The Wild Country Revo is a complicated looking belay device that actually performs very simply in the hands of the belayer. While many assisted braking devices work to help you catch a fall and lock off the brake strand, the Revo works differently, with an emergency backup that locks up the device should the belay fail. This emergency backup requires no complicated or different belay techniques, but adds a significant amount of security to the belaying process, and works so well that we feel it is more than worthy of a Top Pick Award. The Revo works great in the hands of experienced climbers and beginners alike, and is a fantastic choice for single pitch climbing outside or in the gym, for those who don't mind paying a little extra for added security.
Wild Country Revo Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Emergency backup to belay, cannot load backwards, feeds slack super smooth, same belay technique as tubes
Cons: Large and heavy, expensive, not the best when working routes, only good for single pitch
Manufacturer: Wild Country
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Our Analysis and Test Results
There are a few significant differences between the Wild Country Revo and the whole host of other assisted belay devices available on the market. The first is that the Revo uses the same belay technique as you would use with a regular, or tube-style device, at all times, and one never needs to adopt a different technique to feed out slack quicker. The emergency backup only locks up the Revo if the rope slips through the device faster than 4m/s, meaning that if you belay correctly, the Revo will not lock up at all, and will instead perform exactly like the most buttery smooth tube you have ever used. There is no handle for releasing the tension on the Revo or for lowering, and the method for unlocking the Revo is by pulling down gently on the brake strand of the rope. One lowers exactly as with a tube. The Revo also cannot be accidentally loaded backwards, as it works the same with the rope loaded in either direction.
While the central wheel feature inside the Revo causes it to look unlike any other belay device on the market, the reality is that its performance is among the very simplest to master. You would teach a new climber to use the Revo exactly the same as you would teach them to use a standard tube-style device. We tested the emergency backup feature repeatedly by taking lead falls while the belayer had their hand far down the brake rope to provide a backup but essentially allowing a slack belay line. The Revo instantly locked up every time. We also tested it by "pretending" to drop a lowering climber by once again moving our brake hand far down the rope and then letting go. The Revo once again locked immediately every time. To our knowledge, the Revo is the first belay device that encourages perfect belay technique but provides a trustworthy backup every time. It is usable with a wide range of single ropes, from 8.5mm — 11mm.
The info we provide in this review is meant to help you make a purchasing decision, not as instruction in the use of the Revo. To learn to use the Revo properly, check out this introductory video from Wild Country, and also this instructional Youtube playlist. And finally, here is the instruction manual.
Catch and Bite
Catching a falling climber with the Revo is much the same as with a standard device, one must lock off the brake strand in a downward direction. Because of the wheel on the inside, there is less friction than many tube-style devices, so a firm grip is necessary. Holding a climber who is hanging can also require effort, as the device does not lock up like an assisted braking device to hold a climber with minimal effort. Wild Country recommends holding the brake strand down low with one hand while gripping the Revo and the brake strand together with the second hand to hold the rope more easily for a longer period. This is simple enough, but still not as easy as the relaxed manner that holding a climber with an assisted device provides.
Of course, if the rope should slip through the belayers hands, the automatic backup will lock up the device. This mechanism bites the rope aggressively and holds it with no slippage. Releasing this catch is also very simple, one tugs the brake rope downward, over the metal catch, relatively gently, and the brake releases, and you are automatically back to normal belaying.
Lowering and Rappelling
Lowering a climber with the Revo is also simple, and directly mimics the technique one would use with a tube-style device. This lowering method is very smooth. Of course, since the Revo will lock up if subjected to speeds over 4m/s, you must lower the climber in a controlled and moderate speed. Here it once again provides its emergency backup, and if the belayer should lose control of the brake strand, it will immediately lock up. The way this device works for lowering seems much safer than most active assist braking devices, which can potentially be opened up all the way to quickly drop a climber. It is also much smoother than lowering a climber with a passive assist braking device, which tend to be jerkier and take more effort.
The Revo can only accommodate a single strand of rope, so it is not possible to rappel double ropes. This somewhat limits its usefulness and versatility for multi-pitch climbing.
The Revo feeds slack smoother than any other device that we have ever used, bar none, and we found it nearly impossible to accidentally short rope a lead climber with this device. One feeds rope to a leader in the same way as with a tube device, but the interior flywheel minimizes friction to such a degree that smooth payout is literally guaranteed. The 4m/s tolerance of the locking mechanism is quite a bit higher than the speed at which we pull slack through a device, even for the most panicked quick clips, and we never had it lock up on us while feeding slack.
The feeding method of active assist belay devices usually requires a belayer to override the device or lock out the cam to very quickly feed lots of slack, which has the potential in the wrong moment to lead to dropped climbers. This has happened plenty of times. With the Revo, it is not possible, or necessary, to override the locking system, so this device used correctly remains safer for closer to the ground lead belaying and clipping.
Weight and Bulk
The principal downsides to the Revo are its weight and bulk. It weighs 10.1 ounces, which is not the absolute heaviest of any device in our review, but certainly one of them. While it is about the size of a GriGri, it looks and feels a bit bigger in the hands.
Frankly, the weight, size, and other limitations, such as lacking an auto-block function or the ability to rappel two ropes, would preclude us from recommending it for multi-pitch climbing. However, its weight and size are not that big of a deal to throw in the bag for a day of cragging.
The Revo is not designed to be used in auto-block mode and does not provide any locking power if rigged to belay directly off an anchor. Wild Country, in their instruction manual, doesn't say that it can't be used directly on an anchor, but simply that it isn't its primary function. We don't see any benefit to trying to use it in this manner.
The Revo is by no means cheap, and costs about what you would expect for a highly engineered piece of innovative technology. It falls roughly in the middle of the pack when considering the prices of active assist braking devices, but is of course, far more expensive than a tube-style device, which it most closely mimics. Budget-minded climbers will surely look elsewhere, but for those who value safety, the Revo provides excellent value, in our opinion, despite its price tag.
The Wild Country Revo is in a class of its own, with no other belay devices offering similar function and features. We laud its innovation and think it is more than worthy of a Top Pick award because it offers a solid and proven emergency backup while still requiring standard belay technique. For beginners or experienced climbers alike, this is an excellent choice for use cragging or at the gym.
— Andy Wellman