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Black Diamond ATC

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Black Diamond ATC belay/rappel device

This style of belay devices is named after this product. It's the Q-tip of climbing.


  • Bidirectional
  • 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.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $13.99

Belayed thousands of people on this tube.


  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Good price


  • None

This belay tube device does exactly what it's intended to do for a great price. I have been using BD's ATC for 15 years. I have belayed thousands of people on my high rope challenge course, and I've never had a problem with one of these. No, they don't last forever, and you do have to replace them over time, but that's with any piece of equipment.

Companies continue to try and come up with the perfect belay device. Frankly, I feel some of these "improvements" make for lazy belayers—creating a false sense of security by saying it will lock if the belayer makes a mistake.

If you don't know how to use one of these devices, find someone who does. No one should be belaying without some qualified training. Most climbing gyms and adventure challenge programs offer classes.


Source: bought it new
Price Paid: retail

Very easy to learn and get used to, but you really have to be attentive as a belayer (which should be the case, regardless of the system in place). due to its simplicity, you are sure to get consistent performance (have tried 3 different units of this model, one of which is old).

Same goes when you use it to rappel. Very smooth, never got me worried, which makes me pay attention more the locking/braking parts of the system.

Reason why only 4 stars is because can't be setup as locking when you are belaying seconds. For this, you might want to check out the ATC Guide or Petzl Reverso.

Price Paid: $16

Very easy to use. I have used it for the past three years. It is very easy to see if you have it threaded correctly. Easy to use on a double line rappel. It does get hot when rappelling.

Bottom line I would buy it again.

Price Paid: $15

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Price MSRP: $16.95
Current Retail: $9.88-$21.95
Historic Range: $9.88-$29.95
Reviewers Paid: $13.99-$16.00
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