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Edelrid Giga Jul Review

An incredibly versatile device that allows for every style of belay you would need on a multi-pitch climb
Edelrid Giga Jul
Photo: REI Co-op
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $53 List | $51.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Three belay modes in on device, affordable, stainless steel inserts for greater longevity
Cons:  Slightly heavier than competitors, assisted braking mode requires learning a new belay technique
Manufacturer:   Edelrid
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 21, 2020
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 16
  • Catch and Bite - 30% 8
  • Lowering and Rappelling - 30% 8
  • Feeding Slack - 20% 7
  • Weight and Bulk - 10% 7
  • Auto Block - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The Edelrid Giga Jul is a new and improved version of the older Mega Jul, and we think it is worthy of our Top Pick for Multi-Pitch Climbing because it combines assisted braking, standard tube-style use ("manual" mode), and auto-block all in one single device. The combination of these three different modes allows for a nearly endless amount of options when lead belaying, belaying the second, or rappelling, making this the most versatile device that we have used. Switching between the various modes is as easy as simply flipping a slider from one side to the other, and loading the rope in the opposite direction (there are pictorial markings on the device to ensure the device is loaded the correct way). We love having assisted braking for lead belaying, even on multi-pitch climbs, and especially when there is some chance the leader may fall, and the Giga Jul allows us to not have to carry a second device for this purpose. We think it's an ideal choice for any multi-pitch climber, whether seasoned or just aspiring.

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Edelrid Giga Jul
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Edelrid Giga Jul
Awards Top Pick Award Best Buy Award    
Price $51.95 at Amazon
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$29.95 at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Three belay modes in on device, affordable, stainless steel inserts for greater longevityGreat for belaying seconds on multi-pitch climbs, durable, good valueLightweight, easy to unlock, great for belaying two skinny ropesLightweight, smooth, compactGood friction control when rappelling and lowering, smooth paying out rope
Cons Slightly heavier than competitors, assisted braking mode requires learning a new belay techniqueHeavier than the ReversoSofter aluminum seems less durable, not ideal with ropes thicker than 9.5mmWeak lock off0.2 oucnes heavier than the Verso, you must hold the weight of the climber when they weight the rope
Bottom Line An incredibly versatile device that allows for every style of belay you would need on a multi-pitch climbThe best value for multi pitch climbing, rappels, and double rope ascentsA match made in rock heaven for skinny ropes and climbers counting weightA lightweight entry level belay device that gives our Best Buy winner a run for the moneyA simple design suited for building proper belay technique
Rating Categories Edelrid Giga Jul Black Diamond ATC G... Petzl Reverso Petzl Verso Black Diamond ATC XP
Catch And Bite (30%)
8.0
5.0
5.0
5.0
5.0
Lowering And Rappelling (30%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Feeding Slack (20%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Weight And Bulk (10%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Auto Block (10%)
4.0
5.0
3.0
0.0
0.0
Specs Edelrid Giga Jul Black Diamond ATC G... Petzl Reverso Petzl Verso Black Diamond ATC XP
Style Passive assisted braking Auto-block tube Auto-block tube Tube style Tube style
Recommended Rope Diameter 7.8 mm - 10.0 mm 7.7 mm - 11 mm 7.5 mm - 11 mm 7.5 mm - 11 mm 7.7 mm - 11 mm
Weight (oz) 4.3 oz. 2.8 oz. 2.2 oz. 2 oz. 2.2 oz.
Double Rope Rap? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Belay off anchor? Yes Yes Yes No No
Assisted Braking? Yes, passive No No No No
Warranty 1 year 1 year 3 year 3 year 1 year

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Giga Jul was released in the spring of 2019, and is designed as the successor to the Edelrid Mega Jul. While the Mega Jul introduced several cool and unique features, the fact is that most people don't enjoy using it because it is too small and therefore has way too much friction from the rope unavoidably built into its use, making it effortful and annoying compared to the competition. The Giga Jul addressed these problems by being a bit bigger and allowing more space for ropes to run with slightly less friction and is, therefore, easier to use. It also eliminates much of the non-intuitive setup found in the Mega Jul; as long as you pay careful attention to the pictorial diagrams on the side of the device and be sure to load it correctly, the Giga Jul is easy and intuitive to use.

Switching between different belay modes, such as assisted braking or "manual," is performed simply by moving a central slider bar within the device to one side or the other, and then loading the rope correctly for that orientation. Once the rope is loaded, you cannot switch between types of belay style, which is to be expected. The device has two rope slots, making it usable with twin or double ropes, and ensuring that you can rappel double ropes. It is designed to be used with ropes in the range of 7.1mm-10mm and using fatter, thicker ropes can become problematic in assisted braking mode, as the angles are no longer correct to provide the assist, allowing for some rope slippage. While you can belay, lower, or rappel in either assisted or manual modes, we most often found ourselves lead belaying in assisted mode, belaying the second using the auto-block, and rappelling in manual with a prussik backup.

Know How to Use Your Climbing Belay Device
Since it has three different modes of usage, loading, and using this device correctly is potentially more confusing than with many others. Please be sure to carefully learn and practice before you head to the cliffs. Our advice here is intended to help you with your purchasing decision and is not intended as instruction. Here is a link to the instruction manual published by Edelrid, and here is a brief instructional video.

Performance Comparison


The Giga Jul, shown here in manual mode, is a versatile belay device...
The Giga Jul, shown here in manual mode, is a versatile belay device that can be used as a tube-style device, an auto-blocking device, or an ABD.

Catch and Bite


Lead or top-rope belaying with the Giga Jul can be done in either assisted braking or manual mode. A slider bar along the top of the device must be positioned all the way on either end, denoting either manual or assisted mode, and then the rope must be loaded into the device in the correct manner depending on the mode, which is different for each. Luckily, there are the standard hand and climber pictures on each side of the device to denote which way to load it properly.

The catch and bit provided by the Giga Jul in assisted braking mode...
The catch and bit provided by the Giga Jul in assisted braking mode is very effective at stopping the rope firmly in place, and holding it there as the climber rests. In manual mode one must firmly lock off the brake line in a downward direction, and this takes a bit more effort.

In manual mode, the device functions just like a standard tube and has some added friction grooves that help you catch and hold a falling climber. Compared to assisted braking modes and devices, this way of belaying requires the most effort and sustained gripping of the brake strand.


In assisted braking mode, the rope is pinched between the carabiner and the device in much the same manner as almost every other passive assisted device. Although you must still hold onto the brake strand, the braking assist does most of the work, effectively locking the device when the climber falls, and easily holding their weight as they rest, requiring minimal sustained gripping or effort on the belayer's part. The ultimate "bite" depends on the rope and carabiner you pair the Giga Jul with. We found that round stock pear biners (HMS) work best, as they provide the least friction so you can easily pay out slack. That said, if paired with ropes that are fresh and slippery, it may be possible for a little bit of rope to slip through the device, simply requiring you to grip a little firmer.

Lowering and Rappelling


The performance of the Giga Jul for lowering and rappelling is once again dependent on which mode you are using. For rappelling, we preferred using manual mode with a prussik backup, as this is far and away the smoothest way to rappel, and feels just like any other tube-style device.


We most often lowered climbers in assist mode, because that is how we usually belayed them. Lowering a climber in assist mode requires keeping upward pressure on the thumb loop, or using a separate carabiner threaded through the release hole on the back for leverage, and takes a bit of effort and is also fairly jerky. We liked using the second carabiner best because it mimics the lowering handle found on most active assist devices. Rappelling in assist mode is similarly effortful and jerky, and we preferred not to do it. That said, we like it as an option in case we don't have a prussik for backup. All of the testers who used this device said that they agreed it was less jerky and "grabby" than the similar Mega Jul, which is a good thing.

Rappelling in assisted braking mode, as we are here, is tiring to...
Rappelling in assisted braking mode, as we are here, is tiring to stay in the sweet spot without jerking.

Rappelling laps with the Giga Jul to test all of the different ways...
Rappelling laps with the Giga Jul to test all of the different ways and modes of rappelling to decide which works the best. Rappelling in manual mode is by far the easiest and smoothest, although we like that we can rappel in assist mode if we don't have a backup on our harness and want one.

Feeding Slack


Feeding slack in manual mode with the Giga Jul is exactly like with any other tube-style device and uses the same techniques. This is the smoothest way to feed slack, and also the least likely for a belayer to accidentally short rope their leader.


In brake assist mode, feeding slack requires learning a different technique. While it takes a few pitches to learn and get completely used to, soon enough, this technique becomes pretty simple. One must loop their thumb through a special thumb loop, and then hold this loop up and out, away from the carabiner, to prevent the device from locking and keep the rope feeding smoothly. With the other hand, the belayer pulls slack through the device. We like how the device is ambidextrous, so lefties can use it just as easily as righties. However, we did notice that when you pull some slack back in through the device, you take your thumb out of the loop to do so, and then must look down, away from your climber, to find the thumb loop once again. We also found that if we belayed with a carabiner that wasn't round, such as the I-beam stock Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron, there was way more friction and rope didn't pay out smoothly at all, so be sure to pair it with a round stock pear-shaped HMS carabiner.

Feeding slack in assisted braking mode requires learning a new...
Feeding slack in assisted braking mode requires learning a new technique. The thumb is slotted into the loop as shown here, and this hand also holds the brake rope. By pushing up and out with the thumb, the device has enough room to allow slack to pass through, which is fed to the climber by being yanked out the top.

Weight and Bulk


The Giga Jul weighs 4.3 ounces, which isn't too heavy but is almost double the weight of some other auto-block belay devices designed for multi-pitching. The added toggle switch adds a little bit of weight, but the main difference is in the stainless steel inserts in high wear areas, that ensure a longer life span for the Giga Jul. The lighter auto-block devices don't have that and are sure to wear out a bit quicker, so the added weight comes with the benefit of increased durability.


On our independent scale the Giga Jul weighted 4.3 ounces, which is...
On our independent scale the Giga Jul weighted 4.3 ounces, which is pretty light, but a fair bit heavier than comparable devices we compared it against.

In terms of bulk, it is a little bit larger than other auto-block devices, but certainly not by much.

Shown here for size comparison, the Giga Jul on the left against the...
Shown here for size comparison, the Giga Jul on the left against the BD ATC Guide on the right, which is a bit smaller, and a fair bit lighter, but doesn't have the option of being used in assisted braking mode, and also doesn't have stainless steel inserts for greater longevity.

Auto-Block


The Giga Jul has a specific metal carabiner loop so that it can be clipped directly to the anchor for belaying up a second in auto-block mode. Of note is that the slider bar must be slid into manual mode for this usage, and the thumb loop points toward the wall, which is the opposite of the orientation used by the Mega Jul, but is ultimately more intuitive. Everyone we know belays the second on multi-pitches using auto-block, so we can't imagine a functional multi-pitch device that doesn't allow this usage.


In terms of function, we found that while there is less friction that the belayer must overcome than with the Mega Jul, there is still a whole lot more than with active assist belay devices. Anytime two ropes are running over each other, as they are in this setup, there is going to be a lot of friction, adding fatigue to your shoulders and elbows as the day goes on.

The Giga Jul works much like the other tube-style auto-block...
The Giga Jul works much like the other tube-style auto-block devices, and while it is very effective at locking off the seconders rope, there is a fair amount of friction when pulling slack through the device.

Value


The Giga Jul costs roughly the same as other passive assist belay devices, many of which do not allow for two ropes and are not ideal for multi-pitching. While it does cost a fair bit more than standard auto-block devices, we think the added expense is worth it, considering you also get assisted braking. Its increased durability also adds to the value. As a top pick with lots of versatility, we think it makes a great value purchase.

The value of this device is due largely to the fact that you can use...
The value of this device is due largely to the fact that you can use it in three different modes. Shown here is the slider bar, in yellow, that you move from one side of the device to the other in order to change modes. M (manual) at the top, A (assist) at the bottom, as indicated by the arrows. Each mode has a corresponding diagram on either side of the device to indicate the direction the rope should be loaded. The hole seen here at the bottom of the device is for clipping a carabiner nose to in order to use it as a lever arm when lowering or rappelling in assist mode or auto-block mode.

Conclusion


The Edelrid Giga Jul is a true "all in one" belay device. Being able to rappel double ropes and belay in auto-block mode is a necessity for any multi-pitch belay device, but also adding in assisted braking greatly increases its value. We know many people who commonly carry a tube and a GriGri up multi-pitch climbs, just for this same versatility. With the Giga Jul, this need disappears, and this level of versatility is what makes it an easy choice for our Top Pick award for Multi-Pitching.

Being able to rappel double strands in either manual mode with a...
Being able to rappel double strands in either manual mode with a backup, or in assist mode, as we are testing here, is one of the many versatile ways to use this device.

Andy Wellman