Knowing how to choose the best belay device for you is particularly important as a suitable belay device prevents serious injuries thereby making you feel safer.
In the multi-facet act of rock climbing, outdoor climbing brings the most exhilaration and thrills associated with rock climbing. From the beautiful scenery at the summit of whatever climbing spot is picked to the adrenaline rush in scaling overhangs and dangerous steep, the fun outdoor climbing brings never loses its appeal.
While the intense emotions outdoor rock climbing brings are often glamorized, the risks associated with its numerous climbing disciplines are usually not equally stressed. Because most climbing enthusiasts do not intend to scare beginner climbers with the dangers of the sport.
The lack of emphasis placed on outdoor climbing is understandable. Rather than stress the risks of outdoor climbing, climbing enthusiasts stress the importance of having the right gear for this rigorous kind of climbing.
One such gear, the belay device, has been beneficial as it saves lives. Climbing Apex considers the best belay device for climbing.
How To Choose Best Belay Device
From lead climbing to top-rope climbing, the belay device is a must-have gear. But, often, having this gear isn’t enough. In an instance where a climber climbs with a giant lead climber, the importance of having the best belay device takes center stage.
In choosing the best belay device, factors to be considered include;
- Nature of climbing to be undertaken, top-rope climbing, sports climbing e.t.c.
- The belayer
- Location and condition of the climbing route
- The diameter of the rope. This is to be considered in instances where climbers already own a climbing rope.
- Aside from climbing, would the belay device be used for other activities such as rappelling or belaying another climber?
- Would the belay device be explicitly used for climbing, or would it fit various rock climbing types?
Taking the above factors into consideration would help climbers make a practical choice in choosing the best belay device.
Different Belay Devices
Below are the three belay devices in circulation.
1. Tubular Belay Devices
The most common form of belay device in circulation, the Tubular Belay Device, is suitable for various rock climbing disciplines. Often called ATC, tubular belay devices are not ATC, which stands for Air Traffic Controller.
Instead, ATC belay devices are tubular belay devices. ATC happens to be a belay device named by gear manufacturer Black Diamond. For this device’s usage, a bight is created in the climbing rope (a bend in the rope, which makes a loop).
Then it is inserted into the belay device and clipped with a carabiner, which connects it to the belay loop in the harness or the anchor. In the event of falls, friction between the rope and the belay device will slow down the rope before bringing it to a halt.
In preparation for increased friction, tubular belay devices sometimes come with “teeth” or ridges. Tubular belay devices can also be used as assisted braking devices.
This often occurs in guide mode when the belay device has another point of attachment. This mode, which is ideal for multi-pitch climbing, allows the belay device to be attached directly to the anchor.
Advantages Of Tubular Belay Devices
- 1. Works with ropes of different diameters
- It is very common and costs less.
- It is used for various climbing disciplines and for rappelling
- It Is lightweight
- The ropes are durable & don’t twist.
Disadvantages Of Tubular Belay Devices
- It’s not an ideal choice for route-setting and projecting, as climbers may be exhausted.
- It does not provide belayer much help with climbers’ weight.
- It may be slow for rappelling.
2. Assisted Braking Belay Devices
Known as self-locking, self-braking, auto-locking, and auto-braking devices, they are designed in a way that they automatically lockdown on the rope when force grips it, such as the force from a climber’s fall.
Assisted Braking Belay Device is of two types, namely;
1. Passive Assisted Braking Belay Devices
This type of belay device is closely similar to the tubular belay device. Instead of relying on friction to slow down the rope, Passive Assisted Braking Belay Devices exert force on the rope between the device and the carabiner to bring it to a halt.
The name “passive” does not translate to reduced work from the belayer. It refers to the absence of moving parts on the device. Hence, the belayer has to be attentive when using this type of belay device, just as they would when using other belay devices.
Advantages Of Passive Assisted Braking Belay Devices
- It is an ideal choice for rappelling
- It is an ideal choice when the climber weight is more than that of the belayer
- It is lightweight compared to its active counterpart.
Disadvantages Of Passive Assisted Braking Belay Devices
- The rope occasionally locks up, even in the absence of falls. This tends to occur when the climber outweighs the belayer.
- It has more steep curves than tubular devices
2. Active Assisted Braking Belay Device
They work by exerting force on the rope through an internal mechanism that relies on camming. They are often used in climbing gyms, sports climbing, traditional climbing, and routes with multi-pitches.
Advantages Of Active Assisted Braking Belay Device
- It provides a strong and firm grip on the climbing rope.
- Climbers can easily be lowered as a result of the camming mechanism.
- It ranks as the most advanced and safest belay device in circulation.
Disadvantages Of Active Assisted Braking Belay Device
- It is incompatible with several climbing ropes, as it gives room to only a narrow rope diameter.
- It is not ideal for ice climbing or climbing in rainy locations.
- It requires practice, especially for lead climbing.
- They cannot be used for rappelling as they give room for one rope.
- It costs more than other belay devices
- It is heavy
3. Figure 8 Belay Device
The figure 8 belay device can be tweaked for top-roping and lead climbing, a perfect choice for rappelling. As revealed by its name, it is shaped like figure 8, with one hole more extensive than the other.
A bight is passed through the giant hole, and a loop is formed when the rope tightly grips the neck of the belay device as it comes out through the small hole. The small hole is then clipped via a carabiner to the harness belay loop.
Most figure 8 belay device manufacturers offer specific ways to fit the rope, so their best climbers adhere to the prescribed method.
Advantages Of Figure 8 Belay Device
- It is the best choice for rappelling
- It fits with every rope diameter
- It reduces heat from friction
Disadvantages Of Figure 8 Belay Device
- It makes climbing rope handling difficult as a result of the twist they put on the rope.
- Belayer must be attentive and exert more force compared to other types of belay devices.
Whatever type of belay device is chosen, climbers and belayers should ensure they are in the best condition. Belayers should be very attentive when belaying, as a climber’s life, depends on their actions.
Climbers should always remember safety is their responsibility. Please let us know your thoughts on our guide to best belay devices in the comments section below.