The Petzl Frieno is an auto-locking carabiner designed for use while belaying. It has a metal spur that splits off the outside of the spine into a hook shape, paired with a spring loaded wire gate. This braking spur is meant to be used to add friction in certain belay scenarios in order to increase braking control, but can only be used with single rope setups, and so doesn't help when performing double rope rappels. While this two-for-one locker can be rigged in a number of different ways––as a redirect when belaying with a gri-gri at a top anchor, for adding friction when a light climber is lowering a heavier one with an ATC, or when rappelling single ropes––none of these uses is terribly common in climbing, and all have other solutions that are less expensive to enact. Combining a high price tag with limited use, the Frieno is not our top recommendation for a belay specific locker.
Petzl Freino Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Secure and easy to use auto-locking gate, friction spur adds versatility
Cons: Expensive, only works with single ropes, limited applicability
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We want to give Petzl credit where it is due for inventing a locker that provides a solution to a problem: inadequate braking control when using thin or new ropes with a gri-gri, or for very light belayers or kids who struggle to lower heavier partners in control. By looping the brake hand rope through the friction spur, one can add significant amounts of friction, making lowering very easy to control. We should point out that this locker is designed to be used with a gri-gri, and with only a single rope, and so have found its use to be unfortunately limited to the exact situations described above. We will admit that we were initially a bit confused as to how to use this braking spur feature, and so scoured the internet for ideas on how other people are using it, which we then tested ourselves. Here's how some of these uses went for us:
As a redirect on a top-belay using a gri-gri: Climbers at an anchor belaying up a second sometimes clip a gri-gri directly to the master point and belay the second up in this manner. If you have to lower them, however, you must redirect the brake rope upward to maintain proper braking control, and the braking spur of the Frieno can be used for this (see picture below). However, a second locking carabiner clipped to a higher anchor piece could also be used for less money, and in general we prefer to use an auto-locking ATC such as the Petzl Reverso or ATC Guide to belay up a seconding climber, as they are more secure for this use (and a lot lighter and less clunky to carry up) than a gri-gri.
Lowering a climber using an ATC: The Frieno is designed to be used with a gri-gri to add friction while lowering, but also works with a single rope and an ATC. However, we found that looping the brake strand through the spur changes the orientation of the rope exiting the ATC to a direction it is not designed for, and will likely wear through the side of the ATC very quickly if repeated often. Not ideal.
Rappelling: If rappelling a single rope with a gri-gri, the Frieno can add friction and braking control. However, it is rarer to rappel a single rope rather than double ropes, which the Frieno cannot help with. We also feel that ATC style belay devices offer more control for rappelling than a gri-gri (and once again are a lot lighter and easier to carry up a climb). Thirdly, on any rappel it is wise to tie a brake hand backup attached to your harness, which greatly aids with brake control (even allowing you to go no hands if desired or needed), thereby eliminating the need for the expensive Frieno.
The Petzl Frieno is an offset-D shaped locker that uses round stock, and as mentioned includes a unique braking spur on the outside of the spine. The offset-D shape limits effective function to one rope, as two would tend to pinch each other in the basket next to the spine. For a locker perfect for two ropes, an HMS/pear shape is ideal, check out the Petzl Attache, or the Black Diamond Vaporlock Magnetron. However, the Frieno is designed for one rope anyway. If using it as a belay locker in conjunction with a Gri-gri, which is the very particular function for which it is designed, then it works great. That said, it is not a very versatile locker, as the friction spur is large and the offset-D shape precludes one from using it for building anchors or as a master point.
Ease of Unlocking and Locking
The Frieno features a double-action auto-locking twist gate. To unlock it, you twist the gate 90 degrees, or one-quarter turn, and then open the gate. Next to only the Edelrid Pure Slider, we found it to be the easiest locker to quickly unlock. It is far easier to manipulate with one hand than the triple-action twist lock found on the Edelrid HMS Bulletproof Triple FG. The auto-locking gate closes itself with spring action, and automatically locks when it is closed, every time. We awarded the Frieno the highest score for this metric.
Compactness and Weight
We weighed this locker at 87g on our independent scale, the same weight as the Edelrid HMS Bulletproof Triple FG, and only 2g heavier than the larger Black Diamond Rocklock Screwgate. While it is no doubt heavy for a locker, it is not out of line with other belay-specific lockers. However, it is bulky, and the friction spur can easily get caught in slings or cams hanging on the harness.
If gate security is a concern, then the Frieno is an excellent choice. Its auto-locking mechanism literally slams closed and locked the moment you let go of the gate, so there is no way that it could be forgotten. The twist locking gate is super secure, but is not quite as difficult to get open as the triple-action one found on the Edelrid HMS, so we awarded one fewer point.
We measured the gate clearance at a mere 1.6cm, the smallest amount of any locker in this review. Of course, this opening is wide enough for pretty much any thickness of single rope, and is wide enough to thread a gri-gri as well, so there shouldn't be any concern.
This locker is best used as it is designed, by someone who wants or needs more braking control while using a gri-gri for belaying. Thin ropes, new or super slick ropes, or for very light climbers who often lower much heavier ones, are when this might be useful. While it can be used a collection of other ways, we don't recommend it, and don't think its worth buying for other reasons.
The Frieno retails for $50, making it far and away the most expensive locker we tested, by a margin of $15. If you are buying it as a Christmas present for a belayer who nearly dropped you once before, it could be worth it! However, with limited uses, and considering other adequate solutions to these problems can be found for less money, we don't think it is a solid value purchase.
The Petzl Frieno is a very unique belay locker that includes a friction spur that enables one to loop the brake end of the rope over it for increased braking control. It must be used with a gri-gri on a single rope to be effective, and costs a lot of money for a single locking carabiner. For these reasons, it is not our preferred, or recommended, choice for a belay-specific locker.
— Andy Wellman