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Black Diamond ATC Guide Review

   
Top Pick Award

Belay Device

  • Currently 4.3/5
Overall avg rating 4.3 of 5 based on 10 reviews. Most recent review: April 18, 2014
Street Price:   $30 | Compare prices at 7 resellers
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
User Rating:     
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 (4.4 of 5) based on 9 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (9/9) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ October 1, 2013  
Overview
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.

Lowering
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.

Lock Off
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.

Best Application
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.

Value
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.

Other Versions
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.

Conclusion
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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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 18, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.4)

100% of 9 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
10 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (5)
4 star: 40%  (4)
3 star: 10%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 9 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Apr 18, 2014 - 11:03am
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Absolutely bomber. Durability is a huge thing for me, I get out a lot, and the Petzl Reverso wore through for me quicker than I would have hoped. It was certainly disconcerting. That being said, I've now had my ATC Guide for 4x as many pitches as I had the Reverso get razor sharp on me, and the Guide is still kickin' and not showing any signs of slowing down. It is also pretty fool-proof, which is a good thing, considering I have a particularly low IQ.

It works fantastic with ropes from skinny to fat in my experience, and the hollowed-out sides definitely helped with what weight concerns folks had. Overall, a bomber piece of gear that has served me very well and I will replace it with another one when the time comes.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 8, 2013 - 02:25am
C Blank · Climber · San Francisco, CA
If you could have just one belay device, this would be the one.

The weight and burliness makes it much better in my mind over the reverso. the idea of having to get a new belay device every year is not something worth a few oz's saved.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 16, 2010 - 05:13pm
Rokjox · Climber · Boys I'dunno
I made a comparison of available belay gadgets when it became clear that my spring Stitch plate was worn out, after about 20 years of use.

The ATC Guide is what I chose, and I am a HAPPY camper. It rappels double ropes of various sizes, belays two ropes at once, locks off reliably and if I really need to save a few grams of weight out of my swag, I will drink another swig from my canteen.

The thing doesn't heat up a lot when being used hard (rappelling anyone?) and that is because its a little beefy and the metal dissipates the heat stress a little better. Better than feeding that heat back into the rope, eh? Beats heck out of a Grigri for size and weight, and did I say you can rappel a double OR single rope of most ANY reasonable size?

Oh, and then there is the low friction setup, where you can belay your little kids and women as easy as that 200 lb ex-paratrooper on the high friction side.

It is a little tight with 10 mil and larger ropes, but I can handle that. If you have weak, small hand it MIGHT be a problem, but what climber has weak hands? And it looks like it will last another twenty years. Its darn simple to teach how to use it too, unlike a Grigri that drops people when a Noob first uses it … Gri's suck for simplicity and ease of teaching your mechanically unsophisticated wife and girlfriends. If you can get a 'Guide on your rope, its hard to screw it up unless you tangle it.

God Bless Chounard. I run with his stuff all my life, and nothing his outfit made has ever failed me. Who cares what it costs? ((And what's a Gri cost??? Eh???)

But what do I know?

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 9, 2010 - 05:29am
bearbreeder · Climber
sure its heavier than a rev 3 … but its also beefier and works on larger rope … in other words thick gym ropes as well

bomber

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 29, 2010 - 11:42am
Brokedownclimber · Climber · Douglas, WY
This is one of the better belay devices that I've had the opportunity to use. It is "Idiot-Proof." Works very well with 10 mm ropes, but is "sticky" with heavier ones.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 27, 2010 - 05:27am
MAbuse · Climber · Kuala Lumpur
The smooth profiles on the Guide means it will never get stuck on your other gear like the Mad Rock Mad Lock or Trango B52 and will be right where and when you need it every time.

Sadly because of it's shortcomings with large diameter rope it's unlikely that the ATC Guide can subsist as the only Belay Device in your rack, unless you enjoy getting pumped while still at ground level or getting yelled at by your leader as the Guide chokes on that twisted old 10.5 you can't pay out fast enough. It's also the incredible hulk of slot style devices. Huge and heavy.

That said, the Guide is excellent in every other respect. Always a good fallback to have around.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 17, 2010 - 09:39pm
HighTraverse · Climber · Bay Area
I started with hip belays, then figure 8, Lowe Tube (I think it was called), ATC and now ATC Guide.
I've used it with ropes from 10.2mm down to 8.8mm, in dry, wet and icy conditions. I agree it's stiff in autoblock mode with a dry 10.2 mm rope on top rope belay. It works very well on wet/icy ropes, even down to 8.8mm.
This is the only belay device I use and for all around it works very well. I like it's simplicity and ability to provide plenty of friction when needed. Works very well as a rappel device- simple to rig, good friction control - probably the best I've used for rappel.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 20, 2009 - 09:26pm
idaho · Climber · Mt Baldy
When I started climbing, I was taught to use a hip belay to keep my climber safe. It was usually really painful when the climber fell and so I had to understand the mechanics of body position, force and angle of fall line, and most of all, the importance of paying attention.

I used the original ATC for 18 years for all kinds of climbing, including big walls (very bad idea) and ice climbing (also not ideal). For the past 10 years i've used a Gri Gri, a Cinch, a Sum, a Tuber, a Munter Hitch, and more lately the ATC Guide.

Because I enjoy the all varieties of climbing such as multi- and single pitch trad, sport climbing, and gym climbing, I've decided that the ATC Guide is the most versatile and useful belay device on the market. I don't care that it ways slightly more than other manual devices. It still suits my multi-purposes perfectly.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 11, 2009 - 01:24pm
apogee · Climber
I do a fair bit of guiding through the year, and the editor's review is pretty right on. The Guide is a bit heavier, and sticky with larger ropes. If you are guiding all day long, you'll feel the difference by the end of the day. For longer multi-pitch days, I usually take my Reverso.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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The ATC Guide is a durable, affordable auto-block device.
Credit: Black Diamond
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