Welcome to that part of the blog devoted to reviews. The Girl does reviews? (You might be asking yourself.) Yes. You just may not have noticed, because I’ve only ever written one that I can recall. But heads up — things are about to get real up in the Girl In The World review section.
I’m not a gear nerd, by any means. In fact, the less gear I can get away with, the better. I generally find it cumbersome, confusing, and nearly always an impediment to my enjoyment of the outdoors, rather than the facilitator of joy that I can only assume it was meant to be.
I will tell you how the item in question makes me feel, without using a single correct technical term.
So why am I writing reviews now? Is it because I’m hoping companies will start offering me free stuff? No. (But seriously, if you want to give me free stuff, call me. I’ve been dragging a 10 pound sleeping bag around for the past 5 years. It takes up ONE THIRD of my 65 litre pack–I need help.)
Mainly, I want to be helpful, and reviews are (sometimes) helpful. I’m not going to give you all the technical specs, or wax poetic about ratings and advanced features. But I will tell you how the item in question makes me feel, without using a single correct technical term. Which might turn out not to be helpful at all. I guess we’ll find out!
So without further ado, my emo review of the Edelrid Mega Jul.
Things That Felt Good
I had the opportunity to try out this belay device, which was a 2014 Climbing Magazine Editor’s Choice (I am SO with the times), at the climbing gym this week. I should be very clear here that I only used it for top roping, which is just one of the many uses it was designed for.
The Mega Jul stands out for being very inexpensive and lightweight for an (apparently) auto-locking device. It’s also rather pretty. Basically, I WANTED it to work well.
And it more-or-less did.
I found it MUCH less obnoxious than a Grigri, which already makes it a safer choice (white hot rage and safety don’t tend to go hand in hand). Belaying was smooth and felt like a tighter, more trustworthy ATC. For top rope, I’d recommend the Mega Jul, for sure. Because it made my happy and not too angry.
Things That Felt Bad
On the other hand, the “auto lock” feature is actually a flimsy-looking loop thingy that slides forward with the rope and adds enough friction to (apparently) prevent any rope from feeding through in the wrong direction.
Which seems insanely sketchy to me; I suppose this is why this is a backup safety feature, and why Edelrid refers to it as “very high breaking performance” rather than “auto-locking” in this informative and very colour-coordinated video. Or maybe, like most climbing safety items, it only looks sketchy, but is actually bomb proof at least 80% of the time.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that safety features and inconvenience go hand in hand. This is why I snarl at anyone who insists I use a prusik on rappel.
The trade-off for the Mega Jule’s “very high breaking performance” is that you will never smoothly lower your climber again. In order to release the auto-lock, you have to hook your thumb (or anything, really -thumbs are just the most convenient, and least awkward option) into the coloured loop thingy and pull it away from you, allowing the rope to slide through.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that safety features and inconvenience go hand in hand.
This feels more controlled and slightly smoother than the Grigri “pull-the-handle” approach, but still resulted in a bumpy ride for my climber, and a potentially-dislocated-thumb feeling for me. I’m told this gets better with practice.
Basically, I felt simultaneously sketched out by the apparent flimsiness of the backup break, and annoyed that it was there at all. I’m not sure if this has more to do with me than with the device itself.
Disclaimer: I only sort of know what I’m talking about.
Because I only got to try the Mega Jul in the gym, I didn’t get to test it out on top-belay, or rappel, and I’ve never belayed two followers at once, let alone done it with a Mega Jul. You’ll have to go to MEC’s surprisingly informative customer review section for that information.