Rock climbing is an incredibly exhilarating activity. It is no surprise that it becomes addictive for some people.
It however, cannot be attempted without regard for safety. You need a good pair of climbing shoes, some good quality chalk and of course a crash pad (or crash pads)
Crash pads not only save your bones when gravity gets the better of you, having one down below also helps to give you the confidence you need to send boulders you never thought you could conquer.
Crash pads fall into one of 3 categories: regular, full and oversized. Regular crash pads are standard, entry-level pads ideal for beginners or boulderers shopping on a budget.
Full crash pads are considered the standard pads with all-round designs but have more features than regular ones. Oversized crash pads are just as their name suggests.
These are large pads measuring about 48 inches by 60 inches.
There is an endless list of options to choose from. Picking the ideal pad for your specific use can be confusing. We compiled a list of best bouldering crash pads and the Mad Rock R3 was our top pick.
Here are Our Best Bouldering Crash Pads
1. Mad Rock R3 Crash Pad
The Mad Rock R3 has been described by some as one of the most extensive crash pads in the market. It is a full pad with open dimensions at 35 x 55 inches and 4 inches thick.
What is perhaps the most outstanding feature of this pad is that it can conform to uneven surfaces making it the best choice for jagged ground.
This is because it is constructed with separate baffles filled with shredded, closed-cell foam rather than continuous foam.
These baffles also mean that you don’t have to fold the pad in two like you would other crash pads. You can roll it up into a burrito-shaped load which can then be carried like a tube on the boulderer’s back.
Baffles also make it one of the best crash pads to have for sleeping because it conforms to your body much better than hinge or taco style pads. The R3 boasts of being one of few eco-friendly crash pads.
Its baffles are full of recycled foam.
The R3 is on the heavy side, which makes it more difficult to carry around. It weighs about 18 pounds.
Despite being heavier than average for its size, carrying it is made easier by chest straps, shoulder straps and a waist belt which have padding to make the load easier to bear.
You can also stick extra gear or clothing into the easily accessible zipper pockets and carry it along with minimal hassle.
This is also a good option when you are looking for a pad to fit between stand alone and supplemental crash pads. $200 is the average price for a quality crash pad.
This one costs less than that making it a good choice considering its safety, durability, size and convenience features.
- Easily conforms to uneven surfaces
- Made using separate baffles
- Padded shoulder straps, chest straps and waist belt
- Zipper pockets for extra gear or clothing
- Works as supplemental crash pad
- Versatile – good for sleeping on
- Not recommended as a stand-alone crash pad
- Quite bulky and heavy
2. Black Diamond Impact Crash Pad
Black Diamond’s Impact crash pad is considered the best choice for beginners. It is worth noting that crash pads are not designed for specific skill levels as such but are designed for specific styles of bouldering.
This one is designed for low to mid-height boulder problems which are typically the kind of situations beginners find themselves in.
This pad has dimensions of 39 x 45 x 4 inches giving you a surface coverage of 1,755 square inches.
This is a decent surface area but not enough for this to be the only crash pad you use especially when attempting highballs or problems where you could fall in a variety of places.
It weights a little over 9 pounds which is considerably lighter than other crash pads of its size. They can sometimes be twice as heavy as this.
Where packing and portability is concerned, the Impact makes life easier for you with its padded, durable shoulder straps and metal buckles which are easy to close and open.
There are side-grab carrying handles which make carrying it from one place to another easier. One downside to note is that this is not the best crash pad to carry gear in.
Many boulderers rely on the crash pads to carry gear and sometimes clothing. Since this pad has no closure strap at the bottom, you can’t carry small items between the two sides of the folded crash pad.
They would easily fall out. You can only carry large items like a pair of shoes. The solution to this is to have a backpack in which you can carry all your small items and then carry the backpack in the crash pad.
It is big enough to stay in place.
- Sturdy and durable
- Padded shoulder straps
- Good surface area coverage
- Easy-to-use buckles
- Side-grab carrying handles
- No closure strap at the bottom
- Can’t carry gear in the folded pad
3. Petzl Alto Crash Pad
The Petzl Alto crash pad is the pad of choice for users who appreciate lots of convenience features… though they do come at a cost.
It is suitable for both low and high falls. With 3 layers of foam of different densities your fall is softened no matter how high you are.
It has one 3-inch layer of open-cell foam and two layers of half-inch closed-cell foam fused together. Its dimensions – 39 x 49 x 5 inches make it as cushiony as you can possibly get with a total surface coverage of 1,911 square inches.
A hinge-less design means there is no gap or weak spot to think about when positioning it. Another unique feature is the zipper design which allows you to compress and zip the two sides together.
This also means that you can carry lots of gear in there and never have to worry about anything slipping out. The disadvantage of this zipper is that you cannot carry large items in there since the zipper just won’t close.
However, the zipper does make it easier to carry the pad since the two sides are well held in position.
Carrying from one crag to another is made easier by wide, comfortable shoulder straps and an adjustable bandolier. If the skies open up with your crash pad in place, not to worry.
It is covered with durable, waterproof material which is reinforced in exposed areas to protect the foam from moisture. All you need to do after a downpour is wipe it down and it’s as good as new.
Despite the huge convenience created by the zipper, it is useful to note that in the event that the zipper fails, the crash pad becomes almost impossible to carry.
- 3 layers of foam
- Hinge-less design
- Zipper design
- Extremely pricey
- Can’t carry large gear
- Faulty zipper renders it almost useless
- Somewhat complicated
4. Asana Hero Crash Pad
This is a soft foam pad with a hybrid hinge fold. Its dimensions are 48 x 36 x 4 inches giving you 1728 square inches of surface coverage.
Inside the thick foam you see is a 1-inch top layer of closed-cell foam, 2 inches of a core layer of open-cell foam and a 1-inch bottom layer of closed-cell foam.
This makes it thick enough for low traverses and sit starts but not enough for highballs. Asana Hero stands out as the top contender as far as portability goes.
It has few but very handy features which make carrying it much easier than other crash pads. First it has a cargo clip on the front which is put there to allow you to attach a backpack rather than stuff it into the pad.
There is also a large flap which keeps the backpack in place so it doesn’t swing from side to side. The backpack can then be tucked safely under the flap. It can also be used to attach another crash pad.
Padded shoulder straps and waist belt make carrying the pad comfortable.
3 carry handles allow you to easily move the 12 pound pad from one position to another when on the crag.
- Cargo clip
- Flap for carrying other pads
- 3 carry handles
- Padded shoulder straps and waist belt
- Not appropriate for highballs
5. Mad Rock Mad Pad
The Mad Rock Mad pad is a good choice for beginner boulderers because it provides maximum thickness (5 inches) at a price well below $200.
Its dimensions are 48 x 36 x 5 inches when open. The hinge style is used to fold it neatly into two flat sections measuring 24 x 36 x 5 inches. It has a total of 3 layers of foam.
A 1-inch top layer of closed-cell foam, a 3-inch core layer of open-cell foam and a 1-inch thick bottom layer of closed-cell foam.
When the pad is new, you may find the foam to be a bit too stiff especially if you are using it for short falls. It does come in handy when landing from significant heights. It softens out over time though.
A convenient feature of this pad is a velcro strap on the back of the hinge for continuous flooring and to help keep the pad together in the landing zone.
Carrying the 14 pound pad from one place to another is made easier and more comfortable by padded shoulder straps and a waist belt.
Another unique feature in this pad is that it can be converted into a chair using the straps. You can sit and relax in between climbs.
After using the pad for a while, you will realize that you get what you pay for. A 5-inch thick pad for under $200 was not such a steal after all. This product doesn’t really stand the test of time.
The fabric, which is not water resistant soon starts to fail, and the once stiff, firm 5 inches of foam soon follows suit.
This makes the Mad Rock Mad pad ideal for beginners or boulderers who are not ready to invest a lot of money and who don’t go climbing very often.
- Fairly priced
- Velcro strap on the hinge
- Padded shoulder pads
- Can convert into a chair
- Fabric is not water resistant
- Shoulder straps are not adjustable
- Not durable
6. Black Diamond Drop Zone
Black Diamond’s Drop Zone is considered the best crash pad among the taco-style (hinged) pads. This is a medium sized pad measuring 48 x 41 x 3.5 inches and weighing about 9 pounds.
You can enjoy the peace of mind which comes with a continuous landing space and no gaps or weak points thanks to a hinge-less style.
A look at the price tag could have you thinking it is a regular or full pad but it is a mid-sized product making it the most expensive option in its size. This is what falls between entry-level products and lower end highball models.
Layering consists of a closed-cell PW foam layer on the top and a highly compressed PU foam on the bottom.
A convenient quick-closure, elastic mesh flap stores gear such as shoes, chalk and other essentials inside the pad. The metal buckles are sturdy and easy to use.
A pair of handles on either side makes carrying easy. Another unique feature is a rubberised coating at the back which makes it waterproof and therefore more durable.
This also keeps it from slipping out of place when placed on angled landing areas. If you want get the pad off your back but would rather not place it on the ground, you can remove the shoulder straps and hip belt and use them to strap the pad onto a tree.
The biggest disadvantage associated with this pad is its price. Second is its thickness. At 3.5 inches thick, it wears out faster than a 5 inch pad.
- Effective foam layering
- Hinge-less taco style
- Reasonably large in surface area
- Elastic storage flap
- Rubberized coating on the back
- Carry handles
- Expensive for its size
- Only 3.5 inches thick
7. Asana Sidekick Bouldering Pad
The Asana Sidekick bouldering pad is a small add-on pad intended to be used as a supplementary pad alongside thicker, bigger stand-alone pads. Supplementation could be to add to the surface area of landing space in an already built out landing zone.
It could also be to increase cushioning when placed over another pad. Asana sidekick pads can be used on their own but only for very short climbs.
With dimensions at 48 x 36 x 4 inches, it covers a decent surface area. The dual-density foam structure includes 2 inches of open cell sandwiched in 1 inch of closed cell.
A strong nylon cover (1000 denier) gives it a sleek look and makes it easy to clean. Nylon is a quick drying fabric so it won’t take too long for it to dry when it gets wet.
Carrying this pad is made easy by 3 carry handles which allow you to comfortably carry the pad with your grip on either the long or short side.
To carry the pad around, you have a slim trim suspension system which includes heavy duty webbing shoulder straps and a waist belt. No, they didn’t forget to add a carry flap.
It was deliberately left out. Seeing as this is a supplementary pad, it is assumed that it will be being carried in the flap of another bigger pad. Everything is held in place thanks to a superior cam buckle closure system.
- Slim trim suspension system
- Strong nylon cover
- 3 carry handles
- Cheaper option to increase padding or surface area
- Metal cam buckle closure
- Sleek look
- Not a stand-alone crash pad
- Shoulder straps are not padded
Our search for the best bouldering crash pad took us through many different kinds of pads. It was the Mad Rock R3 which stood out most.
It is the only crash pad with separate baffles which enables it conform to uneven surfaces. You can carry extra gear and clothing safely thanks to zipper pockets and the shoulder straps are well padded for ease of carrying.
Although this one took the overall top spot, we did come across bouldering crash pads which are ideal for certain specific situations.
The Black Diamond Impact crash pad is a great choice for beginner boulderers and the Asana Hero is worth a second look if portability is high on your list of priorities.
Even when you have found the ideal crash pads, experts always advise that you combine several pads below your climbing area.