Climb Equipment

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

When it comes to rock climbing and top rope, an Air Traffic Controller (ATC) is one of the most important pieces of rock climbing gadget and device. It is what you use to belay to keep your climber safe when they’re high on the wall whether indoors or free climbing in the great outdoors.

Ensure the proper way to hold the rope and lead belay your climber | Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020
ATC Belaying Device

It is also an essential element in trad climbing and rappelling. Choosing the right ATC for you requires time and effort, which is why we’ve written this article!

How To Pick the Best ATC

Picking the best belay device is something that requires research and prior knowledge if you want to make the right decision for you. To begin, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the type of rock climbing that you’ll be doing.

topping out from the top of a outdoor rock climbing route | How To Pick the Best ATC
Pick the Best ATC for the right activity

If you only single-pitch sport climb, a basic ATC or an ABD will be best suited for your needs. However, if you are interested in traditional or multi-pitch climbing, your ATC and belay device might need to have some added features like belaying from the top.

belay devices with different uses

In a hurry?
If you want to find out what the best ATC device is, I recommend the Petzl Reverso.

1. Black Diamond Big Air XP Package

One of the best options for someone new to climbing, the Black Diamond Big Air Package comes with both an ATC and a locking carabiner, everything that you need to start belaying safely.

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

Additionally, the new Black Diamond ATC is 30% lighter, ensuring that you won’t have to carry any extra weight with you on your approach hike or multi-pitch climb.

Pros:

  • Comes with locking carabiner
  • Extra lightweight design
  • High-friction mode offers extra stopping power

Cons:

  • Only comes in one color
  • More expensive than just purchasing an ATC

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2. PETZL Reverso Climbing Belay Device

The PETZL Reverso ATC is your basic, all-around belay device that is perfect for gym climbing, multi-pitch climbing, and everything in between.

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020
Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

It is suitable for a wide variety of rope diameters and is well-suited for belaying two climbers simultaneously from the top of a pitch.

Pros:

  • Suitable for any type of climbing
  • Comes in a wide range of colors
  • Suitable and safe for rappelling

Cons:

  • Expensive

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3. Mammut Crag Light Belay Device

The Mammut Crag Light Belay Device is one of the more affordable ATC options on the market.

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

It is a very basic design, meaning that it is best fit for gym climbing or sport climbing, so if you plan on doing any multi-pitch or traditional climbing, this may not be the best option for you.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Extra grooves for high-friction security

Cons:

  • Not suited for multi-pitch or traditional climbing
  • Only comes in one color

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4. EDELRID Mega Jul Belay Device

Though certainly one of the pricier options on the market, the Mega Jul Belay Device is one of the most complete packages you can find. It fits a wide range of ropes, from 7.8-10.5 mm, and is perfect for both belaying and abseiling.

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

Additionally, it comes with a locking carabiner with a safety gate that prevents the device from cross loading.

Pros:

  • Perfect for practically any type of climbing and lowering
  • Extra safe carabiner equipped with safety gate and locking capabilities
  • Extra lightweight device

Cons:

  • Very expensive

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Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

5. CAMP Shell Belay Device

Though perhaps the most affordable option on the market, the CAMP Shell ATC is quite limited in its uses.

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

It is really only appropriate for 10-11 mm ropes, so it is most apt for gym climbing, but this is not the belay device that you’ll want if you plan on climbing outside.

Pros:

  • Most affordable option on the market

Cons:

  • Not suitable for lowering or outdoor climbing
  • Very limited in the rope diameter that you can use

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6. KAILAS Combination Kit

Another multipack, the KAILAS ATC and carabiner combination kit gives you everything you need for climbing both indoors and outdoors.

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

Its reverso belay device is appropriate for swapping leads, making it an excellent option for traditional and multi-pitch climbing.

Pros:

  • Comes with a belay device and carabiner in an affordable pack
  • Carabiner equipped with safety gate
  • ATC equipped for various modes and is appropriate for both belaying and rappelling

Cons:

  • Only available in one color
  • Less popular brand

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7. DMM Pivot Belay Device

The DMM Pivot ATC is one of the most affordable, versatile options on the market.

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

It comes in a range of colors and offers multiple friction modes for a wide variety of uses, especially lowering. This is a great belay device for anyone looking for a first ATC.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and affordable
  • Comes in a variety of colors
  • Pivot mode perfect for switching to lowering

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with a carabiner

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Assisted Braking Devices (ABD)

8. PETZL Grigri Belay Device

Moving into our assisted braking devices (ABD), our first option is perhaps the most popular on the market, the PETZL Grigri.

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

This is an extremely safe and secure belay device fit for a wide variety of rope diameters, from 8.5 to 11mm. Its automatic braking system adds in an extra level of security, though it does take a bit of time getting used to, so may not be the best choice for beginners.

Pros:

  • Assisted braking system adds extra level of safety
  • Perfect for unexpected falls common in gym and sport climbing
  • Comes in a variety of colors

Cons:

  • On the pricier end
  • Can only be used with single ropes
  • Best suited for experienced belayers, not beginners

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9. Mammut Smarter Belay Package

The Mammut Smarter Belay Package offers an assisted braking belay device at a more affordable price.

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

This option includes an automatic locking belay device and a locking carabiner with a safety gate. In contrast to the PETZL Grigri, it is a more appropriate option for beginner climbers. Not to mention, the colour is so pretty that will definitely attract many female climbers.

Pros:

  • Affordable pack that comes with ABD and locking safety carabiner
  • Comes in two color options
  • Suitable for beginners

Cons:

  • If you’re an advanced climber, the PETZL Grigri is a better option
  • Not a universal style, so might be hard switching to other belay devices

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10. Mad Rock Lifeguard

The Mad Rock Lifeguard is our final belay device, and while it is more expensive than the Mammut Starter Pack, it is a more affordable option than the PETZL Grigri.

Top 10 Best ATC Belaying Device in 2020

It can be used with single ropes ranging from 8.9 to 11 mm in diameter and is lightweight and durable.

Pros:

  • Intermediate option in terms of price

Cons:

  • Only comes in one color
  • Not the most common belay device, so switching to other ones could be challenging
  • Can only be used with single ropes

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Advantages and Benefits of ATC vs ABD

We should start out by making the distinction between an ATC and an ABD. An ATC, which originally stood for “air traffic controller”, refers to any tubular belay device. ATC belay devices are the most versatile, as they are suitable for any type of rope climbing and can also be used for rappelling.

Advantages and Benefits of ATC vs ABD
Advantages and Benefits of ATC vs ABD when outdoor lead climbing

On the other hand, assisted-braking belay devices (ABD) are more commonly used in sport climbing and gym climbing. They are a good option for often and/or unexpected falls, as their automatic locking features add an extra layer of security.

However, they tend to be heavier than an ATC device and cannot be used with two ropes, which is often necessary when traditional climbing. They are also not ideal lowering devices, ruling them out when it comes to rappelling.

Things to Look Out for That Differentiate ATCs

There are a number of features that differentiate the multiple ATC devices that are available on the market. First off, some ATC devices come with a locking carabiner, which will be a necessary feature when belaying.

So, if you don’t already have one, it may be a good idea to buy the two in a package deal. Additionally, you’ll want to pay attention to the weight of the ATC, as you’ll want something lighter if you plan on using it on multi-pitch routes.

Proper and Safe Usage

An ATC is a piece of equipment that requires special training to use properly, given that it can fail as a result of human error. Therefore, before using one, you should always receive proper instruction from a trained professional.

Belaying Cez in the cold - selfie at the top - outdoor lead climbing siurana | Proper and Safe Usage of ATC when climbing
Proper and Safe Usage of ATC when climbing

Additionally, you’ll always want to double check that your ATC is facing the right way and that your carabiner is locked before your climber sets off on their climb. Taking these simple precautions will ensure that everyone stays safe and secure.

Precautions To Take Note Of

It is important to note that the safety of an ATC belay device depends on the competence of its user, so you should always be prepared and aware.

Unexpected falls or large weight differences between the climber and the belayer can pose risks, but as long as you are well-equipped to operate your ATC, you will have nothing to worry about. The automatic locking features of an ABD adds an extra layer of security, but just remember that these devices are not suitable for all types of climbing and lowering.

There are so many options on the market when it comes to choosing a belay device, and at the end of the day, making the right choice comes down to knowing your necessities and abilities.

However, our top pick is the Petzl Reverso. It is an affordable option that is apt for both beginner and advanced climbers and allows for quick and easy transitions into guide mode, allowing the user to switch between belaying and lowering in a flash.

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