Review: Beal Birdie Belay Device

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The first thing that caught my eye with Beal’s new assisted-braking belay device was its steampunk aesthetic: The Birdie is all stainless steel, with a gleaming silver body and colored handle. It just looks cool. Weighing 7.4 ounces, the Birdie is 1.2 ounces heavier than its main competitor, the Petzl Grigri; however, the Birdie costs $34.95 less. Both devices use an internal cam to assist with braking and have a similarly positioned lowering handle—if you’re fluent at one, you’ll be good with the other. I tested while cragging and up on multi-pitch routes. The Birdie feeds slack super well, catches falls perfectly, and gives a smooth lower, with minimal kinking or jerking. I also appreciated how nicely the rope stayed in its channel even under high-torque situations, as well as the metallic heft of the lowering handle. One note: On single-rope or simul-rappels, descending can be a little jerky/slow and there’s potential for the metal handle to get hot as heat translates from the body—bring gloves. The Birdie has a rope range of 8.5 to 10.5 mm.