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Petzl Reverso 4 Review

A match made in rock heaven for skinny ropes and climbers counting weight.
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Price:  $30 List | $29.95 at REI
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
Manufacturer:   Petzl
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 31, 2016
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 13
  • Catch and Bite - 30% 5
  • Lowering and Rappelling - 30% 9
  • Feeding Slack - 15% 9
  • Auto Block - 10% 3
  • Weight and Bulk - 10% 9
  • Durability - 5% 6

The Skinny

In our old review the Petzl Reverso 4's predecessor, the Reverso 3, was our favorite belay device for multi-pitch climbing. Both are tube designs with auto-block capability that function well at belaying a leader, rappelling, or top roping. And the 4 is even lighter and better. 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 4 is an ounce lighter and if you use skinny ropes, it might be the better option.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Petzl Reverso 4 is a tube-style belay device with auto-block capability.

Performance Comparison


Rigging the Reverso for a rappel. This was one of our favorite devices for multi-pitch climbs thanks to its smooth rappels and how well it worked with sub-9 mm alpine style ropes.
Rigging the Reverso for a rappel. This was one of our favorite devices for multi-pitch climbs thanks to its smooth rappels and how well it worked with sub-9 mm alpine style ropes.

Catch/Bite


It was difficult for us to accurately determine the difference in catch between the simple tube devices. The Reverso 4 seemed 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 4 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 4 than with the ATC Guide.

The hole used to release a weighted device in auto-block mode is larger on the Petzl Reverso 4 (left) than the Black Diamond ATC Guide (right). Although this makes lowering an auto-blocked climber slightly harder with the ATC Guide  it also makes locking off easier during regular operation. The wide stem on the large hole of the Reverso 4 prevents you from bending the rope straight down and requires more hand strength to hold a resting climber still.
The hole used to release a weighted device in auto-block mode is larger on the Petzl Reverso 4 (left) than the Black Diamond ATC Guide (right). Although this makes lowering an auto-blocked climber slightly harder with the ATC Guide, it also makes locking off easier during regular operation. The wide stem on the large hole of the Reverso 4 prevents you from bending the rope straight down and requires more hand strength to hold a resting climber still.

Lowering/Rappelling


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 4 ever so slightly more jerky.

The Petzl Reverso 4 was one of our favorite devices to rappel with  though in blind tests we found it a hair jerkier than the Black Diamond ATC Guide.
The Petzl Reverso 4 was one of our favorite devices to rappel with, though in blind tests we found it a hair jerkier than the Black Diamond ATC Guide.

Feeding Slack


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).

Auto-block (resistance belaying a second)


The largest difference between the Reverso 4 and the Black Diamond ATC Guide is the friction in auto-block mode. In our tests, the Reverso created 6-8% 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 became 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 4 in auto-block mode. Belaying directly off the anchor on a multi-pitch route is often the preferred method  though the friction with the Reverso 4 was the second highest of the devices we tested.
The Reverso 4 in auto-block mode. Belaying directly off the anchor on a multi-pitch route is often the preferred method, though the friction with the Reverso 4 was the second highest of the devices we tested.

Weight/Bulk


At 2.2 oz, the Reverso 4 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, weighed a full ounce more and was slightly larger.

The Black Diamond ATC Guide (left) is slightly larger and heavier than its closest competitor  the Petzl Reverso 4 (right).
The Black Diamond ATC Guide (left) is slightly larger and heavier than its closest competitor, the Petzl Reverso 4 (right).

Durability


The aluminum used to make the Reverso 4 is light and a bit soft. Our testers think it doesn't last as long as an ATC Guide or Edelrid Mega Jul, which is made with stainless steel. We've even heard some guides say they choose to replace their Reverso once a year after the friction grooves wear down. More moderate users can expect to get several years of use.

The aluminum of the Reverso 3 (green) and 4 (orange) is softer than the Black Diamond belay devices. The teeth  in particular  seem to get worn down quickly.
The aluminum of the Reverso 3 (green) and 4 (orange) is softer than the Black Diamond belay devices. The teeth, in particular, seem to get worn down quickly.

Best Applications


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.

While we liked the way the Reverso handled with thin lines  gloves and a prussik back up can help ensure safe rappelling when using a skinny tag line.
While we liked the way the Reverso handled with thin lines, gloves and a prussik back up can help ensure safe rappelling when using a skinny tag line.

Value


The Reverso 4 and ATC Guide now retail at the same price, $29.95. This is cheaper than all the other devices we tested that are capable of belaying directly off an anchor. However, the ATC Guide was 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.

Conclusion


For years the Petzl Reverso 4 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.

Other Versions and Accessories


The Reverso 4 is also available as part of package marketed as the Unireverso that includes a Reverso 4, Attache locking carabiner, and a 'sliding connection piece' that keeps the belay device in the optimal position on the carabiner.

Video




Jack Cramer