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Mammut Smart Alpine Review

The double rope version of our Top Pick for passive assist braking devices, the Mammut Smart 2.0.
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Price:  $50 List | $49.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Good value, durable, low auto-block resistance
Cons:  Bulky, jerky when rappelling/lowering, lots of friction in auto-block mode
Manufacturer:   Mammut
By Andy Wellman & Jack Cramer  ⋅  Apr 24, 2019
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56
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#15 of 15
  • Catch and Bite - 30% 6
  • Lowering and Rappelling - 30% 6
  • Feeding Slack - 20% 6
  • Weight and Bulk - 10% 7
  • Auto Block - 10% 1

Our Verdict

The Mammut Smart Alpine is one of the more established models within the field of passive assisted locking, or "hybrid," belay devices. Although it doesn't look like it, the braking mechanism is based on the classic tube design but with some modifications to give it a stronger initial bite. In many belay situations, it can catch a fall by itself. Our testers complained, however, because a resting climber's weight would sometimes slowly pull rope through, requiring them to use extra hand strength that other assisted braking options didn't. We were not impressed with its auto-block friction, the most of any two strand device. Its handling in other areas, particularly rappelling, is subpar.

Overall we consider the Smart Alpine an affordable, lightweight alternative to mechanical assisted braking models. Within this niche though, the Edelrid Mega Jul performs similarly but at less weight and cost. We also like the improved functionality of the Smart 2.0, the redesigned single strand version of this device, and look forward to those changes being implemented in the Alpine.


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Pros Good value, durable, low auto-block resistanceEasy catch and hold, feeds slack smoothly, smooth lowering, handles ropes down to 8.5mmGreat for belaying seconds on multi-pitch climbs, durable, good valueCompact, safe and ergonomic way to pay out slack, a bit less expensive than GriGriLightweight, easy to unlock, great for belaying two skinny ropes
Cons Bulky, jerky when rappelling/lowering, lots of friction in auto-block modeA bit clunky, can only use one rope, takes time to master techniquesHeavier than the ReversoMethod of clipping to harness is counter-intuitive, unlocking device under tension takes some practice, easy to lower too quicklySofter aluminum seems less durable, not ideal with ropes thicker than 9.5mm
Bottom Line The double rope version of our Top Pick for passive assist braking devices, the Mammut Smart 2.0.The gold standard remains the best and most popular belay device available today.The best belay device for multi pitch climbing, rappels, and double rope ascents.Behind the GriGri and +, this is the second best active assist braking device that we have used.A match made in rock heaven for skinny ropes and climbers counting weight.
Rating Categories Mammut Smart Alpine Petzl GriGri Black Diamond ATC Guide Trango Vergo Petzl Reverso
Catch And Bite (30%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
5
Lowering And Rappelling (30%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
Feeding Slack (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
Weight And Bulk (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
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9
Auto Block (10%)
10
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1
10
0
9
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
3
Specs Mammut Smart Alpine Petzl GriGri Black Diamond ATC... Trango Vergo Petzl Reverso
Style Passive assisted braking Active assisted braking Auto-block tube Active assisted braking Auto-block tube
Recommended Rope Diameter 8.9 mm - 10.5 mm 8.5 mm - 11 mm 7.7 mm - 11 mm 8.9 mm - 10.7 mm 7.5 mm - 11 mm
Weight (oz) 4.5 oz. 6.3 oz. 2.8 oz. 7.1 oz. 2.2 oz.
Double Rope Rap? Yes No Yes No Yes
Belay off anchor? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Assisted Braking? Yes (sort of) Yes No Yes No
Warranty 1 year 3 year 1 year 1 year 3 year

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Mammut Smart Alpine is a passive assisted braking belay device that also works in auto-block mode for belaying a second directly from an anchor. Like most passive assist braking devices, it has no moving parts, but provides extra catch and braking power by pinching the rope in between the device and the carabiner when weighted. The belay technique, especially when lead belaying, is a bit different than a standard tube-style device, and takes a little bit of effort to learn and get used to. Overall we like the function of the updated Mammut Smart 2.0 a bit better, but lament that it does not have auto-block mode or handle double ropes, like this one does.

Performance Comparison


Make sure that you carefully read and follow the Mammut Smart Alpine manual. Proper use can be confusing  and it is important to be extra careful with the Mammut Smart Alpine when belaying off an anchor. Although it's our favorite passive device in auto-block mode  we found the long handle can get pressed against features and disable its locking function.
Make sure that you carefully read and follow the Mammut Smart Alpine manual. Proper use can be confusing, and it is important to be extra careful with the Mammut Smart Alpine when belaying off an anchor. Although it's our favorite passive device in auto-block mode, we found the long handle can get pressed against features and disable its locking function.

Catch/Bite


The Smart Alpine operates like a basic tube model but with an extra bit of braking force to catch falls largely by itself. It accomplishes this via a clever angled slot in the side of the modified tube that uses the pull of a fall to direct the belay biner towards the brake strand, pinching the rope. This creates cheap and simple braking assistance without the cams or complexity of active mechanical designs like the Petzl GriGri. Compared to those devices, the Smart Alpine provides a similar initial catch. However, when the climber stops falling and is hanging on the rope, the Smart doesn't fully lock and some grip strength is required to keep most ropes from slowly slipping through. For this reason, we preferred the sharper lock of the Edelrid Mega Jul. The Smart 2.0 has improved locking power compared to this device, and we didn't notice the same creep with it as we did with the Alpine. Hopefully those changes will migrate over and we'll soon see an Alpine 2.0 from Mammut.

Passive assisted braking devices like the Mammut Smart use an angled channel on the side of the tube to direct the belay biner towards the brake strand and pinch the rope. Be sure to carefully read the manufacturer's instructions for any belay device.
Passive assisted braking devices like the Mammut Smart use an angled channel on the side of the tube to direct the belay biner towards the brake strand and pinch the rope. Be sure to carefully read the manufacturer's instructions for any belay device.

Lowering/Rappelling


The Smart Alpine's boxy design requires a large, wide, carabiner. Some users have noted that this design keeps the carabiner in a fixed position and can cause the rope to rub along only one section, shortening the lifespan of that carabiner. It's also hard to thread a bight into the device during rappels without unclipping it from the belay carabiner, increasing the chance of dropping it. To lower or rappel you have to lift up on the handle to prevent the device from locking up and keep rope sliding through. This engages your shoulder and can be tiring during long descents. Compared to the Edelrid Mega Jul, the Smart Alpine is a little more jerky. Unlike that device and many classic tube models, the Smart Alpine isn't reversible, which limits your friction options.

Rappelling with the Mammut Smart Alpine requires a bit of upward pressure on the release handle. This can exhaust your shoulder during long descents.
Rappelling with the Mammut Smart Alpine requires a bit of upward pressure on the release handle. This can exhaust your shoulder during long descents.

Feeding Slack


To feed slack to a leader with the Smart Alpine you have to pull up on the handle to keep it from locking while rope passes through. This is an extra motion compared to a basic tube, but not as complex as the various procedures required with different active assisted locking devices. Although slack is fed through the Edelrid Mega Jul with an identical motion, that device fed smoother than the Smart Alpine in our tests.

Weight/Bulk


At 4.5 ounces, the Smart Alpine is on the lighter side of assisted braking devices. This is, however, almost double the weight of its closest competitor, the Edelrid Mega Jul. In addition, the Smart Alpine is bulky and takes up more space than many other devices. Another option to consider for assisted braking on multi-pitch routes is the Mad Rock Lifeguard, which is similar in design to the GriGri but more compact. You might still need a tube-style device for a two-strand rappel though.

The size difference between the two assisted braking tube-style devices is substantial. The Edelrid Mega Jul is on the left  the Mammut Smart Alpine on the right.
The size difference between the two assisted braking tube-style devices is substantial. The Edelrid Mega Jul is on the left, the Mammut Smart Alpine on the right.

Auto-block (resistance belaying a second)


High friction in auto-block mode plagued all the devices capable of double rope rappels, especially the Smart Alpine. We observed less resistance with some of the single strand devices, however, in our testing with a 9.5 mm Sterling rope and a Petzl Attache Carabiner, we found the resistance with the Smart Alpine to be significantly more than any other device that we tested. This largely negates most of the benefits of this device for multi-pitch climbing, and will certainly wear your arms out over time.

The Mammut Smart Alpine had the lowest friction of any of the tube designs when belaying directly off an anchor. Just be sure to rig it correctly  as it can be confusing  and thus it is crucial that you carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions.
The Mammut Smart Alpine had the lowest friction of any of the tube designs when belaying directly off an anchor. Just be sure to rig it correctly, as it can be confusing, and thus it is crucial that you carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions.

We do caution users to be careful when clipping the Smart Alpine directly to an anchor because its long handle can get pressed against obstacles (rock, slings, etc.) that can interfere with the assisted locking in auto-block mode. The setup can seem a bit complex as well, so be sure to study Mammut's recommended configuration. As with any device in any belay mode, you always need to keep a hand on the brake.

Best Applications


The Smart Alpine is worth checking out for those in the market for a double stranded passive assist belay device. Overall, though, we thought it performed lower than the competition, while also needing to learn new lead belay methods, as the others did.

The unique design of the Mammut Smart Alpine makes it prone to unique problems. Here we see how the rope can jam if the bight shifts into the wrong slot. This is why we only recommend it for experienced users who will be able to anticipate and correct any issues. Be sure to carefully read the manual.
The unique design of the Mammut Smart Alpine makes it prone to unique problems. Here we see how the rope can jam if the bight shifts into the wrong slot. This is why we only recommend it for experienced users who will be able to anticipate and correct any issues. Be sure to carefully read the manual.

Value


$50 isn't a steal but it's pretty affordable for assisted braking capability. The stainless steel used for components that contact the rope increases its durability and enhances overall value.

Conclusion


The potential performance benefits of passive assisted braking devices like the Smart Alpine excited our testers and buoyed the possibility of a revolution in belay devices. Assisted locking and two slots for double rope rappels, what more could we ask for? Unfortunately, these benefits are achieved with substantial compromises in the Smart Alpine. Although it can assist braking and rappel two ropes, it does both of these tasks poorly. In addition, it's bulky and creates some jerkiness when feeding slack. Nevertheless, we'll keep searching for single device that can the combine the pleasant handling and reliable catch of active assisted locking devices with the ability to rappel two strands smoothly.

Other Versions and Accessories


The Mammut Smart Alpine comes in two sizes: the 8.7 to 10.5mm version we tested and a smaller 7.5 to 9.5 mm model for skinny twin or half ropes. Another version known simply as the Smart 2.0 has only one friction channel for exclusive use with single ropes.

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Andy Wellman & Jack Cramer