When climbing boulders without a rope or harness, nothing is more important than safety. It is important to equip yourself with the best bouldering crash pad for the boulder problems you climb and the kind of terrain you’re likely to land on. Having a safe and soft landing surface to break the fall if you overshoot a dyno or slip off and find your fingers grasping at thin air will give you the freedom and confidence to climb and enjoy the adventure. In the event of a fall, the crash pad will reduce the risk of injury and can even be a lifesaver.
Below are the best crash pads for bouldering on the market. They are easy to bring along on your adventures and will provide reliable protection at the crag. Whether you want a confidence-inspiring climbing pad for your first rock climbing adventure or to tackle highball boulders, you will find the perfect pad for your needs. Below the reviews are a buying guide and an FAQ section with tips to help you figure out the best crash pad for you.
How To Choose A Bouldering Crash Pad – Buying Guide
There are four types of crash pad designs: taco, hinge, hybrid, and baffled. The best design to go for will depend on what kind of landing terrain you will be laying it on, how you will transport and store it, and your personal preference.
A taco crash pad is a single piece of foam that folds in half just like a taco. The best thing about this one-piece design is that it offers excellent protection, as there is no gap through which rocks, roots, or uneven terrain can poke through and injure your ankles. It is the best crash pad design for laying on rocky or uneven terrain. The downside is that a thick piece of foam without a joint isn’t going to fold easily for transport and storage. Folding the foam can also weaken it over time.
The hinge design is the opposite of a taco. It is composed of two pieces of foam that are joined together along a seam. Hinged crashed pads lay flat on the ground and are the best to lay on flatter terrain. Another advantage of this design is that hinged pads fold nicely and compact for travel and storage, and work well as couches or seats when not in use. The downside is that the joint is a weak point through which rocks, tree roots, and uneven terrain can poke through and injure the climber during a fall.
Baffled crash pads are composed of multiple tubes filled with foam and enclosed within a layer of foam. This lumpy design works well on rough, uneven terrain, as there are no hinges for rough terrain to poke through. The separate foam tubes fold like a burrito for storage and transport.
A hybrid design is just like a hinged design but with the addition of a thin layer of foam on the top of the crash pad. This layer offers protection from any rocks or uneven terrain poking through the hinge. A hybrid design thus offers the ease of transport and storage of a hinged design without the weakness of the hinge itself.
The level of stiffness will determine how well the crash pad will break the fall and protect your legs. If you’re going to be climbing tall boulders, look for a pad with stiffer foam so it will be able to take the impact from high falls without bottoming out. For shorter problems and sit start routes, a pad with thinner, softer foam will be protective enough and not too heavy to lug around.
Bouldering crash pads range from really small supplemental pads to oversized pads that cover a lot of ground. The bouldering mat you choose should be large enough to cover the whole area where you’re likely to land if you find your hands grasping at nothing but air. While the largest crash pad would offer the best protection, it would also be difficult to carry and store.
This means that the ideal size to go for will depend on the kind of problems you take on, but portability and storage are also big considerations. Look into how the pad folds and consider whether you have the space for it in your car and storage area.
Standard crash pads are 3 to 4 inches thick, full pads 5 inches thick, and oversized pads 5-6 inches thick. Small pads meant for supplemental use are less than 3 inches thick. How high up you’re likely to fall from will determine how thick the bouldering crash pad you have at the landing ground should be to offer sufficient protection. The bigger the falls you need protection from, the thicker the pad underneath you should be.
If you want a mat for protection from shortfalls, 3 to 4 inches of thickness should be sufficient. If you want the thickest pad for highball problems, you will need to arm yourself with a five-inch pad. You can also stack several pads on top of each other when you need a thick landing spot. Don’t forget to consider how you’re going to transport the crash pad to the boulders.
Bouldering crash pads are classified according to size into regular, full, oversized, and supplemental categories. Regular pads measure around 35 x 40 inches and cover about 12 to 14 square feet. They offer adequate protection for entry-level use, lowball bouldering problems, and circuits. Full pads are about 38 x 45 inches, cover a surface area of about 14 to 20 square feet, and make good all-around crash pads for intermediate bouldering levels.
Oversized pads are about 45 x 60 inches and cover 20 to 25 square feet. If you’re after the thrill of taking on tall boulders with big, daunting falls, this is the size you need. However, the largest pads are also the most expensive and heavy. Supplemental or mini pads are quite thin generally, at least when fully extended (think less than 2”), but have a variety of surface area options and are used for sit starts, for covering the gaps between multiple pads, or as mats for wiping your climbing shoes on.
Most bouldering pads weigh between 10 and 20 pounds. If the highball climbing problems you tackle demand an oversized climbing pad, you will have no choice but to lug along a thick and heavy pad that will provide you with adequate protection. If you will be tackling shorter problems or taking a long hike to get to your favorite boulders, you can opt for a lightweight crash pad that will be easier to transport and handle while hiking.
The fill type or the kind of foam that makes up the crash pad will determine what crash pad will offer the best protection for the kind of problems you take on. Two main types of foam fill up rock climbing crash pads: closed-cell and open-cell foam.
Closed-cell foam is firm and rigid, which means that it can endure harder impacts without flexing or bottoming out and resists the elements very well. The open-cell foam makes for a soft and cushy sponge-like pad that is excellent at absorbing impact but is less durable than closed-cell foam.
A crash pad made purely of closed-cell foam would provide a solid landing base for highball climbs, but it could hurt or cause injuries upon regular impact. A crash pad made of only open-cell foam would provide plenty of cushioning and sufficient protection for shorter falls but would bottom out upon impact from high falls.
The best bouldering pads make use of both of these types of foams in combinations that deliver maximum support and protection without sacrificing cushioning comfort. They have a layer of closed-cell foam at the top to disperse the impact and prevent bottoming out, and one or two layers of open-cell foam in between to absorb impacts and provide cushioned landing. Such a crash pad will provide an optimal level of protection, cushioning, and durability.
A crash pad is a bulky item that you will have to transport to the crag. Ease of transport and carrying are important considerations when buying one. First of all, ensure that the pad you choose will fit in the vehicle you will be using when folded. Hinged and burrito-style crash pads are the easiest to fold and fit in a car or carry on one’s back.
If you will be hiking a long approach to get to your favorite bouldering spot, consider how easy to carry on your back the crash pad will be. The ideal portable crash pad will have a harness system composed of padded shoulder straps, a padded waist belt to distribute the load evenly, and a chest strap to stabilize the load. The harness system should also allow you to adjust the straps for a perfect fit. Side handles for carrying the pads like a briefcase-style are also good enough for short distances.
Once you reach the boulder and take the pad off your back, you will still need to move it to right under your climb spot and from one problem to another. Grab handles at the corners or sides will help you move the pad easily when it is open.
Since you will have the folded crash pad on your back, it is also important to consider how you’re going to carry other climbing gear. A crash pad with flaps, zippers, or Velcro closure allows you to pack other items into the folded crash pad without the risk of losing them. Some pads even have lash points or daisy chains where you can attach items such as climbing shoes and water bottles and pockets for small items such as keys.
You will need to fold your crash pad when transporting and storing it. It is important to consider how the climbing pad you like folds up. A hinged folding style is the easiest to fold as it has a joint in between the two pieces of foam. A baffled design is also easy to fold as it rolls up like a burrito. A taco design crash pad is the most difficult to fold as it is a solid piece of foam that you have to force to fold taco-style.
If you need a really large crash pad for highball problems, a tri-fold design will make it easier to transport and store when you’re not climbing. This design will also allow you to stack the sections when you need a thick pad to fall on.
Another thing to pay attention to is the closing mechanism that keeps the crash pad folded and closed during transport. Buckles are effective and easy to use. Flap closures keep items secure, protect the suspension system when the pad is being dragged, and can also serve as mats for wiping feet. Zipper closures compress crash pads well and also provide the most secure storage space inside the pad.
Rock climbing crash pads are designed to be dragged over rough terrain and jagged rocks and endure plenty of impacts and harsh weather elements. The top and bottom of the crash pad should be tough to endure all this abuse without failing.
Look for a crash pad built with a layer of closed-cell foam on the top and bottom and a rugged cover fabric with a 900 denier rating or above. Ballistic nylon such as Cordura or weather and abrasion-resistant polyester are great materials for the cover.
Q: How Many Crash Pads Do I Need For Bouldering?
The number of crash pads you need will depend on the kind of boulders you’re climbing. For short problems and easy circuits, a single standard-size crash mat will do. For highball bouldering problems, one oversized bouldering pad will provide the protection you need. You can also stack multiple medium and small pads to cover more ground and boost cushioning.
How many crash pads you need will also depend on the landing terrain. One large crash pad works best in flat landing conditions but you may need several pads to cover uneven landing terrain.
Q: Do You Need A Crash Pad To Boulder?
Climbing without a rope or harness is inherently dangerous. Having an appropriate crash pad is a necessary safety measure. It will protect you from the hard and unforgiving ground and keep the risk of injury as a result of falls as low as possible.
If you overshoot a dyno or slip off and find yourself with nothing to hold onto, having a crash pad under you can mean the difference between having a padded landing to break the fall and breaking your legs. It can be a lifesaver, literally. Bouldering is hard on the body and a climbing pad is definitely worth the money. Your knees and ankles will thank you in the future.
Q: What Is A Bouldering Crash Pad Used For?
A bouldering crash pad is used to prevent injuries from falls when bouldering. It is placed on the ground where you’re likely to land in the event of a fall to provide a safe and soft landing and reduce the impact. You can also use it as a camping couch or dog bed when it becomes too soft to provide adequate fall protection.
Q: How Thick Should A Crash Mat Be?
Bouldering mats come in a variety of thicknesses. How thick your crash pad should be will depend on how high you plan on climbing. If you’re taking on short problems, a standard crash pad with 3 to 4 inches of girth will do. For highball bouldering, you will need a thick pad with at least 5 inches of thickness.
Q: How Do Crash Pads Work?
Bouldering crash pads are laid on the ground below the climber to help reduce the impact due to falls. They work by providing support and cushioning during falls. The best crash pads for bouldering have a stiff foam layer on top that disperses the impact of a fall, a softer foam layer in the middle that absorbs the impact and provides a cushioned catch, and a stiffer foam layer at the bottom to ensure the pad doesn’t bottom out due to the impact.
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Safety is the number one concern when bouldering. Investing in a quality climbing pad that offers adequate protection for the kind of problems you tackle is crucial for climbing safety. It will give you the confidence you need to push your limits.
Choosing one of the top-rated crash pads for bouldering in our bouldering crash pad review list and paying attention to the factors outlined in our buying guide will help you choose the best bouldering crash pad for you. Good luck with your search!