There are certain pieces of climbing gear that you can “skimp” on and get the cheapest option out there. Crash pads are not one of these items. You should be prepared to spend at least $150 on a crash pad. Any pad less than that is likely going to be crap and not worth your time or money.
Using a crappy crash pad or one that has seen its better days is a recipe for getting injured and having to take a break from climbing. Allow yourself to climb as much and as often as possible by doing everything you can to stay injury free.
Although I am all about finding the best deal and saving money, safety has to take priority. I know that sentiment is not always the most popular opinion in the climbing community, but it is one I stand by and urge you to as well.
The crash pads I recommend are:
- Standard Size: Metolius Session II – Check its current price on Amazon here
- Oversized: Black Diamond Mondo – Check its current price on Amazon here
Read on below to see what you should look for when picking out a crash pad and see why I recommend the pads that I do.
What To Look For When Buying A Crash Pad
When buying a crash pad there are three main factors to take into consideration: size, style, and material.
Crash Pad Size
In general, crash pads come in two sizes – standard (about 3’ x 4’ x 4”) and oversized ( about 4’ x 5’ x 5”). These are also commonly referred to as half and full sized crash pads. The exact pad sizes vary by the pad’s manufacturer but the dimensions above are the general rule.
Standard sized pads are cheaper, lighter, easier to transport, and easier to find a spot to store them in than oversized pads. That said, they do not cover as big of a landing area as oversized pads.
If you are someone who values a sense of security and safety, I recommend going with an oversized pad. It really builds comfort and confidence that you will land where you need to.
This decision can also be influenced by the type of boulder problems you plan on frequenting. If most of the problems you will be climbing are low to the ground then a standard pad may be the way to go regardless.
On the other hand if you are planning on frequenting bouldering problems high off the ground, you should opt to have a thicker pad that covers the biggest landing area possible.
When in doubt, I recommend opting for an oversized pad if you have the space and budget for it.
Crash Pad Style
In general, crash pads come in two styles: hinge and taco. While other styles exist (such as the Mad Rock R3’s “revolutionary” baffled style), the vast majority of pads on the market will either be a hinge or taco pad.
Hinge pads fold up and are therefore a lot easier to transport and store than taco pads. They also are able to lie flatter on the ground as they are not constantly being bent like taco pads.
The hinge area of the pad however is not padded and creates a dead zone that your foot/ankle could potentially fall onto. This should not be a huge problem if you are placing your pad correctly on level surfaces but is something you need to be aware of.
If your bouldering area does not have a lot of flat and level surfaces, a taco pad will definitely be the way to go. Although they do not lie perfectly flat, taco pads are able to cover uneven landing spots without creating a potentially dangerous landing area (such as the dead zone of a hinge pad).
In addition to this, rocks can sometimes get caught up in the hinge and lead to small holes getting put in the cover.
In general, I think hinge pads are the way to go as long as you have a flat spot to put them on. They are a million times easier to transport and store than taco pads.
Crash Pad Material
Crash pads can be broken down into two main components: their cover and foam. The type of cover material will actually have a pretty big effect on how long the pad ends up lasting. If the cover material is low quality, then holes will start to develop and the interior foam (responsible for catching you) will start to deteriorate.
There are two main types of foam that crash pads are composed of: open cell and closed cell.
Open cell foam is less dense and lighter than closed cell foam. Most pads have a combination of both foam types to catch (closed cell) and cushion (open cell) a climber’s fall. Oversized crash pads are commonly used for highballing and therefore have a large amount of closed cell foam to absorb the larger impact of falling from higher up.
In general, pads with a larger amount of closed cell foam will be more durable and last longer than ones with a lot of open cell foam. That said, they are typically heavier and “harder” as well.
Recommended Standard Crash Pad
The Metolius Session II is by far my favorite standard size crash pad as it performs extremely well and is VERY affordably priced compared to come of the other options out there. Just because decent pads can get a bit pricey pretty quick, doesn’t mean you have to get the most expensive one out there.
Metolius is a well known and trusted brand in the climbing gear space. They consistently make quality products that are durable and perform at a high level. The Metolius Session II is a great example of this and I would argue is the best pad for beginners to start with. The Session II is the definition of getting bang for your buck.
The pad is 4 inches thick and covers the standard area of 36″ x 48″ (3 x 4 feet). This is the perfect size for low to medium height bouldering problems. Its hinge style makes it very easy to transport and store. Not to mention it only weighs 9 lbs (over 2 pounds lighter than the average standard sized pad).
Some additional features of the pad include padded shoulder straps, a waist belt, 3 drag handles, and a built-in rug to wipe off your shoes. These additional features make the pad even easier to carry and move around while using it.
You will be hard pressed to find a pad with the same quality and performance of the Session II at a comparable price point.
Recommended Oversized Crash Pad
The Black Diamond Mondo is my recommended oversized pad for one main reason: it is incredible.
The oversized pad may be on the pricier end of the spectrum but I believe its higher price point can be easily justified by its quality and performance. It is not heralded as the “king of highball bouldering” for nothing.
The pad measures in at 44” x 65” x 5” (about 3.7 x 5.4 feet) and provides an unmatched feeling of confidence and security that it will catch you comfortably. Because it is so large, you can typically use this monster by itself on most boulder problems without needing to take multiple pads with you.
Its 5 inch thickness is composed of a composite of high quality foam material consisting of closed-cell foam on top and high compression open cell foam on bottom. This combination of foam types provides a soft yet sturdy landing area.
Due to its large size, the Black Diamond Mondo has a few unique features added to make handling it easier. The large pad is designed in a hinge style and has two shoulder straps and a waist belt attached to allow for easy transport. It also comes equipped with four corner grab handles and two shoulder webbings to help climbers maneuver the pad once laid out.
The Black Diamond Mondo is the highest quality crash pad that I have personally used. It is THE pad that I want below me when attempting an unsecure top out move on a high boulder.
If you are someone who prioritizes safety like me, this pad is the way to go.