Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

TRANGO Cinch – A Belayer’s Best Friend

So let’s say hypothetically that your favorite climbing partner’s birthday was coming up, and you were looking for the perfect gift to give to the person that holds your life in their hands week after week.  You could probably be successful with the token REI gift card or treat them to a post-climbing feast – climbers generally aren’t that hard to please.  But if you wanted to be a little more selfish efficient in your gift-giving, you would do well to consider the TRANGO Cinch, as odds are it’ll make you both happy.

 Why your belayer will like it…

– Feeds like a dream.
– Compact and lightweight.
– Fits a wide range of rope sizes.
– Choice of 4 sexy colors  

Why YOU will like it…

– Cheaper than the Grigri.
– It’s easy to feed out as much rope as needed while still keeping the brake hand on.
– Repeated use won’t make obnoxious twists and kinks in your rope. 

Still need convincing?

When lead-belaying, the Cinch feeds out so smoothly that the first few times I used it, I had to triple and quadruple-check to make sure it was set up correctly.  There’s no herky-jerkies, just a steady pay out of rope as fast as I need it.  It’s small and weighs 20% less than the Grigri, so I don’t even mind when I accidentally take it up with me when its my turn to climb.  It seems like ropes are getting skinnier and skinnier these days, so it’s great that Trango has found an innovative design that can accommodate the smaller cords.  One of the best parts, however, is that after a long day on the rock, I can neatly flake my rope back into the pack without any of those annoying kinks and twists as with other auto-locking devices.  

I’ve heard a lot of people say that a major drawback to the Cinch is when the climber is working out the moves on a route, and therefore weighting and unweighting the rope in quick succession.  And initially I agreed.  I found that when my climber said, “Okay, on me,” it sometimes took me a couple of extra seconds to “release” them.  As it turns out I just needed to change my hand position slightly.  Now that I’ve gotten accustomed to the Cinch, I don’t think a hangdog situation is any harder to manage with a Cinch than with a GriGri – it’s just different, and there’s a slight learning curve that most intelligent individuals can figure out pretty quickly.

I haven’t tried the Cinch in a multi-pitch situation yet, mostly because with a toddler on the ground, those opportunities don’t present themselves that often, but I do know several folks that are big Cinch fans even for big walls.  As with a Grigri, you can only thread one strand through the device at a time, so unless you’re simul-rapping, you still have to carry an ATC – so I guess the biggest factor to consider in that situation is how much gear you want to carry up with you.  

My Stance on Trad

It is true that any auto-locking device will put more force on your gear and give a “harder” catch, and for that reason many swear only by an ATC when it comes to trad climbing.  But for me personally, as a small woman that is outweighed by all my climbing partners, and by my husband even twice as much, almost all of my catches take me off the ground, leaving me no choice but to provide a soft catch.  So long as the rock quality is good and the gear is not ridiculously small (and thereby not rated at full strength in a fall), I think having an assisted brake for when I get launched sky high catching a whipper is more valuable than the slight amount of force shaved off with a non-auto-locking device.  Less impact on good gear is a moot point if the belayer gets slammed into the wall and loses their brake hand.  

The Bottom Line

 In the interest of full disclosure I received my Cinch free of charge, but that didn’t affect this review in the least.  I had plenty of belay devices already and certainly didn’t “need” another.  I wholeheartedly believe that the Cinch is an excellent choice for all types of climbing, and in my opinion, is the best auto-locking device on the market right now.  Not only does it perform better than its competition, but its lighter AND cheaper – so to me the choice is obvious!   As another disclaimer, the Cinch (or any other belay device for that matter) will never replace an attentive and experienced belayer – just because the word “auto” is in there doesn’t mean your belayer can shift to auto-pilot, so choose both your belay device AND belayer wisely!  Who else loves (or hates) a Cinch?  Feel free to put in your two cents!


7 Responses to “TRANGO Cinch – A Belayer’s Best Friend”

  1. Benito

    Agreed. I was recently talking to a guy at the crag who said, and I quote, “I think the Cinch is the Poor Man’s GriGri.” Yeah right! In my limited use of the device, I can already say that it most certainly feeds way better than the GriGri and it does not twist the rope. Once you figure out how to use it, it’s better.


  2. Fully agree, I use the Cinch exclusively for multi-pitch trad guiding. For direct belaying from the anchor no other device feeds rope so smoothly or locks as quickly as the Cinch. Since I guide a lot of moderate multi-pitch slab routes with 2-3 clients pulling ropes through plate devices is hell on the elbows, and these thing is the ticket! It also works well in hauling and self-rescue, as you can install it on a loaded rope and use it as a smooth ascender in a pinch. A great piece of gear indeed!


  3. David

    Excellent review. I like my grigri2 but haven’t had anything else for comparison. Can you side by side chart/compare any stats by chance? Forces each can withstand, rope widths in range for each device, etc?


  4. Karen

    any lefties try it? my biggest complaint with the GriGri is that it’s very awkward for a lefty to use…


  5. David – Offhand I know both can accept ropes up to 11mm, and the Cinch is recommended down to 9.4 (the old grigri was 10, and the grigri2 is 8.9).

    Karen – One of my climbing partners is actually left-handed, and he things its way easier to use than the grigri. The lever ends up being on the opposite side as a grigri, which I think helps out the lefties. When I first started using it, it felt a little awkward to lower b/c I felt like I was using “the wrong hand.”


  6. Chris

    I sport climb and I use my Cinch exclusively. I have a Grigri2 but it’s started collecting dust ever since I purchased my Cinch. The “poor man’s Grigri”? In my city, the Cinch costs several dollars more. I find the most outstanding features of the Cinch to be it’s smoothness. In a short period of time, the user will find it very easy to perform proficiently, paying out slack or taking it in – it makes the responsibility of belaying too simple! At the end of the day, you’ll also find your rope to be virtually “kink-free”. It truly is the smartest device in my bag! I believe that if Trango were to do Demo Days with their Cinch, it would capture a large share of the sport climbing market!


  7. Katie

    I’m a newer climber (and just found your blog and love hearing about climbing from a woman’s perspective!) and am sticking with my ATC for the very reason that it requires me to be attentive and not get lax and sloppy. The level of climbs that I belay is still low and it’s always top rope, so I think it’ll continue to give me the best experience now.

    When I do learn trad, I’ll consider an auto for the reason you list.


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN