Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Great for belay second on multi-pitch climbs, durable, pulls 10mm ropes smoothly, good value
Cons: Heavier than the Reverso 4, otherwise nothing to complain about
Best Uses: multi pitch climbing
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
The ATC Guide is a tough rappel/guides belay device and our favorite device for multi pitch climbing. It gets our Top Pick award, barely edging out the Petzl Reverso 4. It is more affordable than the Petzl Reverso 4 and more durable, and better with ticker (9.5-1.2mm) ropes. That said, the Reverso 4 much lighter and only $6 more expensive. So it's not easy to tell a clear winner.
The ATC Guide is the toughest and heaviest auto-blocking device tested. We know many guides in Yosemite and elsewhere that use the ATC Guide year after year. It belays a leader well and locks off especially well with smaller ropes when in guides mode. It is $7 less than the Petzl Reverso 4. If you are looking for the most durable auto-blocking device, this is it. If you do not multi-pitch climb and belay off the anchor much, we recommend the Black Diamond ATC XP or the Wild Country VC Pro 2. Read our complete Best Belay Device Review to see how this belay device compared to others.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Updated in 2012
The ATC guide got a big update in 2012. The two biggest problems we used to have with it I have now been addressed. It is now much lighter (they shaved off 0.5 ounces) and it now works much better with thicker ropes (9.5-10.5mm). They boosted the price $2, but it is still $6 less expensive than its main competitor, the Reverso 4.
This device scored well for lowering. There are two different section modes: you can use the teeth or not use the teeth for less friction. We felt this device handled heat moderately well on long rappels.
Sport and Gym Belaying
Wow this device will work fine in the gym, most people will prefer the Black Diamond ATC XP or the Petzl GriGri 2. The XP is lighter and easier to manage. The GriGri has the auto assist locking mechanism that has the potential to both increase safety and convenience when your climbing partner is taking a lot of falls and hanging on the rope a lot.
Rappelling with 2 Ropes
They scored very well in this category for the reasons mentioned above: it has two different friction modes which allow you to control your descent rate whether you're using thin ropes or thick ropes.
This locks of about as well as any non auto-assist device.
Belaying the Second
This is where the ATC guide excels. It was about as easy as the Petzl Reverso 4 when using skinny ropes. However, with thicker ropes, the ATC XP pulled ahead. The GriGri is arguable easier to belay with off the anchor, however you can only pull one rope through which means you can't belay two climbers at once or belay using the double rope technique. In addition, if you have repels in your dissent or need to retreat, the ATC guide is going to be a lot more convenient than the GriGri.
Running up Nutcracker or Serenity Crack with a team of two or three? Heading up a classic Sierra alpine route? Free climbing on demanding multi-pitch routes? The ATC Guide works well in all these applications.
For $30 you get a tough guides belay device that is $6 less than the Petzl Reverso 4. This is a great buy if longevity and versatility are your highest concerns when purchasing an auto-blocking device.
The Black Diamond ATC, $20, is an archetypical manual belay device. However, even with all the new devices on the market, this is still a great one. The Black Diamond ATC XP, $20, scored the highest for a manual belay device and offers more friction control than its predecessor, the ATC. The friction slots offer three times greater hold and stopping power, according to BD. What this means, and it is especially true on slimmer cords, is you have more control when catching the leader, rappelling and lowering. We think of the XP as a tougher, meaner (it has teeth, after all) version of the ATC because the rope slides through grooved slots instead of directly over thin tube stock. This ATC wins our Editor's Choice Award.
The ATC Guide works great when paying rope out to a leader, locks quickly in belay-off-the-anchor mode and is very durable. If you want to belay off the anchor, it's hard to go wrong with this device.
Videos from Black Diamond
— Chris McNamara and Ian Nicholson
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Most recent review: April 18, 2014
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