Finally, a braking assisted belay device that can do it all!
The variety and use of braking assisted belay devices are continuously expanding. Edelrid got into the game with the original Mega Jul in 2012 and the simple, effective, and durable device won many fans, including this author. Braking assistance with the Edelrid Jul system requires no cams or springs; it uses the geometry of the device and a belay carabiner notch to jam the rope in the device. These devices are lighter and offer more options, such as double rope rappelling and guide mode, than most cam-actuated belay devices.
What’s the problem?
Edelrid’s minimalist yet flexible approach to braking assistance in the Maga Jul and other Jul units has many desirable traits but it isn’t perfect. Scenarios common to multi-pitch and alpine climbing exposes these shortcomings. Guide mode involves a potentially confusing reversed rope direction and pulling the ropes through the device is often challenging. Rappelling can be tricky as overcoming the braking assist can be difficult and pulling up close to the anchor can cause inadvertent locking (it is possible to rappel with the device upside-down, nullifying the braking assist). Finally, giving a dynamic, anchor saving belay is problematic.
The Giga Jul became available in April and Edelrid’s solution to the issues in other Jul units is a simple yet elegant mechanism. A slider moves across the device to block the notch that allows the belay carabiner to jam, and you flip the device around so that standard V-notches engage the brake side of the ropes and keep the Jul thumb loop out of the way, transforming the braking assisted device to a tuber.
The ability to act as a standard tuber improves functionality in all the situations where less friction is advantageous and a braking assist mechanism would be problematic including dynamic belays and rappels.
The Edelrid Giga Jul accepts ropes from 7.1 mm to 10.0 mm, with an optimal single rope diameter of 8.6 mm to 9.7 mm for braking assisted mode. The MSRP is $50.
Firstly, the device is much larger and heavier than any of the other Juls. Our sample’s verified weight is 4.4 ounces and it is roughly twice as big as a Mega Jul.
The device shares the durable and sustainability-oriented composite construction with many of Edelrid’s hardware; aluminum for weight savings and stainless steel for resistance to rope induced wear.
Belaying from below with braking assistance was similar to the other Edelrid Jul units; the braking assistance wasn’t as static or as quick to lock as many camming devices. Disengaging a rope lock was similar to other Jul units, and lowering was smoother than a Mega Jul.
Rappelling in assisted mode felt a bit freer than the Mega Jul, but it’s still wasn’t as smooth or easy to manage compared to tubers. Belaying from below and rappelling in tuber mode, felt like, well, a tuber. Dynamic belays were easy to perform.
Set up for the non-assisted guide mode was simpler than the Mega Jul as the bights enter in the “normal” direction. Feeding rope felt similar to guide mode on other tuber devices, which is a large improvement over the Mega Jul. Swapping leads at the belay station in assisted mode does require rope removal from the device; continuing in tuber mode does not. The Giga Jul can also be used in assisted braking mode to belay off an anchor. I didn’t get to catch a fall off an anchor for this First Look.
Is the Edelrid Giga Jul the ultimate belay device?
The Giga Jul lives a double life of a braking-assisted belay device and a tuber, providing versatility that is especially valuable in alpine and multi-pitch climbing. It is heavier than other Jul devices but still weighs significantly less other braking assisted devices. The one main concern with the device is that dirt or ice could interfere with the slider.
Is it the ultimate belay device? For this tester, it the current device of choice for alpine and multi-pitch for all the mentioned reasons. I still prefer cam assisted devices for single pitch applications, but the Edlerid Giga Jul potentially simplifies my gear choices for more complex climbing situations. Continued testing and use will determine if the Edelrid Giga Jul becomes the permanent go-to on alpine and multi-pitch outings.