Review: Our Top New Belay Devices for 2017

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James Lucas
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In the past 25 years, belay devices have become safer but more complex, with various designs, moving parts, and additional braking power. From climbing 14-pitch 5.12s in Wadi Rum, Jordan, to running toprope laps at the local gym, our testers deciphered the nuances of the following five belay devices, evaluating braking, ergonomics, lowering, loading, ease of use, and overall design.

The Game Changer

Revo

Review: Wild Country Revo
This belay device may be the safest way to belay—period. Easy handling and increased safety are well worth the investment. Read the full review.

The Beginner's Best Friend

lifeguard_35b25d_gn

Review: Petzl Grigri+
This iteration of the classic belay device provides added safety for beginner climbers or anyone who topropes a lot. Read the full review.

Natural Motion

TrangoVergo

Review: Trango Vergo
Designed with ergonomics in mind, this device feeds smoothly, locks up quickly, and prevents common user errors. Read the full review.

The Safer Tuber

MJul

Review: Edelrid Mega Jul Sport
The device is light, simple, easy to set up, and double-rope capabilities increase its versatility. Read the full review.

Light and Reliable

Lifeguard_3%5b2%5d_gn

Review: Mad Rock Lifeguard
This durable, lightweight workhorse will feel familiar and make soft, reliable catches. Read the full review.

What does assisted braking mean? 

In the past century, belay devices saw significant evolution from carabiners and Sticht plates to belay devices with moving parts. Assisted braking in belay devices works by using either moving parts (active) or the geometry of the device (passive) to add stopping power when catching a falling climbing, which increases the belayer’s control of the rope and reduces the strength needed to hold and lower a climber. Though these devices make belaying easier, each one requires its own specialized technique, with a specific list of dos and don’ts. With that comes a learning curve for everyone, so after consulting manufacturers’ guidelines for proper use, go out with two friends and have one climb an easy route he will not fall on, while the other gives you a backup belay. Practice until you’ve got it dialed.