As a rock climber, you belay device is one of your most important and most used pieces of gear that you will ever buy. Whether you are a seasoned veteran climber, or just getting into the sport, having a belay device that you are comfortable and confident with is an essential part of trusting your gear, not to mention your climbing partner. Although I have used essentially every device on the market at one time or another, my device of choice has always been the Petzl GriGri.
The GriGri was the device that I first learned how to belay on, for both top rope climbing as well as lead climbing. Almost across the board, most climbers that I climb with personally use this device, as well as almost every member of the Kendall Cliffs staff. Many professional climbers trust the GriGri as well, from small crag projects all the way up to big wall climbing. The convenience, easy learning curve, and added safety are extremely hard to beat. If you are looking for a durable, easy to use, and extremely safe belay device, this is it.
This fantastic little contraption is the standard in the category of assisted braking belay devices. Inside is a camming block that assists in engaging the brake while the climber’s rope is loaded with any force and your hand is in the ‘brake’ position. To release the cam when the device is loaded, simply ease back on the handle on the side and lower your climber down. Used correctly, this device will take in slack for top rope and feed slack for lead climbing seamlessly.
The GriGri takes ropes in any diameter between 8.9 mm and 11mm, which is essentially any dynamic climbing that you could normally find. Available in 3 different colors and weighing in at only 175 grams, you will see a ton of these devices in any gym or rock climbing area in the world. There are a number of models currently on the market, including the GriGri 2, the GriGri+, and simply, the GriGri. Although I have stuck with my original GriGri 2 for all these years, the more recent versions have seen a ton of small tweaks and improvements that make an already awesome belay device even better.
At this point you may be wondering, “What even is a GriGri? What does that funny sounding name even mean?”. That actually happens to be one of my favorite pieces of climbing trivia that I like tell people. The origins of the name grigri actually come from an African voodoo amulet that is supposed to protect the wearer from evil and bring them luck. In modern day, thousands of climbers can now be found using their own personal “amulets” to keep them safe and bring them good luck, all in the form of their GriGri belay device. Many climbers, myself included, never go out climbing without it.
As with any belay device, when it comes to using the GriGri you should ask and practice before just trying it out. Although the assisted braking feature is wonderful, climbers should still use proper belay technique and use their brake hand correctly. The GriGri can be used in other ways than just a simple belay device, such as a tool for self-belaying or rappelling on a single line. These alternative uses should also be practiced and performed under instruction until these skills are mastered.
One thing that does affect the use and feel of your GriGri is actually the carabiner that you use with it. Any locking carabiner will work with this belay device, as long as it is properly rated for rock climbing and big enough to be used with the GriGri. However, the ‘play’ that your device has on you harness can change from carabiner to carabiner. In my experience, gear from the same brand will always work the best together. That is exactly why I use the Petzl Am’D Twist Lock Carabiner with my personal GriGri. The locking mechanisms and size of carabiner is always a personal preference, but make sure to experiment with a few different options to try out the feel.
If you ever have questions about new rock climbing gear, or about rock climbing in general, make sure to ask a member of the climbing gym staff for help. At the very least make sure to consult a trusted experienced climber when it comes to new gear and how to use it. Youtube videos are awesome resources, but it is very hard to substitute for first-hand experience.
When it comes to belay devices and outdoor gear in general, my GriGri is one of my favorite things that I own. I use it almost daily and it has never let me down. I have come to think of it as my own good luck talisman and never go climb without it. If you are interested in this device or any others, stop by the store or the gym and consult one of our knowledgable staff.