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Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond ATC XP Review

   
Best Buy Award

Belay Device

  • Currently 4.0/5
Overall avg rating 4.0 of 5 based on 1 review. Most recent review: January 31, 2016
Price:   $22 List | Varies from $15 - $22 online
Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros:  Good friction control when rappelling and lowering, smooth paying out rope
Cons:  Heavier than Verso
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ January 31, 2016  
Overview
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

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

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%.

Performance Comparison


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The affordable ATC XP is our recommendation for beginners or anyone that wants a simple, compact belay device.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Catch/Bite


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.

Lowering/Rappelling


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Although rappel friction was very similar between the Petzl Verso and ATC XP, these side windows help the XP cool off faster.
Credit: Jack Cramer
During lowering and rappelling the performance difference between the ATC XP and Petzl Verso is also very small. Both are capable of rappelling two strands and provide a similar amount of resistance. The ATC XP though felt ever so slightly less jerky.

Feeding Slack


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.

Weight/Bulk


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The body and wire loop on the Black Diamond ATC XP (left) are both larger than the Petzl Verso (right). The difference wasn't large enough to have a significant impact on our scoring.
Credit: Jack Cramer
The ATC XP weighs in at 2.2 ounces. This is just a touch heavier than its chief rival, the Petzl Verso. Size-wise it's also a bit larger, with a longer wire cable and a wider main body. Neither of these differences were big enough to affect our purchasing recommendation. Overall it's tied for being the second lightest and smallest.

Durability


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.

Best Applications


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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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An ATC XP basking in the sun overlooking the entrance to Yosemite Valley.
Credit: Jack Cramer
The ATC XP is our favorite basic tube belay device. It's light and durable and the two friction modes it has increase its versatility for different rope or friction situations. We like it most for new climbers still ingraining proper belay techniques or for experienced folks looking for a simple, reliable device that can do everything pretty well. There are cheaper devices available but we believe the $21.95 MSRP is justified. It's also frequently on sale, so consider checking the "Where's the best price?" links at the top of this page to find a good deal.

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


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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 31, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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Black Diamond ATC XP Belay Device
Credit: Black Diamond website
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