Which MoonBoard reigns supreme? Each generation offers different holds, features, and styles that make finding a favourite difficult. Is it even possible to discern between the boards? How does a person define the best MoonBoard?
While the 2016 has comfortable flow, the community is dying. Although the 2017 is arguably the most challenging, the 2019 offers the highest quality holds. Each is enjoyable within their own realms, but which makes the best training board?
At a glance, it seems that grips over a grid make the same kind of movement, regardless of hold type. This is not the case. Though each MoonBoard generation offers a powerful style of climbing, the orientation, placement, and design of the included holds make for decidedly different movement.
These details are integral to the nature of the climbing and, create a disparity between the generations. One is not like the other.
To tackle the issue, let’s begin with a definition. A MoonBoard is a standardized, light-up training board invented by Ben Moon in the United Kingdom’s Sheffield School Room. The 2016 MoonBoard is the first example of a commercialized light-up board and the first to have a bluetooth connecting phone app that connects the user with a database filled with boulder problems.
Today, there are other popular commercial training boards that feature similar characteristics. The Kilter and Tension Boards have simulated the idea with their own unique holds. These boards also feature the 8-inch by 8-inch bolt pattern of the MoonBoard. As the Kilter, Tension, and MoonBoards each have their own distinct climbing style, even though they have the same hold-grid, it would follow that different grips are enough to change the flow of a board. This suggests that the different MoonBoard generations would feature different training goals.
Climbers have said that the 2016 set represents the most sandbagged MoonBoard on the market. The reasoning for this includes the fact that Benchmark Boulder problems do not dip below V4. Though easier boulder problems do not appear prevalent on the older design, the harder grades seem easier than their 2017 and 2019 contemporaries.
This suggests that a description of sandbagging, could use a definition within the context of a MoonBoard. For now, it will suffice to say that a sandbagged boulder problem describes movement of a level greater than the proposed difficulty.
Although the 2016 is difficult because it does not cater to V3 climbers, the movement meets the proposed difficulty. While all 2016 boulders do not reflect this reality, as a collective, they appear to more closely approach the proposed difficulty than its younger siblings.
With that said, sandbagging does not make one board better than the other. It is only an aspect of the product.
What do climbers love about the 2016 MoonBoard? Volume. Volume and the ergonomic set design. While the 2017 feels uncomfortable, the 2016’s compressive hold style makes a board that moves within the width of the climber’s shoulders. This feels natural and implies that the holds are oriented in an ergonomic way.
In relation to volume, this board features the greatest number of Benchmark Boulder problems. At 412 Benchmarks, the range of training opportunities makes this board unique among its peers.
Climbers value Benchmark volume because it offers a greater range of opportunity for progression. While harder problems definitely work the involved muscle groups to a more significant degree, Benchmark boulder problems of any level both provide a framework for training and consistent stimulus to the muscle groups required for difficult climbing. These groups include the lumbar, forearm flexors and extensors, biceps, shoulders, lats and abdominals.
Benchmarks also offer a “fixed” difficulty that does not change in the way resets can affect boulder difficulty. This makes climbing a more measurable form of training via standardization.
The 2016 Board also features the greatest number of small holds. This makes it the obvious choice for crimp-lovers and, depending on your climbing area, might make it the best option for training. Joe’s Valley, the New River Gorge, the Niagara Glen and other edge-based area benefit from this style of climbing.
Unlike the 2016, the 2017 set does not feature comfortable positions. While some may say that none of the MoonBoards are all that comfortable, the 2017 Benchmark list categorically forces uncomfortable movement. The 2017 Benchmarks make for the most sandbagged of the three MoonBoard generations.
Some people find this surprising. They will say that the jugs on the board make it more accessible at lower grades, and, by extension, easier. Although the 2017 does feature more jugs than the 2016, in addition to Benchmarks reaching down to V3, we must return to our previous definition for sandbagging. For the level, the 2017 is comparatively heinous. This editor thinks that makes the 2017 the best of the three boards for training outdoor bouldering, but, at the same time, recognizes that the awkward style is likely to stimulate injury.
Many climbers might take issue with the thought that the 2017 best simulates outdoor bouldering due to the decidedly indoor-like red balls that pepper the board. While these may appear unlike outdoor climbing holds, they force the fingers into awkward, grips positions much like outdoor pinches. Rarely does a person grab clean-cut rectangles when pinching outdoors.
The Gaston-forcing style of the 2107 set appears to cater to absolutely nobody. Tall climbers will find the feet incessantly high while short climbers will find frustration with the massive finish moves of several of the Benchmarks. This perpetual frustration might not inspire immediate joy, but, once acclimated, makes for a care-free climbing experience. It does not take long for the 2017 climber to throw away graded significance. The 2017 is the ultimate ego reset. It has 284 Benchmarks.
By contrast, the 2019 set represents the most comfortable generation. The soft wooden holds offer their own challenges, but the large grips make longer sessions more easily attainable. Though the difficulty of the 2017 is radical, there the tweaky nature of the grips makes for persistent frustration relating to skin or tired tendons. Though it still offers many of the challenging MoonBoard grips from the 2016 and 2017 sets, the orientation of the holds as well as the propensity for wooden grips, makes a fun experience.
The 2019 offers the largest style of the available boards, forcing long throws to good holds and a great many Moon kicks. Complete with 238 Benchmarks, the 2019 offers the fewest Benchmark Boulder problems, however, it also features the greatest level of accessibility to newer climbers. The low-end problems are incredibly enjoyable and the high-end problems make for consistent radical deadpoints.
Perhaps the greatest difference between the 2019 and its ancestors can be found in the quality of the holds. The board makes a pleasant experience. Even the 2016, though ergonomic, tears at the skin and can feel painful with time. The 2019 feels like it welcomes the climber in with comfortable start positions and logical hold orientations.
While the 2019 has the fewest holds, it seems like it will become the favourite training board soon enough. It has the most active online community, at the moment at least, and seems to feature the best hold Moon has ever made.
The 2016, for the moment, earns the title: Best MoonBoard Generation. Between the irreplaceably classic boulders that have built its community, and the related pedigree, no board is more worth of this title; However, once the 2019 has a similar number of Benchmarks, it will surpass its 2016 predecessor.
For this reason , the 2019 takes second position. This leaves the final position for the 2017. While the 2017 misses out on the higher positions, this editor believes it to be the most effective of the boards for outdoor climbing training. Perhaps this is subjective, but the high tension sequences leave little to chance, and forces incredible movement, or unique, beta skipping technique. In either case, all of these sets have their following and each deserves your love.
Featured Image by Basecamp QW