Bouldering owes much of its popularity to the development of modern crash pads. Before the existence foam-filled shock absorbers, failed bouldering attempts regularly produced spine-compressing falls or bone-breaking impacts. These the risk of these injuries ensured that most boulder problems remained relatively close-to-the- ground affairs or alternatively, long easy-to-step-off traverses.

Bouldering pads changed this by insulation climbers from these body-bruising consequences. Climbers could climb higher and closer to their limits without worrying about increasing their life-insurance premiums. Suddenly bouldering became less painful and more fun.

Here are some things worth considering before buying a new crash pad:

The temptation to get the largest available pad is understandable; they offer a bigger landing zone and greater cushioning. Unfortunately, these futon-sized pads are difficult to fit in an average car and leave very little room for a climbing partner or extra gear. At the bouldering area, these massive landing-zones are difficult to manoeuvre though dense bush and claustrophobic rock formations, further limiting their usefulness. With all these drawbacks, large pads are still mandatory for committing highballs. At the other end of the spectrum exist small, easily-transported satellite pads. While these smaller landing-zones may not offer the coverage found in bigger pads, they do provide easily deployed additional padding. These pads are also ideal for climbers running laps on well-rehearsed circuits where there is little risk of unexpected falls. The majority of climbers are probably best off with something between these two extremes.

Foam Quality
While all pads initial offer plenty of protection, repeated use will quickly break down lesser quality foam. Anyone hoping to get multiple seasons of use from their crash pad should choose a high quality model from one of the established manufacturers. Some companies are now using petroleum-free foam, which minimizes the impact on the environment.

Unobtrusive pockets and unbreakable buckles should be standard on most pads. Other worthwhile features include easily replaceable foam, multiple grab handles and a comfortable shoulder harness.

Climbers bouldering in particularly rocky areas may want to consider a different pad with a burlier shell fabric, but otherwise, this is a well-made and reasonably priced pad for most situations.

Commando $175

Unlike conventional taco-fold style pads that compress the top layer of foam when the pad is folded, the Commando uses a reverse fold, eliminating this cushion-compromising crease and simplifies folding. This construction however, prevents the use of a conventional carrying harness, as it would be on the landing-side of the pad. Revolution solves this dilemma with an innovative harness that wraps and cradles the folded pack and tucks away when the pad is deployed. Alternatively, the fabric panel can be flipped to the bottom of the pad protecting it from mud and dirt. When moving to another problem, a the single cinch-down strap attached to the carrying harness quickly threads thought a large metal ring and easily compresses the pad. While this set-up may initially seem complicated, it offers significant improvements over conventional pad construction.

Full Pad $185

Manufactured in America with US made materials, the Full Pad highlights the impeccable construction common in every Organic pad. Organic uses a hybrid-hinge design that mates a thin, one-piece layer of top foam to two fatter hinged foam sections allowing for easy folding during transport while eliminating ankle-twisting gaps – smart. The innovation continues with the addition of a large external pocket that acts as a closure, protects the suspension system from mud and dirt when the pad is open and allows for a second smaller pad to carried piggy-back style on the outside of the Full Pad. Durable foam provides years of high-ball worthy cushioning and the metal hardware won’t break if it’s trapped against a rock. This is one of the best pads on the market.

Mantle $190

At first glance, the mantle looks like any other well-made,hinged-style bouldering pad but a closer inspection reveals that the hinge is actually a beefy nylon-coil zipper. The zipper runs lengthwise down the centre of the pad and wraps along the bottom narrow end. This unique construction allows the Mantle to be used as a conventionally shaped pad or zipped end-to-end for better protection on traversing problems – very smart. Other worthwhile features include a durable ballistic nylon exterior, plenty of energy absorbing foam, metal buckles and a built-in foot mat for shoe cleaning before stepping onto the rock climbing. This is an excellent pad.

Satellite $140
Black Diamond

The Satellite’s demure proportions make it ideal for running circuits or for adding extra padding on highballs and traverses. A secondary benefit of this smaller pad is that it easily fits in most cars, eliminating the need for monster-truck size vehicles when travelling to the boulders. Burly fabrics and metal hardware assure long-term durability while the taco-style construction provides a gap-free landing surface. While the lack of flaps and pockets may be deal-breaker for some, most boulderers will simply opt to carry other bouldering gear in a small pack or shoulder bag.

Stomp Pad $150

The Stomp Pad is one of the few hinged pads on the market and after using it, many climbers will wonder why more manufacturers are not offering similar hinged designs. Metolius uses a unique angle-cut hinge with locking Velcro tabs allowing the pad to fold easily for transport while offering the gap-free coverage of one-piece, taco-fold pads. Robust aluminum hardware ensures durability and the simple, low-profile suspension system comfortably carries the pad and any other bouldering essentials.