GriGri vs. ATC | The Ultimate Belay Device Showdown!

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GriGri* from Petzl and ATC* from Black Diamond are both belay buckles designed for climbers, but which is the more effective belay device? 

This question is not so easy to answer, because both fuses have their advantages and disadvantages as well as preferred areas of application. In the following article, we will take a close look at the two fuses and compare them with each other, if this is at all possible.

Belay Devices for Climbing

Similar to technical devices such as smartphones, new innovations are constantly coming onto the market for belay devices for climbers, in which the previous models are improved. 

Thus, years ago there was a new invention Sticht plate, which was introduced in 1967. This belay device was named after its inventor Fritz Sticht, who died in 1988. It was the forerunner of the tube-style devices still used today. The most popular, which can be found here on the market today, is the Black Diamond ATC.

Then, in the late 80s of the previous century, Petzl began to take a closer look at belay devices with a team largely made up of experienced climbers. His goal was to develop a safe descent device. From these initial experiments, the first Petzl GriGri was born and appeared on the market in 1991. Since then, of course, many years have passed and in 2018 the latest ATC was introduced, as well as the latest Grigri in 2019.

Now, however, the question arises for many climbers, which safety device offers the best possible safety and which one you should use here now. Does it make sense to use only one device and if so, should you better purchase the ATC or the GriGri to get the best possible protection from a fall?

ATC: Advantages and Disadvantages

The ATC* has been on the market in a modified form for some time and if you are a beginner and want to know from an experienced climber which belay device you should use, one who has only ever used the ATC during his climbing career will tell you that it is the best on the market. 

Of course, this is not so correct, because there are advantages and disadvantages, and the use of this is somewhat limited.

Thus, the ATC is particularly well suited as follows:

  • in a climbing hall
  • for general use
  • for a fast abseiling
  • in alpine climbing

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  • very light with 64 grams
  • versatile
  • can be used on double ropes


  • there are more risks of getting hurt while rappelling after all
  • the belayers could tire more quickly during use under certain circumstances

GriGri: Advantages and Disadvantages

Many climbers who prefer the GriGri* from the beginning are also primarily outdoor climbers. Thus, the GriGri safety device has the following features:

  • can be used well especially outdoors for sport climbing.
  • suitable for frequent climbing on a rope
  • suitable for multiplitch (multi-rope climbing)
  • also good for setting routes

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  • Offers great security
  • against fatigue of the belayer
  • can be used in additional climbing systems


  • quite heavy with 170 grams
  • cannot be used on a double rope

The Use of GriGri and ATC Outdoors and Indoors

If you have to choose either GriGri or ATC for a safety device, then this decision should be influenced by the use. Here, the main consideration is whether you go more into the rock or you mainly climb in a hall. Because this question is not completely irrelevant for a purchase decision.

Black Diamond ATC Pilot

The wheel was not reinvented with the ATC Pilot* but improved by a lot, that can definitely be said about this belay device. This is a belay device that has been designed to be carabiner-independent. 

The rope-guiding element is made entirely of steel. Thus, the ATC is well resistant to permanent rope friction. A safe feeling when climbing is given by the non-slip surface made of plastic, which was also ergonomically shaped. In addition, the belay device offers good rope guidance for ropes between 8.7 and 10.5 millimeters thick.

Especially due to the carabiner-free application, the ATC Pilot can become an all-round device during climbing. In addition, the application is uncomplicated and easy to understand even by beginners. This also minimizes the risk of misuse. The ATC can also be used in combination with other safety devices.

The simple operation of the ATC

The operation is simple once you have figured it out. The rope is threaded according to the pictograms on the safety device. You should make sure that the climbing rope is threaded upwards and the brake rope is threaded along the nose. This way, the climber’s rope runs in front and the one that belays is also directly on the body of the person belaying. After that, only the carabiner must enclose the rope loop together with the ATC and be attached to the climbing harness via the belay ring.

In order for the rope to be retrieved and dispensed, the guide hand and the brake hand automatically remain where they should be. The nose on the safety device is raised slightly so that the rope can be dispensed. To retract it again, the rope is pulled through the device with the brake hand, which is below the device.

If the rope is now to be secured because the climber sets his sights on the next crux and he calls “close”, then the rope is clamped between the carabiner and the belay device and can thus prevent an uncontrolled passage of the rope. In this way, a possible fall of the climber can be safely arrested well and without much effort on the part of the belayer. If the climber continues climbing, the system relieves itself and you can continue belaying normally.

Petzl Grigri

The classic among the semi-automatic safety devices is the Petzl Grigri*. Due to the comfortable operation and the reliable brake support, the device is very appreciated by many climbers. In 2019, there was a completely revised new edition.

The first semi-automatic belay device was designed in 1991 and has been helping sport climbers and belayers ever since. Between 1991 and 2019, there have been several versions of the belay device, with the new one designed on the roots of the first.

The important thing with the Grigri is that the blocking device and here the mechanism can be regulated. Thus, the tension of the spring can be adjusted to the clamping cams. The brake plate inside, which is made of pure steel, makes the Grigri belay device a lot heavier than other similar belay devices available on the market. But the use of steel also makes it more durable. The Grigri can be used on ropes between 8.5 to 11 millimeters. This rope shaft is also installed in the new Grigri. Since it came in the previous model sometimes to a jamming of the rope due to the guide, the rope shaft installed here was not adopted in the latest model. However, a small cam was attached to the rope channel, which provides the reliability that the rope remains in the channel. The anti-panic function was also not adopted in the new belay device.

Which Grigri belay device should you choose?

Beginners who are looking for a reliable device should opt for the Grigri model that is still equipped with the anti-panic function. This is the Grigri+*. The device can also offer better handling thanks to the adjustable spring tension.

For advanced and experienced climbers, however, the latest model* is a good choice. Because as a long-time sport climber you will no longer need the safety of an anti-panic lever. So when choosing the new device, you can save money above all, plus the newly revised belay device is also a little lighter.

Thus, the new belay device feels good in the hand in the test with different ropes and rope thicknesses. Not a single rope, whether thicker or thinner, runs heavily through the belay device. Lowering and closing also works flawlessly. However, the edge of the Gaswerk handle has been flattened for the middle and index finger, which can lead to a less comfortable posture. Nevertheless, the handling is convincing and the new GriGri is a well-revised version of the old one. The automatic lock makes the Grigri particularly suitable for outdoor use on steep rock. Because this belay device is thereby a little safer which is particularly important for the protection of the climber outdoors on a rock.

Due to the automatic locking, the safety is given again. Because it can always happen that you are distracted as a climber or even as a belayer. In such a case, this automatic locking can really save lives. Although the safety is not magically guaranteed, but an additional protection this always provides.

Why the Grigri is so important for outdoor climbing is easy to answer. Because just who climbs outside in the rock is exposed to other conditions than when climbing in a hall. Here in the open air, distractions are pre-programmed. Of course, this is part of the thrill of every sport climber, you will be able to confirm that. But more thrills should never mean less safety. In addition, the locking function relieves the burden on the belaying person, who does not have to exert as much physical effort.

Another point about the Grigri is that the lowering on the rope is easier. You as a climber as well as your belayer do not tire so quickly and you can spend longer time in the rock.

The price should not matter

For your own safety, you should not look at the price. It’s just like a well-fitting helmet when riding a motorcycle or a seat belt in a car. Thus, the prices for the ATC* are much lower than the Grigri*, which is somewhat higher. However, if you only climb indoors, you may well opt for ATC’s less expensive model. However, if you mainly go to the rock wall, then it should be the higher-priced Grigri.

The Different Models of Grigri


The Grigri+* is a belay device equipped with an anti-panic handle and blocking support, making it suitable for all beginners as well as climbers who climb intensively and for long periods. The inside is made of steel, so this version is a little heavier.

Grigri version 2019

Revised version* of the Grigri 2, using the clamping cam from the Grigri+ version. Lighter belay device, as steel is no longer used. Generally suitable for experienced climbers who hardly need safety features.

Grigri 2

This is the revised version Grigri 1, and will be removed from the market in the near future and replaced by Grigri (2019). There is no steel plate processed.

The Different Models of ATC

With the ATC, there are the Guide* and Pilot* models. Both models are similar in design, with the Pilot model being launched in 2019 and the Guide being the older model that has been revised. Still, both models don’t do much different, neither in price nor in design. Also, both are quite light and more suitable for climbing in a hall.

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  • No device that is available on the market protects against a sloppy backup.
  • Therefore, it is also important that the belayer always has his braking hand on the rope in order to be able to intervene if necessary.
  • The purchase of a belay device, whether ATC or GriGri does not absolve the climber from expert, attentive and reliable belaying of their own.
  • Before using a belay device, the climber should always make sure he knows how it works and how to use it.
  • Inadequate training here can nevertheless be dangerous.
  • The threaded rope must always have the correct diameter for the belay device, otherwise it will slip and cannot be slowed down.
  • The accidents that happen despite a belay device being used are usually due to human error and not technical failure.
  • The abbreviation ATC stands for “Air Traffic Controller”, which means the control of aviation, which means lowering oneself in the air on the rope.
  • GriGri is the name of an African lucky charm and amulet.
  • The oval geometry of the ATC Guide facilitates the retrieval and delivery of the rope.
  • With the ATC up to two people can be secured, with the Grigri only one climber at a time.
  • Petzl, the manufacturer of the Grigri belay device, is a French company in the field of mountaineering equipment.

Related Questions

What is the GriGri safety system?

GriGri is about assisted braking, which means that the rope can still be held without constant tension from a belayer. This can be the case, for example, in an unforeseen event such as a rockfall.

What can be understood by the ATC security system?

The ATC belay system is often called the air traffic control system. The special feature here is that this system can be attached to a double rope, which is often used as a standard method for a descent.

What are the presented security systems needed for in the first place?

Imagine you are climbing on the wall or in the rock and on the ground there is another person who secures your rope. So that the person belaying you does not have to use so much force if, for example, you slip and lose your footing, the belay systems were designed to provide support and save energy by stopping the rope and thus slowing down your fall.

Are the two belay devices presented here, the only ones available on the market?

No, of course not, there are many more manufacturers. However, the Grigri as well as the ATC were two safety systems that can be compared well with each other, since they have both been offered on the market for a very long time, but today in a new, revised form.


It can therefore be said that both safety devices, the ATC* and the GriGri* have their advantages and disadvantages. In addition, it should always be clarified here in advance for which purposes the belay device used is to be used here. 

The most important thing when choosing is to familiarize yourself with one or the other device before using it. If a climber or belayer is not familiar with the safety device, it can be as good as it is, but in the end it will not provide sufficient protection. 

Although the risk and human error can be reduced, but no one should rely only on the device, especially if he is not familiar with its use. Because incompetence can not be solved by a belay device. In addition, it can be concluded that both belay devices, the ATC and the GriGri are both equally suitable for climbing in a hall. 

For outdoor use on a rock, however, the GriGri has a clear edge and is therefore better suited for outdoor use than the ATC. However, this is also primarily a matter of one’s own sensibilities. After all, a climber who has gotten along well with the ATC for years will not switch to a GriGri. Beginners, on the other hand, should face this consideration, however.

Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.

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