For this review, longtime climber Jack Nixon went and purchased the Trango Vergo and a Petzl Grigri to compare.
The Vergo is a new style of brake assist belay device from Trango. It sports a lightish weight (122g), compact design and a unique ergonomic way to feed out rope to the leader.
What is this new ‘way’ you ask? Well the Trango team paired up with a Doctor of Ergonomics to create a device that works within the range of motion of your arms. Ever noticed that paying out rope with a Grigri or similar puts strain on your shoulder at the start of the the pull?
The Vergo solves this motion problem by paying the rope out sideways. Yes that’s right, sideways. In this configuration, the extra stress on the shoulder from the standard way of using a Grigri or similar is negated.
The ergonomics designer intended the Vergo to be held in the left hand. On the back there are indentations for your index finger, with a plastic thumb patch on the front to enable better grip on the Vergo.
This left hand pinch configuration, also enables constant contact with the brake rope whilst paying out rope. Some thing to note, the Vergo brake assist mechanism is not overridden as you feed rope to the climber.
So it sounds good on paper, how does it work in the real world. As you can guess it takes a while to learn the new way of belaying. After conducting the granny test (if your granny can get it, you can to) with some climbers. And noticeably Grigri dominant users picked up the new style quicker than ATC users.
So it’s a winner then?
Sort of, while the method of paying out rope and holding the device is superior. It does lack in other areas.
Most noticeably is the bite of the cam as it engages.
It’s very sharp. To compensate you need to have more slack in the system to give your climber a nice/standard fall.
Another drawback is as there is no spring to disengage the cam. If you accidentally short rope your climber, releasing the cam quickly to give more rope is extremely difficult.
In the online instruction video, the method shown is to squeeze the front and back plates of the device together. In practice this is extremely difficalt.
Especially with sweaty hands, belay gloves or at the end of a day. This is due to the curving shape of the front plate.
Finally, like all first generation products there are teething issue’s. The anodized finish on the main body wears of quickly and rust spots appear. The handle for lowering your climber has a plastic rivet rather than a metal and is starting to crack from use.
Luckily I bought it from MEC here in Canada and can replace it.
To summarize. The vergo is a great step forward in terms of belaying with your body’s ergonomics. It is a superior shoulder healthy method.
But is in need of a softer engagement in the cam action for catching a fall. A improved way to give out rope if you short rope someone. And a metal rivet in the release handle.