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Contest updates and La Sportiva Mantis, Black Diamond Aura Reviews

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
4 min read

I’m pleased to announced that lovely Lauren Yant and her fair skin and red hair are the lucky winners of the “Romance” contest here at Thank you, Lauren and everybody who wrote in. You all have inspired me to think a bit more about where I find romance in my world… it’s in funny, unexpected places. But that’s a story for another time. Right now, right on Lauren! Thanks to Kiss My Face for sponsoring this contest, and providing a kick-ass prize package stocked with every sunscreen product a redhead could need.

Next giveaway… no big contest. Thanks to my friends at Black Diamond and La Sportiva, I have two gear items I’d like to find a good home for: A brand new Black Diamond Aura Harness, Women’s size Medium; and a pair of La Sportiva Mantis climbing shoes, size 37.5 (US 5.5 mens / 6.5 womens) (worn one session for testing). Please drop me an email with the subject “GoodCause” and nominate yourself or someone you know as a recipient. Please check the relevant size chart (linked to below in the review text), then tell your story. There’s no set end date — I just want to find these items a home where they’ll help someone who might not otherwise be able to, get out there.

Black Diamond Aura Harness

You may have seen this harness already — you really can’t miss it. The Black Diamond Aura is about the brightest thing at any crag / in any gym / in any gear shop. It’s the bright yellow harness, that all your friends will tease you about, because it’s so, incredibly bright.

Now that you’ve got that out of your system… look past the color (which I, no kidding, like). I’ve been wearing this as my primary gym harness for the last few months — originally, to review it, and since, because I like it a lot for gym climbing. This harness is super lightweight, extra comfortable, and fits well even with its fixed leg loops (rare, for me, since I seem to be a funny shape for a girl when it comes to harnesses). The pre-threaded speed adjust buckle makes off and on quick, and elastic rear leg loop straps allow you to just squat when nature calls rather than having to fuss with unhooking a drop seat (just squat carefully). The minimalist nature of this harness takes getting used to in just one regard: it has two fewer gear loops than most of us are used to, so the first few times you rack up or clean a sport route with it, be aware that if you go for your rear gear loops, you will be dropping whatever you’re attempting to clip in mid-air. But, for gym climbing it’s no big deal — and for most sport routes that aren’t epic long, two gear loops will hold a sufficient number of draws.

Weighing in at 11 ounces for the size medium, this harness is lightweight but still nicely padded. I’ve taken falls both on lead in it, and on toprope on an uncomfortably static rope (don’t ask) and have spent a fair amount of time hangdogging in it — in all situations, as well as while belaying, it’s been quite comfortable (and I’m picky about harness comfort).

I’ve, historically, had some trouble fitting Black Diamond harnesses, but both this harness and a new for 2010 model I’m testing right now fit me perfectly according to their size chart. I don’t know if I’ve changed, or their harness sizing has changed, but I’ll take it either way!

Overall, I’m quite happy with this harness, and I expect it will be in service in the gym for quite some time. It’s holding up very well to the abuse I’m dishing out.

La Sportiva Mantis

Sportiva has introduced an affordable (retail price: $80) all-around velcro shoe in the form of the La Sportiva Mantis. I measure a size 38 on a foot measure when I’m barefoot, and based on reviews I went with a 37.5 in this shoe. I think for a newer climber, they might be happier with their street shoe size; but the 37.5 is a good fit for me. If you’ve got low volume heels, the heel cup on this shoe may be a bit deep for you — when I have the shoes on, on the ground, they do dig in at the Achilles tendon; once I’m climbing, they don’t.

I put these shoes through their paces in the gym bouldering and toproping and found them great for moderate gym climbing. The velcro adjustment is handy; the shoes are an all-around cut so not super asymmetrical or downturned. The generous amount of rubber on the upper should make these a durable shoe for the gym, including for crack climbing on thinner cracks.

Although my feet have gotten stronger in the last year especially, I still am quite happy in a firmer midsole shoe, and this shoe delivers in that arena. If you’re more of an edger, or if you need a firmer midsole (e.g. if you have extra bendy foot joints) then this shoe may be a great solution.

Check these out if you’re on a budget and looking for a solid, all-around shoe, especially if you tend toward edging (rather than smearing). The fit and finish is better than some shoes selling for twice the price, and if they fit you, these look like they’d stand up to abuse in the gym and out.


Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.