A belay device is a piece of equipment used to control a rope whilst belaying. The device allows the belayer to control the speed of the rope simply and efficiently. When used correctly after proper instruction a belay device will allow lighter climber to control the rope and when required a fall of a much heavier climber. Most belay devices work by looping the rope around a series of tight bends. The rope can be paid out or taken in as required. If the climber falls, the rope can be locked (stopped) to prevent the climber from falling any further than the amount of slack rope already paid out.
There are many different types of belay device on the market today. The most common are:
The ATC (short for Air Traffic Controller) is a very popular and inexpensive belay device. It is light weight, easy to use and allows good control of the rope. Black Diamond also offer a slight variation on the ATC, known as the ATC XP. This offers an increased friction option as well as the standard option available on the regular ATC. In addition there are also a number of other “tube” type belay devices on the market from other manufacturers. These look very similar to the ATC and operate in much the same way.
The Gri Gri is a belay device which automatically locks in the event of a fall. Because of this it can be slightly harder to pay out the rope, however many climbers are happy to overlook this as the Gri-Gri is very good belay device. Many indoor climbing walls use Gri-Gri’s when teaching youngster to climb because of the auto locking feature. A new version of the Gri-Gri (known as the Gri-Gri 2) is soon to be released. According to the official website, the device will be able to take a thinner rope size, be 25% smaller and lighter and feature a more progressive descent control system.
Self Belay Device.
Self belay devices are used for solo climbing. These are especially popular in big wall multi pitch climbs. The device auto locks when any force is detected on the rope (i.e. a fall).
There are many different types of belay device out there. Before buying one, it may be worth trying a few different types out at your local climbing wall or asking a reputable climbing shop to demonstrate the different ones that they stock.