Climbing had changed a lot since I started back in the early 2000s. Back then when there weren’t that many climbers it was fairly safe to ask someone to belay you as everyone kinda knows everyone. Bad belayers were shunned away by most climbers. In the past, you were able to identify bad belayers easily because there aren’t many of them. But things have changed, now there are so many new climbers it is no longer safe to just ask anyone with a harness and a belay device to belay you.
Climbing with strangers
These days there are climbing groups and clubs where people join. Not just to climb but also (let’s be honest here) to hook up. Nothing wrong with that. It was unfortunate that this wasn’t a thing back when I started 😤. Meeting new friends and hooking up can be fun. However, climbing unlike having dinner with strangers has a lot more consequences. Organizers running the programs can’t guarantee that everyone knows how to belay.
It is always good to climb with people you know and trust. Climbing with a total stranger can be risky. You’ll always have doubts if he or she can catch your fall. So you need to know how to protect yourself.
All belayers get distracted
In my years of climbing, I had seen all sorts of bad belayers. Even as experienced climbers we too get careless and fail to do pre-climb checks. And I have to confuse if a climb lasts longer than 10 minutes or if there are too many “hang dogging”. Belayers will generally lose focus and their eyes will start to wonder for something else to look at other than your rear end. Or even start chatting with people around them.
Protect yourself with an Assisted-braking Belay Device (ABD)
Like every problem in life, there will be companies happy to solve it for you at a price. Petzl introduced GriGri the first ABD back in 1991. Almost 3 decades later we have new ABDs popping up every year. Flooding the market with colourful fancy-looking devices. Of course, everyone has a favourite ABD myself included. An ABD is much safer than a conventional tube device. But as every ABD design is different it’s difficult for someone to just pick up any ABD and use it like a pro.
The best foolproof device for fools
I came across Wild Country REVO a couple of years back. It was dubbed to be the most foolproof ABD in the market shortly after it was launched.
Its foolproof design allows the climbing rope to be set up on either side of the device so there is no way you can make a mistake. Many ABDs will jam up when paying out slack too fast but REVO does not have that problem. Unlike other ABDs, there is no specific angle which you need to align the device or the rope for feeding or taking in slack. The rope runs through REVO smooth like silk.
1) Bi-directional loading – The rope can be set up on either side of the device
2) Belaying method is similar to a normal tube device so if you know how to use a tube device you’ll know how to belay with REVO
3) REVO does not jam up the rope when you need to pay out slack really fast
4) Extremely smooth when paying out and taking in slack
5) Extremely smooth when lowering a climber
1) For a belay device, the size of the REVO is quite big, slightly bulkier than the GriGri2
2) One of the heavier ABDs in the market at 285g (GriGri2 is 170g)
3) You can’t use it to abseil on 2 ropes
4) Not suitable for multi-pitch top-down direct belay
5) Not a versatile device more suited for single pitch belay
6) Price-wise …… it’s somewhat pricey
The REVO is designed to be used the same way you would use a normal tube belay device. The REVO will not engage its assisted braking function unless the rope is pulled out of the device at a speed of more than 4m per sec or if you accidentally let go of the brake rope when the climber falls. If you are an experienced belayer and have excellent belay technique with your hand firmly on the brake rope when the climber falls the assisted braking will not kick in. This means the belayer will be the one catching the fall and not the device. I don’t consider this to be either a pro or a con. Firstly I hate ABDs that are too “grabby” that instantly jam the rope when the climber falls or if the belayer pays out slack too fast. This is not ideal because inexperienced belayers will depend too much on the ABD to catch a fall and not practice the fundamental skill of belaying. So if you belay correctly using all the proper techniques you will not get to experience the assisted braking function of the REVO. The REVO works strictly as a safety backup in situations where the belayer really messes it up.
REVO product recall
There was a product recall for Revo due to manufacturing issues back in late 2017. Wild Country released a new and updated version of the REVO in early 2019 and is now available in the market.
The Wild Country REVO is a very good passive Assisted-braking Belay Device. One of the easiest to use. Even for someone new to climbing it is extremely easy to learn and get used to. Will I recommend it to experienced climbers…… No, I will not. I’ll be happy to play with it for free but I won’t be willing to part with my money for a REVO. However, if you are new to climbing and need to learn good belaying techniques without the risk of accidents then you should consider getting one. Or if you are someone that runs climbing programs for new climbers or manages a climbing gym having a couple of REVOs with you will give you peace of mind.
For anyone who is looking for new climbing partners having a REVO is a great way to protect yourself. You have no idea what kind of belayer you’ll meet. Just pass the belayer your REVO and you’ll feel so much safer. Always protect yourself against unsafe partners.