Petzl - I'D S, Self-Braking Descender

Top 10 Best Descenders for Climbing & Rappelling Single & Multi-Pitches

Sometimes called abseilbremse’s, desscenders act as a rope break which allows for a controlled descend down a pitch for the rappeler or climber. Speed is controlled and stopping is made easy. The rappellers hand no longer have to do the heavy lifting

Here are the top 10 best descenders available on the market today. We have rigorously tested each and take into consideration value + quality . For the full review of each, check further down on the page. Let’s get to it.

 I.D.ModelUtilityFeatures RatingCompare Prices
#1
Black Diamond Air Pilot Package Belay Device

Black Diamond

Black Diamond Air Pilot° Single Rope Climbing ATC° Full Synthetic Build

°Includes ATC Pilot and Grid Biner

° 8.7-10.5 mm Line

° Great frictional balance on pinched ropes
4.2/5 Compare Prices
#2
PETZL Rack, Descender

PETZL

PETZL Rack° Recreational Rappelling

° Recreational Climbing

°Rappel Rescue
° Bars are fully adjustable anytime

° Non-twisting line capable

° Lightweight

°Stainless Steel with Aluminum Bars

° Use with single (9-13mm) and double (8-11mm) line
4.3/5 Compare Prices
#3Sterling Rope F4 Descent DeviceSterling Rope F4° Tactical Rappelling and Climbing

° Firefighting Rescue
° Lightweight

° Auto-locking

°Great for horzontal movement

° Certifiable escape device
4.4/5 Compare Prices
#4
Petzl Pro Rig

PETZL

Petzl Pro Rig° Recreational
Rappelling

° Recreational
Climbing

° Mountaineering
° Auto-lock system/self-braking

° 400 g

° Able to lower heavy loads up to 200kg

4.5/5 Compare Prices
#5Petzl GriGri° Recreational Rappel

° Recreational Climbing
° Top rope belay mode

° Great with single lines between 8.9-10.5 mm in diameter but can house outside of this range

° Reduction handle for excellent descent control

° Good locking mechanism
4.6/5 Compare Prices
#6
Climbing Technology Alpine-up Belay Device + Hms

ALPINE UP

Alpine-up Belay° Recreational
Rappelling

° Recreational
Climbing

° Mountaineering

° Alpining
° Dynamic Belay Mode

° Excellent locking mechanism

° Lightweight
4.6/5 Compare Prices
#7
PETZL Stop, Self-Braking Descender, Black

PETZL

Petzl Stop° Recreational Rappel

° Recreational Climbing

° Constructional
° Self breaking

° Lightweight at 326 grams

° Stainless steel frame/aluminum bars

°Good for short rappelling
4.8/5 Compare Prices
#8
CAMP Goblin Fall Arrester

CAMP

CAMP Goblin Fall Arrester
° Recreational Rappel

° Recreational Climbing

°Rappel Rescue
° Great for semi-static 10 to 11mm diameter line

° Descension and ascension with a button click

°Auto-lock mechanism
4.8/5 Compare Prices
#9
EDELRID - Eddy Belay Device, Night

EDELRID

EDELRID -Eddy
° Recreational
Rappelling

° Recreational
Climbing

° Mountaineering

° Alpining
° Emergency break system

° Large lever to aid in descent

° Made for 9.0-11 mm diameter line

° Excellent Lead Feed Belay
4.9/5 Compare Prices
#10
Petzl - I'D S, Self-Braking Descender

PETZL

Petzl - I'D S, Self-Braking Descender° Recreational
Rappelling

° Recreational
Climbing

° Mountaineering

° Alpining

° Rescue

° Self-braking

° Pivoting cam function

° Anti-Error and Anti-Panic Functions

° Ascender clamp

° Locking screw for Rescue kit
5/5 Compare Prices

Using a descender for your rig is fairly simple. There are a myriad of different types of descenders available but you should always go for the more tried and true options that last and will give you a great return on investment. For instance, a snake descender, although cheaper in price then a rack descender, will not give you as much safety and are hardly used nowadays.

Most descenders are linked to a line and function to work together with the rappellers seat harness. Control is accomplished because of the friction produced between the line and the descender itself.

A word on descent friction…

The amount of friction produced correlates with how much downward force is applied to the braking end or a line. The breaking end of a rope is the segment of the rope closest to the ground). The rappeler/climber is the one who controls the force like a jedi would! (Don’t mind the Star Wars reference).

The force can also be gauged and controlled by the group member that has already made it to the next station/ground level. Therefore, the friction produced by BOTH the line and the descender will work to become great enough to hold the rappellers full load. If the rig is setup correctly, the rappeler shouldn’t need more than a few fingers to descend. That is the beauty of having a descender in place.

A word on temperature control..

While you are descending, you will be producing heat via the kinetic energy which is a natural byproduct of descending, so don’t lose your mind if you feel that the rope is heating up! Your line’s fibers (specifically the kern and mantle) rub into each other causing friction. However, this is a smaller amount of friction produced than the friction amount between the descender and rappeler.

The total amount of heat generated will depend on the rappeller’s weight and the distance of the rappel. The actual temperature generated is due to these factors plus the speed the rappeler is going. The faster the hotter. Humidity also plays a part. So the descender is the mechanism that converts the kinetic energy into heat energy then releases it into the atmosphere. You will also be producing sound when the line comes in contact with a metal component of the descender.

Descender Construct

Most descenders are made of similar material groups:

  • Aluminum
  • Stainless steal
  • Steel
  • Synthetic plastics

Steel will keep your descender durable and long lasting. Steel wears very gradually but the downside is that steel is heavy and will eventually rust from  natural climate conditions. The reason we don’t want it to rust is because of the adverse effects rust will have on your ropes!

Dural aluminum will be most prominent in your descenders. Alloy 7075 in particular. This material is the strongest and least abrasive of the bunch but will also come with a stiffer price point. Dural can, however, be bent into retirement if stressed to no return, so do not think they are damage-proof. You will achieve low weight, greater friction and excellent thermal conductivity with aluminum descenders.

Dural conducts heat energy 3x greater than mild steel and 8x more than stainless steel.  Thus, frictional heat is conducted away from the surface of the line much quicker with aluminum. Thus, less surface heat  will keep your ropes bomb-proof longer than it would with steel  materials. The reason this is so important is that if you are using a synthetic line, you will want to keep the heat abrasion to a minimum because your lines WILL be affected.

Be careful when using aluminum descenders. One of the bigger issues with aluminum is the natural softness you get with it. Eventually your line will have notches in it caused by normal use. Make sure you are using clean ropes with your descenders!

How do I treat/clean my descenders?

You can help prolong the life of your descenders by anodizing them before you store them. There are plenty of anodizers out there but the one we use is the the Ano-dye by Interactivia. Anodizing your rappel will ensure that the underlying aluminum is protected from corrosive and abrasive impact. The Dye actually creates a coat of film on the top layer of the metal. You want to make sure that that the coat is about .0016+ inches thick so that it can last you thru a few pitches before having to re-apply.

Make sure your rope is free from grime, sand and grit so that the layer of dye doesn’t shred off on one pitch! The anodizer is made to take on these types of abrasive particles but that doesn’t mean to be stop being careful what your line comes in contact with.

Something to think about: When your line comes in contact with bare aluminum it will darken in color, almost coal black. If you just invested money in an aesthetically pleasing rope, the last thing you want to do is discolor it. So avoid having your line come in contact with an unprotected layer of aluminum!

Picture a hybrid between a high quality GriGri and a standard ATC. That's what you get with the Black Diamond Pilot. We love the thumb hook system! You would hold the Pilot with your thumb so that you can pay out the line quicker! This is designed to create a much larger loop then with most ATC descender systems.However it does not have a lead loop.

When you feed the line with the Pilot you will notice how smooth it is. It is designed with safety in mind and catching a lead fall is very simple with it. As you move your thumb away you would release the device in order for the Pilot to push directly against your biner.

The internal teeth of the Pilot along with your downward tug of the line creates a nice soft catch in your lead climber were to fall. The Pilot is also excellent for belaying of a top rope climber. The lowering design is excellent in that you would just need to grab the pilot in one of your hands and then tilt backwards or forwards to control speed of your descent.


Improvements: Single rope climbing only. Not a rappel descender  so versatility is an issue. Also, lacks a lead loop. All in all excellent for indoor/outdoor climbing.

Rating: 4.2/5

The Petzl Rack is very light and is great as far as security is concerned because the frame is made of stainless steel. Make sure that if you are using this rack not to use passed 100 m pitches/strings. In our opinion this is the best rack for rappelling and we have tested it on multiple trips.

Improvements: Most racks come with 6 horizontal bars and this one comes with 5. The bars are aluminum and we wish the the frame was aluminum as well but some prefer stainless for strength purposes. Look to get a non locking oval carabiner in conjunction with this rack. Those work then better with this rack than other types of carabiners. The bars have swung free a few times so be careful when gripping down. We also advise on using a Prussik trapped below your equipment for additional safety measures

Rating: 4.3/5

 

The Sterling F4 is generally used as an emergency egress descender for Firefighters or for other tactical rescue teams. We have to have it in our list because it is one of the most durable descenders on the market today. It is UL certified to NFPA 1983. We would use sterling 7.5-9mm escape line with this descender although other lines that fall inside of that size guideline may also be used.

This descender is easy to rig, in that all you need to do is pass the rope through each hole, threading it like as with your shoe laces. Make sure it goes through the bottom hole including the handle.

You will achieve excellent horizontal movement with the F4. The Auto Locking feature allows you to exit out from a dangerous zone hands free. to descend, you would use one hand on the brake line and the other holding the lever , gently releasing tension on the brake hand. To stop, you would let go of the lever. Fairly simple.

Improvements: None besides the fact that you should use this device to rappel in tactical rescue missions only. For every F4 sold, 1$ gets donated to the National Fallen Firefighters foundation, so even plenty more incentive to grab one of these if you are into tactical rescue.

Rating: 4.4/5

 

We love the Pro Rig by Petzl! It was made for rope access technicians but we use it in our recreational rappels!

It allows the user to position themselves and easily stop when needed by using the handle to lock/block the rope. It super compact and easy to use to make descending pretty easy. We like it just as much as the GriGri but a little bit more than the stop because of its modern appeal. It is unlike most traditional descenders out other. The original version was not as user friendly so kudos to Petzl for getting on board with this one.

We like that you can open both cheeks open without taking the device off your harness. It locks up automatically when letting go which has helped significantly over the old model. Another great thing about the Pro is that you can pay rope up while it's in the lock position. The best range is between 10-11.5mm rope. Also always try and use kernmantle ropes with the Pro.

The Pro is great for lead climbing and competitive events as a belay!

Improvement: Avoid using double braid ropes, as they will tend to slip and you will fall slightly bunching up your harness, assuming you are using one.

Rating: 4.5/5

We love the anti panic feature on the new GriGri by Petzl! It has a keeper on the backside that prevents the rope from coming out and also prevents slipping when you're lead belaying!

We love the low profile thumb catch on the GriGri. It is very lightweight at 175 grams and uses a rope diameter between 8.5-11mm but is best used with lines between 8.9-10.5.

We love the lowering control achieved with the GriGri. You really get a smooth more efficient climb down the line with it. You also get a toggle switch that moves between the top rope and lead belay on the back end and also the steel insert on the face plate helps with durability.

Improvements: You will not be able to rappel at too fast a speed because of the safety auto-locking mechanism so this descender is great for newbies.

Rating: 4.6/5

Alpine-Up by Climbing Technology is absolutely perfect for any ADC style pitch and has a very nice click-up technology through the center to make it easy to house a double rope rig. CT throws in a carabiner as well in this bundle.

It is not as big as you may think but very effective. There are less moving parts so it is easy to understand and maneuver. The lever works great and it even has instructions written on it. The line moves up and down the descender very freely. Slacking is easy with it. You can use it normally if you are dynamic belaying and abseiling (rappelling). You can feed rope through it just as good as most GriGri's on the market as well.

The click up mode works pretty well. You can use it with 7.7 mm half line up to 10.5mm line.

Improvements: This descender is not the easiest to use so we advise against it for newbie rappellers and climbers. Price may be an issue for some but this is an outstanding belay descender for more advanced users. It is also not easy to get the right carabiner for it (size wise). We would use the one it comes with and then find the right replica when you need to replace.  It leaves a fine gap for the biner to not as easily pass through. The holes can have been made a little bigger for the biners to pass through, especially in dynamic mode. The plates are flexible so you have to be very careful not to put stress on them by using the wrong biner.

Rating: 4.6/5

    7|Petzl Stop

    If you are serious about rappelling or rock climbing then the Petzl Stop is a great place begin your journey. We prefer it to a typical rack because of its multifunctionality in both ascending and descending. Great for any size climber/rappeler. We would use a 11mm rope in conjunction with the Stop, but it is approved for 9mm-12mm diameter line.

    For rappelling the Stop works great. It utilizes a self braking mechanism that we tested and it did a solid job with being able to hold your position on the line. It is fairly easy to use (install and uninstall pretty quickly). It is lightweight so it won't add much carry weight onto your gear.

    If you are trying to ascend, this tool is great for short distance ascension pitches only. The bobbins are made out of aluminum bobbins which is durable and long lasting. Foot loop works pretty well.

    Improvements: Not as versatile as others and is only recommended for single rope pitches only . Great build all in all. You will be very pleased with this descender.

    Rating: 4.8/5

    8|CAMP Goblin

    CAMP Goblin Fall Arrester

    We absolutely love the simplicity of putting the Camp Goblin to use! The release latch is made with extreme durability and is extremely smooth up and down the line when it is properly oriented. When you add  jerk pressure it locks up perfectly. It also has a locking tab to manually stop.  Great for rope access work and is designed for all fall-arrest applications so you can use it while descending down a cliff.

    The locking lever completely disengages itself so that you avoid any amount of friction on the line.  The actioning lever locks up immediately at fall speed.  The internal mechanisms will not be affected by dirt,  grime or chemical particles at all!

    With the Goblin, you will not need an energy absorber to be coupled with it and can be linked to a standard connector. You can even add more control by using a lanyard and holding onto it with your top hand.

    This descender/ascender feels like it follows you up and down the line more so than any other dual threat we've ever used. The lock button is a nice touch. It is rated for rescue use at 440lbs max so if you are trying to help rescue a rappeler/climber make sure that your weight + their weight falls under this threshold.

    Improvements: It may not work work with thicker carabiners as the carabiner attachment may be made a little too small.

    This is the smoothest descender on the market, in our opinion.

    Rating:4.8/5

    If you are looking for an all around descender that is durable for lead climbing, rock climbing, rappelling, and top roping then the Eddy is what you are looking for. They do great with 11mm rope. If you go with a 9mm, it may get a little too fast for you so be careful. It's an industrial style all-stainless steel device. In our opinion, you will not find a device that will give you as much locking security as the Eddy.

    We started using the Eddy back in 2008 and we have yet to witness wear marks on the casing or door! In our opinion you will not find a stronger device at this price point. They are laced backwards from a GriGri and more like a ATC device. Climber laces it on the front and wraps it around the back of the device.

    The way you would unlock is you would put your thumb in the middle of the device, push down with your thumb and release line that way, so it is fairly easy to do. The anti panic feature adds even more to the locking security of this device.

    The button is different from a GriGri in that when you grab onto it you will not be able to re-engage your fellow climber using your thumb. It is locked until released. That being said never let go with your break hand, ever! Test by jerking it to make sure it locks! We never had a problem with the Eddy as far as locking when needed.

    We love the steel arm,  as it will not bend at all. You don't want flexion in the arm because it may end up breaking when you are trying to tow a group member if the weight is too much.

    Improvement: The only drawback is paying out the rope quickly when you are lead climbing. If you pull out line too fast the device will automatically lock up. So we do not recommend it as a lead device. We would stick to 10-11mm ropes with the Eddy.

    Rating: 4.9/5

    10|Petzl – I’D S, Self-Braking

    The Petzl I’D S is the Godfather of all other descenders! You can count on it to come through for you whether you need a quick stop while descending or even if you need to ascend back up for whatever reason. We love how ergonomically sound it is. A very comfortable descender, indeed.

     The I’D S is made with difficult access pitches and rescue in mind. Make sure to use a 10.5 -11mm diameter line in conjunction with this baby! The descender can handle loads up to 440lbs.

    Pictured: Lock engaged

    The uncanny control with the I’D S cannot be overstated. You will be able to stay in position without having to tie off the device. The lift handle works extremely well and will  provide quick access to the descenders functions.

    Also…

    To control your speed while descending, you would keep your position and just lock the handle. The handle utilizes a compact carrying position so it avoids getting caught on any objects that may be in the way.

    When you need smooth movement( walking down an incline or horizontal movement) You would just press the button! You will be able to belay the lead rappeler using climbing technique, which is made easy with the I’D S.

    Pictured: Rappeler using smooth movement over edge

    You can also make small ascensions back up your line with this ascender. One of the best features about this descender is the ease of creating a quick reversible haul system/rescue rig in case one of your group members gets injured on the pitch. You will be able to pick off lower and evacuate your group member fairly simply.

    If the rappeler loses control during the descent, the natural reflex of the user will tug hard on the handle or cause snag.  The I’D S yet again comes through! The integrated anti-panic function auto engages to break and then stop the descent! If you rigged the line backwards, a clamp locks down immobilizing you!

    So..

    Improvements: None. We use this descender on all of our medium-very difficult rappel pitches as well as single and double pitches. The safety gate located on the bottom of the I’D S prevents dropping the device, makes passing intermediate anchors easy, and facilitates installing and uninstalling the device anywhere along your line!  You will love all the functionalities of the I’D S and it will quickly become your favorite piece of gear!

    Rating: 5.0/5

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