OK so you've all heard my anti-gri gri rant before on KOTR. I'll skip that part (gri-gri's do of course have their advantages and place). Post M&G where we did a few climbs, raps and belays I thought I'd put this out there especially for those who are looking to get a belay tool/ or yet without one (Sigi!
Personally I love using my Petzl reverso
. This site gives you all the info as well as a lovely instructional video to show you what I'm saying here.
It's as simple as a regular tube-style belay tool (think Trango Pyramid/ Black Diamond ATC/ Metolius BRD), but I find it easier to feed the loops of rope in. No need to bite down on that loop to squish it into the thin slot. Also it is solid metal. The loops which stop you from dropping it are solid metal. They never need replacing, nor do they get abraded or kinked. This can happen with regular tube-style tools.
In regular "off the harness" mode with a locking crab through the big metal loop and rope) it is a normal bottom (ground) belay tool. The stamped pictures of climber and hand make it improbable to wrongly rig...and even if you did get it upside down, it would still function.
Rigged for a top belay (like on multi-pitches for a second coming up below you) it is linked through the smaller metal loop with a seperate carabiner catching the loop of rope. IMPORTANT!!! This seperate carabiner must be a locking 'biner and works a lot better if it is a BIG round cross section HMS type biner. Smaller 'biners work, but make taking in the slack a good work-out. Rigged this way, the reverso is self locking. That is, if your secong slips and falls the reverso automatically locks tight on the rope. You don't need to hold the brake rope hard at all - THOUGH OF COURSE YOU SHOULD NEVER TAKE YOUR HAND OFF THE BRAKE ROPE EVER - EVEN WITH AUTO-LOCKING BELAY TOOLS (it's a bad habit). That said, you can
take your hand off, to fiddle with gear, eat a snack, take a photo etc. The rope will only feed in one direction - taking slack in. This is great for top-belays but terrible if bottom-belaying (rig it standard way for that).
As a rappel tool, it's quite smooth and the large surface area dissipates heat pretty well (important so you don't burn your rope)...though I think my Trango Pyramid is a touch better at this. Figure 8's are designed as rappel tools (not as belay tools!) and give the smoothest rappel. Rappeling on double (2) ropes is good, though to be honest, it can be hard to get going at the top of any long rap with the weight of a full rope pulling the brake strands down!
One idea (recommended in Rock Climbing Self Rescue Book (Andy Tyson and Molly Loomis) to make raps easier and safer is to actually attach whatever belay tool NOT TO YOUR HARNESS DIRECTLY but 12"-24" (30-60cm) forward of your harness on a girth hitched single sling etc. Why? It makes handling the brake rope less strenuous and smoother. It keeps the belay tool away from your clothes, hair and anything else that might get tangled and torn in there. Try it next time (PLEASE STILL ATTACH EXTENDED SLING TO ROPE and TOOL WITH A LOCKING BINER!).
Finally, if you somehow end up atop a pitch with no belay/rap tool and no other way down but via the rope, fear not. The Munter (HMS/ half Galveston/ Italian Clove) hitch is a fully approved (by UIAA and CE) method of belay and rappel. All it needs is a large locking carabiner, and the rope. It works well with both single and double ropes (in this case tie both ropes into ONE double thickness Munter hitch rather than two seperate Munter hitches). It will twist and kink the rope a lot, but it's a safe and easy alternative. BUT! To brake you must push the brake strand forward, NOT pull it back. This is the opposite of normal belay/ rap tools.
You should all learn the Munter hitch as well as a few other knots such as the Double Fishermans, Figure 8 (Double Figure 8), Clove Hitch and Prussik knot. If you don't know them, take a look here: