Review Black Diamond ATC Pilot

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JanoSA
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Review Black Diamond ATC Pilot

Post by JanoSA » Tue Jan 23, 2018 9:16 am

I'll start off by saying I am very picky when it comes to belay devices.

Was honestly skeptical about the excellent reviews the ATC Pilot got upon release. I have owned or tested the original BD ATC, ATC guide, Wild country Pro guide light, Singing Rock Shuttle, Mammut Smart & Alpine, and both Grigri 1 & 2. The Pilot is shaping up to be my new favorite device for Sport and single rope lead belay.

The Grigri 2 used to be my gold standard as it did what I needed very well. My only gripe with it was you had to be very aware of your hand positioning then paying out slack quickly to a leader, otherwise it is an awesome device. The Mammut Smart did a decent job as well, but it just had too much friction to my liking and tended to snag when you least expect it.

The ATC pilot improves on both of these devices more than enough to justify picking it up. It locks up instantly on all diameters tested (9.5, 9.8 & 10.2) and really inspires enough confidence in its abilities to hand to even the noob-est of belayers, yet is smooth and predictable enough when handled properly to easily chuck out loads of slack on demand and still belay safely. When I say handle properly, I don't mean anything technical either. Keep it upright for slow feeding, and lightly catch he thumb loop for fast pay-outs, and you are all set. The Mammut would require a fair amount of pressure to pay out quickly, & even then it had a bit too much friction to my liking. The Pilot requires the lightest of upward pressure and is much smoother.

It also improves on the Grigri 2 a little and massively improves on the Smart when it comes to lowering. The sweet spot for effective control of lowering speed is very wide and predictable. Unlike the Mammut devices, the type of carabiner seems to have very little effect on performance, so it's a lot less finicky. Tested with skinny ovals, burly round HMS Biners, old steel ones and modern hot forget Biners. All performed more than satisfactorily.

The pilot is also smaller/lighter than I expected after handling the Smart devices.

Lastly, the device does lock off very effectively during a fall. Even with light to no tension on the brake strand. It does so like a champ. There is a tiny bit of slippage with lighter climbers during a static hang. If my 45kg partner just sits down on the rope without force, it would slip at around 3mm per second if all tension was removed from the brake strand. Not a deal breaker by any means, just something to be aware of. Very light tension has to be kept on the brake end to keep the climber in the same spot.

Overall, I am exceedingly happy with this device. It is highly likely that it will replace my Grigri for daily use.

If you are looking for a assisted locking device for sports climbing, I highly recommend the ATC Pilot. Would I recommend it if you already have a Grigri 1, absolutely. If you have a Grigri 2 or +? Only if you have money to burn, must be the coolest guy at the crag, or are very weight conscious.

Would I buy it again? Absolutely!

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Justin
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Re: Review Black Diamond ATC Pilot

Post by Justin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 9:25 am

Nice review :thumleft:

I'm certainly keen to get one for personal use - I've recently been test driving a Salewa Ergo (basically the same thing) and have been very impressed all round.
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JanoSA
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Re: Review Black Diamond ATC Pilot

Post by JanoSA » Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:47 am

Thanks Justin

Was very tempted to try the Salewa Ergo as you get a free biner as part of the kit for a little bit less, but didn't feel like the hassle of importing. They look to be pretty much the same device. Might just be subtle differences in geometry of the camming action. I see the Ergo uses more metal in its construction though. The majority of the main body seems to be aluminium with stainless steel inserts similar to the Mammut devices I believe? With the Pilot, the top 1/3 is a single piece of cast stainless, but the entire bottom 2/3 is a composite material. Thus suspect the Salewa might be more resistant to heavy abuse.


Glad to hear the Ergo is treating you well. Where did you pick it up from, if you don't mind me asking Justin?

Fitness
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Re: Review Black Diamond ATC Pilot

Post by Fitness » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:21 pm

Thanks for the review.
Been undecided for awhile now about which device to buy and it was between the Lifeguard, The grigri or the pilot.
Think you’ve helped me make up my mind 👍🏼

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Justin
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Re: Review Black Diamond ATC Pilot

Post by Justin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:27 pm

I haven't look that closely. One thing I can say is that the Pilot has a groove for the rope to run into the device. The Ergo does not.

The Ergo, belongs to a regular client who visits often from Europe.
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robertbreyer
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Re: Review Black Diamond ATC Pilot

Post by robertbreyer » Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:24 pm

At CityROCK in Johannesburg, we have fixed in place Grigris 2s to all our top ropes.
For the new Cape Town gym, we tested the BD Pilot extensively as a candidate for our top rope belay device. We tested the Pilot for some weeks in fact, both on top rope and lead.
We also evaluated the Salewa Ergo.
The Pilot and Ergo are very similar in design, yet the Pilot is better, smoother, safer.
In the end we stuck with the good old Grigri 2.
For 2 reasons: the Pilot is too new, and it's never a good idea to go with an unproven device in such a safety-critical device. Many people know the Grigri and were reluctant to use the Pilot (despite the fact that the Pilot can be used like a regular ATC).
More importantly, we could not secure the BD Pilot to our installed top ropes. Otherwise we would have bought 200 of them from BD.
The cost of the BD Pilot is R700, vs. R1,325 for the Petzl Grigri 2. So considering the Pilot price point, it's a no-brainer in my opinion.
https://www.mountainmailorder.co.za/bla ... 00254.html

- Robert
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Old Smelly
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Re: Review Black Diamond ATC Pilot

Post by Old Smelly » Wed Jan 24, 2018 9:13 am

Try it - I was pleasantly surprised at how well it works and how smooth the action is. I do not need a new belay device and it certainly is a dedicated single pitch sports climbing device but it is simple and easy to use and I think it is a winner - well done BD!
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

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Justin
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Re: Review Black Diamond ATC Pilot

Post by Justin » Mon Mar 26, 2018 1:27 pm

Been playing with the Pilot recently - lovely device !!
I've been using it on 10mm and 9.1mm ropes - I'm very impressed.
Well done BD 8)
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zabullet
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Re: Review Black Diamond ATC Pilot

Post by zabullet » Mon Mar 26, 2018 8:39 pm

I recently changed to the Edelrid Mega Jul (because I can use if for dual wielding trad ropes) which I'm pretty happy with in comparison to the the ATC I had before considering the safety margin in introduces. It didn't take much getting used to. Even when I accidentally locked it up with was a breeze to unlock.

zb.

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