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Gear Review: Petzl NEOX - Don't Call It A GRIGRI

Gear Review: Petzl NEOX - Don't Call It A GRIGRI

Posted by Derek Newman on 14th May 2024

You’re probably wondering the same thing we thought when we first saw Petzl’s newest cam-assisted rope-blocking belay device — “Wait, isn’t that a  GRIGRI”? If the Petzl NEOX looks like the GRIGRI, loads climbing ropes like a GRIGRI, and catches like a GRIGRI, then why didn’t Petzl just call it another GRIGRI?

Petzl GRIGRI & NEOX belay devices side by side

After using the NEOX however, we feel Petzl opted for a new name because it handles like a completely new belay device. While we appreciate the similarities to the GRIGRI, meaning that seasoned GRIGRI users can pick up a NEOX and expect a near-zero learning curve, we also admire the ways in which the NEOX adds convenience to nearly every aspect of lead belaying.

Whether we’re feeding more rope, catching a climber, or lowering someone off a freshly sent route, the NEOX provides a seamless belay experience and, especially for lead belays, handles better than any belay device we’ve ever used, GRIGRI included.

What's The Difference?

The main difference between the NEOX and GRIGRI–or any other belay device for that matter–is how easy it is to pay out slack. In fact, the only device that pays slack better than the NEOX–in our experience–is a good ol’ hip belay, and needless to say, the NEOX is a whole lot more efficient, effective, and safe than a hip belay.

A close-up of the Petzl NEOX belay device while in use

How was Petzl able to enhance rope-feeding without inhibiting its assisted-blocking performance in critical climbing moments? They integrated a stainless steel wheel inside the device that you load your rope around, letting it slide through the device with very little friction while using traditional belay techniques.

When the brake strand is under tension–even small amounts–the wheel will be pulled off its axis and stops spinning, causing the cam to pivot and block the rope from sliding through. Once or twice, the wheel stopped spinning when we were feeding slack, but even when that happened, the NEOX performed more or less like a GRIGRI. It still catches falling climbers with the same assisted-blocking performance that you’d expect from the GRIGRI, but as for simply paying slack, the NEOX handled our 9.8mm with very few snags.

The Petzl NEOX open showing the spinning wheel inside

You’d assume that thicker climbing ropes would get stuck more than skinnier ropes just like any belay device. Sure, thicker ropes stick a little bit more than skinnier ropes, but using a thicker rope in the NEOX is arguably easier than using a skinny rope in the GRIGRI. This gives an advantage to climbers who prefer using thicker ropes.

In Use

In order to test the difference in paying out slack between the GRIGRI and NEOX, we used a pulley system with a five pound weight tied to the end of a climbing rope. Five pounds of force was not enough to engage the blocking system on the NEOX without the belayer taking action, allowing the weight to lower all the way to the ground.

On the other hand, the five pound weight was enough to engage the blocking system on the GRIGRI without the belayer touching the system. As soon as we bumped it up to ten pounds, both the NEOX and the GRIGRI’s blocking systems engaged immediately, stopping the weight from lowering down further.

This result illustrated that the NEOX does in fact pay out slack more easily while still providing a solid belay for any fall that generates more than five pounds of force, which is a given for any lead fall.

But despite their differences, the NEOX and the GRIGRI are more alike than they are different. Both devices feature the same range of rope diameter compatibility, and the rope installs in the same manner on both as well. The best similarity is the handling, which is essentially the same. There’s no need to modify our belay technique when switching between devices. It’s just one less thing to think about, and we think it was a smart choice on Petzl’s part.

How the climbing rope loads around the wheel of the Petzl NEOX belay device

Keeping an easy learning curve is a great way for Petzl to introduce us to the new NEOX Belay Device. Although its handling and looks mimic the GRIGRI, once you get your hands on it you will understand why Petzl’s calling it something new.

Conclusion

If we were to categorize it with Petzl’s collection of assisted braking devices, the NEOX is ideal for lead climbing. The GRIGRI is great for belaying both lead and top rope, and with its anti-panic handle, the GRIGRI+ is optimal for top rope and learning.

Close-up of the front of the Petzl NEOX belay device

At $150, the NEOX tacks on an extra $40 to the GRIGRI, which is basically what you’re paying for a snag-free slack-paying experience. For some, that’s a worthy expense to replace their GRIGRI devices. For others, the GRIGRI is great enough. I personally have tennis elbow and will gladly pay the extra $40 for less impact each time my climber wants more slack than I’ve already dished out.

You can find the GRIGRI and GRIGRI+ here at Campman, and the NEOX will be available in June 2024.

About the Author

Derek Newman

Born in the Wasatch, Derek has had an affinity for mountain life since day one. He was on skis the year he learned to walk, and as a high school graduation present he gifted himself rock climbing lessons. Nearly two decades later, Derek spends most of his time climbing up and/or skiing down most of the mountains around Salt Lake City, and he's traveled around the world multiple times for the sole purpose of peak exploration. When he isn't a man about camp, he's working in Campman's content marketing crew writing up blogs about backcountry skiing or rock climbing as well as describing products that he's used personally. He's climbed in most climbing shoes, toured on most backcountry skis, and ridden the resort on skis, snowboards, and even some evac sleds.

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