Since its release, Petzl’s GriGri has been the standard against which all other assisted braking belay devices are compared. With the release of the new GriGri+, Petzl has once again set the bar a little higher. By utilizing their expertise in both recreational climbing and industrial / rope access Petzl was able to improve both the safety and performance of the GriGri+. And while there are a few down sides to the new GriGri, they’re far outweighed by the improvements.
- Weight: 208g (36g heavier than my GriGri2)
- Rope Size: 8.5mm to 11.0mm
- Stainless Steel Wear Plate
- Anti-Panic Function
- Top-Rope & Lead Belay Modes
When I was first introduced to Petzl’s new GriGri+ at the Outdoor Retailer show in 2016 I have to admit that while I was intrigued I wasn’t overly impressed. But that was just from playing with a demo model on the showroom floor. This device really has to be used “in the field” as they saying goes to appreciate all the improvements. Now that I’ve tested the GriGri+ on an extended climbing trip through Yosemite, Red Rocks, Zion, Indian Creek, etc. I’ve come around in a big way. The GriGri+ is a big improvement on the GriGri2, especially when dealing with climbers that are new or inexperienced.
Each of the major improvements/changes introduced on the GriGri+ are reviewed in detail below followed by a summary of the pros and cons of the new design.
Top-Rope & Lead Belay Modes:
As anyone who’s ever used a GriGri to belay a leader on a fat rope will attest to, it can be a pain in the ass to quickly feed slack. Especially if the leader quickly jerks the rope when clipping. A lesser problem but still annoying, the rope creeps through the GriGri when belaying from above if not held tight. These issues exist as Petzl had to design the GriGri to grab when it needs to but not when it doesn’t over a wide range of uses and rope types. Not an easy thing to do!
With the GriGri+, Petzl introduced a switch that provides two different sensitivity settings or modes. This eliminated the need to balance between the competing requirements of a lead and TR belay. The Lead Belay mode makes it easier to feed rope to a lead climber. The TR mode grabs the rope providing a more secure belay, even from above. Of course there are limitations and the GriGri+ will still catch if the leader is jerking on the rope, however it’s a noticeable improvement.
There’s a small tab on the mode switch that locks it in place on either TR or Lead mode. I never found much of a use for it but can see where it would be beneficial for climbing gyms, camps, etc.
Stainless Steel Wear Plate:
One of the main wear points on the GriGri2 is the rolled top edge of the aluminum sliding plate on the top of the device. Whenever rope is fed backwards through the device such as when rappelling or lead belaying it runs along this rolled edge. Because it’s made of aluminum the rope will slowly wear a groove. To address this issue and protect the soft aluminum from wear the GriGri+ has been outfitted with a stainless steel wear plate. If doesn’t change the feel or function of the device, just makes it a bit more durable and is likely one of the reasons it’s a bit heavier than the GriGri2.
I wasn’t all that impressed when I tested out the new anti-panic feature on a demo version of the GriGri+ at the Outdoor Retailer Show last year. At the time I thought it a little too subtle to be effective. However, now that I’ve had the chance to test it at the crag I’ve changed my mind. If you’re testing one out at the store and can’t really feel that Anti-panic don’t panic, it works!
How does it work? If the user of the GriGri+ pulls back too hard on the release lever when lowering someone or rappelling it activates and the person stops moving. The operator can still pull past the dead spot but requires more force and the rope feeds fairly slowly. Alternatively the handle can be returned to the neutral position to reset it.
The big benefit to this set-up is that beginner users of the GriGri+ won’t drop anyone, themselves included. I have to admit, I really hate getting lowered on a GriGri by inexperienced users. Anyway, this feature is likely why Petzl is marketing the GriGri+ as usable by everyone while the GriGri2 is “expert only”.
In case you were wondering, Petzl likely designed a method of defeating the anti-panic mode into the new GriGri to account for very light climbers. The handle has to be pulled back quite to lower them which may trigger the anti-panic mode, especially on thick ropes. So without such a defeat mechanism it could be a difficult and frustrating lower.
I really like that Petzl focused on making the GriGri+ safer and more user friendly for inexperienced climbers. This new model will undoubtedly save the climbing community countless injuries and possibly even a few lives. Of course there are always a few uncertainties when it comes to new features. The introduction of the different belay modes and the anti-panic function make the new GriGri safer and easier to use but are unproven over the long term. Only time and extended usage will determine how these new features will react to real world abuse. However, given Petzl’s impeccable record of thoroughly testing gear before releasing it to the public I think it unlikely that they’ll become a warranty issue.
Pros: Safer, more durable, greater rope range & easier to use
Cons: 50% more expensive than the GriGri2, 36g heavier
Overall: The additional functionality & durability of the GriGri+ makes it well worth the extra cost and it only outweighs the GriGri2 by 36g, the weight of a single carabiner! If you’re in the market, the GriGri+ is the one to get.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review sample for testing but this did not influence me in any way.