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Hands-on Gear Review
Black Diamond ATC XP Review
Cons: Heavier than Verso
The Black Diamond ATC XP is our favorite manual belay device and the Best Buy award winner. At $21.95, it's not the absolute cheapest option. However, we believe the basic features it includes increase its value and warrant the modest added cost. The ATC XP is designed in the classic tube shape but with a pair of toothed grooves on one side for greater friction. According to BD, these grooves offer three times more stopping power than the smooth-sided, original ATC. We preferred the XP over the similar Petzl Verso because it's more durable and required less hand strength to lock off a resting climber.
Its other competitors are the Petzl GriGri 2 and the Black Diamond ATC Guide. The GriGri 2 is better for gym belaying, sport climbing, and any situations where you either have really long belays, are locking off frequently, or the climber is falling a lot—or all three combined. That said, the GriGri 2 is almost five times the cost and triple the weight.
The ATC Guide is the better device if you're multi-pitch climbing and want to belay off the anchor. For a full look at all the belay devices we tested check out The Best Climbing Belay Device Review.
RELATED: Our complete review of belay device
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The ATC XP is a classic tube-style manual belay device with additional friction grooves on one side.
It got a nice redesign in 2012. Machined windows were added to the sides that reduced the weight by 30%.
With two friction modes, the ATC XP allows you to match the holding power to the circumstances. When top-roping with large, stiff gym ropes, regular friction mode can save you lots of energy. Flip it around and use the teeth for greater holding power catching a lead fall. We thought the ATC XP provided similar bite to Petzl Verso. However, once someone was hanging on the rope, the XP locked off better and required less hand strength to keep rope from sliding through.
Feeding slack with the ATC XP and Petzl Verso was nearly identical. After trying both with a variety of ropes and in blind tests with our friends, we believe the ATC XP does so slightly more smoothly. Compared to paying out rope with an assisted locking devices, we always prefer the simplicity of a tube device like this one.
Auto-block (resistance belaying a second)
It's not safe to belay a follower directly off an anchor with this device. We compare eight auto-block capable devices in The Best Climbing Belay Device Review, including our top pick for multi-pitch climbing, the Black Diamond ATC Guide.
The aluminum used to make the ATC XP feels harder than that on the Petzl Verso. After 6 months of use we think it will last longer—the friction teeth certainly seem to. Many climbers learn the sport with an ATC XP or similar tube device before moving on to more sophisticated models when they specialize in a particular climbing discipline. We believe the XP will last the average climber several years, plenty of time to sort out what device to upgrade to.
We like this belay device most for climbers new to the sport or for experienced shoppers that appreciate simplicity. New climbers can learn the basics of belaying with the added safety margin of strong stopping power. Experienced climbers can enjoy affordable function in a compact, reliable package.
At $21.95, the ATC XP is a competitively priced belay device. Although there are cheaper options available, we believe the added braking power of the XP is worth the added cost. The price is identical to the Petzl Verso, however, we believe the ATC XP is more durable and a better value.
Other Versions and Accessories
Black Diamond also makes our Top Pick for multi-pitch climbing, the ATC Guide. This device is similar to the ATC XP but with the ability to belay a follower from above directly off an anchor. A toothless tube option is available too as the classic Black Diamond ATC. Finally, the Black Diamond ATC Sport is the same device as the ATC XP but in a lighter, smaller, version with only one friction slot.
— Jack Cramer
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 15, 2016
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