The Petzl Reverso used to be our favorite belay device for multi-pitch climbing. However, we now just barely prefer the Black Diamond ATC Guide because it's smoother when belaying a follower off an anchor, and more durable. That said, the Reverso is an ounce lighter and if you use skinny ropes, it might be the better option. It uses a standard tube-style design with an extra clip in point to orient the device perfectly for use in auto-block mode belaying a second off the anchor. It really shines in multi-pitch situations, where its versatility for use with two ropes, while lead belaying, rappelling, and belaying the second in auto-block are all highly valued. It also functions great for single pitch climbing, and is more versatile than the similar Petzl Verso, which isn't capable of belaying in auto-block mode.
Petzl Reverso Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, easy to unlock, great for belaying two skinny ropes
Cons: Softer aluminum seems less durable, not ideal with ropes thicker than 9.5mm
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Petzl Reverso is a tube-style belay device with auto-block capability.
It is difficult for us to accurately determine the difference in catch between the simple tube devices. The Reverso seems to bite as well as the Petzl Verso, Black Diamond ATC Guide and the ATC XP. The one variation we observed though was the hand strength required to lock off and hold a resting climber in place. The enlarged hole on the new Reverso for releasing a weighted rope in auto-block mode got in the way when we were trying to lock off. This means it requires slightly more strength to hold the rope still with the Reverso than with the ATC Guide.
With two friction channels, the Reverso is capable of rappelling two ropes. There are also two options for orienting the belay bight; use the teeth for higher friction or smooth things out in the other direction. In blind tests with the Black Diamond ATC Guide, we found the Reverso ever so slightly more jerky.
All of the classic tube-style devices feed slack out to a leader consistently well. Unlike the assisted braking models, there is little chance of getting into a short roping tug of war with a device that has no levers or cams to depress. Each tube device performed slightly better or worse depending on the texture and stiffness of the rope used, so it's hard for us to generalize. However, we liked the Reverso most with smaller diameter ropes (in the sub-9.5mm range).
At 2.2 oz, the Reverso is tied for the second lightest belay device overall and is the lightest to offer auto-block mode for belaying a second off an anchor. Its closest competitor, the Black Diamond ATC Guide, weighs close to an ounce more.
Auto-block (resistance belaying a second)
The largest difference between the Reverso and the Black Diamond ATC Guide is the friction in auto-block mode. In our tests, the Reverso created a fair bit more resistance than the ATC Guide and this became the deciding factor when we chose our favorite. This difference may not sound like much but was easily identified in blind tests we did in our lab (garage). Over a long pitch or in the presence of rope drag it becomes even more noticeable. Frequent multi-pitchers that like to belay off the anchor can save energy (and elbow pain) using the ATC Guide.
The Reverso's combination of low weight and auto-block capability make it great for alpine multi-pitch routes or anything far from the road. Furthermore, its superior performance with skinnier ropes (down to 7.5mm) strengthens its case for use with twin or half ropes.
The Reverso and ATC Guide now retail at the same price, $30. This is cheaper than all the other devices we tested that are capable of belaying directly off an anchor. However, the ATC Guide is more durable in our tests, making it the better value. If your climbing plans include even an occasional multi-pitch route, we suggest you fork up the extra $8 to get one of these auto-block devices over the cheaper basic versions.
For years the Petzl Reverso and Black Diamond ATC Guide have been two of the most popular belay devices among American multi-pitch climbers. It's easy to understand why: they're both affordable, smooth, and reliable. At first glance, our testers thought they would prefer the Reverso because it's lighter and the shiny anodized finish looks cooler. However, when we compared the two side-by-side with the same ropes in a controlled environment (especially in auto-block mode) the ATC Guide came out on top. The difference is small though, so if you've already got a Reverso and like it, don't feel any pressure to switch.
— Andy Wellman & Jack Cramer