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Belay Devices - Reviews & Guides For 2020

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Belay devices buying guide

Going out to climb the tallest height? Make sure that you arm yourself with suitable belay devices. These tools are the most important gear you need to look into. It is solely responsible for handling your weight with your partner.

While climbing, the belay devices assist you in different ways. They support your weight and also protect you from unfortunate accidents and falls. These devices act like lifesavers while you climb with your partner.

However, you have to select the best quality product to ensure proper safety. For this, you need to study every element of the product. Gathering all this information can become a tiresome task, and you may collect incorrect facts and details.

Referring to a comprehensive buying guide solves these issues. It provides all the necessary information under one roof, which saves a lot of your time. Also, with precise facts, you can easily sort out the best product from different options.

Before that, let us understand the product more deeply by starting with a quick introduction to it.

What are belaying devices, and what are their advantages?

If you are an avid climber, you would already know what a belay device is. These mechanical climbing equipment are the sole controller of the rope that a climber would use for climbing. They are specially designed to ensure maximum security of the climber with minimal efforts.

It is quite essential to have the right belay device because your climbing technique will be ascertained by it. They work against gravity, protecting any climber from a fall. You can use belay devices for attachment of the belayer to a harness as well as for descending.

Depending on the type of belay device you choose, you can have the right amount of control over the climbing rope and improve your stance and technique.

Advantages of Belay Devices

  • Among all the methods that can be used for belaying your climbing partner, the use of belay devices is the most convenient.
  • In case of a fall, the right belay device will withstand the fall with maximum security to the climbers. In case of a tragedy where the belayer happens to fall or lose control over the rope, a belay device will secure the rope.
  • If there is an emergency that requires an evacuation from the climbing spot, belay devices make it very convenient and speedy to make a getaway.
  • Most belay devices allow handling two ropes so the belayer can belay two climbers. This is efficacious without any compromise in safety.

Why should you look into a buying guide before choosing suitable belay devices?

With several types and models available in the market, you can not blindly make a suitable purchase. To invest your money in the right product, you need in-depth details about it.

A buying guide presents all the necessary facts and additional information about the product at a single stop. You can quickly go through all the pointers, make an informed decision, and save yourself from being duped.

So, without any further ado, let us start with this comprehensive guide.

Types

The first thing that you must know about belay devices is its types. There are six types of such devices. They are further explained with the help of the following points given below :

  1. Figure Eight Belay Device

The first type on this list is the figure-eight belay device. It gets its name from its shape that resembles the digit 8. It is the most basic kind and is also used for rappelling.

However, the ropes are a bit difficult to handle with this one, and the friction it offers is also a bit less comparatively.

  1. The Munter Hitch

This device is more of a knot than a piece of physical equipment. You will need a locking carabiner with this. It comes very helpful in case you drop your belay device and have to continue or retreat.

So, the munter hitch can also be used as an emergency tool in case something happens to your original belay device.

  1. Tubular Belay Device

The tubular belay device is the most popular one as they are perfect for any kind of climbed activity. Friction is created on the point that immediately stops the rope in case of any problem.

Some of these devices also come with teeth or grooves for additional friction. Assisting them is also easy as they come with compactness. They are suitable for double or single ropes and also compatible with varying diameters of ropes.

  1. Guide Plates

These are the advanced types of belay devices. They have a large attachment point at one end, followed by a smaller point at the other. It offers versatility in nature and is useful in various terms.

Overall, it is one reliable option that assures your safety, which is why it is a popular choice among many people.

  1. Passive Assisted Braking Belay Device

The passive assisted braking belay device works on a mechanism that pinches the rope between the carabiner and the device, which stops the movement of the rope.

They are suitable for all kinds of climbing and compatible to be used as a rappel on two strands of rope.

  1. Active Assisted Braking Belay Device

Another very advanced type is the active assisted braking belay device. It's mechanism works within the device itself that brings a halt effectively.

They offer a better and tight grip adding comfort and taking some weight off the climber. However, they are comparatively a bit heavy.

Things to Deem While Selecting the Appropriate Belay Devices

Rope range

You must consider the rope range before making a purchase of the belay devices. Different models work for different diameters. Therefore, you must decide on your requirements and how well the device goes along with the rope.

You will have to keep a check on the rope, especially when you make a switch. Also, remember that automatic devices are troublesome with the rope diameters.

So keep all these points in consideration regarding the rope range and then make a purchase accordingly. By doing this, you will end up with the best and most suitable product that will go along with your needs without creating extra troubles and tension.

Skinny Vs. Fat

You must understand the difference between a skinny belay device and a fat belay device and decide which one will be most suitable for you.

  1. Skinny belay device

A skinny belay device is light-weighted and suitable for lighter ropes. So if you are looking for minimal weight and more comfort, then this type of device will be suitable. Remember that a skinny belay device is not compatible with mountaineering purposes.

  1. Fat belay device

A fat belay device is thicker and also a bit heavy comparatively. They are suitable for rough and tough usages such as mountaineering. In the end, the choice is yours. So, you need to decide under what circumstances you will be using the device and then make a purchase accordingly.

Holding Power

It is difficult to measure the holding power of a belay device in absolute terms, but this is an important consideration nonetheless. You need to know how much force can be withstood by the belay devices to make a sound choice for yourself. Comparisons based on general tests show that most good-quality belay devices have similar holding power.

However, one exception that sets the bar too high is the extremely popular Munter Hitch belay device. With excellent holding power, this device is especially known to serve very well in the face of force as compared to many of its counterparts.

On the other extreme is the figure 8 belay device, which has proved to have the lowest holding power capacity.

Type of Climbing

The type of climbing you plan to do ascertains a lot of demands that your belay device would need to cater to. So you must keep the type of climbing in mind in order to end up with the best of the belay devices.

  1. Gym Climbing

Artificial settings for climbing like in the gym are known to be relatively safer. The tube-style belay devices are best suited for you if you mainly do gym climbing. This device is extremely convenient to use and facilitates an excellent fall breaker.

Given that several falls may be witnessed even in such scenarios, the bulk and the sturdiness of this device works in your favor.

  1. Sport Climbing

If you are into sport climbing, you must be prone to the frequency of falls in each and every session when you are attempting to conquer a specific strategy or training for a specific project. The use of belay devices will prove to be a god-send as they will allow you more support and confidence.

In sport climbing, the weight of the belay devices would be an issue so durability can be prioritized. Additionally, for sport climbing, abseiling is not an integral part, and so, you need not look for devices that can handle two ropes. Those with one handle can suffice.

  1. Traditional Climbing

Climbing in natural terrain means that falling is not routine for you. You will be required to carry heavy gear to the spot, and so, lightweight belay devices might top your list of priorities. Traditional climbing will also mean abseiling, so it is better to choose from the options that can handle the use of two ropes.

  1. Ice and Alpine Climbing

This type of climbing will require that you use thinner ropes. Less bulk in ropes means that the amount of friction that the climber and the belayer rely on is reduced. So, you must make sure that the belay device you choose will be on par to manage in these conditions.

The lightweight and dual-rope handling are also on the checklist for such climbing.

Weight

It is quite an essential consideration for belay devices given that most climbers require to carry heavy gear while attempting to overcome hurdles along the way of climbing a steep trail. Weight is a critical concern for traditional and ice and alpine climbers.

The weight and bulk of belay devices are preferred to be lightweight without compromising durability and sturdy nature. Apart from the weight, the product's size is a concern as climbers need to fit the device in their backpacks, among other equipment.

So, space it takes up, and its weight must be meticulously considered before making a choice.

Some devices can prove to be smaller in size but much more heavy than other bulkier devices. In such a case, you will need to consider your preferences and consider other aspects as well.

Catch

The main quality that a climber looks for in a great belaying device is its quality of engagement in a situation involving a fall. Arguably the most crucial consideration is the catch of the belay devices. It is vital to understand how the device will manage the situation in case of such an accident.

The performance of the belay devices in such conditions actually depends on many other aspects than just its own inherent qualities. The bulk of the rope, the amount of friction dissipated by the ropes, the number of ropes, the harnessing technique are all essential factors that contribute to the catch of belaying devices.

Further, you must understand how much effort it takes a belayer to hold on to the belaying device in such a scenario. Several tests show that even though passive assisted devices are gaining popularity, the active devices remain unbeaten in this arena.

Auto Block

The belay device's ability to lock the rope in case of the climber falling or losing handle over the rope is vital. Belay devices are tested for the autoblock on climbing routes as well as indoors to get an accurate idea of their absolute qualities.

By setting up a device in an autoblock mode and attaching it to the hanging scale, we can pull the rope while simultaneously recording the weight displayed on the device.

Several different devices can be compared like this to understand which devices provide how much resistance in scenarios like these.

This can also help you understand if your equipment needs renewing because worn-out devices are shown to provide less friction. It may be wise to look for newer models if your climbing gear also fails to work according to your expectations in the autoblock area.

Shape

There are mainly two types of shapes that you can choose from in belay devices.

  1. Wedge Shape

This type of belay device will allow you to shift between the degree of friction that you would prefer. In wedge-shaped belays, the thicker end of the device can be used for maximum friction, while the opposite end will facilitate minimum friction. This, however, did not seem to work well among climbers and did not gain the expected popularity.

  1. Groove and Teeth

This shape serves as a more viable shape in belay devices. They are uncomplicated to maneuver and provide excellent handling. Some groove-shaped belay devices come without teeth. They also serve effectively, but the only drawback is the limitation of rope diameter. This, however, isn't a deal-breaker for most climbers.

Feeding Slack

For a lead climber, the essential aspect of a belay device is the feeding slack. It refers to the usefulness of the device when it comes to belaying a climber. It requires attentiveness as well as extreme management skills to handle the rope. The ability to give the slack precisely is not a task that any climber can handle.

It is on the right type of belay device to make the task convenient or even more complicated when it comes to feeding slack for effective belaying. The safety and security assured by the belay device during the process is another critical consideration to judge the quality of the device.

How easy is a device to trigger and how convenient is it for the device to maneuver to release a lock are important tests that you need to consider before making a sound purchase.

Care and Maintenance

Having purchased a suitable belay device, it is now essential that you invest efforts into its upkeep to ensure that it continues to serve you well and for long.

To maintain the device's longevity and not let yourself be vulnerable to the ill-effects of an unkempt belay device, follow the following guidelines for proper care and maintenance.

You must put in the effort of taking care of the gear from day1. You should not wait till something cracks, or the functioning is affected until the thought of maintenance is reminded to you.

It may seem convenient to just throw away your gear after a climb until next time, but this will adversely affect the device's quality and durability.

Take special care of how you store the belay devices:

  1. Do not place it directly in exposure to harmful UV rays of the sun. Store it in the shade.
  2. It should be stored somewhere where the ventilation is good enough, and the device is able to breathe.
  3. Do not allow your climbing gear to come in contact with any sort of corrosive substances like acids.

How To Attach Belay Device

  1. Most belay devices have two slots. So, put one end of the rope in one slot.
  2. The belay loop is then to be connected to the carabiner.
  3. The loop created by the rope passing through the two slots is where the carabiner needs to be clipped.
  4. Make sure to secure the carabiner.
  5. If your belay device comes with friction notches, it is essential to make sure that the notches are on that side of the rope where the brake rope is.

Performing Safety Checks

It is quite essential that before you begin your climbing, you must check up on your own and your climbing partner's set up to ensure safety mid-climb.

  1. Knots

Make sure that the knots that you use for the belay device are fastened up securely. Double-check the figure 8 and whether or not the system is securely closed by the belayer with a stopper knot.

  1. Buckles

Look for any loose buckles or any that may have been missed. Check for buckles to ensure that they are fastened tightly and would not come off at any point in time. Look carefully for the straps' securement through the buckles. Make sure not to miss any buckles that may come unfastened.

  1. Belay Device

One of the most important security checks to ensure your own and your climbing partner's safety is the careful fastening of the belay device. Check whether it is properly threaded. Check for the carabiner to ensure that it passes through the rope, belay device as well as the harness belay loop.

  1. Command Check

Ensure that you and your climbing partner are on the same page regarding safety words, communication terminology, and other gestures that you may use for communication whilst climbing.

FAQs

1. What does the term "belay" mean in climbing?

Belay actually means putting a halt on the speed of the climber going downwards while maintaining friction on the rope. It is because rope controls the motion of the climber. Now it depends on you to opt for a self-belay device or go for a partner belay option.

2. What are the right steps to keep a belay device tidy?

A belay device can be easily taken care of. Although once they are built, they are bound to work for a long time. However, you should still make sure of 3 things for preventing any wear and tear.

1. Prevent banging them in any rocks.

2. Store them in a dry and safe manner.

3. Clean them with warm water if they get dirty.

3. Is it possible to rappel using a belay device?

Yes, it is possible to do rappelling using a belay device. All you need to do is get proper knowledge on how to perform rappelling using a belay device without any hassle.

4. What is the working principle of a belay device?

A belay device is quite easy to use as it functions in the same way as developing friction down the rope with the purpose of stopping it. Thus, all it does is puts friction on different spots of the rope that lead to its slow action, which eventually leads to its stop.

Final Verdict

During the climbing expedition, your partner and belay devices play a key role in ensuring proper safety. Both are equally dependent on each other and cannot function separately. You may have the perfect partner, but with poor quality tools, you will face many hurdles.

To avoid this, we have presented this buying guide, which contains all the necessary details that define the performance and usability of the product. Go through it and select elite devices for your expedition.

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