Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Smooth rope handling, auto-locking, works on ropes down to 8.9mm.
Cons: Heavy, expensive, product was recalled shortly after introduction.
Best Uses: Sport climbing, gym climbing, cragging, big wall climbing.
The Petzl GriGri 2 is our favorite belay device and we transfer our Belay Device Editors' Choice award from the GriGri to the GriGri 2.
If you have the original GriGri, do you need to upgrade to the GriGri 2? If you do a lot of leading on 8.9-9.9mm ropes or just want the latest and greatest gear, get the GriGri 2. If you climb on 10mm or thicker ropes, you can probably hold off on the upgrade until your GriGri wears out. If you mainly toprope in the gym, the original GriGri is just fine and may even be better since it works better with ropes thicker than 10 mm. Both devices handle about the same but the GriGri 2 is lighter, less bulky, and allows you to use thinner ropes.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
How the GriGri Is Different Than the GriGri 2
The GriGri 2 addresses the three big issues with the original GriGri: it was too heavy, too bulky, and didn't work well with ropes under 10mm in diameter. The GriGri 2 now works on 8.9-11mm ropes, is 20 percent lighter and 25 percent smaller. (We weighed them on our own scale and found the GriGri 2 actually 25 percent lighter.)
As you can see in this photo, it appears one reason that the GriGri 2 works better on skinny ropes in the narrower channel.
It also has a new feature that Petzl calls "progressive descent control," which in theory allows for more control when lowering a climber or rappelling. So far we have not been able to notice this feature when lowering a climber. Both models of the GriGri lower with about the same smootheness. We did notice a big difference with the lock off of the GriGri 2 on a 9mm rope. The GriGri would lock up some of the time but some of the time start to slip and require extra resistance from your brake hand. The GriGri 2 always locked up.
Some people have commented that the GriGri is easier to belay with on thicker (10-11mm) ropes than the GriGri 2. We found this to be true when we put our new GriGri 2 head-to-head with our old heavily used GriGri. HOWEVER, when we put a new GriGri 2 head-to-head with a brand new GriGri, we found they both operated the same. This offers an important reminder: all GriGri's wear out. As they wear out, they become easier to use with thicker ropes but lock off less effectively. We have not used the GriGri 2 enough to judge if it wears out faster than the old GriGri.
Luckily, for all the new improvements, the cost remains the same: $95. Not cheap, but at least it didn't go up in price.
The GriGri is among the easiest devices to lower a climber with, is intuitive to use, and is durable. Whether rappelling down ropes 3000 feet up El Capitan or lowering someone in the gym, the ease of handling is hard to beat. It scored near the top of many of our tests and is the device that all the testers use when belaying at the crag, gym, sport climbs, and big walls. (We prefer the Petzl Reverso 4 or Black Diamond ATC Guide when multi pitch climbing).
Other than being heavy and expensive, the only problem with this is the difficulty of easily using it while keeping your brake hand on the rope instead of the device. Most climbers you see belaying with the GriGri usually have their brake hand on the device and not on the rope. Petzl strongly recommends belaying like this only for a second or two to feed rope fast while the leader is clipping. However, the GriGri is much less smooth to pay out slack with than the Trango Cinch. As a result, you rarely see lead belayers with a GriGri doing it "the correct way" with their brake hand on the rope 99 percent of the time rather than on the device. For most people this is not a big deal. However, there are many stories of how improper use of the GriGri led to climbers being lowered too fast or dropped.
It is important to watch this video showing the proper use of a GriGri.
Chris McNamara remembers being half way up on the Wyoming Sheep Ranch on El Capitan when it appeared he had dropped his GriGri. He frantically looked around for it and couldn't find it anywhere. He had to do a long aid lead without the GriGri and hated the experience so much he contemplated bailing. Luckily he found it on the next pitch. But for about five hours he was terrified and realized just how nice it is to have this device on a big wall or any situation where you are belaying for hours and hours.
$95 is a lot of money, especially for a belay device. The Trango Cinch also scores high and is only $70. The Mammut Smart is only $30. But, a really good belay device is one item worth splurging on.
If you're looking for a belay device that is not auto-locking, check out the Black Diamond ATC, $20, the Black Diamond ATC XP, $20, and the Black Diamond ATC Guide, $30.
The GriGri is the go-to device for most of the climbers we know. Big wall climbers use it. Tradsters. Sport climbers. Gym climbers. It works to belay directly off the anchor. Works great when belaying off the harness, too. The only places we wouldnt take it are alpine routes or ice climbs (ice and the GriGri dont mix).
— Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: June 3, 2014
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