User Review: Black Diamond ATC
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $13.99
This style of belay devices is named after this product. It's the Q-tip of climbing.
- Light on the rack
- Easy to teach to use
- Belay or rappel
- No ridges like the XP/Guide
I think my ATC came with a big belay locking carabiner back when I bought it. This was my first belay device ever. I learned it in just under a minute, my kids know how to use it, and I am sure that, with a little extra effort, my dog could belay with it in a pinch.
The whole class of tube-style belay devices are called collectively, by many climbers, ATCs. That speaks a lot for its popularity. I have had salty climbers tell me that the ATC contributed to the death of the figure eight device in sport climbing more than anything else. Yes, I know some people still love sport climbing on the eight; some people still listen to 8-tracks too.
I've had people threaten to call the police on me for not insisting that I train my kids on a grigri because it's criminal to let kids use something that isn't auto-locking. I'm not kidding. They say, "What if they let go of the rope and the climber falls?" To which I answer, "They don't drop the rope."
I think though that if I can't trust them to pay attention to a climber while they belay then they have no business at the crag other than as a spectator. Truly, there is a time and place for auto-locking devices, but for sport climbing it's overkill. Besides, grigri is heavy, more complex for kids to master, and costs ten times what an ATC does.
Since buying the ATC-XP though the ATC stays on my gear loops until I need to rappel. Does it get hot during rappels? Yes, so go slower and keep it from flopping around your short shorts after rapping; who wears those at the crag anyway? You're supposed to rapp in gloves anyway. If it had as much grip as an ATC-XP I'd still use it to belay 100% of the time, but the beauty of the plain-jane ATC is that the kids never get it backwards and it's always aligned to their strong braking hand.
I own the ATC-XP and the original. If I end up doing more technical mountaineering or trad climbing I'll get the ATC Guide but till then, I'm good.