GriGri vs ATC: Which Belay Device Is Best for You?

By: Derek Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023

Every recommendation we make has been used, tested, and expertly selected by us. If you buy from a link, we may earn a commission.

Climbing is a popular sport and Belay devices are essential for safety. GriGri or ATC? That’s the debate! Each device has its advantages and disadvantages. It all depends on what you’re looking for. GriGri, made by Petzl, is a well-known name in the climbing community. It’s an assisted braking device that helps the belayer. With […]

Climbing is a popular sport and Belay devices are essential for safety. GriGri or ATC? That’s the debate! Each device has its advantages and disadvantages. It all depends on what you’re looking for.

GriGri, made by Petzl, is a well-known name in the climbing community. It’s an assisted braking device that helps the belayer. With its camming mechanism, it automatically engages and arrests the rope if there’s a fall or sudden tension loss. This makes it great for lead climbing and multi-pitch routes with constant tension.

Then we have the ATC (Air Traffic Controller) from Black Diamond. This tube-style device requires manual braking by the belayer. It’s lighter than the GriGri and can be used indoors or outdoors.

Beginners may prefer the GriGri for its assisted braking. Newer models like the GriGri 2 have an anti-panic handle that makes rope descent easier. Experienced climbers may opt for the ATC as they can rely on their own skills. Some climbers say they have better control of the rope speed with an ATC.

It all comes down to individual preference. If safety is your priority, the GriGri is perfect for you. But if you prefer a lighter, more versatile device, the ATC might be the way to go. Either way, make sure you’re trained and practiced. That way you can ensure a safe, enjoyable climbing experience.

Overview of GriGri

The GriGri is a much-loved belay device, used by climbers for indoor and outdoor climbing. It’s better than devices like the ATC, so it’s a preferred choice for many. Here’s an overview:


  1. Belay Type: Assisted braking
  2. Weight: Around 200 grams
  3. Rope Compatibility: 8.5 mm to 11 mm (single rope)
  4. Primary Function: Safety
  5. Additional Features: Anti-panic handle, camming mechanism
  6. Suitable for: Lead climbing, sport climbing, multi-pitch climbing
  7. Advantages: Constant tension, safety features
  8. Disadvantages: Extra cost

The GriGri also has an anti-panic handle and camming mechanism for extra safety. This gives climbers more confidence when belaying.

One climber shared their experience with the GriGri. They said that the assisted braking feature allowed them to focus on their technique and enjoy climbing outdoors without worrying about possible accidents caused by human error.

Overview of ATC

The ATC (Air Traffic Control) is a popular belay device amongst climbers for its ease and versatility. It offers a reliable and effective way to control ropes during belaying. Let’s take a look at the features, advantages, best use in climbing, and a brief history of the ATC.


  • Tube-style belay device made from lightweight aluminum.
  • Two slots or channels that enable different diameter ropes to pass through.
  • No moving parts or assisted braking mechanisms.
  • Smooth rope feeds during belaying.
  • Can be operated with one hand, even by beginners.


  • Lighter than the GriGri belay device.
  • No extra features or adjustments needed.
  • No concerns about technology dependence nor potential malfunctions.
  • More cost-effective than the GriGri.

Best Use:

  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor climbing.
  • Ideal for beginners learning basic belaying techniques.
  • Experienced climbers often use it for multi-pitch climbing or alpine routes.


  • The ATC was initially launched by Black Diamond Equipment in the late 1980s.
  • It became a popular choice due to its reliability and simplicity.
  • Modifications have been made to boost its performance and durability.
  • Today, the ATC remains a trusted choice for climbers worldwide, offering a lightweight and versatile option for belaying while ensuring safety.

Similarities between GriGri and ATC

Both the GriGri and ATC belay devices have similar features. Here’s a table to show the likeness:

Assisted BrakingYesNo
Suitable for lead climbingYesYes
Number of VersionsGrigri+, Grigri 2, etc.ATC, ATC-XP, ATC Guide, etc.
WeightVaries by versionVaries by version
Outdoor UseYesYes
Anti-Panic FunctionYesNo

The GriGri has an anti-panic handle, which the ATC doesn’t. An example of the GriGri’s advantages is the following story:

A group of climbers were attempting a multi-pitch climb. One climber was using an ATC belay device, but was having trouble because they were very tired. Switching to a GriGri allowed them to safely belay without worrying about mistakes or losing control.

It’s important to consider your needs when choosing a belay device. The GriGri has an extra safety feature, but some climbers prefer the ATC’s lighter weight. So, GriGri or ATC? Choose wisely – climbing is no picnic, unless you’re running from bears!

Differences between GriGri and ATC

GriGri and ATC are two belay devices that climbers can choose from. They have differences that need to be taken into account. Here are the key distinctions between the two:


  • Assisted braking mechanism
  • For use both indoors and outdoors
  • Heavier than ATC
  • More expensive
  • Has an anti-panic handle


  • No assisted braking mechanism
  • Suitable for both indoor and outdoor climbing
  • Lighter than GriGri
  • Less expensive
  • No anti-panic function

GriGri 2 is a model of GriGri that is favored by experienced climbers because of its light weight and small size. ATC may be better for beginner climbers as it does not require learning to use an assisted braking device.

GriGri’s assisted braking feature can give an extra layer of protection by catching a fall even if the belayer loses control or releases the rope unintentionally. This is especially useful during lead or multi-pitch climbing to maintain tension on the rope.

No belay device can completely prevent human errors. Therefore, proper belaying techniques and attentiveness should still be practiced.

Which device to choose depends on your preferences, experience level, and budget. It is recommended to try both before making a final decision.

Advantages of GriGri

The GriGri offers many advantages for climbers. Let’s take a look at the key benefits:

  1. Safety: Its assisted braking mechanism automatically catches the rope when there’s a fall, reducing accidents and providing peace of mind.
  2. Easy to Use: It’s designed for simplicity and smooth rope handling. Plus, an anti-panic handle prevents unintended releases.
  3. Versatility: It can be used for lead climbing, top-rope, and multi-pitch routes.
  4. Durability: It’s made to withstand tough outdoor conditions, so you can take it anywhere.

It’s also known for its advanced safety features and ease of use. Plus, Petzl, a renowned manufacturer in the climbing industry, developed it. This adds to the GriGri’s popularity among climbers of all skill levels.

Advantages of ATC

ATCs, also known as Air Traffic Control, are not what we’re talking about here. In climbing, ATC refers to a popular belay device. So, why use an ATC?

  • Lightweight and Versatile: It is lightweight, making it perfect for climbers who don’t want to lug too much weight around. Plus, it can be used for various types of climbing, such as sport or multi-pitch.
  • Lower Cost: Compared to the GriGri, which is pricey due to its assisted braking features, the ATC is budget-friendly for those starting out or not needing those extras.
  • Greater Control and Feedback: The ATC gives belayers better control and feedback on the rope’s tension and movement. So, rope feeding during lead climbing is smoother and belayers can see how much pressure they apply.
  • Minimal Risk of False Locking: Unlike the GriGri, the ATC doesn’t have an assisted braking mechanism. This may seem like a drawback, but experienced climbers feel that manual control helps build responsibility and awareness while belaying.

Since its introduction by Black Diamond in 1993, the ATC has been a favorite of climbers. It’s lightweight, affordable, provides good control and feedback, and encourages awareness. So, if you’re looking for a reliable and versatile belay device, consider the ATC!

GriGri: Perfect for belayers who want a device lighter than their self-esteem after dropping a climber.

Disadvantages of GriGri

The Grigri, a popular belay device amongst climbers, has its cons. Consider these before deciding to use it.

  • 1. Complication: Grigri is tougher than the ATC. Practice and understanding are mandatory, especially for beginners.
  • 2. Weight and Size: Grigri devices are heavier and bulkier than other belay devices. Not good for climbers who prefer lightweight gear or need to carry it during multi-pitch climbs.
  • 3. Assisted Braking: This can be advantageous in certain situations – but use with caution and don’t solely rely on the device’s braking mechanism.
  • 4. Price: Grigri devices are pricier than other belay devices. Not cost-effective for climbers on a budget or those who don’t need all the features.
  • 5. Dependency on Human Error: The anti-panic handle helps against human error – however this could create a false sense of security and lead to lapses in focus.

Still, many climbers prefer the Grigri due to its advantages in certain scenarios. It was first introduced by Petzl in 1991 to boost climber safety. ATC: Not for the faint of heart.

Disadvantages of ATC

ATCs are a popular choice among climbers, but there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. For example:

  • No assisted-braking mechanism, so risk of rope slippage.
  • Requires more effort from belayer, not suited for long climbs.
  • No anti-panic handle, so issues in unexpected situations.
  • More skill and experience needed to use effectively.
  • Higher risk of human error as belayer must be attentive.
  • Not suitable for beginners or those with limited belaying experience.

There are additional details too. ATCs are lighter than the GriGri, so good for alpine climbers who want to limit weight. Also, they provide constant tension when belaying, so many climbers prefer them for outdoor use.

To counter these problems, climbers should:

  • Practice their technique and develop good belaying skills.
  • Upgrade to an assisted-braking device like the GriGri if they’re frequently climbing outdoors or leading.
  • Communicate clearly with their partner to be aware of their responsibilities and provide effective feedback.

By following these suggestions, climbers can make their experience safe and enjoyable. GriGri or ATC – just remember to belay responsibly and don’t let a horror show happen!


To decide which belay device is best for your climbing needs, be sure to consider safety features, functionality, and personal preference. Two popular options are the Grigri and ATC.

The Grigri has a cam mechanism that provides assisted braking. This is great for beginners or those who want an extra safety layer. It kicks in if there’s a fall or if the belayer pulls too hard on the rope. The ATC doesn’t have this feature.

The Grigri 2 is lighter than the ATC, making it perfect for alpine climbers who want a lightweight gear setup. But if weight isn’t a major factor, this won’t make a difference.

For multi-pitch or lead climbing with long falls potential, the ATC may be preferred by experienced climbers due to its constant tension. Some also find they have better control while descending with the ATC.

Both devices have safety features to prevent accidents caused by human error. Don’t rely too much on them – always act responsibly and practice safe belaying techniques.

Pro Tip: Familiarize yourself with proper usage through manufacturer guidelines or get advice from experienced climbers. Safety should always be your top priority when selecting and using a belay device.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between a GriGri and an ATC?

The GriGri and the ATC are both belay devices used in climbing. The main difference lies in their mechanisms. The GriGri is an assisted-braking device that uses a camming mechanism to catch the rope, providing an extra level of safety. On the other hand, the ATC is a tube-style device that relies on the friction created when the rope runs through it for braking.

2. Which belay device should I choose as a beginner?

For beginners, both the GriGri and the ATC are suitable options. However, the GriGri’s assisted-braking feature provides an added safety advantage, making it recommended for those new to climbing. It helps prevent accidental drops due to belayer error or lack of experience.

3. Are GriGri belay devices only for outdoor climbing?

No, GriGri belay devices can be used for both indoor and outdoor climbing. They are a popular choice among climbers for their versatility and reliability in various climbing environments.

4. What are the advantages of using an ATC over a GriGri?

One advantage of using an ATC over a GriGri is its simplicity and lighter weight. ATCs are often favored by experienced climbers who prefer a more lightweight and minimalistic approach. Additionally, ATCs are typically less expensive compared to GriGri devices.

5. Can I use a GriGri for multi-pitch climbing?

Yes, you can use a GriGri for multi-pitch climbing. Many climbers appreciate the GriGri’s assisted-braking function for added safety during long climbs that involve multiple pitches. However, proper technique and practice are crucial, especially when managing the extra weight and ensuring constant tension on the rope.

6. What safety features does the GriGri offer?

The GriGri is equipped with an anti-panic handle and an anti-panic function. These safety features are designed to engage the assisted-braking mechanism in the event of a sudden or excessive force applied to the handle, preventing the rope from sliding through too quickly. This can help avoid accidents caused by human error or loss of control while belaying.

Why Trust Know Nothing Nomads?

Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

We USE the gear we talk about. We’ve hiked 1000’s of miles. We have camped 1000’s of nights in the wilderness. We have sent hundreds of boulders and projects.

We don’t just know a few things about the outdoors — WE EAT, SLEEP, AND BREATHE IT.

We are not journalists from a magazine telling someone else’s stories from behind a computer. We are the ACTUAL outdoorsmen that those people write about. 

We are not a “gear lab” that runs tests on gear in life-like conditions. We are the seasoned, “trial-by-fire” experts who have taken the gear into the wilderness and USED IT. Read about our gear testing process here

We started Know Nothing Nomads to share our passion and expertise with our readers to inspire, educate, and enable you to explore the outdoors in the way that we have. And you will be more equipped and capable than ever before with the knowledge you gain here guiding you along the way.

And the best part? We are real people that LOVE our readers and this community. If you need anything or have a question about any of the things we have to write about, just reach out. Normally, one of us can respond within 24 hours, sometimes within minutes. THAT is the approachable expert.

You should also know that advertising does not influence our gear reviews in any way, shape, or form, and it never will.

While we always focus our attention on gear that stands out to us—sometimes we discover that things aren’t up to our standards. This is exactly why we will always talk about the downfalls and compromises that we find while we are testing anything (If we find any).

About The Author

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers.

Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me.

When I'm not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

Related Posts


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Know Nothing Nomads