay device is just as important as a reliable rope when you’re rock climbing, mountaineering, or traveling across glaciers. You trust your belay device with your life and your partner’s life when climbing and rappelling. So, it’s critical to get a belay device you can count on.
In this guide, I’ll show you the 8 best belay devices for 2023 and explain everything you need to know about choosing the right belay device for your roped adventures.
My Review Process
I’ve spent years rock climbing and mountaineering, and I’ve tried more than a few belay devices along the way. While every device I’ve tried will hold a fall, not all of them are equally easy to use or stand up equally well to the demands of mountain travel.
For this guide, I considered the factors that matter most to climbers and mountaineers. Specifically, how well each belay device performs at feeding out rope and taking up slack, how easy they are to use for rappelling, and how light and durable they are. Check out my reviews for an in-depth look at each belay device.
Black Diamond ATC Guide
Best Overall Belay Device
Very smooth when rappelling
Requires effort to hold a fall
The Black Diamond ATC Guide is a tried and true belay device that I take with me on virtually every climbing trip. It’s versatile enough to use in almost any situation, whether you’re at the crag, hanging on the side of a mountain, or belaying across a crevasse.
As a tube-style belay device, don’t expect a huge amount of braking power from the ATC Guide. Black Diamond advertises it as having “high” and “low” friction modes depending on which way you load the rope, but I can’t imagine ever wanting to use the low friction mode. Since it only weighs 2.8 ounces, I typically carry this ATC on my harness even along with a burlier assisted braking device when I’m cragging.
Another thing I like about the ATC Guide is that it operates smoothly in auto-block mode. There’s not a ton of unnecessary friction when belaying a follower from above, but the device grabs without slippage when your second takes a fall. On multi-pitch routes, the minimal effort required to pull rope through is a major plus.
Black Diamond ATC Guide
Wild Country Revo
Best Belay Device For Beginners
Unique emergency brake
Works like a traditional ATC
Very smooth rope feeding
Handles ropes from 8.5-11mm
Not suitable for double-strand rappels
The Wild Country Revo is a unique belay device that I’m betting we’ll see copycats of in years to come. The belay device works like a standard tube device most of the time, but it has an emergency backup that brakes the rope in case the belay fails.
The way the device works is pretty intuitive. You can take in rope and feed out slack just like you would with any other tube belay device. There’s no handle to worry about and you don’t even need to change how you grip the rope to feed slack through. If you feed out slack at a measured rate, you’ll never even know the emergency brake is there. However, if you let go of the rope during a fall, the emergency brake will immediately lock into place.
Unfortunately, the Revo only accommodates a single strand of rope, so it’s not suitable for rappelling. It’s a great option for sport and single-pitch climbing, but it’s not versatile enough for multi-pitch or alpine use.
Wild Country Revo
Edelrid Mega Jul
Best Belay Device For Expert Climbers
Passive assisted braking
Can hold a fall without slipping
Brake assist during rappels
Needs a large carabiner
Can be bumpy when rappelling
For alpine climbers in search of an ultralight and highly versatile belay device, I recommend the Edelrid Mega Jul. The device weighs in at only 2.3 ounces, making it one of the lightest belay devices on the market right now.
The Mega Jul is a passive assisted braking device, meaning it uses the tension of the rope against the carabiner to help hold a fall. It won’t hold a fall on its own, and you do need to be careful to use a thick round-stock carabiner to get the most friction out of the device. That said, it doesn’t take much effort to keep the rope from slipping when the device is used properly.
I also like the Mega Jul’s braking assist when lowering, although this has some drawbacks. On the one hand, it adds safety because the device won’t slip if you take your brake hand off the rope. On the other hand, the braking assist can catch even when you’re actively rappelling, which makes for a bumpy ride along the rope.
Edelrid Mega Jul
Best Belay Device For Intermediate Climbers
More friction for catching falls
More expensive than similar devices
The DMM Pivot has a lot in common with my top pick, the Black Diamond ATC Guide. They’re both tube-style belay devices without braking assistance. However, the DMM Pivot offers somewhat more friction, making it a bit easier to catch a lead fall without straining your arms.
The DMM Pivot has an auto-block mode, making it suitable for multi-pitch climbing. It’s also light enough to take on alpine climbs, weighing in at only 2.5 ounces.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about the Pivot, but the ATC Guide offers all the same functionality at a lower price point.
Best Belay Device For Multi-pitch Climbing
Too much friction in auto-block mode
The Petzl Reverso is a belay device built with the demands of multi-pitch climbing in mind. This tube-style device can belay twin and half ropes, it has an auto-block feature for belaying off an anchor, and it weighs a scant 2.2oz.
The Reverso offers plenty of friction when belaying and rappelling. However, there may be too much friction in auto-block mode, which means that it takes more arm strength to pull rope through the device.
For the price and weight, it’s hard to beat the Reverso when it comes to multi-pitch climbs or long days in the alpine.
Best Belay Device For Top Roping
Very smooth rope feeding
Anti-panic brake lever
The Edelrid Eddy is large and heavy—but if you’re gym climbing or single-pitch cragging, that hardly matters. What does matter is that the Eddy offers incredibly smooth rope feeding, particularly for ropes larger than 10mm in diameter.
Another thing that sets the Eddy apart is its anti-panic brake release lever. If you pull the lever too far back, the brake actually kicks in again. This also makes the Eddy a good alternative to the Wild Country Revo for new climbers.
Best Assisted Braking Belay Device
Very easy to use
Works with most single ropes
No anti-panic mechanism on brake
The Petzl Grigri has long been the standard for assisted braking belay devices, and I’ve yet to see a belay device in this category that offers better performance. The Grigri is extremely durable, simple to use, and works well with a wide range of rope diameters.
The Grigri brake lever doesn’t have an anti-panic feature like the Edelrid Eddy does. I like this because it makes lowering easier, but it can be dangerous if a belayer panics and pushes the lever all the way back.
If you haven’t used an assisted braking belay device before, you should also bear in mind that lead belaying can be somewhat more difficult than when using a tube-style device.
Best Budget Belay Device
Weighs only 2.0oz
Works for double-strand rappels
No auto-block mode
The Petzl Verso is light, cheap, and easy to use. There’s not a whole lot that distinguishes it from my top pick, the Black Diamond ATC Guide, or its cousin the Petzl Reverso.
The biggest difference is that it doesn’t feature an auto-block mode, which makes it slightly less convenient to use for multi-pitch climbing. I also found that the Verso doesn’t provide quite as much bite as other tube-style devices when locking off the rope.
How to Choose a Belay Device
Choosing the right belay device can be tricky, especially if you’re new to climbing and not sure what you need. I’ll explain some of the key things to consider when choosing a belay device.
The most important thing to think about when picking a belay device is what type of climbing you plan to be doing. Some belay devices are optimized for all-day multi-pitch routes, while others are designed primarily for single-pitch lead climbing and top roping.
If you’re planning on multi-pitch or alpine routes, your best bet is an ATC or tube-style belay device. These offer the most versatility for lead belaying, belaying a follower, rappelling on one or two strands, and more.
If you’re mostly visiting single-pitch crags or your local climbing gym, safety is more important than weight or versatility. You may want to opt for an assisted braking device like the Revo or Grigri.
Your belay device is an essential piece of rappelling gear, so it’s important to think about how well it handles this aspect of climbing. While you can rappel on a single strand in some situations, standard rappelling technique requires an ATC with capacity for two strands.
An automatic brake like that on the Edelrid Mega Jul can be nice for navigating complex rappels in alpine terrain. However, it can also get in the way when rappelling simpler multi-pitch sport and trad routes.
I’d consider an auto-block mode essential for most long multi-pitch routes. This enables you to belay a follower off your anchor instead of off your harness. That gives you a chance to find a better stance and relax your arms in between pitches, so you stay fresher throughout the day.
Assisted Braking Devices
Assisted braking devices are terrific for safety because they can catch a fall even if the belayer lets go of the rope. However, they do have some drawbacks. First, they make lead belaying somewhat more difficult, although not impossible. Second, if the belayer panics and pushes the brake release lever all the way back, the climber can still take a dangerous fall.
Personally, I use an assisted braking device (the Petzl Grigri) for most single-pitch climbing. The added safety outweighs the drawbacks as far as I’m concerned.
If you’re looking for a do-it-all belay device at an affordable price, I recommend the Black Diamond ATC Guide. The Edelrid Mega Jul is a great alternative for experienced climbers pushing their limits on multi-pitch climbs, while the Wild Country Revo is an awesome assisted braking belay device for beginner climbers and single-pitch routes.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.