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What is a belay device?

Essential for sport or trad climbing, belay devices (paired with an appropriate climbing rope, locking carabiner and harness) use friction to create a braking system in a length of rope. A belay partner can use this device to pay out slack, pull in excess rope, or catch a climber’s fall. You’ve generally got two main types of belay device to choose from: non-assisted braking and assisted braking.

Non-assisted braking belay devices, including many tubular style devices, are fully manual. Braking happens when a belayer pulls the brake side of the rope into a position that maximizes friction between the rope and the device, which lessens the climber’s overall falling distance. They’re usually lighter and more inexpensive, which is great for any new climber looking to develop good belay technique.

An assisted braking belay device can lock in the event of a fall, taking some (not all – assisted doesn’t mean automatic) of the load off the belayer’s brake hand during a climb. While they’re usually heavier, assisted braking devices can be useful for longer belays or difficult projects where a climber is hanging on the rope repeatedly.

To keep everyone safe, make sure you’re thoroughly trained up on proper belay techniques (check your local climbing gym for classes if you’re just getting started). With that in mind, look through our options from Petzl, Black Diamond, or Edelrid to find the right belay device for your sending needs.