Last Updated on 28/04/2021
This Petzl GriGri review is for all the climbers around the world looking for an assisted braking belay device and have not yet tried the GriGri.
After its introduction in 1991, the Petzl GriGri immediately changed the world of climbing. As one of the first true “assisted braking devices” on the market, the Petzl GriGri allowed climbers to have a little bit of extra security while belaying, setting the gold standard for innovation in belaying technology.
That being said, although the GriGri is an incredibly popular belay device both in gyms and on real rock, it might not be what’s right for your needs. To help you decide if the GriGri is worth your hard-earned dough, we’ve put together this in-depth Petzl GriGri review to help you understand the ins-and-outs of the Petzl GriGri. Let’s get to it!
Petzl GriGri Review: The Basics
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at some of the basic features and components of the Petzl GriGri. First things first, the Petzl GriGri is what we call an “active assisted breaking” belay device, which means that the GriGri contains a camming mechanism that helps a belayer break the rope and arrest a climber’s fall. A GriGri is NOT an “autolocking” device as there is no guarantee that the GriGri will stop a fall, only that it will almost certainly help the belayer slow and stop the climber’s rapid descent.
Although many people now begin their belaying careers with a GriGri, as opposed to a tube-style device, it’s important to receive qualified instruction before attempting to use a GriGri (or other new belay devices) for the first time. That being said, the GriGri is, perhaps, the best-selling assisted braking device ever sold. But is it right for you? Here are the key features of the Petzl GriGri:
- Rope Compatibility: 8.5 to 11mm single ropes
- Materials: Aluminum side plates, stainless steel cam, stainless steel friction plate, reinforced nylon handle
- Type of Belay Device: Active assisted breaking
- Lead Belay Mode?: No
- Guarantee: 3 years
If you’ve spent your entire climbing career until this point only using a tube-style belay device, like the Black Diamond ATC or Petzl Reverso, the first thing you’ll notice is that the GriGri is large – really large. Although the current rendition of the GriGri has come a long way since its introduction in 1991, it’s still much bulkier and heavier than your standard tube-style belay device.
However, the most recent GriGri model is lighter, slicker, and ever so slightly more user-friendly than the older GriGri 2 (to say nothing of the improvements since the original GriGri). Indeed, the new GriGri contains fun new features, like a place to tie a keeper cord, a place to write your name, and improved rope feeding and lowering. Plus, the new GriGri can handle ropes down to 8.5mm while the older GriGri 2 couldn’t be used for cords skinnier than 8.9mm.
In addition to some minor changes to the internal structure of the camming device, however, there are few ground-breaking aesthetic or functional differences between the current GriGri and the older GriGri2, so we wouldn’t necessarily suggest running out and buying a new model unless yours is ready for retirement.
Since a belay device is quite literally used to save someone’s life when they fall during a climb, you want to be sure that you’re only using the best gear around. How does the new GriGri stack up? Let’s take a look:
At 6.3 ounces, the Petzl GriGri is no featherweight in the wider world of belay devices, however, it’s really not that heavy when compared to active assisted breaking models. Of course, when you compare the GriGri to an ATC, you’ll notice an obvious weight difference, but the current GriGri is actually one of the lighter active-assisted breaking models out there.
Plus, the new Petzl GriGri we review here is pretty much the same weight as the GriGri 2 and tips the scales at just an ounce lighter than the GriGri+. Would we bring the GriGri on a fast and light alpine expedition? Well, probably not, but we wouldn’t have any qualms about bringing it to the gym or the crag just based on its weight and bulk.
Perhaps the trickiest part of using a GriGri, feeding rope and slack to a lead climber can be a bit annoying when using an assisted breaking device. In years past, when feeding slack on the old GriGri and GriGri 2, belayers would need to momentarily press their thumb down onto the camming device to allow the rope to slide through. The new GriGri, however, has a slightly tighter cam spring than the older models, which helps belayers feed slack a bit more easily, though it’s still not as smooth as using a tube-style device.
Catching a fall
Since the assisted-breaking feature of a GriGri is the device’s main selling point, a GriGri’s ability to help a belayer catch a fall is pretty darn important. In reality, little, if anything has changed about GriGri’s camming and assisted-breaking mechanism since the device’s inception and, we have to be honest – it’s still one of the best-assisted braking belay devices around. Plus, the new GriGri is rated for use with single ropes just 8.5mm in diameter, so you won’t have to worry about its ability to catch a fall on your skinny dental floss of a rope.
Lowering and rappelling
Perhaps the newest – and most important – feature of the GriGri is an added spring that helps create a smoother lowering and rappelling action, especially at higher speeds. This added spring helps increase the “sweet spot” for a controlled lower or rappel while using the GriGri, but it’s important to note that the GriGri does not have an emergency panic mode that stops the rope from moving quickly if the belayer loses control of the lowering handle. If this is something you’d like in your belay device, the GriGri+ might be for you (more on that later).
Belaying in “guide mode”
If you like to go out on multi-pitch climbing adventures or frequently find yourself belaying from above on a toprope set-up, the ability to belay in “guide” mode off the anchor is pretty darn important.
Thankfully, due to the GriGri’s built-in assisted braking mechanism, you can, indeed, efficiently belay a second or a toperoper directly off of an anchor using the device. HOWEVER, lowering a second with a GriGri can be tricky and you’ll need to redirect the brake strand to main control of the climber’s descent.
This is a skill that takes practice but is a must-know for anyone using a GriGri in guide mode. Not sure how to do it? Seek out qualified instruction from an AMGA or IFMGA certified guide or climbing instructor to make sure you’re getting things right.
As an assisted braking device, the Petzl GriGri we reviewed is fantastic for use at a gym or while cragging because it reduces the fatigue associated with holding a hang dogging climber. Plus, it adds a bit of extra breaking security into the mix, which is great, especially if there’s a big weight difference between you and your climbing partner(s). Plus, the GriGri’s ability to be used for belaying directly off of an anchor is useful in a multi-pitch scenario.
However, since the GriGri has only one rope slot, it can’t be used for double rope rappels, which are required on many multi-pitch climbs. Plus, thanks to the GriGri’s weight and bulk, it’s not the best companion for an alpine adventure.
Our advice? Keep the GriGri in your pack while at the gym or the crag. If you’re going to need to rappel or you don’t want to carry a lot of weight on your harness on a multi-pitch route, a tube-style belay device like the Black Diamond ATC Guide is probably the way to go.
At around $110, our Petzl GriGri review found that it certainly isn’t cheap, but when you consider the quality of the device, it’s not an extortionate asking price. Plus, the GriGri has become cheaper since its introduction, down from about $150 over the last decade. But, if you’re just starting out, $110 can seem like a large investment on top of climbing shoes and other gear, especially if you don’t know how to use one. If this sounds like you then you might be better off with a tube-style belay device at first. However, if you do choose to invest in a GriGri, you won’t be disappointed.
GriGri or GriGri+
If you’ve spent enough time on the internet researching the Petzl GriGri, you might have also come across the GriGri+ and you might still be wondering what the difference between the two devices actually is.
For starters, the GriGri+ has an emergency braking system for belayers who accidentally lower their climbers too quickly. Additionally, the GriGri+ has top rope and lead climbing modes which effectively change the camming spring within the device to make feeding out slack a little easier.
Finally, the GriGri+ has a steel insert in its wear plate, which helps increase the device’s lifespan over time. That being said, the GriGri+ was originally designed for newer climbers and institutional use, where the device receives a lot of wear and tear, so the GriGri is the better choice for most recreational climbers.
Ultimately, the Petzl GriGri is a darn good belay device with almost 30 years of awesomeness to back it up. Sure, the GriGri might cost you more than you want to spend, but if you spend enough time at the gym or the crag, you won’t regret adding one to your quiver of gear. We hope you found this Petzl GriGri review helpful but check out what other people are saying on Amazon using the link below.
The one and only Petzl GriGri has been updated again and we take a look at whats new