Crash Pads: Buying Guide
Your crash mat’s cover could tear when dragged between uneven surfaces and jagged terrain. You should pick one with a durable cover material (not less than 900 deniers) and can withstand severe abuse. Our reviewed pads have quality construction, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.
2. Crash Pad Types
Size is one of the most crucial factors for the quality of protection a bouldering pad offers. Thus, we’ve outlined them into four types: regular, full, oversized, and supplemental.
Around 4 inches thick and with an unfolded size of 35 x 40 inches, regular pads are perfect for beginner boulders who are on a budget. Since they’re smaller, you can always carry them as a second pad.
Full pads cover area surface between 13 to 20 feet. They have unfolded dimensions of 34 x 45 x 5 inches and are in the medium category, and we consider them to be the standard design for everyone.
Oversized pads cover larger areas and are most suitable for flatter landings. With a size of about 48 x 60 inches and more, they offer more reliable protection for 40 feet heights. However, they’re pricier and more massive than other crash pad types.
Sometimes you need an extra inch of thickness to feel protected; hence, a backup pad comes handy. These types come in a variety of sizes for you to easily use with other boulders. Supplemental pads function as a surface leveler and help keep your feet clean when bouldering in muddy terrain.
3. Materials and Craftsmanship
The original upholstery for bouldering crash pads is nylon and velvet. Many climbers prefer velvet materials because they feel more comfortable and useful for cleaning of the feet.
The crash pad receives a lot of blows from the frequent falls, so you should find one with heavy-duty construction, quality finish, and durable buckles. You should always be wary of the pad’s foam and outer layer. For better durability and resistance to weather, pick those with hardcovers; they won’t offer a soft feel.
4. Fold Styles
Most crash pads have collapsible designs for more comfortable transport, but the joint is their weakest part. Manufacturers like to use different hinge designs to make it more convenient for users. So, below are the main fold types available today.
The hinge connects two separate pads to create a single fabric joint for you to fold with ease. This design prevents the need to compress any foam part when you fold, making it more durable and portable. However, a hinged pad has a gutter between the foam pieces, and that could lead to injuries if you fall on uneven terrain. So, if your landing area is flat, you can buy a hinged pad; and avoid it if rugged.
As the name implies, angled pads have their foam pieces joined at a given angle. So, when you fold, the foam’s top part covers the bottom’s, and the base goes under, solving the gutter problem.
Hybrid hinge pads, on the other hand, has a thin foam layer over the whole gap. They may not close well, and the foam may not last when you fold repeatedly. Hence, we don't recommend keeping them folded.
Unlike other hinge types, taco pads have no gutter, offering a safer surface for you to land. However, the foam’s compressed part will lose its foam over time and might not provide the needed protection when you fall. Besides, taco pads are hard to fold, and since they’re made of softer foam, you might avoid it when you’re much higher off the ground.
Most crash pads weigh around 10 to 20 pounds based on their size and thickness. Your ideal pad’s mass is dependent on your bouldering style. For instance, you should select a crash pad that suits your walk distance and climbing height. But you should also be mindful of your safety and comfort.
The best bouldering crash pad should be comfortable to carry over a distance and easy to load and offload from your vehicle. For this reason, look for those with top and side handles for an easy grab. Furthermore, the straps should be adjustable to give a snug fit and good quality, so you wouldn’t worry about them breaking off during your move.
7. Foam Thickness and Stiffness
The foam’s thickness offers protection when you fall; so, look for models with padding between 3.5 to 5 inches. A soft pad feels comfortable when you sit but isn’t perfect when you drop into it. A thick or stiff mat is safer when you land but feels too hard. While looking for your ideal foam density, remember that the higher your height of fall, the thicker the pad you need.
8. Foam Types
Crashpad foams are categorized as open-cell and closed-cell depending on their layering style.
This one is soft and has loose cells for free airflow. An Open-cell foam releases air when compressed to provide a cushion.
Stiffer and rigid foam that’s sealed to air and doesn’t deform under impact.
9. Closure Systems
The size and fold type determine your crash pad’s closure systems: buckle, flap, and zipper.
The buckle is the most common harness system for boulder crash pads. You can find them on the pad’s side, top, and bottom areas. Most buckle closures on this list are secure and easy to use, but they don’t provide safe rooms for you to store other items.
Flap closures are mostly preferred because they offer a secure covering and allow you to keep items inside. Moreover, you can unfold the flaps to serve as a mat for wiping your feet.
The zipper compresses the foam better than any other mechanism and provides a secure compartment for your items, eliminating any threats of them falling out. However, they’re less durable and prone to failure.
In addition to your crash pad, you’ll likely carry other belongings like phone, ID, climbing suit, shoes, etc.; so, their storage and ease of transportation is worth considering. You should select units with enough compartments for you to stuff in your items without having fears.
The crash pads on our list cost between $150 to $1000. Of course, you already know that the brand, material, thickness, and size affect their price. While this is something you should consider before making your order, we already picked a range of affordable prices for both beginners and advanced boulders looking for crash mats to boost their confidence.
Crash pads Maintenance Tips
For boulders, a crash pad is one of the most expensive pieces of gear to buy, so to avoid making unnecessary spending, we’ve outlined tips on how to keep your pad useable for many years.
- Use a damp cloth to clean off the dirt from your pad and allow the moisture to dry before you store it
- Repair any torn out part of the cover immediately to prevent water and dirt from getting to the foam
- If possible, avoid dragging your pad across rocky surfaces
- Don’t store your crash pad when compressed or under heavy objects to prevent it from losing form
- Keep it away from excessive heat or sun’s UV rays that could harm the foam’s structure
- Store all hinged crash pads in an unfolded position to prevent wear and tear to the foam
Tips for safer landing on crash pads
Below are ways you can land safely on your mat.
Make a careful study of the boulder’s base (where you’ll land after the fall) and completely cover these areas.
Gaps between pads can be a potential source of injury to climbers, but you can avoid this. Remember that pads could shift as people move around or sit on them. So ensure they are together before landing. You can also opt for those with Velcro straps, which allow you to attach them and prevent gaps.
- Create an even landing surface
Walk around and test your landing area to ensure it is even. If the ground is uneven because of rocks or holes, place a thicker pad over the hole or remove the stones.
- Higher boulders, more pads
For higher boulders, you need to reduce the fall’s impact by building up pads.
- Follow safe spotting practices.
Your job as a spotter is to safely ensure the falling climber lands on the crash mat you created. You should compel your climber to be on the look for you. Then, step out one foot to be more stable and stretch your hands to hold the climber at the hips, guiding her to land first on the feet. Try to prevent the falling climber from hitting any nearby wood or rock. Finally, where a climber falls from her back, do your best to protect her head from landing off the pads.
It’s Time to Wrap Up
Bouldering can be fun-filled and satisfying if you use the right protective gear, and that includes a crash mat. So, you’ve read our best crash pads reviews and now should know all about them. Again, whether you prefer outdoor or indoor bouldering, you should have found your most suitable option.
Pads are different in many ways, and even those from the same manufacturer can produce varying results. Therefore, you should always focus on the pad’s portability, weight, size, closure type, and carrying system before making your order.
Whatever crash mat you pick, our reviewed choices have excellent quality and offer the best protection when you fall. So, feel free to choose one today.
1. How do crash pads work?
Ans. Crash mats are used to cover the ground to provide a cushion when the climber falls. As a rule of thumb, always look for one with good quality to reduce the impact of your fall.
2. Why are crash pads so expensive?
Ans. The cost of the closed-cell foam is high, and that makes the rock climbing crash mat expensive.
3. Can you sleep on a crash pad?
Ans. Most crash pads for high falls are stiff and wouldn’t feel comfortable when you lay on it. But it doesn’t mean you won’t sleep on the soft types.
4. Can crash pads get wet?
Ans. The pad might still get wet if exposed to the rain.
5. How many crash pads do I need for bouldering?
Ans. If the boulder is high, the impact will also be hard despite landing on a flat surface. So, you can enhance the pad’s cushioning by layering two to three mats. However, you should take extra care with stacking because the gaps can make you less stable.
6. How do you carry multiple crash pads?
Ans. You can carry one pad and hang the second pad over the first using the rucksack straps. You can slot in a third into the inside of your main mat.
7. How thick should a crash pad be?
Ans. Crash mats' thickness varies between 2 to 24 inches, but your boulder height and weight determine what you need. That said, an 8-inch-thick pad should be ideal for everyone.
8. How safe is bouldering?
Ans. Bouldering is safer than any other form of climbing, but only if you use the right landing zone.
9. What are crash pads made of?
Ans. Crash mat’s inside are made of foam, and the outer layer has a fabric cover. It’s also equipped with straps or handles for ease of carrying.
10. Is bouldering a good workout?
Ans. Yes. Bouldering is a useful exercise and would strengthen your leg, back, shoulder, hand, and thigh muscles.