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 super critical 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 2017.
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.
The Mad Rock Hera Crash Pad has the versatility of any crash pad, coupled with a moderate price and a moderate size. Let’s first talk about its fold. It’s outfitted with a classic “hinge” fold, which greatly aids in its versatility and portability. You’ll be able to fold it in two and carry it on your back, at your side, or over your head; the choice is up to you! The size is perfect for beginning or advanced climbers; it’s just under what would be considered the “large” size of a crash pad. The foam is ultra-soft, making any falls you may have while bouldering safe, comfortable, and easy. The soft foam obviously contributes to its weight or lack thereof, making it extremely light. You won’t have any problem lugging the Mad Rock Hera from boulder to boulder! The only noticeable flaw would be its length, even when folded. The length can make it tough to store in a place like a vehicle unless you have an incredible amount of space. Overall, the Mad Rock Hera Crash Pad is a great buy!
- Foam is quite soft
- Hinge-fold for superior portability
- Length can present packing problems
- Soft foam can make landing on it dangerous for your ankles
Larger than life itself, the Mad Rock Triple Made Pad has enough room on it to cushion your fall, as well as three other people’s falls. While this is a slight overstatement, it’s definitely not lacking in space, for its triple-hinge design spans a whopping 6 feet! Whether you’re taking your children out to boulder for the first time or whether you’re paranoid about landing and want optimal coverage and safety for a large “potential-fall” area, you’re in luck! In addition to its gargantuan size, the Triple Mad Pad weighs as much as normal crash pads would weigh, despite its length. We’re confused as well, so it’s okay if you are! It’s outfitted with 5 inches of super thick, closed-cell foam, for rigid crash-landing support. You won’t hurt yourself on this crash pad, even if you fall on it from several stories higher than you’d normally boulder at. Its hinge-fold design makes it easy and quick to pack up. Additionally, the pad is long enough to support one or two people on it for sleeping; you can take this camping with you and boulder all day! Transporting this pad might be tough, however; it’s odd dimensions surely will make for a convoluted fit in anyone’s vehicle or backpack. Don’t let that feature dissuade you from purchasing it if you’re looking for an ultra-long crash pad that will guarantee substantially more safety than many other crash pads on the market!
- Large and safe to use
- As light as smaller crash pads, despite its size
- Tough to transport
Despite being smaller than many other crash pads on the market today, the Metolius Session Crash Pad is just as heavy as larger ones. Don’t let that attribute detract from its value, however; the Session Crash Pad has a lot more to offer than just its weight! It’s ideal, at its size, for bouldering sessions with a moderate level of height and danger associated with them. At 4 x 3 feet, you’ll be well cushioned in the event of a fall. It’s designed for easy transportation, despite, its weight, and can be folded in two and carried like a suitcase. This is possible because of an elastic bag that comes with it, which fits over the entirety of the folded crash pad and secures its folded halves in place. While the elastic cover ensures that the crash pad won’t come apart while you’re carrying it, it also acts as a form of storage for anything you can fit in its crevices. Other notable features are its stiffness, which makes tough falls amount to nothing more than fear and a soft landing.
- Comes with an elastic cover for easy carrying and supplemental item storage
- Hinge-fold design for easy packing
- Firm and thick foam
- Heavy for a crash pad its size
- You can’t keep the folds together without the elastic covering
The Mad Rock R3 Crash Pad is part of a new generation of bouldering crash pads; it utilizes the baffle cushioning system. The baffle system, as we discussed in the previous section, makes crash pads more foldable and presents an interesting cushioning concept, one that’s still in the works as far as safety is concerned. The Mad Rock R3, in addition to possessing a unique style of cushioning/folding, features a hardy nylon shell that will easily handle the worst of outdoor environments, a fill material that’s composed of recycled foam, and a compact size for easy storage and traveling. We found a few flaws with the Mad Rock R3, most notably its weight, which is almost 18 pounds. The baffled cushion fill provides decent coverage, but your body could still be susceptible to a stubborn root or rock if you fall in the perfectly wrong place. The price is also quite high, but that’s expected with a new type of fill!
- Features an innovative, new-wave cushion
- Fill material is composed of completely recycled foam
- Exterior material is composed of an impervious nylon casing
This highly-rated crash pad is a must-have for both light and extreme boulderers; it’s lightweight, foldable and available in a variety of different colors. You can style it to your liking, just don’t pick a color that will blend in with the ground you place it on! While its size might not be the biggest, it’s vastly more portable than larger crash pads on the market. This is largely due to the fact that it’s designed with a folding hinge, a design that makes packing quite convenient. It’s quite pricey for its size, however, and is rather heavy as well. Fortunately, its availability of straps as well as its cushioning makes up for its bulky weight and price!
- Color selection
- Plenty of straps available, making it easily mobile
- Heavy for its dimensions
Folks, 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 the size, the 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!