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|Top Pick: Mad Rock R3|
|Best Value: Mad Rock Mad Pad|
|Best Beginner Crash Pad: Black Diamond Impact|
|Honorable Mention: Organic Full Pad|
|Best Large Crash Pad: Black Diamond Mondo|
If you want to boulder outside, you need a crash pad.
Crash pads are arguably the most important piece of outdoor bouldering gear because they serve the most important function — protecting your life.
There are many different crash pads available today that differ greatly in size, style, and price. With all the options, it can be hard to know which crash pad is right for you.
For that reason, I’ve put together this list of the best crash pads for bouldering. Whether you’re looking to take your first trip outside or replace an old pad, you will find an option that suits your situation.
Top Pick: Mad Rock R3
With its innovative baffle design, the Mad Rock R3 makes it possible to cover up some of the sketchiest outside landings. Its size and thickness make it highly versatile and perfect for falls from short to mid-height problems.
The baffles in the pad mean that, rather than folding closed like a taco, it can actually roll up more like a burrito. All you need to do then is attach the included flap to the bottom opening and the R3 then becomes a tube on your back into which you can stuff all your gear. The baffles also make it one of the best crash pads for sleeping since it will conform to your body better than typical taco or hinge pads.
Possibly the best aspect of this pad is the price. The Mad Rock R3 covers nearly as much surface area as some pads worth fifty dollars more. For its size, quality, and innovative features this crash pad is truly one of the best available.
One minor downside is that the pad is heavy, but you can cut down on weight by using it as your only pack and not carrying a backpack against your chest.
Lastly, the R3 is the most eco-friendly crash pad as its baffles are filled with recycled foam. Don’t think recycled means low-quality, though. This pad will last you years.
Best Value: Mad Rock Mad Pad
For those looking for the best budget crash pad, this one is for you.
Everything about the Mad Pad is solid. It measures three feet by four feet for a respectable amount of surface coverage. The foam is five inches thick (again, the thickest you’ll usually find of any pad) and quite sturdy.
The Mad Pad is best for problems of virtually any height. The foam is stiff enough to protect you from high falls so you can focus more of your attention on sticking the move than worrying about landing safely.
One cool feature on the Mad Pad is that it can turn into a chair for when you’re hanging out at the boulder field or campground. The pad also has some Velcro flaps along its sides that you can use to attach two or more Mad Pads together to create a flat, unbroken landing zone.
If the Mad Pad doesn’t appeal to you, a close runner-up to it is the Metolius Session II, which is similarly priced.
Best Beginner Crash Pad: Black Diamond Impact
Let me start by saying that the phrase “beginner crash pad” is a bit of an oxymoron. Crash pads aren’t designed for a particular skill level. Rather, they are designed to tailor to specific uses and styles of outdoor bouldering.
It just so happens that many beginner boulderers tend to climb outdoor boulders of similar heights and styles (shorter, fewer dynamic movements, safer landing zones, etc.).
With that in mind, we picked the Black Diamond Impact as the best beginner crash pad because it is perfectly suited to the situations that a beginner to intermediate boulderer will usually find themselves in when outdoors.
The pad is a good size, slightly larger than other typical entry-level pads such as the Metolius Session and Mad Rock Mad Pad. It also has four-inch thick foam which is a good amount for low- to medium-height boulder problems.
The foam is semi-stiff which makes it comfortable enough to fall or jump on repeatedly from low heights and sturdy enough to protect you from higher bailouts.
The strap and hinge system is elegant and sturdy. The size is such that it will fit in virtually any car trunk. It is also capable of making a nice crag seat or bed if need be.
Full review: Black Diamond Impact
Honorable Mention: Organic Full Pad
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You don’t have to climb for very long before you run into someone with a piece of Organic gear. This once-small bouldering gear company has become well-known in the climbing community for its high-quality and long-lasting products.
Their pads are sturdy, functional, and well-designed. The Organic Full Pad is a standard size (3′ x 4′) and thickness (4″) and comes with some nice features for storing gear inside when folded shut.
One cool aspect of Organic products is that you can pick the colors you want them to use for the outer fabric. This makes your products feel like they are uniquely your own.
Organic products are a little pricier than some other brands, but they last you a long time and many climbers I know say they’d gladly pay the premium any day for the quality and customer service they receive from Organic.
Best Large Crash Pad: Black Diamond Mondo
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For those of you who need the utmost protection when bouldering outside, the Black Diamond Mondo is here for you.
The Mondo is not just large, it’s huge. It measures 44 inches wide by 65 inches long for a total 2,860 square inches of coverage. The foam inside it is five inches thick, the thickest you’ll usually see on the market.
The Mondo is great for those boulderers who will be climbing tall boulders, or those who already have a regular-sized crash pad but find it too small or soft for their purposes. As you can see in the photo above, Nalle Hukkataival — one of the best boulderers in the world — uses the Mondo when attempting highball boulders.
This pad transitions perfectly to shorter boulders as well. It isn’t the easiest to carry around since it does weigh twenty pounds but, when you do take it outside, it will protect you for every type of problem you get on.
A large pad isn’t for everyone, but if you are looking for one the Mondo is the best large crash pad available. It is expensive, though, so one of the few cons is its price.
If the Mondo is too pricey for you, take a look at the Mad Rock Triple Mad Pad. It is slightly larger than the Mondo and retails for a fair amount less.
How to Choose the Best Crash Pad for You
Preferred Closure Style
Crash pads can have one of a few different closure styles: taco (one solid piece of foam you fold in half), hinge (two pieces of foam that are stitched together and fold nicely in the middle), and baffle (separate tubes filled with foam that roll closed like a burrito).
There is no inherently best closure style, it just depends on what you prefer. Four of the above pads have hinge closures while one, the Mad Rock R3, has a baffle closure (the only one on the market so far).
Appropriate Thickness & Stiffness of Foam
Different crash pads are suited for different styles of boulder problems. Some are designed for highball boulder problems while others are meant for shorter problems. Accordingly, foam stiffness and thickness vary by pad.
If you’re going to be climbing tall boulder problems than look for a pad with thicker and stiffer foam that can protect you from high falls. If you don’t climb lots of tall boulder problems than you might want to look at a pad with thinner, softer foam that will be more comfortable to fall on and not as heavy to carry around.
Quality & Durability
You don’t want to buy a crappy crash pad. Your pad can literally save your life, so, above all else, your crash pad needs to be well-made and long-lasting. You don’t want something that will leave you at risk of injury, and you don’t want something that will break down quickly.
The above pads are all incredibly solid options and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Where you could go wrong is in buying a pad you know nothing about just because it’s cheap or convenient. Make the investment to get a quality crash pad. When it comes to your life, better safe than sorry.