The Vergo emphasizes ergonomics and human-device interaction to deliver exceptionally safe performance. Clear physical and visual indicators reaffirm correct usage, and the geometry reduces the likelihood of misuse. There is never a need to override the device, even when feeding slack for a clip. Smooth feeding and lowering complete the experience.
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The most commonly used belay type also called an “ATC” or “tuber.” Other than a distinction between other belay device types, “Tube” is a rarely used term, most climbers just assume you're talking about this style when they refer to your "belay device."
Mostly used in rescue, canyoneering, tactical, work safety, or by old school climbers and rappellers. One reason they went out of popularity with recreational climbers is because they tend to create twists in the rope.
These devices assist in stopping the rope when a climber falls or hangs on the rope.
Often referred to as “auto-blocking” but that’s not the official terminology because no belay device should be assumed to work automatically by itself, even if it feels like it does (or does most the time).
When simplicity is a must, or you started climbing before Tubers were the norm. Bonus: They tend to be very light weight.
For rappelling, not for belaying a lead climber or top-roping.
|Brake Assist - Mechanical|
In grams, the weight, as stated by the manufacturer/brand.
|Belay Brake Assist
Belay Brake Assist
This is when the belay device significantly reduces the amount of holding power the belayer must exert to stop a fall and hold a climber.
This is also called "assisted-braking" as the device must hold a significant amount of the climber’s weight; this term does not include friction-adding "teeth" found on some tube style belay devices.
Confusingly referred to as “auto-blocking” or “auto-locking” these terms wrongly imply the device will always, automatically, stop a fall or hold a climber even if the belayer/rappeller is hands-free. These devices are not meant to be used without a hand on the braking side of the rope; the belayers/rapppeller brake hand should always be on the brake rope.
Most of the mechanical brake assist devices only hold a single strand of rope and are not capable of double-strand rappelling (the most common method of rappel).
This is when you belay directly off the anchor instead of your harness. Guide mode is helpful if you climb outdoors a lot because it reduces the holding power required from the belayer. When your partner falls or rests, the weight of the climber is held mostly by the anchor and the belay device.
Tubers and Plates
When belaying in "guide mode," the tubers and plates turn auto-blocking. During a fall, the climbing rope pinches the slack rope, completely stopping the movement of either rope. A common guide mode setup shown below.
Mechanical Brake Assist Devices
There is no difference in the functionality of the device. A brake-hand should always be on the rope to ensure the climber is caught in the case of a fall. A common guide mode setup shown below.
Where guide mode is used
|1 follower only|
Teeth are only seen on tube devices. They add friction that helps grip the rope for more belaying control.
This is helpful for belaying heavier climbers. Teeth are becoming standard on new tube devices.
Teeth do wear out. You can limit wear by rappelling on the side without teeth (if you don’t need the extra friction). Once they’re worn, you’ll still have a usable belay device, just less friction.
|Rope Range (mm)|
Rope Range (mm)
The range of rope diameters, in millimeters, that the manufacturer/brand specifies can safely be used.
This is the best case scenario and does not necessarily take into consideration that certified ropes have a tolerance of +/- .3 mm.
Recently, manufacturers have started to add an "optimized" rope range -- this is the range that will result in the nicest handling of the belay device.
|8.9 mm - 10.7 mm |
The main climbing gear certifications are CE and UIAA--and normally the UIAA creates the rules that the CE body also supports. When possible, we try to list all the certifications the product carries.
To sell a climbing product in Europe, the device must be CE certified. There are no official requirements to sell climbing gear in the US. The UIAA certification is a voluntary process.
Having been a die-hard fan of the Petzl Grigri for more than 20 years, I now proclaim that after less than three months of using the Trango Vergo assisted braking belay and rappel device, I am officially a Vergo convert. A light sadness trickles through my body in making this bold statement. Grigris (and wonderful belayers) have caught thousands of my falls, large and small, and kept me from hitting the ground; the Grigri has been right there with me at some of my finest and most memorable moments. Yet here I stand (or sit in front a computer) and type this pronouncement.
The Trango Vergo is a cool active assist braking device that uses a different method for paying out slack to a leading climber that doesn't involve having to manually block the cam, as the other devices in this review do. Because of this, we actually find it the most enjoyable device for belaying a leader. It has few downsides and is relatively easy to learn how to use, and think that those who are curious about active assisted devices but aren't sold on a GriGri should certainly check it out.
The Vergo locked quickly and firmly, according to our tester who used it while training mileage on gym routes. While it lowered, fed slack, and caught falls smoothly, this device shines in the ergonomics department. The Vergo is designed to sit horizontally when in use, and testers found it was a natural position that “caused a lot less short-roping than other devices.” Thumb and pointer-finger grooves helped testers hold the device correctly. This required some adaptation, as most devices recommend holding the brake side of the rope and only touching the device to feed slack quickly. Once testers learned that aspect, the Vergo “made complete sense and was practically flawless.” Plus, even if testers pinched the device as hard as possible, they couldn’t override the camming unit. Loading the rope was “a bit bumbly” because testers had to move the plates and handle out of the way. Testers found the method of unlocking the device after short-roping the leader to be challenging because of the nuanced movement, but short-roping was a rarity.
As every manufacturer, Trango wanted the handling and operation of the Vergo to be highly intuitive. Thus, they added natural cues that indicate how to hold the device. This includes a thumb knob and a forefinger rest to encourage the most ideal holding position. These added usability features are beneficial for strongly reinforcing proper belay technique, especially as more and more new climbers enter the sport.
As I mentioned, I don’t believe it’s fair to penalize the Trango Vergo for what, to me, felt like a lengthy learning curve simply because that aspect exists for virtually any belay device.
However, I do think it’s fair to compare the Vergo to the GRIGRI 2. And on that comparison, the Vergo, to me, falls short.
If you’re a new climber who is looking to purchase your first assisted-locking belay device, I think the Vergo might certainly be worth a strong consideration.
If you’ve got tons of experience with the GRIGRI, but you are wondering whether the Vergo might be a replacement or an upgrade in terms of safety, then I would probably suggest sticking the GRIGRI. The Vergo is certainly a solid contender, but to me, the GRIGRI is still king.
After four months of testing in a variety of climbing scenarios using numerous ropes in different diameters, I am happy to report the Vergo always impressed with its safety, performance and ease of use. So, whether you’re new to the sport and are ready to purchase your first mechanically assisted belay device or have been climbing for decades and have lost count of the rope grabbing contraptions that have passed through your gnarled mits, consider putting the Trango Vergo at the top of your shopping list.
I’ve been using the Vergo for several months now, and one of the reasons Trango sent me one early was because they knew I’m a huge GriGri fan and very skeptical of competitors. Before the Vergo I would have said there were some OK alternatives, but nothing I had tried would ever replace the GriGri for me. That has changed with the Vergo, as much as it pains me to say anything negative about my beloved GriGri, and there are plenty of days when it’s the only device I take with me to the crag.