Editors' Choice Classic: Black Diamond ATC-Guide Belay Device

Receive $50 off an eligible $100 purchase at the Outside Shop, where you'll find gear for all your adventures outdoors. Sign up for Outside+ today.

Black Diamond ATC Guide Rock Climbing Gear

A burly, ultra-light, do-it-all belay device 

There’s a reason you can just say “ATC,” and every climber will know you mean a tube-style belay/rappel device. Sorta like how you can ask for a “Coke” and people know you mean soda. It’s so widely used that its proper name has nearly taken over the entire genre. The original Air Traffic Controller was an immediate hit when it was released in 1993, and its offspring, this auto-blocking tube-style belay device, added the ability to belay a follower directly off the anchor. This increased versatility resulted in the ATC-Guide becoming a part of damn near every trad climber’s rack since it was released in 2005. 

Because the original design was so successful, it has seen very little updating, other than losing a few grams in 2009; the current weight is 3.1 ounces. There are plenty of competitors, but the ATC-Guide leads the category in performance and durability. Climbers we polled prefer this model over others because it’s beefier, lasts longer, and loads ropes easier. “Ultra-top-notch-deluxe sums it up right there!” is what one psyched gear expert had to say. Another called it “the device that all other tubers copy.” A side-by-side comparison of popular auto-blockers showed that the Black Diamond version had more bite on the rope, and it was easier to lower a climber when belaying off the anchor on a multi-pitch.


Further Reading:
Editors’ Choice Classic: The Climbing Gear Hall of Fame