John McNamee did a good long review and overview of aiders over on Mountain Project. Here is an excerpt of that review:
Back to the review...
Anyhow, last year my old aiders were looking thread bare so I went down to my local climbing shop with the intention of purchasing a set of ladders. Prior that that I had done some web research and had it down to a couple of different models. What the web site didn't convey was the size, bulk and weight of them. So I ended up walking out of the shop empty handed.
I had plans for a trip in a couple of weeks so I needed to get some aiders pronto. So I posted up on supertopo and several people recommended Fish Smart aiders.
From the Fish Products Corporate Web Site:
FISH Smart Aiders come with two 5-step aiders per pair. Each aider has a sub step sewn into the second step, where most of the action will take place. Unless you are on a slab, that kookie step in the top of other aiders will be virtually impossible to use. When you find yourself on the steep stuff, the second step will be home 90% of the time. If you need a little more height to reach an out of reach placement, step into the sub-second step on your FISH Aiders. Voila! The extra height---and that A7pitch---are in the bag. Nice job! Smart Aiders come in assorted colors and have step stiffeners sewn in to keep 'em open when you need 'em, and sport more bartacks than most third graders can count. For 2001 we are now putting all the steps on the same side. try it, you 'll like it! $47.00 per pair or $50.00 per pair with grab-loops sewn into the top.
Steps on the same side ... I wasn't sure I was going to like that. My backup plan was to sell them on Ebay. So I contacted Russ and he offered to make them up pronto and I had them the next week.
The aiders are made out of 1 inch flat webbing, with 5 steps and a sub step in the second step. The sub step makes top stepping much easier since it allows an immediate step. Each pair of aiders is made from the same webbing color, so they match and help keep aider management straightforward. They are well made with tons of stitching and reinforcements throughout. The bartacks are tight and tidy with no hanging chads, oops, I mean threads.
The first thing I did after inspecting them was to cover the main seams and wear areas with seam grip. This stuff works wonders in prolonging the life of wall gear.
There isn't a lot you can say about aiders since there isn't many things that can go wrong with them other then stitching coming apart or tearing at seams and really it comes down to personal preference on the type of aider and the number of steps.
After a fair bit of use over the last year or so, they are showing some wear and tear that you would expect from using them, but other than that they are still in tip top shape. Five steps seem about right. I've also got to like having steps on the same side and I don't foresee going back to the old school way of doing it right now, unless I change from 2 pair of aiders to just 2.
The only change I would make with my next pair is to go with 3/4 inch rather than 1 inch wide tape to save on the weight and bulk. I tend to wear supportive shoes (mad rock fanatic) so I doubt I would notice the difference in width.
Fish Aiders are made for big walls and not for your living room.
I hope this review has helped shed some light on aiders and aiding systems. As I said at the start, they look simple but there is more to them than at first glance. It takes time to learn how to aid and expect to be really slow the first few times out. Speed and efficiency will come with time and practice.
The full review and a good article on Aiders in general can be found here: Aiders Review