Hard to Find Good Aid These Days

Let’s get the facts straight before we start. I am no noob. I’ve walked my way around 100+ gear shops in my life, politely refusing help from the staff at each turn. I spend days every week lost in a trance of ascender certifications and esoteric carabiner history. I know if a piece of gear is going to be good or not before the reviews section on REI even has time to load. What I’m saying is this ain’t my first rodeo.

i-know-more-than-you-i-know-you 1

So when I decided to try my hand breaking into the aid climbing game (specifically roped solo aid, because let’s face it nobody wants to belay me on these trash routes for an hour and it’s not like anybody really knows how to belay correctly anyway) I needed to get myself some aiders.

I looked around at all the fancy etriers and their wealth of options like integrated bags that make them easier to carry, or reinforced steps and lower clip in loops for extending their reach. Who needs all that? I’m just climbing rocks here, folks. Why does everything have to be so overdesigned?

And don’t even get me started on those bigwall ladders with their spreader bars and big comfy steps. What the heck is a hero loop even? There’s too much going on here. I’m a rugged, trysoft kind of guy, I’m here to suffer alone in the woods on a rainy Tuesday. You can keep those creature comforts, I’ll keep it simple, thank you very much.

Seriously what are all these doo-dads on here even for?

Talk about an overbuilt piece of climbing gear…

If You Want Something Done Right...

After thoroughly researching every single aider on the market, it was obvious that I was capable of creating everything I needed with my own bare hands. All I needed was:

Wornout 2
Super long, kinda seem cheap?

First Impression: they seem kind of uneven and maybe a little cheap? I must say I am overall not very impressed with the construction. Knots just don’t seem like the best choice for making steps out of webbing. Why didn’t this article talk about sewing tons of bar tacks? That, to me, would be the better way to make a step out of sewn webbing.

One enhancement I did make to the design was adding tubing to stiffen the steps and help them stay open. I should also note that it required me to buy a long set of needle nose pliers to pull the webbing through so many tiny tubes. This also made the project take an extra 2-3 hours, but well worth it to improve on such a poor design.

Once I got out on the rock I really noticed the shortcomings of this article by climbing.com. They made no mention of how long to make the loops, exactly, so they all ended up being a touch too small for my feet. Sad. I suppose they could work for smaller shoes, but it was definitely difficult to step in and out as I climbed.

Another thing is that I found they had way too many steps in them. I really only was using the top 4 steps over and over, so why all the extra weight of webbing and tubing? I suppose since they are knotted I could simply just cut the excess off, but that’s not exactly why we choose a piece of gear is it? just to have to modify it to make it work?

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Seriously what are all these extra steps and loops for?
nohero 4
Gee, I wish I could have stepped up higher here. I think I might add a loop at the top.

I wish they had some form of loop on the top that I could hook my fifi into while I was walking up. I find that I need to stand hands free in my aiders a lot and having the extra loop would keep me from needing to hook into the gear carabiner and potentially disturb the piece. Come to think of it, this loop could also function as a makeshift step, allowing me to stand higher in the ladder. I wonder why they didn’t include it in the design?

One positive thing I can say is that they sure are light! I barely noticed them when I need to do some free climbing moves, though I am concerned that they may not hold up very well over time. Webbing from the hardware store is probably not the best choice for materials, so another strike against this DIY design.

Conclusion - TL;DR


  • Lightweight


  • Not rugged
  • Too heavy
  • Too many steps / Steps in wrong place
  • Takes lots of trial and error

Are Hand-Tied Aiders Worth It?

Bottom line? No not really. I suppose they can get you by in a pinch but overall you’re much better off taking a sewing class, buying top quality materials and spending countless hours iterating until you make exactly what you are looking for. It’s either that or buy something off the rack and know that you’re paying for a ton of bells and whistles that you probably don’t need.

It’s not like there’s a website out there where you can compare every single feature available on something as niche as aiders. THAT would be crazy.

Jeff Jaramillo

Jeff Jaramillo

Jeff currently lives in the Midwest and spends most of his free time answering questions nobody asked. When not plugging gear on moderate warmups and calling it a day, he can be found whining about whipping on bolts in the gym or at the local pub waxing poetic about climbing saving humanity and the planet.

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