Hands-on Gear Review

Mad Rock Mad Lock Review

Mad Rock Mad Lock Belay Device
Price:  $20 List
Pros:  affordable, versatile, great for belaying with thick ropes
Cons:  hook catches when lead belaying, must keep track of pin
Editors' Rating:   
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Recommended Rope Diameter:  8.4mm - 11mm
Weight:  3.3 oz
Double Rope Rap?:  Yes
Manufacturer:   Mad Rock

Our Verdict

Discontinued Product
The text in this review reflects our assessment of belay devices in 2009. The Mad Lock has since been discontinued, but we have updated our review of this gear category multiple times with recent selections. Our latest Belay Device review is right here!

The Mad Lock is one of the most versatile belay devices we tested and one of the lightest devices for belaying off the anchor. It was the smoothest device for belaying two 10mm ropes, simultaneously, in auto-block mode. Essentially, this became our preferred all-around device for use with 10mm ropes or greater in most situations. It works with ropes from 8.4 to 11mm. It had noticeably poor friction control on smaller diameter ropes. It also costs much less than all other auto-block devices tested.

That said, if you use thinner ropes, the Reverso 4 is still the top-scoring device for belaying off the anchor (but costs almost twice as much). Also, we did not see where Mad Rock says you can belay two individuals with this device. The Reverso and ATC Guide do let you belay two followers.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Climbing Belay Device

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Chris Van Leuven, Chris McNamara

Last Updated:
Wednesday
December 9, 2009

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Likes


We prefer to belay directly off the anchor when multi-pitch climbing. The Mad Lock is the smoothest device for belaying a second rope while using a 10mm rope (a big plus). Belaying in autoblock mode on ropes thicker than 10mm with a Petzl Reverso 4 or Black Diamond ATC Guide is an elbow killer there is just too much friction. With the Mad Lock, the rope passed through 25-50 percent more smoothly than with either of those two devices when using a 10.2mm rope. It was a big enough difference that when head-to-head testing with a 10.2 on Goodrich Pinnacle in Yosemite, Chris Mac stopped using the ATC XP or Reverso after two pitches and just used the Mad Lock. The only devices that belays smoother off the anchor are the Trango Cinch and Petzl GriGri. However, those devices are are much heavier, more expensive, you can't belay two climbers with them and you will need a second belay device for rappelling. Additionally, the Mad Lock comes with a removable pin, which allows safer control of ropes down to 8.4mm. This pin can be added or removed with a dime or screwdriver.

When rappelling, the Mad Lock had an extra option for creating more friction by wrapping the rope around its hook. Usually we need either to rub the rope against our leg or run the rope through a biner on the leg loop to create more friction. This hook feature made adding more friction very convenient.

This device is light. If you carry both pins in it is 3.2 oz. but if you take the pin out it is only 2.8 oz, which ties it with the Reverso 3 as lightest auto-blocking belay device. Finally, the hook on the device works great as a bottle opener. A nice feature at the end of the day.

Dislikes


The hook/bottle opener sometimes catches when paying rope out fast to a leader. This doesn't happen every time, but because you are never sure when it will happen it makes the device a little nerve-racking if you are belaying someone on lead where a very tight belay is necessary. This wasn't a huge problem it can be minimized in a critical belay situation by paying close attention to how the device is oriented.

Part of what makes this device so versatile is the removable pin that accommodates different rope sizes. The problem is that this pin is easy to lose and not practical to switch out during a climb. You can solve the problem in a couple of ways. Either commit to thick or thin ropes at the beginning of the day and use the pin accordingly, and/or carefully keep track of the pin in a zippered chalk bag or elsewhere.

Finally, while you can add friction by wrapping the rope around the hook, if you don't do this there is less friction than is common with other devices.

Bottom line: our dislikes can be dealt with if you are willing to change your belay habits a little. Keep track of the pin, wrap the rope around the hook when rapping and pay attention when belaying to avoid a possible catch in the rope.

Best Application


This is an ideal all-around device, especially if you want to keep track of only one device or do a lot of multi-pitch climbing.

Value


The Mad Lock has the lowest price tag of any auto-blocking belay device on the market by a big margin.
Chris Van Leuven, Chris McNamara

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Most recent review: May 25, 2012
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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 (4.0)

75% of 4 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 25%  (1)
4 star: 50%  (2)
3 star: 25%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Climber

May 25, 2012 - 03:04pm
 
harpo · Climber · South Lake Tahoe
Can anyone comment on belaying two followers on two different ropes with the Mad Lock in guide mode? The review talks about how easy it is to pull slack through when belaying followers on two different ropes, but the directions on the packaging that came with the device say you should only belay one person at a time with the Mad Lock.

I am guessing that you just have to pay extra attention with the Mad Lock when belaying two followers at once. For example with the Reverso 4 you have to keep a brake hand on both ropes when the angle of the two ropes coming out of the device is very different, and you also have to take precautions on the second rope when the follower on the first rope has taken a fall and you have to "unlock" the first rope.

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   Mar 28, 2011 - 06:12pm
Matt Leonard · Climber · San Francisco, CA
I bought this as a spare/second to an ATC Guide. I've since made this my primary device.

Lightweight, cheap, easy to use, and a great conversation starter (what is THAT thing?). I tend to use a 9.4 rope with no problems - incredibly smooth action paying out, and more than enough friction to catch hard falls, and to auto-lock when belaying off an anchor. And unlike a Guide - you can easily release a fall (when auto-locked belaying off the anchor) - without needing anything special to do it.

My only complaint? The hook thing occasionally catches itself on stray things, and it makes a loud clanging sound when hiking (banging against the belay carabiner). Both pretty nit-picky when you consider all the great things about the device.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Climber

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   May 27, 2010 - 05:05am
MAbuse · Climber · Kuala Lumpur
I purchased the Mad Rock Mad Lock because I wanted a device that would handle larger rope diameters with easier feeding. Without the pin installed, I've belayed using rope between 10.5 to 9.8 and never felt like I would lose control of a lower off if I did my part. 9.8 did feel noticeably "slicker" on a lower off. On fuzzy Gym ropes that choke ATC Guides the Mad Lock just works.

This Belay device does have less bite than my Guide therefore I would hesitate to use it on anything smaller than a 9.8. I have yet to use the pin that came with the device.

The aforementioned problem with the horn getting stuck inside the HMS can be avoided by keeping the belay device under tension with the rope while paying out slack. It has to be said that as you are belaying you do need to be more aware of what you are doing than with most other devices out there; one may see that as a good or bad thing.

The ability to lock off the device while the climber is hang-dogging a route is a real handsaver if you remember it's there. It also rappels smoothly. After a fast rappel the metal loop will conduct the friction heat straight into your HMS, making getting off rap a bit of a fiddly albeit humorous affair.

Overall this device is real value for money once you invest the time to learn its idiosyncrasies. Probably the perfect top rope slot Belay Device and a very competent lead Belay Device.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

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   Mar 11, 2010 - 12:29pm
Matt Leonard · Climber · San Francisco, CA
I was looking to replace my ATC Guide, and the Mad Lock had good reviews as a nice all-around unit, that also was good for belaying a 2nd. So far -quite happy. I've mostly just been using it around the gym (not a lot of sunny/dry days yet), but am quite happy with it.

The unit is very light, and it's somewhat unusual appearance gets a few questions. I've mostly been using thicker ropes, so took the adjustable pin out of the unit for thicker ropes. Very smooth action on both my 10.2, and the gym ropes (10.5?) - much smoother lowering and feeding than my ATC Guide on these thicker ropes.

I did briefly use it in autoblock mode belaying a 2nd - and it was simple to setup and smooth. The one short rappel I did with it was great - not as much friction as my Guide - but plenty. And there is a weird trick of hooking the brake line around the "Mad Lock" hook thing to add friction. I didn't try it - but makes sense.

My only (small) complaint? Since there isn't a traditional wire leash - (it's all metal), it bands a bit on your carabiner when walking around or not in use. But when you've got a rack of cams/nuts/slings making noise on you- I can't imagine the sound of the Mad Lock will be noticeable in the slightest.

All in all - I like it, and my Guide is getting dusty. It's cheaper, lighter, smoother, and just as (if not more) versatile.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

Feb 28, 2010 - 11:24pm
 
JuanFer · Climber · Quito
Please post a video review for the mad lock belay device. Thanks!!!!
Climber

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   Dec 11, 2009 - 04:19pm
pglee · Climber · Oakland, CA
I love this device except for the fact that the hook gets caught in the biner every so often. It seems to happen at least once per pitch. Otherwise I feel it's a better device than the reverso3 mostly because it feeds more smoothly for thicker ropes. If mad rock made a version without the hook, it would be my device of choice. I dropped this while climbing Mount Conness but don't feel compelled to replace it.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.


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