When the Revo Belay Device by Wild Country arrived in our office, it was met with some excitement. After all, its path from conception to execution has been long and given rise to numerous speculations as to what it would do and how it would compare to existing belay device options.
Out of the box, the Revo appears to be unique in the world of belay devices. It comprises a metal body which splits to loop the rope around a wheel and locks closed with a carabiner that attaches the device to the belay loop of your harness. Projecting from the top of the wheel, on either side, are two friction ‘tubers.’” It’s an impressive piece of climbing engineering.
Just putting the rope through for the first time you will notice that, unlike the Petzl Gri-Gri, it can fit either way, so you can’t get it wrong. The big carabiner hole formed by the two sides of the closed device favours larger carabiners.
The big advantage of the Revo is the ease with which the rope feeds through as you belay. Because of the wheel, there is even less friction than on a conventional belay tube or plate device. Also, the chance of the rope catching when the leader pulls out slack is almost eliminated.
And now, the catch. The wheel catch that is. Although playing out the rope through the Revo is a silky smooth operation, even when the leader pulls out slack quickly, the Revo has a built in catch on the wheel that locks the device when the rope accelerates to four metres per second.
This means that although you must always keep your hand on the brake end of the rope, the wheel will lock the rope in the case of a leader fall if you do not slow it down with your brake hand just the same as you would using a conventional belay-device.
Keep in mind that the wheel lock may be at a different point in the wheel’s rotation, and until it engages at the top of the device, slack will continue to run through the device, albeit only a few inches.
The device is easily unlocked either by pulling down on the brake end of the rope, or holding the brake end while pushing up the tuber with a thumb, the latter being a somewhat counter-intuitive manoeuvre that took a few tries to ingrain in our belaying technique.
As for lowering, the Revo’s tubers add friction in much the same way as the edges of belay tube. The Revo worked well, as advertised, with ropes from 8.5-11mm, with thicker ropes offering an easier lower for the belayer because of the increased friction.
The Revo can be used to rappel a single rope, but care must be taken not to accelerate so quickly that the device locks the rope.
It is also necessary to be cautious if the rope locks because the weight of the hanging rope could possibly unlock it. Monitoring the speed of descent and keeping your hands on the brake end of the rope at all times should eliminate these problems.
The Revo will appeal mostly to single-pitch sport and trad climbers who are confident belayers and want a device that allows them to belay easily without shorting the leader, while also offering a back-up in case of belayer failure.
While the Revo’s not going to be some users’ first choice for working routes, multi-pitch routes and rappelling, the same users would find it a pleasure to use in all other rock climbing settings.