Hands-on Gear Review

Mammut Smart Alpine Review

Smooth handling and low resistance in auto block mode are pleasing to the elbows.
By: Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 31, 2016
Price:  $50 List  |  $37.46 at Backcountry - 25% Off
Pros:  Good value, durable, low auto-block resistance
Cons:  Bulky, jerky when rappelling/lowering
Manufacturer:   Mammut
66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 13
  • Catch and Bite - 30% 7
  • Lowering and Rappelling - 30% 6
  • Feeding Slack - 15% 6
  • Auto Block - 10% 8
  • Weight and Bulk - 10% 6
  • Durability - 5% 8
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

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 impressed with its smooth auto-block friction, the lowest 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 well 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.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Share:

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.

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 2. 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.

Auto-block (resistance belaying a second)


High friction in auto-block mode plagued all the devices capable of double rope rappels except the Smart Alpine. We did observe less resistance with some of the single strand devices, however, the Smart Alpine produced just a third of the resistance of the second best two-strand device, the Black Diamond ATC Guide. This advantage is sure to save you lots of energy and elbow pain by the top of a long multi-pitch route.

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.

Weight/Bulk


At 4.4 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.

Durability


We were impressed with the Smart Alpine's durability. The surfaces subjected to rope friction are stainless steel and designed to spin in place to further reduce wear. The edges of the aluminum components though are right-angled and can become sharp if the rope is allowed to run sideways across them. Nonetheless, when used properly, the Smart Alpine is one of the most durable belay devices we tested.

Best Applications


The Smart Alpine is best for experienced belayers that can adapt to its nuances and understand its limitations. Rock guides will likely appreciate the elbow pain prevented by dramatically lower auto-block resistance.

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


$49.95 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. It still deserves to be complimented though for its durability and low friction in auto-block mode. 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 8.9 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.

Video



Jack Cramer

You Might Also Like

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: May 16, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.7)

100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (2)
4 star: 25%  (1)
3 star: 25%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Climber

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   May 16, 2018 - 11:57pm
sehsuan · Climber · Singapore

Just some tips:

Using a large D or HMS/pear carabiner which does not have a symmetric curve in the basket will make it really hard to use the Smart Alpine. I use Climbing Technology's CONCEPT TGL that has a very even curve to it, and the reason for doing so is so that I can achieve even loading of the ropes when on rappel, while the carabiner is loaded. A carabiner that has a fully round profile helps in two scenarios - when using in autoblock mode (as the carabiner clipping through the bight), as well as rappelling (by giving a wider radius of bend to the rope).

By coincidence I also do have the Mad Rock Ultra Tech HMS that shows up in this review - I identified it from the red gate initially, and the UIAA markings. Although it's a Type H HMS carabiner - it is NOT suitable for the Smart Alpine at all, aside from hanging it from the guide mode mounting point, due to its I-beam profile where the rope will run.

According to the discontinued Mammut documentation found online (mirrored at http://www.himalayabrasov.ro/sites/default/files/Smart%20Alpine%20Instructions.pdf); there are other ways to use the Smart Alpine to rappel as well, but have been removed from official current Mammut instructions now.



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

Climber

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jun 6, 2016 - 12:20pm
fx101 · Climber · Nashua

I've used the smart alpine for a little over a year and a half, coming from an ATC Guide before and having used gri-gri's extensively.

I think a lot of the negative points in this review are the result of not spending enough time with it rather than major faults of the device itself.

In terms of performance for general sport/trad lead belaying, it's really quite a pleasure to use. Paying out rope with a gri-gri by pressing on the cam has always seemed really awkward to me: all you have to do with the smart alpine is a apply a tiny bit of upward pressure on the huge handle. Moreover, when the climber falls: the smart alpine does let a bit of rope slip through-- thus the generated forces will be considerably lower than with something like a gri-gri. For trad-use this can mean the difference between a safe fall and ripping out pro.

When I first started rappelling with the smart alpine I found it very jumpy. Luckily I've found two alternatives.

#1: You can clip the bight of rope outside of the device itself rather than in the curved slot (like you would for belaying the second from the anchor). You *will* get normal ATC-like friction this way but there will be *no* autoblocking. Definitely want a prussik backup. Mammut doesn't list this mode in its instructions but I and many others have used it extensively: you're really just using it like any tube-style device so it's fairly safe.

#2: You can rotate the device 180 degrees so the anchor strands go through the channels on the handle side and the brake strands leave the side with the metal rollers. Clip the bights normally inside the curved slot. Again, no autoblocking with this mode, but it feels exactly like an ATC guide in high friction mode. Mammut no longer lists this mode in its user guide (though you can find it listed on its original guides) but I suspect that's because it bypasses the autolock capability so it's for liability reasons.

Even using the standard autolocking mode for rappelling you quickly get used to it. Kind of nice for sport climbing since you can more easily clean the route without a ton of pressure on your brake hand all the time.



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


Have you used this product?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...