A belay device is a piece of equipment used in rock climbing to manage the rope while belaying, a technique where one climber ensures the safety of another by controlling the rope. Belay devices are only used while top-rope climbing or lead climbing, indoors and outdoors, and are not used while bouldering.

Belay devices come in various designs but generally serve the same purpose: to control the rope’s friction, allowing the belayer to arrest a fall, lower the climber, or hold them in place.

Belaying Components

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Brake Hand: The hand that controls the brake side of the rope (that comes out of the belay device) while belaying. A hand should always be on the brake side of the rope to ensure constant control and safety.
Belay Device: The device itself, usually made of metal or a combination of metal and plastic, through which the rope is threaded.
Carabiner: The belay device will have a loop or hole where a carabiner connects the belay device to the climber’s harness, at the belay loop.

Belay Device Functions

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Friction Control: Belay devices create friction against the rope, allowing the belayer to control the speed of the climber’s ascent or descent.
Brake Assistance: Many belay devices have a mechanism or geometry designed to clamp or lock the rope in place, allowing the belayer to hold the climber’s weight without actively gripping the rope.
Lowering: Belay devices enable the belayer to safely lower the climber down the route once they have reached the top or need to descend.

Types of Belay Devices

This is a very quick overview, for more information we have a blog post explaining all the details.

We’ve ordered the list below by the devices you are most likely to find or be allowed to climb in a US gym.

Mechanical, Assisted Braking Belay Devices: These devices offer additional braking assistance, making it easier for the belayer to hold a fall or lower a climber. These options have a handle to gradually release the friction of the rope.

Tube-style, Assisted Braking Belay Devices: These consist of a tube-shaped device through which the rope is threaded. They are a cheaper and lighter version of the mechanical style above. Some people find them harder to control while lowering versus the mechanical devices that have a separate lowering handle.

Tube-style Belay Devices (Not brake assist!): Again, these are tube shaped, but these devices rely on friction of the rope against the side of the device. These devices take more effort to catch a fall and/or hold a climber in place – as all the energy needs to come from the belayer holding the rope tight against the device. Some of these devices offer features (like guide mode) that are helpful while multi-pitch climbing outside.

Plate and Figure-8 Devices: These devices are rarely allowed to belay with in US gyms. They are more often used in canyoneering, caving, lightweight alpine situations, [ski] mountaineering, or rappelling. We show them here so you can recognize them and, likely, rule them out for climbing in the gym.

Belay Device Notes

Belaying Notes

  • All gyms that have roped climbing will offer classes for learning how to belay (and you’ll have to pass a belay certification test to belay in the gym).
  • Always double check the belaying setup before the climber starts climbing: ensure the rope is properly threaded, check the connecting carabiner is locked, check that the carabiner is connected to the belay loop, and test the belay device to ensure it’s performing as expected.
  • Always keep a hand on the brake side of the rope when belaying.

Want to See All The Belay Devices (over 125)?

At WeighMyRack, we list every single belay device and give you filters for type (like tube or brake assist), guide mode, and other features. You can also filter by on sale belay devices with discounts >20%.

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