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ATC-XP
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ATC-XP
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ATC-XP
Black Diamond
$19.95

Like the Trango Jaws, the ATC-XP has 2 different modes of operation, depending on how you thread it. In BD parlance it's a "variable-friction belay and rappel device." That means that in regular-friction position it functions just like your tried and true ATC or tuber and is fine for almost everything. In the reverse position however it has significantly more friction. It manages this through a series of contoured teeth, affording you almost total control over your descent. I found that this mode worked great with dissimilar diameter ropes, long free-hanging rappels and even using my 8 mm rap line by itself. The tall separation fin between the two rope holes served to help keep the ropes separated and less prone to kinking. I noticed a difference between this and many other rappel devices when I used it with my 8.8 doubles. I was able to feed any size rope less than 11 mm with ease and it caught falls from little drops to big whippers with aplomb. Rapping on my 10.2 and 8 mm rap line together was absolutely no problem in the high-friction mode, something that bothers a lot of folks using a garden variety device.

So, the ATC-XP is better than your basic tuber or ATC style unit. But in this day and age almost everything is multi-function...how does it stack up there? Well, surprisingly enough, the ATC-XP is a single-function device. You can't use it in auto-locking mode a-la the Reverso or the B-52. While that makes it simple and a cinch to use, it also significantly limits its flexibility. I'm not sure how many folks are actually using all the features of these other devices, but having that flexibility certainly adds to their value. And while you can argue that the Reverso doesn't do all that well with skinny ropes, it's easy enough to increase friction by adding another carabiner to the system to increase friction, so that's a non-issue.

Price-wise BD's new baby lists at a svelte $19.95 and is available in 3 attractive colors. It's a very solid device, without being overly heavy. I like the ATC-XP, for what it is. I just wish it did more.

Conclusion:  The ATC-XP does what it does very well. It feeds smoothly, catches falls with the best of 'em and deals with all the different rope combinationss you can throw at it in all situations. Unfortunately even a great single-function device at this price point is hard to justify. With the Reverso coming in at $21 and the B-52 at $23.95, the price difference isn't compelling enough. If all you need is a replacement for your venerable basic belay device, the ATC-XP is an excellent choice. If you think you'll ever want more, try one of the multi-function devices.

Details: 89 g (3.1 oz), in Blue, Gray or Orange

Al Hospers
September 2003

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