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Belay Devices | The Basics

Welcome to Belay Devices: The Basics

Part of a series of articles and blog posts with simple questions to aid beginners and those interested in giving climbing a go.

What is a belay device?
A belay device is a piece of climbing equipment that is used by the belayer (the person managing the rope) to control the climber's rope and to act as a brake if the climber falls - stopping them hitting the ground.

How does a belay device work?
Belay devices work by generating friction through the belay device or a combination of the belay device and carabiner it is attached to. The belayer can control the rope through the belay device. When climbing, the rope moves freely through the belay system. In the event of a fall, a combination of the belay device and/or the belayer immediately tightens the angles/bends in the rope running through the belay device. This generates friction to the point where the falling climber comes to a stop. Likewise, if your climbing partner needs a rest and wants to be held on the rope, you can easily hold your climbing partner in place through the same mechanism.

Does a belay device work by itself?
No, the belayer should always be in full control of the climber's rope. There are mechanically assisted belay devices that can make things easier, but the belayer is ultimately still in control.

Can you abseil with a belay device?
Yes, in most cases. As long as you learn how (in can vary between devices), you can abseil with most belay devices. 

How to belay with a belay device?
Whilst the very basics of belaying are quite simple, it is still a skill that you will need to be shown in person as poor belaying can be very dangerous. We would recommend signing up to a climbing course at your local climbing wall.

What belay device should I buy?
We have written a guide to help answer this question or you can view our products.

For More Information

We have a range of articles on our blog that you may find interesting:

  • The Basics Articles for brand new climbers and beginners.
  • How to Guides A series of guides answering specific questions you may have.
  • Buying Guides For when you are ready to start purchasing.

If you have any other questions, then please get in touch.