Types of Belay Devices

Gri Gri Belsy Device
How to Climb

Types of Belay Devices

    There are three main styles of belay device: tube style, locking-assisted, and figure 8. Each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. The most basic and widespread are the tube style belay devices such as the Black Diamond ATC or Petzl VERSO. The next style is the breaking-assisted device—these are predominantly used in gym and sport climbing. The final style is plaquettes for multipitch climbing, these are used primarily for rappelling and only used for climbing in a pinch.

belaying a rock climber

Tube Style Belay Device

    Tube style belay devices are everywhere, if you ask a climber what belay device they use—the overwhelming majority will say a tube style device. Within tube style devices, there are two main branches—the basic tube style and the tube style/guide plate hybrid. The guide plate style does everything the basic can do, with the added benefit of assisted breaking while belaying a follower from the top of the pitch. A basic tube style device is plenty for a beginner climber, but the guide plate style lessens the need for an upgrade in the future. All tube style belay devices can double as a double rope rappel device—meaning you only need to take one device up the wall with you. The biggest drawback to a tube style device is that it requires more force to arrest a fall. They are also slightly more difficult to learn.


Assisted Braking Belay Device

    Assisted braking belay devices are the easiest to use and learn. There are two styles under the broader braking assisted label. The first, and most common, is the active breaking assisted device. The most well known of this style is the Petzl Grigri. These devices have a camming mechanism inside that rotates and pinches the rope, creating enough friction to hold a fall. Unfortunately these devices are not capable of double rope rappels—meaning you will need to bring along a second device if a rappel might be needed. If you are climbing in a gym or doing sport routes where you will be lowered, this is not a concern. The second style of braking-assisted devices are the passive devices such as the Edelrid Mega Jul. These devices work by rotating the angle of the device, increasing friction on the rope and holding the climber. Some of these devices are capable of a double rope rappel, others are not. You will need to look at the individual device you are considering.


Petzl Reverso Belay Device

Plaquette/Guide Style

   When belaying a following climber from the top, like in a multipitch climb, using a plaquette style device allows for the belay device to be attached directly to the anchor.  When set up correctly, these devices should lock by themselves in the case of a fall. But a hand should always be left on the brake strand. By having the belay device hooked directly to the anchor, the belayer has the capability of “escaping” in the case of an accident. Also the force of a fall is not directly placed on the belayer.

    All these devices have advantages and disadvantages. Braking assisted sometimes allow you to become complacent—and complacent belayers cause injuries. So always treat all belay devices like they won’t lock – never let go of the brake strand.

If you are curious about how to use these devices, join Denver Climbing Company for one of our climbing classes. We will instruct on everything you need to know to safely use these devices and choose the correct one for you!

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