The Petzl Grigri has been a staple of climbing for decades. Petzl, never a company to rest on their prior success continues to improve even the most beloved products like the Grigri. Enter the Grigri +.
On first glace the overall look and design of the Petzl Grigri + appears to be the same as the Grigri 2. However, set the two side by side an you’ll start to see some differences. First thing I noticed is that the front plate, that you flip open to get the rope inside, is no longer a thin stamped piece of aluminum, but thicker forced aluminum stock. Give it more a more substantial and quality feel. The folded bit of aluminum at the top is now gone. It served dual purpose of giving you a place to lock your finger under while belaying, and also a handy place to run the rope over when lowering the climber. In its place is a smaller forged nob, I assume to lock your finger under like the last version, but more importantly a steel wear plate has been placed where the Grigri 2 uses the body for rope friction to lower. Even after 7 year of use my Grigri 2 was never close to wearing through, but I suppose if you spend a lot of time in Indian Creek year round you might start to get enough wear from sand embedded in ropes to get concerned. Well, no more concern there. The new steel wear plate should make this last a LONG time.
If you look on the other side of the Grigri + you’ll see a new feature. A flip lock that allows you to optimize the device for lead belaying or top rope belaying. In lead mode you’ll find it functions pretty much as the Grigri 2 does. However, flip it to top rope mode and the auto-locking feature will engage faster than the Grigri 2 allowing you to catch climbers even faster to maintain upward progress. We found this to be especially helpful for newer belayers that are less experienced with catching a falling climber. This also helps the climber to feel more comfortable with a newer belayer, or one that is new to the Grigri family.
When I first got the Petzl Grigri + I sat it on my kitchen counter so I could look it over and get to know it before going climbing with it the next day. My wife saw it and with a sideways glance said, “Oh, is this my new Grigri?” Without looking at I her I said, “Maybe, it has an anti-panic feature.” She thought I was just poking fun at her generally (overly) safety conscious mothering. We’ve started to see this type of feature show up in other belay devices and though I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve felt like locking the handle open. I have seen it in the gym (saved at least a few people from their under-trained dates), and read accident reports about people being dropped from cranking the handle open in an attempt to add more force to the braking power. After testing another belay device with an anti-panic design and not being very impressed with it, I’ll admit to being a little doubtful about the functionality of the Grigri +, but Petzl has such a good history of making quality gear that I had a little corner of hope that it could be great. The problem that I had with the last belay device that I tried was that the finding the friction point of being able to lower someone at a reasonable speed without engaging the anti-panic function was difficult to do. It resulted in the climber lowering, then suddenly stopping, then lower again, well you get the idea. I may have needed a longer trial period to get used to it, kind of like a sports car with a testy clutch. I mention all of this because this was not our experience with the Grigri +. It was very easy to find that friction point of lowering without tripping into anti-panic mode.
If you have a Petzl Grigri 2 then you know that you just expect it to perform well. It’s as solid as anything can be. Consumers that have used the Grigri and Grigri 2 are going to expect the same level of quality and performance for the Grigri +. Petzl optimized the Grigri + for a wide range of single ropes, sizes 8.9mm – 10.5. We didn’t test with any ropes outside that range because we don’t have access to any. The gym were we did some of our testing has 10.2mm top ropes and it fed smoothly with those as well as the Tendon Master Pro 9.2 rope that we used for the skinny rope testing. The Petzl Grigri + performed well with ropes of all diameters. The fatter ropes of course had more friction than the skinnier ropes, but all were able to managed well in the expected ways.
For lead climbing we found the GriGri + to function exactly like the Grigri 2. The only difference was that the familiar lip, that most of us use to tuck our index finger under to help hold the Grigri 2 while we pull slack through. isn’t there. In it’s place is a smaller protruding nub. Not as big as the lip, but it gets the job done. The top rope setting does what it says it’s supposed to do. It limits the amount of slack rope allowed to run through the system when the brake is engaged. I have to guess that the reason this feature was added is that if someone is on top rope and falls or hangs they tend to want to keep every inch that they gained when trying the route. The switch on the Grigri + to go between modes is easy to use, as long as you don’t engage the lock. The button that locks the switch from moving from the desired setting is kind of a pain to push far enough into the switch to release the lock. It might be that I just have fat fingers so I can’t push far enough into it to release. We usually had to use a nut tool or rock or something to press the button. In the end we just stopped using the lock. If I were to loan it to a lesser experienced climber that was belaying on top rope I would probably engage the lock to ensure it stays in the top rope mode, but I think most of the time I’ll just leave it unlocked. The switch is fairly stiff and not prone to moving on it’s own without a strong twist.
The one place that we had a little trouble with the anti-panic function was with lowering light-weight climbers on top rope in they gym. The high friction from the top rope anchors combined with the light-weight climber made it harder to find that sweet spot of lowering without engaging the anti-panic function. Additionally, we figured out that you can actually override the anti-panic function by just pulling the handle all the way back. The handle changes angles when the anti-panic function kicks in so it makes it harder and less likely for someone to override it, but it is possible if someone is determined.
We think the Petzl Grigri + is a solid belay device. Most of our testers liked it for it’s added anti-panic function and top rope mode. The stainless steel wear plate is a bonus that adds value to the consumer. This belay device will be with you for a long time. When queried, most of our testers said that they would likely still use their Grigri 2 most of the time for lead climbing because of familiarity, size and weight. Consumers will have to decide how much they want these added features because of the 50% price premium, $149 vs. $99 for the Grigri 2. If you spend most of your time in they gym top roping, or in the desert with sand covered ropes that wear out metal gear quickly then the Grigri + might just be the best belay device for you.