GriGri vs ATC: Comparison Guide


Grigris and ATCs (Air Traffic Controllers) are two of the most widely used rappelling and belaying devices. Each device has its pros and cons, and it is quite common to see an eruption of arguments among climbers regarding which one is better. Yes, the grigri vs atc debate is one of the oldest arguments in the world of climbing. So which device is better? To answer this question, we compare the two based on several criteria so that you can make a more informed decision when choosing between an atc vs grigri.

Safety Features

When it comes to safety, the automatic winner in the grigri vs atc debate would be the former. This is because grigris are equipped with an auto-locking feature that instantly locks when shock loaded, thus protecting climbers from sudden and unexpected falls. So even if the belayer loses their grip on the climbing rope, the climber can feel safe knowing that the grigri will be able to stop their fall.

The same cant’ be said for ATCs since they lack the said feature. With an ATC, the belayer will have to always be on their toes and pay attention to the climber and their surroundings. If that belayer gets knocked out by falling rocks or debris (one of the reasons why you always need to wear a climbing helmet) or loses their focus and their grip because they need to adjust their belaying glasses or other similar reasons, the climber will have to be prepared for a sharp fall.

So for climbers who value safety more than anything else, the grigri wins the atc vs grigri debate.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Use

Many facilities offer training for indoor rock climbing for beginners, intermediates, and even advanced climbers. And if you visit one you’ll see climbers and belayers using both grigris and ATCs, although you may see more people using the latter than the former.

However, when you venture out into the real world you’re going to be better off investing in a grigri since it offers better protection than an ATC with its auto-locking mechanism. Compared to indoor climbing facilities that have various safety precautions in place, outdoor climbing routes are more dangerous so you’ll want to get the best kind of protection available.

All that said, an ATC is a good option for indoor rock climbing. For outdoor rock climbing adventures though, a grigri remains to be the better option.


It can’t be helped that price will always come out in the middle of a grigri vs atc debate. Price is always a factor when it comes to buying climbing gear, whether you’re buying it for yourself or as a gift for a fellow climber. Yes, belaying devices are one of the most awesome gifts for rock climbers, and if you decide to get one you may be surprised with the price difference between the two.

Because grigris have better safety features and are more complex to produce, they will be more expensive than ATCs. Depending on the brand and model, a grigri can cost more or less three to five times more than an ATC. With this in mind, ATCs win the atc vs grigri debate by a huge margin.

Comfort and Convenience

Comfort and convenience is a huge factor for many climbers, and in the grigri vs atc debate, both devices seem to have an edge over the other. For instance, many climbers agree that an ATC allows for a much softer fall. They’re also lighter than grigris, which is a big plus for climbers who don’t like feeling weighed down by their climbing gear, devices, and other things in their climbing backpacks.

But despite the harder fall and heavier weight, some climbers claim that grigris allow for a more comfortable hanging time. And if you’re route setting, you can your belayer can rest and relax a little and have peace of mind knowing that you can depend on the grigri’s auto-locking feature should the unexpected happen. For these reasons, the atc vs grigri debate leans in favor of the latter.



Q: Is a grigri worth it?


Yes, a grigri is definitely an investment worth making considering the added layer of protection that it gives because of its auto-locking abilities. This ability to instantly lock and protect climbers in case of a fall makes it the safest belay device available in the market.

Q: What is an ATC in rock climbing?


An ATC (Air Traffic Controller) is a kind of belaying and rappelling device and is the most commonly used type in the rock climbing world. It has a tubular shape which makes them superior over their plate counterparts since it allows precise control during descents.

Q: What does a grigri do?


A grigri is an assisted-braking device designed to assist climbers while rock climbing, rappelling or performing rope-acrobatic activities. What it actually does is to catch the climber in case of a fall and prevent him or her from crashing into the ground below.

Q: How do you use ATC?


To use an ATC when lead climbing, follow the steps below:

  1. Attach the ATC and leave a few meters of climbing rope between the device and the climber’s knot.
  2. Feed the rope out (instead of taking it in) to the climber as he or she moves up the wall. Do this by placing one hand on the rope above the belay device and the other hand on the brake rope below. Remember to use both hands while shuffling the rope upwards through the belay device. Then slide your hands one at a time back down to give it more slack. In any case, never let go of the brake rope.
  3. Once the climber has clipped the quickdraw above them, take in a small amount of rope until they are in level with it. Doing so ensures that the slack rope is kept to a minimum. Continue to give slack as the climber moves up and take in rope as required.
  4. Keep a tight grip on the brake rope and always focus on the leader and their needs. If the lead falls, hold the rope downwards in the lock off position to prevent him or her from completely falling to the ground.

Globo Surf Overview

So in comparing the grigri vs atc, which one is the better option? Well, as can be seen above, both devices have their pros and cons and can be used depending on the climbing environment and personal preference. Nonetheless, the grigri certainly has a distinct advantage over the ATC, thus giving it a winning edge in the atc vs grigri debate.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!