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Black Diamond ATC XP Review

A simple design suited for building proper belay technique
Black Diamond ATC XP
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Price:  $22 List | $20.38 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Good friction control when rappelling and lowering, smooth paying out rope
Cons:  0.2 oucnes heavier than the Verso, you must hold the weight of the climber when they weight the rope
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Andy Wellman & Jack Cramer  ⋅  Feb 21, 2020
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 17
  • Catch and Bite - 30% 5
  • Lowering and Rappelling - 30% 9
  • Feeding Slack - 20% 9
  • Weight and Bulk - 10% 9
  • Auto Block - 10% 0

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond ATC XP is one of our favorite manual belay devices and provides an excellent value. It's not the absolute cheapest option but is the lowest priced one in our review. 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 ATC XP over similar devices because it is more durable and requires less hand strength to lock off a resting climber. 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.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The ATC XP is a classic tube-style manual belay device with additional friction grooves on one side.

Understand How To Use a Belay Device
Please don't misinterpret our discussion below, intended to help with purchasing decisions, for actual instruction. Be sure to check out the instruction manual put out by BD, and get actual instruction from a guide, gym, or friend before you attempt belaying.

Performance Comparison


An ATC XP basking in the sun overlooking the entrance to Yosemite Valley.
An ATC XP basking in the sun overlooking the entrance to Yosemite Valley.

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 a similar bite to other similar devices. However, once someone was hanging on the rope, the XP locked off better and required less hand strength to keep the rope from sliding through.


Tube style devices require a great deal of hand strength to hold the weight of the climber, which can be fatiguing. This is one reason for the popularity of the active assisted devices, or passive assisted devices that use much the same motion to belay, but remove much of the effort of holding a hanging climber in place.

Lowering/Rappelling


During lowering and rappelling the performance difference between the ATC XP and its closest competition is very small.


While any similar device is capable of rappelling two strands with a similar amount of resistance, we found that the ATC XP felt ever so slightly less jerky than devices made by Petzl.

Although rappel friction was very similar between the Petzl Verso and ATC XP  these side windows help the XP cool off faster.
Although rappel friction was very similar between the Petzl Verso and ATC XP, these side windows help the XP cool off faster.

Feeding Slack


Feeding slack with the ATC XP is nearly identical to other tube-style devices. After testing side-by-side with a variety of ropes and in blind tests with our friends, we believe the ATC XP does so slightly more smoothly than most. Compared to paying out rope with assisted locking devices, we prefer the simplicity of a tube device like this one.


Weight/Bulk


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 was big enough to affect our purchasing recommendation. Overall it's tied for being the second lightest and smallest.

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.
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.

Auto-block (resistance belaying a second)


It's not safe to belay a follower directly off an anchor with this device, and we did not score it for this category. We compared other auto-block capable devices in our review, and you can see our scores for each one below.


Value


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 comparable Petzl Verso; however, we believe the XP is more durable and a better value.

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

Conclusion


The Black Diamond ATC XP is our favorite basic tube belay device. It's light and durable, and the two friction modes 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 cost for this one 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.

Andy Wellman & Jack Cramer