Hands-on Gear Review
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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
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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 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. It 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.
It's main 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 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. For a full look at all the belay devices we tested check out The Best Climbing Belay Device Review.
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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%.
While Black Diamond says the 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 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.
The only downside 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.
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.
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.
The Black Diamond ATC Guide, $30, is a tough rappel/guides belay device and our favorite device for multi pitch climbing. It gets our Top Pick award, as it is durable and works well with ticker (9.5-1.2mm) ropes.
The Black Diamond ATC, $20, is is the archetypical manual belay device; however, even with all the new devices on the market, this is still a great one.
— Chris McNamara
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: September 26, 2014
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