I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the Revo, Wild Country’s long-anticipated new assisted braking belay device. I tried it out during a day of sport climbing on the Western Slope. The Revo is simple enough to load the rope (as are the majority of belay devices), but one of the first things I came to appreciate about this new belay device is that there really isn’t a “wrong” way to load it. The Revo is symmetrical, allowing the belayer to not have to designate which side of the rope is on “top” when loading the device. Of course, when actually clipping the Revo to your belay loop, as with other belay devices, you still need to have the rope going to the climber on top of the brake strand.
While belaying with the Revo, I was immediately struck by how smooth the device is. In fact, I would go so far as to say the Revo is the smoothest belay device I have ever used at paying out and taking in rope. I suspect that the wheel system in the Revo has a lot to do with this smoothness. There is a satisfying lack of resistance when feeding rope through the Revo. I found that this smoothness does translate into a more enjoyable belay experience as a belayer. Belaying with the Revo is an easy transition to make for anyone familiar with belaying on tube-style devices (such as a Black Diamond ATC or Petzl Reverso). Unlike many other assisted braking devices, the ways that you feed rope, take in rope, hold a fall, and lower a climber are the same on the Revo as they are on a tube-style device. I found belaying with the Revo to feel intuitive and familiar.
Another aspect of the Revo that I really appreciate is that I don’t have to worry about the device locking when I pay out slack to a leader nearly as much as I do with a device like the Petzl GriGri. That same wheel system (it almost looks like a large pulley) that contributes to the device’s smooth feel is also involved in how the device locks. Wild Country claims that the rope must be traveling through the device at least four meters per second in order for the locking feature to engage. Four meters per second is rather fast compared to how quickly a belayer tends to pay out slack. I did manage to get the Revo to lock on me once while feeding rope for an unexpectedly desperate clip, but overall, it lock at undesired times less than I have experienced with some other assisted-braking devices. A nice aspect of the Revo is that there is nothing special you need to do to override the locking feature while paying out slack: you just belay as you would normally with a tube-style device, and you don’t have to worry about it locking up unwantedly on you.
The Revo is not a flawless belay device, however. That same four meters per second required for locking the device up means that, while it doesn’t lock up while paying out slack, means that the Revo doesn’t lock up when the rope is weighted by the climber, as, say, a GriGri does. In fact, if you are providing an attentive and proper belay with the Revo, there is a significant chance that the device will not lock up on you. This isn’t necessarily a flaw of the Revo – it does work as it was designed to – but rather a design choice Wild Country made. It seems that this is the tradeoff for how smooth the Revo is. You are able to manually lock the device if you are taking, but once the rope is fully weighted, you cannot manually lock the device and you must hold the climber as you would with a tube-style device.
elatedly, I experienced the Revo to require more grip strength to lock off a climber with than other belay devices I have used. Both myself and my climbing partner this day experienced the Revo to take more grip strength to hold a climber and to lower a climber than many other belay devices on the market. I found that using belay gloves with the Revo does make a significant difference, and I would certainly recommend them to people using the Revo.
I think the Revo would make a great device for someone looking to use it to climb single-pitch routes and prioritizes smoothness and ease of use in a belay device. I believe the Revo does add an element of safety over a tube-style device with its locking ability, yet still retains the ease of use that tube-style devices offer. If you are looking to use the device for multi-pitch climbing or extended hang-dogging situations, I think there are some better choices on the market. However, if a smooth and easy to use belay device with some appealing safety attributes is appealing to you, come on by and check out a Revo in person.