Catch and Release: Mad Rock Aviator

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At first glance, the new MAD ROCK AVIATOR ($15.95, appears overly complex for a basic belay/rappel device: There’s that prong on one end, those holes on either side, and what’s that mousetrap in the middle? Break it down, and you realize the Aviator packs a lot of versatility into an inexpensive package. The mousetrap is a spring that eases feeding rope to your partner; indeed, the Aviator feeds better with its removable spring than without, or when compared against some—but not all —plates or tubes. That prong is a “speed control lever,” which you can lift to reduce friction while lowering or rappelling, or you can wrap a strand of rope around it to increase friction. The holes are for rigging the Aviator in auto-block mode to belay one or two seconds. I found the device’s control lever a bit obtrusive, and overall it performed much better with skinny, new cords than with old fatties. But the Aviator does the same jobs as other devices that cost twice as much, doesn’t weigh significantly more (4 oz.), and offers some useful innovations. —DM