Have you ever wanted to try the type of rock climbing that’s commonly known as “bouldering”? If you have, you’ll need several things to get started, including the proper type of safety equipment.
One thing that’s supercritical to the safety of anyone even thinking about this challenge is a crash pad.
A crash pad, simply put, is a sophisticated landing pad, designed to cushion a landing that might not be so smooth (an occurrence that’s quite common in the world of bouldering, especially when beginners try it).
A crash pad usually has enough shock-absorbing material that any type of fall you’ll find yourself subject to will be rendered safe.
Don’t mess with your safety with something like this; a crash pad is an essential buy for those who are looking to be safe during their bouldering outings.
Even if you’re an advanced rock climber/boulderer, having a great crash pad is quite important. The ground is tough, and rocks can be even tougher.
There’s a reason rock climbing and bouldering are activities designated to the bravest of outdoorsmen/women! Long story short: Get a crash pad and you won’t regret it.
Below, we’ve brought you a list of important features to look for in a crash pad, features that shouldn’t be overlooked in any situation!
Top Rock Climbing Pads Comparison Chart
After we go over all the important features, we’ll take a glance at five of the best crash pads you can get your hands on. Any one of these pads will cushion your fall better than most other crash pads you can find. Let’s dive in!
Below, we’ve listed all of the pertinent features of a high-performance crash pad, features that can truly make a safe difference on a crash pad if they’re present.
The main difference in rock climbing crash pads, apart from the material inside of them, is the type of fold that they feature. Simply put, the fold of a crash pad is the manner in which it folds for storage, packing, and moving purposes.
The fold of a crash pad can be broken down into three major categories, for the most part. Each fold is categorized by the way it fits into a backpack. Let’s take a look at each one, as well as some pros and cons associated with the three main types.
The taco-style is as simple as a fold can get. Pads with the taco style of folding are one continuous pad that folds in half, similar to the way a taco folds in half.
While there isn’t any section of the pad that isn’t cushioned, a pad with a taco-style fold can be both hard to lay down flat on the ground and hard to securely pack up.
The hinge style is much more packable than the taco style of fold; there’s a section in the middle of the foam that’s been cut out, to enable the pad to be easily folded and stored.
While this style of fold makes the pad easy to position on the ground and fold, the unpadded section can potentially be dangerous.
Imagine if, without your knowledge, the crash pad section without the foam padding was lined up with a sharp rock or root. You can be in for a painful surprise unless you thoroughly examine the patch of ground you put the pad on.
The baffled style of crash pad folding is a relatively new concept. It features a folded, waffle-like foam in the interior of the crash pad, which is larger and more effective than conventional styles of crash pads.
Picture a rectangular potato chip with ruffles, and you’ll have a clear picture of what baffled foam looks like within the confines of a crash pad.
While this style is certainly safer, it’s quite heavy as well, making easy transportation out of the picture. Also, you still might be susceptible to sharp rocks and roots that find their way into the crevices of the folds of the foam cushion.
We can break the foam type down into several categories. These categories are its foam type, the foam composition, and its total foam thickness. The foam type is often open cell, closed cell, or memory foam.
The composition refers the number of layers present in the aforementioned types of foams. The combined thickness is the cumulative thickness, in inches, of the foam inside the crash pad.
The foam’s makeup inside of a crash pad is dependent on a mixture of the three factors we just talked about.
For the most part, you’ll have the choice between a medium pad and a large pad. There are many things you’ll want to consider when deciding what size pad you’ll need to purchase. Let’s take a look at some of these things:
Unless your car is large or you have a truck bed with lots of space, transporting a large crash pad can be quite difficult, especially if the crash pad itself is hard to store or fold.
Distance to Boulders
Before you purchase a crash pad, consider the distance you’re going to have to walk to get to the boulder you want to scale. If you have to carry your crash pad through treacherous or tight trailheads, you’ll want a smaller crash pad.
If you’re simply driving to a rock climbing center or someplace similar, a large crash pad really isn’t that big of an issue.
Level of Experience
If you’re just starting rock climbing, you won’t need a larger crash pad unless you plan on taking on boulders that are massive, on your first day.
More experienced boulderers, on the other hand, swear by larger crash pads and probably wouldn’t opt for anything less than a crash pad with the dimensions of 4 x 5 feet.
An important factor to consider, when looking for a crash pad, is its packability, or ability to be stored. There are a number of different features that contribute to a crash pad’s ability to be easily stowed away
One example of a feature that enhances a crash pad’s packability is the presence of storage flaps, which can aid in the storage of supplemental gear on both the inside and outside of the crash pad.
For example, due to the way a taco-style crash pad folds, it will be able to accommodate a larger amount of gear on the inside of its fold.
The stiffness can also impact the packability of a crash pad. While this issue is usually only present with hinge-style crash pads, a pad that features stiff foam is, inevitably, going to be tougher to put away.
While this might be considered a similar trait to the packability of a crash pad, its portability is slightly different. You’ll want to look for straps that enable it to easily be carried short distances, from boulder to boulder.
Also keep your eyes peeled for straps that enable you to carry your crash pad on your back, as you would a backpack.
When it comes to big pads, in particular, be on the lookout for a giant strap in the middle of the crash pad. This will make the crash pad much easier to carry, from place to place.
While a great crash pad can easily support and protect all the joints on your body in the event of a fall, one joint needs to be kept protected because of the tendency of it being landed on: the ankle.
When considering this factor, however, there is a giant trade-off. First and foremost, a pad that’s stiffer and thicker gives your foot a greater chance to roll when you land on it.
Ideally, you’ll want to consider a pad that’s softer and less rigid, right? Not so fast: thicker and stiffer pads are exponentially safer when it comes to cushioning an impact from a high fall.
You’ll want to consider training your feet to land properly. You might want to consider taking on boulders with less height if you feel as if you’re at risk from falling on your ankle or foot improperly.
The internal foam composition is incredibly important in a crash pad, but the exterior material is equally important. Several types of material can typically be found on the exterior of a crash pad. Examples of these materials are velvet, nylon, and auto upholstery.
We’d recommend velvet or auto upholstery. Both these materials are easy to clean and don’t absorb the grime you’ll inevitably track onto your crash pad.
They’re incredibly comfortable, as well – you can take a well-deserved break between your intense bouldering sessions!
We might have just made up that word, but bear with us – you’ll understand what we mean in a moment!
This imaginative but relevant term simply refers to how easily a crash pad, which is already outfitted with ample cushioning, can be converted and used for a purpose such as sleeping or lounging.
This can be particularly helpful for those who like to camp and boulder at the same time; you can use your crash pad for a sleeping pad, as well! You’ll kill two birds with one stone.
Have you been overloaded with information? If you have, hopefully, it’s information that you feel you’ll be able to use in your hunt for an awesome crash pad. Now, let’s progress to the most important part, the reviews of the five best crash pads of this year.
We’ll start with a review of each product then follow up each product with a list of pros and cons. The crash pads we’re looking at are ranked as the first being the best, to the last being the worst out of the five.
Best Rock Climbing Crash Pad Reviews
Safe, versatile, portable, packable – all of the crash pads below feature all or a combination of the important features we mentioned in the section above.
1. Petzl Alto Crash Pad
The Petzl is absolutely the best name in climbing equipment probably worldwide. There’s no question if you get this pad, you’ll not regret the purchase from a quality and longevity standpoint. Did I mention functionality?
For what it’s worth, this Petzl model is the one in our feature image (not that you can see it really well…). Dimensions are 39″x46″ opened and the 3 layers of varying density foam offers superior cushioning over the competition.
A super comfortable backpack-style harness makes for easy transport of the pad to your remote locations, and of course, as you might expect, it’s waterproof and has exceptionally tough reinforcements in critical zones.
- Best name in the industry
- Excellent user feedback
- Efficient and comfortable carry system
- Easily the priciest option we offer
2. Black Diamond Impact Crash Pad
The Black Diamond Impact pad is one of the best entry-level crash pads on Amazon or anywhere else! The catch is that it is a tad bit expensive for its size, but that’s not a mistake. Its durability and simple design make it a good quality choice.
However, because it’s only a standard-sized mat, it’s best to use only on fairly level ground (landing zone) and not for problems that are too high!
For highballs or problems that take you higher than normal or for uneven landing zones, we’d suggest a larger pad.
At under 10 pounds, it’s one of the lightest pads around and the clean, simple looks it offers will bring all sorts of comments from fellow climbers. As far as dimension goes, here are the specs:
- Weight: 9 lb, 8 oz (4.33 kg)
- Dimensions: 39 x 45 x 4 in (100 x 114 x 10 cm)
- Closure: Hinge
- Surface Coverage: 1,755 sq in
It’s made of PU foam padding covered with 600D polyester ripstop and a PU coating. It comes with a padded shoulder strap, waist belt, and handles.
We like the Impact, but it’s not all roses here! The Impact does not have a chest strap as some pads do, and there is no flap at the bottom (when you’re carrying) for storing gear inside like a backpack. If you’re used to using your pad as a storage sack, you’ll be disappointed with the Impact. You’ll need to find another way to carry gear.
- Foam is quite soft
- Great Looks
- Not made to be a backpack to carry gear
- Not big enough for high climbs or uneven crash zones
3. PETZL Cirro Crashpad
This flagship of Petzl’s lineup for this season is the largest pad they make available. The Cirro is perfect for solo or group climbing.
Petzl promises that they’ve spent a lot of time analyzing some of the common complaints about pads in general and those problems have been addressed.
One of the neat features is that because Petzl knows many climbers use the folded pad as a backpack while walking, it was important to keep items safe inside.
That’s why they added zippers on all 3 sides (just not the top) of the folded pad to make a sort of “back pouch” that you can’t lose anything out of unless you turn 100% upside down while wearing it!
Then, because it was often used as a backpack, Petzl made reinforced and tougher straps to accommodate this new “backpack-style” pad.
Another problem that’s been addressed is the cleanliness and functionality of the straps while not in use.
Petzl created an innovative system where the piece that zips around, when unzipped, actually folds back to cover the straps themselves, keeping them, and you, from getting dirty.
Then, two separate layers of closed-cell foam around the layers of opened-cell foam make for a dense, tough landing area that won’t bottom out.
The closed-cell foam is wrapped around the outside so it won’t break down as fast from being folded over and over! On top of that, there are straps that allow this pad to be made into a chair for campfires!
It’s made from PU foam and high-strength Cordura ballistic fabric. The whole thing weighs 20.7 pounds. The overall open dimensions are 58 inches x 46 inches and 5 inches thick!
- Features an innovative, new opened-cell and closed-cell design
- Extremely versatile (backpack, lounge chair, etc.)
- Unique strap saver design
4. Black Diamond Drop Zone Crash Pad
Here’s the second Black Diamond on our list and it’s for good reason! This is a serious boulderer’s mat made with multi-density foam covered with 1000D Nylon PU coating. It features padded shoulder straps and a webbing waist belt.
When it’s open it measures 41 x 48 inches and it’s 3.5 inches thick. Folded it’s exactly half that (41 x 24 x 7 inches). This pad is made for carrying gear inside with a quick-closure elastic mesh flap that secures with easy-hooking buckles.
The bottom fabric is rubber-coated for a better grip on slippery surfaces.
Along the sides, Black Diamond has positioned the grab handles for quick re-positioning and shuffling by the spotter.
- Tough Exterior
- Made to carry gear
- Not as thick as some pads (only 3.5 inches and not 4 inches)
- Somewhat pricey
5. Mad Rock Mad Pad
Mad Rock is one of the few iconic names on top of the climbing world. Climbers all over the world choose Mad Rock over any other brand for good reason. It’s an excellent value from a price-point angle. It also offers a 5-inch thick pad.
The pad is a combo of close and open-cell foam. The closure is well made with an aluminum buckle, and it can be converted into your own personal lounge chair! While it’s an awesome pad, it can be a bit stiff at first.
To fight that, be sure to open it for a few days and walk around on it to loosen it up! It’s super easy to carry too!
- Tough Exterior Material
- Multiple Carry options
- Couch Mode Option!
- Thick for ultimate protection
- Thickness may be cumbersome for transport
- Can be tough and stiff at first
- One owner had a problem with some of the stitches that ended up ripping!
Okay Bouldererses(?) dudes and dudesses, we’ve reached the end of the list! We hope you enjoyed the information and consider yourself at least a tiny bit more educated on choosing the most appropriate climbing crash pad.
Let us know your thoughts and ideas which may help make this and other reviews more useful!
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
The world of rock climbing can be dangerous, and the world of bouldering can be even worse, especially if you don’t have the correct rock climbing equipment. Think about it: you’re scaling the faces of rocks, without any harnesses or protective gear.
The only gear you’ll have at your disposal is gear to cushion your fall. This is why getting a great crash pad is such an important thing to consider.
You’ll want one that suits your level of expertise, as well as the danger of the boulder or boulders that you’re trying to scale. Factors such as the size, cushioning, and fold are all important.
We’d recommend the Mad Rock Triple Mad Pad. In the unchartered world of free-climbing pursuits such as bouldering, the bigger the crash pad the better.
The Triple Mad Pad is 1 and 1/3 times larger than most normal pads, offers excellent cushioning, and is as light as most double-sided crash pads. You’ll keep your body safe in the event that you topple off of a boulder, unintentionally or intentionally!