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Black Diamond ATC XP Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Belay Device

  • Currently 4.4/5
Overall avg rating 4.4 of 5 based on 9 reviews. Most recent review: October 2, 2013
Street Price:   $20 | Compare prices at 9 resellers
Pros:  Good friction control when rappelling and lowering, smooth paying out rope
Cons:  Heavier than ATC, tube stock not as thick as Wild Country VC Pro II
Best Uses:  The ATC XP works great on ropes sub 10mm
User Rating:     
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 (4.1 of 5) based on 8 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (8/8) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ October 2, 2013  
Overview
The Black Diamond ATC XP scored the highest for a manual belay device for belaying a leader. It 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. If you already have an ATC, you will find the ATC XP to be an improvement. However if your current ATC is in good shape it hasn't been dropped, crushed or extremely used getting a new XP is not essential. The XP costs $5 more than the ATC.

It is beefier than the Black Diamond ATC, tougher than the Petzl Verso and not as bulky as any auto-blocking device on the market. The Wild Country VC Pro 2, lighter and $9 less expensive, is the nearest competitor to the ATC XP.

It's main competitors are the Petzl GriGri 2 and the Black Diamond ATC XP. The GriGri 2 is better for gym belaying, sport climbing and any situations where you either have really long belays, are locking off the climber a lot, or the climber is falling al lot. Or all three combined. That said, the GriGri is Quadruple the cost and weight.

The ATC Guide is the better device if you are multi-pitch traditional climbing and want to belay off the anchor.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Updated in 2012
The ATC XP got a nice redesign in 2012. Machined windows were added to the sides that reduced the weight by 30%.

Likes
While Black Diamond says the ATC XP has greater holding and stopping power than the original ATC, our testers' experience was that it simply offers more friction control options. We can catch a leader fall with either device and wont feel any less safe with the ATC. This is a great device for belaying a leader or rappeling down one climbing rope or two. We prefer the ATC XP especially with thinner ropes.

This was one of the best devices for paying out rope to a leader. We preferred it slightly over the VC Pro II. But to our surprise we found the original ATC was a little smoother at paying out rope fast.

Dislikes
The only downside with the Black Diamond ATC XP is that the teeth wear out. They don't wear out quite as fast as with the Petzl Verso or Petzl Reverso 4, but we noticed the teeth wearing down after a few months.

Best Application
This a great all-around device whether you are just starting to climb or are a pro. It excels at belaying a leader and paying out rope fast, especially with ropes under 10mm. It also works great for double rope rappelling.

Value
For $24, this is one of the more expensive manual belay devices $9 more than the similarly-scoring VC Pro II. The price difference shrinks if you really like the handling of this device, which many testers did. If you buy it with a budget $10 carabiner like the Black Diamond Rocklock it is about as good a deal as you can find.

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: October 2, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.1)

100% of 8 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
8 Total Ratings
5 star: 38%  (3)
4 star: 50%  (4)
3 star: 13%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 8 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Apr 5, 2012 - 06:06am
sol_dog · Climber · Berkeley
Great for belaying, lots of grip, catches those surprising falls without a worry. Only thing holding it back from 5 stars is rappelling. Man, it is slooooowww. I guess that is good if you are a beginner, but sometimes you just want to get down there already. I usually use a 10.2 mm rope though.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 13, 2013 - 09:02pm
Mark Buche · Climber · Long Beach
Must own piece of gear.

Love mine and make sure it is among the first pieces of gear for everyone I know getting into climbing.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 6, 2012 - 08:10pm
nutjob · Climber · Berkeley, CA
This thing should be the no-brainer go-to belay device for anyone who doesn't know what to get. It offers much nicer friction for rapping on small diameter ropes than the original toothless ATC. Even so, I wrap a loop around my leg when free-hanging raps on 8mm double ropes, which relieves a lot of the force otherwise required in the hands. But on fat ropes, it also has too much friction. I don't know any device that is better, but I subtract one star from the perfect score because in theory someone should be able to make a device that handles very different diameter ropes with true ease.

For years I avoided using the auto-lock mode (e.g. belay device suspended from the anchor rather than rigged to one's own harness), but it is really straight forward and wonderful and facilitates safer pictures and snacks etc. on multipitch climbs.

I don't like the look of the Petzl Reverso with the extra weight-saving holes… it just seems like more places for stuff to catch on, clothes or hair to get caught, etc.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 6, 2012 - 03:26pm
FortMental · Climber · Albuquerque, NM
It also works great for double rope rappelling.

…unless you're rapping fat ropes. In which case, it'll take all week to get down. Good belay device, though.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 4, 2011 - 11:09am
Brokedownclimber · Climber · Douglas, WY
I'm writing this as a one-year-later follow-up, and am happy to report than my original opinion is still valid! Even better that I first thought for double-rope rappelling. I used a figure-eight device for years, and the upside of the ATC XP is it doesn't twist the ropes and make subsequent coiling difficult.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 2, 2010 - 12:38pm
xtrmecat · Climber · Kalispell, Montanagonia
I have nearly worn my device out, and have tried many others. It is the device I still prefer. When rapping with the piggies, it offers more options for friction control, one biner, two biners, with teeth, or without. Smoother rapps with more control seem to feel better way the heck off the deck, rapping off of repeated descent stations off of slung vegitation, horns, old beat up bolts, etc, etc. Winner for sure.

Burly Bob

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jul 25, 2010 - 10:40pm
locker · Climber · CO
I have been using the BD ATC XP since it first came out and find the device to be a WINNER!

owner/resoler
Positive Resoles CO.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 24, 2010 - 05:56pm
Brokedownclimber · Climber · Douglas, WY
A very decent piece of useful gear at an affordable price. I like the user-friendly and "fool-proof" nature of simpler gear.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Black Diamond ATC XP Belay Device
Credit: Black Diamond website
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