“The Revo is awesome,” says Wild Country athlete James Pearson, who with his climbing/life partner and fellow Wild Country team member, Caroline Ciavaldini, has been testing and helping develop the belay device over the past two years. “If it were to replace a lot of other ‘auto-blockers’ out there, we’d see a drastic decrease in belay accidents.” Pearson is referring to Wild Country’s innovative new centrifugal-force-powered, bidirectional device, which hits markets this year after years of design, refinement, and field testing, including manufacturing process delays that held up the originally slated 2017 release.
The process of creating the Revo began when a Wild Country product designer brought the idea to their technical director in 2014. Says Tsveta Lambreva, Marketing Manager at the Oberalp Group, which owns Wild Country, “The need behind the Revo has always been very simple: How can we create a device that prevents common mistakes during belaying?”
With that goal in mind, the Revo took a new approach to mechanically assisted belaying. The device is not, as with similar products, meant to lock when the climber weights the rope. Instead it functions much like a tube-style device, which makes it best-in-class for feeding slack thanks to the smooth gliding action of the internal pulley wheel. (The Revo is made for ropes 8.5–11 millimeters in diameter.) However, should the belayer fail to arrest the fall—sadly, an all-too-common cause of climbing accidents—the Revo locks up: Once the wheel passes four meters per second, roughly the velocity of a freefall, a cam automatically drops into a groove in the wheel, locking the wheel to arrest the rope. And with no external levers or handles to work (or clamp down on if panicking), and without the need to learn a new, specialized belay technique, the Revo lets belayers give a natural, intuitive catch—all with the ever-present possibility of a backup.
This makes it perfect for both veteran and novice belayers alike.
“Think of it like an instructor holding the slack rope behind a beginner learning to use a belay plate,” says Pearson. “The belayer never knows the instructor is there, until they mess up and the instructor steps in to save the day.” And Pearson would know: As one of his and Ciavaldini’s many tests—the most “ridiculous test,” he jokes—he prepared a picnic lunch while she climbed a 5.14b. Lambreva recalls testing often during lunch breaks with the Wild Country crew, going to a nearby gym and taking as many falls as possible; she cites the engineering team as the main movers in terms of design and testing.
“The real-world testing was simple: climb as much as you can with the device,” she says. “Have it with you at as many different climbing destinations as possible, from Peak District grit to sunny seaside cracks.” All told, the Revo was in development for five years, and 8-plus-million feet of rope were fed through it before it was deemed ready for market.
After years of prototypes, refinements, tweaks, and hands-on testing, the Revo goes on sale summer 2018. Weighing just 10 ounces, it costs $145 and is available at 94 REI locations in the US, online at REI.com, and at your local retailer—and as of July 1 can be found at backcountry.com. “It’s the perfect device for a regular day out at the crag, where you and your partner want to climb a ton of pitches,” says Pearson. “And it’s an excellent—and perhaps the only—device you could give to a complete beginner and have them belay you with 100 percent confidence.”
Concludes Pearson, “There’s no way to override the locking mechanism, and no funky directions to worry about. It really is that simple, and all but eliminates one of the biggest causes of climbing accidents.”