2017 Belay Device Review: Mad Rock Lifeguard

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How it works

A camming mechanism is engaged when a strong tug on the climber’s end of the rope pulls it up, changing the angle of the rope and halting its progress.

Additional Uses

Belay off anchor, rope ascension, rappelling


Experienced and new users alike felt comfortable belaying and being caught by the Lifeguard, because the cam engaged quickly when a falling climber weighted it, providing reliable and soft catches. The device lowered well, albeit slowly, especially for lighter folks, but testers never felt out of control. Built from forged aluminum, the Lifeguard is extremely durable, and weighing only 5.4 ounces, makes an excellent choice for trad climbers looking to shave ounces off their rack. The small size of the device made it comfortable for a variety of hand sizes, although large-pawed testers found it awkward to simultaneously hold the device and keep the brake hand on the rope. Testers found that pulling the rope in a vertical motion (instead of out to the side) helped prevent unintended cam engagement. Though the Lifeguard is designed to accommodate ropes up to 11mm, thicker ropes felt clunky, and the device easily locked up when feeding out slack, making short-roping more likely. Thinner ropes moved through this device like water.


This durable, lightweight workhorse will feel familiar and make soft, reliable catches. 

$89; 5.4 oz.; 8.9–11mm;

Further Reading:
Review: Our Top New Belay Devices for 2017