The belay device has to fit your skills and plans.

Whatever your plans—a climbing gym, sport climbing, or a multi-pitch route—you need a belay device that you know how to use. After all, as a belayer, the rope, and therefore your partner’s life will be in your hands. The belay device helps you slow the rope and stop a fall, lower another climber, or rappel down a wall yourself.

Here at EDELRID, we work tirelessly to develop innovative new belay devices. These include the unique OHM, which enables partners of very different weights to climb together safely. When developing belay devices, we always focus on uncompromising functionality and simple handling. From us as climbers for you as climbers. So you can climb safely whether at the crag or in the gym.

What Belay Devices Are There and How Do They Differ?

Modern belay devices can be divided into two groups: manual braking devices (EN 15151-2) and braking devices with manually assisted locking (EN 15151-1).

Manual Belay Devices

The first group includes tubers and figure eight devices in all their various forms. These dynamic belay devices do not stop the rope without the belayer’s intervention. They simply increase the braking force. ‘Auto-tubers’ like the belay devices in our JUL series also fall into this category.

These have far greater safety reserves than conventional tubers, but are not classed as braking devices with manually assisted locking.

Tubers (Tubes)

According to the Deutscher Alpenverein (German Alpine Club—DAV), tubers are still by far the most commonly used belay devices. All EDELRID tubular belay devices comply with the suggested values in European standard 15151-2. The braking effect is based on the double-kink principle. This means that the rope is deflected twice: once around the carabiner and once downwards on the device. The resultant friction increases the braking force to the extent that you can hold a fall by hand strength alone. However, the tuber is only able to increase the braking force if the brake rope is held down, creating the second kink.

The major advantage of a tuber lies in its dynamic design. That means that a little rope still runs through the device before the fall is completely stopped. With a little practice, you can belay extremely dynamically with a tuber. As a result, your partner will not fall on the rope as hard. Furthermore, these devices allow you to pay out and take in rope quickly and easily.

You should also note that due to the auto-tuber’s huge braking effect on the rope, dynamic belaying is only possible through body dynamics. Our auto-tube belay devices (JUL2MICRO JUL, and MEGA JUL) are also tested according to the suggestion in EN standard 15151-2, i.e. as manual braking devices. However, this is not mandatory and is something that all manufacturers approach differently.
Giving soft catches: if you want to find out more about active and passive belaying, simply check out our Knowledge Base.

Figure Eight Belay Devices

These devices only achieve relatively low braking forces compared to other belay devices. Especially when using new or thin ropes, the low level of friction does not increase the braking force to the high extent customary with other belay devices. Despite this, some climbers still use figure eights for belaying and rappelling. The use of figure eights is also expedient for canyoning and (ski) mountaineering, when wet ropes are used.

Users particularly value the ability to belay very dynamically. The rope can be inserted in the figure eight as either a single or a double strand. To set up a figure eight belay device, start by feeding a loop through the large eye in the figure eight toward the braking hand. Next, guide the loop over the small eye and secure it to the figure eight with a locking carabiner.

Assisted braking belay devices

The second group of belay devices includes assisted braking belay devices. These belay devices trigger a mechanism that clamps the rope in the rope channel in the event of a jerky load or manual activation, thus blocking it with support. In contrast to using a classic tuber, the braking effect is therefore far less dependent on your own hand force. A distinction can be made between devices with mechanical and those with geometric braking force support. With a mechanical belay device, such as our PINCH, the rope is blocked by the movable brake cam inside the device. This mechanism is largely independent of the rope used. On belay devices with geometric braking force support, such as our tried-and-tested MEGA JUL, the rope is blocked in the rope channel by the carabiner used. The braking effect depends on the rope and carabiner used.

Similarly to a car seatbelt, these devices do not automatically block the rope if it runs slowly. If there is no initial jolt as a trigger or the device is used incorrectly, the rope will simply run through the device without being blocked.

If the release impulse is missing or the device is operated incorrectly, the rope may not be held by the device and may simply run through. For this reason, one hand must be firmly closed around the brake rope at all times, even with these assisted braking belay devices.

Whether mechanical or geometric – when using an assisted braking belay device, dynamic belaying is particularly important in order to secure your climbing partner as smoothly as possible in the event of a fall. You can also find out how to belay dynamically in our Knowledge Base article.

With most devices, you can lower a climbing partner or rappel down a wall yourself either by using a lowering lever or by simply rotating the device - both methods allow you to release the blocked rope in a controlled manner. For greater safety, our PINCH also has an integrated panic function. This is because everyone has a contraction reflex towards the center of the body, which can be triggered by panic or a shock. In the event of a shock, your reflexes could therefore make you pull the lowering lever back and unintentionally, thus unlock the device. The panic function prevents this. If the lever of the PINCH is pulled right back to the stop, the device will completely block the rope and thus prevent a fall.

Belay devices with assisted braking support typically only have one rope channel and can therefore only be used with single ropes. Their use is therefore limited to climbing with single ropes. Belay devices with geometric blocking support can have one or two rope channels and therefore only allow climbing with single ropes (e.g. with our belay device for sport climbing JUL²) or also with half or twin ropes (e.g. with our MEGA JUL or GIGA JUL). Such devices are also typically much lighter and more compact.

The OHM:

The Solution to Weight Differences in Climbing Partnerships

Our unique OHM is not a belay device in itself, but an assisted-braking resistor that increases the rope friction in the event of a fall. This innovative EDELRID solution finally enables partners whose weight differs greatly to climb together safely. → See the OHM.