Bouldering high above the best crash pads always makes me feel better. The higher I climb up a boulder, the smaller everything looks down below! I have a healthy respect (fear) for gravity and the ground.
I remember taking a bad fall onto my ribs while bouldering on the Iron Man Boulder in Bishop, CA. I didn’t know what I was doing and just carelessly tossed one of my two pads on the ground. I was still new to the sport and didn’t have my technique honed in, causing me to miss some critical heel hooks.
Thankfully, I was unharmed. But that fall still sticks with me today. Since then I’ve tried to be much more careful in choosing and placing my crash pads when I’m climbing outside. My favorite crash pad to use these days is the Mad Rock Duo Crash Pad.
Table of Contents
- Best Crash Pads
- What is a boulder pad?
- How do I choose a crash pad?
- Styles of Crash Pads
- How many crash pads do I need for bouldering?
- What foam is used in bouldering pads?
- What is a taco style crash pad?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Review Criteria
Best Crash Pads
- Mad Rock Duo – Editors Choice
- Black Diamond Mondo – Best For Highballing
- Black Diamond Circuit – Best Budget Buy
- Mad Rock Mad Pad – Best Secondary Pad
- Mad Rock R3 – Best for Uneven Terrain
But I often find myself wishing I could pack up the huge mat from the climbing gym and bring it with me!
If you’re searching for the best bouldering crash pad, we’re here to help you out! We’re going to tell you our favorite crash pads, and dive into the science and technical details of everything about pads. Keep reading to find the best pads and learn a thing or two along the way.
Mad Rock Duo Crash Pad – Editors Choice
- Large coverage surface area and five inches of foam
- Padded shoulder straps and straps to connect other pads to your back
- Velcro to connect to other Mad Rock Pads to prevent gaps in your padding
- Firmer foam, not ideal for lower falls
- Not the best for uneven landings
The Mad Rock Duo Crash Pad takes the cake as our favorite crash pad. It comes with all the features you need and no extra frills. Mad Rock has been innovating new features and the Duo Pad is a culmination of their efforts. If we could only choose one pad for our bouldering escapades. the Mad Rock Duo would be the first spot in our quiver.
For starters, the Duo pad has a surface area of over 16 feet. You’ll be able to protect flat landings and high falls with the 5 inches of foam. I never like bouldering with only one pad. I like to have multiple pads sprayed out on the ground for peace of mind.
The foam on top is closed cell foam giving you a firm landing. This pad is firmer than a lot of other pads on the market, so it isn’t ideal for lower falls. But I think this trade off is worth it because: the pad will have a longer lifespan, you are still protected on lower falls, the Duo will excel at higher falls where you need good protection.
Where this pad truly excels is transporting and connecting pads. The suspension system on this pad feels like it came straight from a backpacking pack. Mad Rock added in padded shoulder straps that are also load-lifting to stabilize the weight on your back. These straps can also be easily adjusted to your height. And all of this is especially helpful because of the included straps and daisy chains to connect additional pads to your back.
The duo also comes with velcro flaps that connect to other Mad Pads. You can create a continuous bouldering mat by connecting the pads together. You won’t have any gaps in your landing zone as the pads will not move around and create holes where your feet can find the ground. The only downside of this is that you do need other Mad Rock pads for connecting.
The daisy chains on the pad also double as clip-in points for water bottles and backpacks. I don’t notice the extra weight because of the suspension system we talked about earlier. And the flap closure doubles as a welcome mat for your shoes. You can dust off the dirt and grime to ensure your rubber is ready for the rock.
Mad Rock Duo Tech Specs
|Foam Composition||Layered open and closed cell foam|
|Features||– Multiple pad daisy chaining|
– Welcome mat
– Weatherproof outer material
|Open Dimensions||56 x 42 x 5|
|Closed Dimensions||42 x 27.5 x 10.5|
|Landing Surface Area||Just over 16 feet|
Black Diamond Mondo – Best Crash Pad For Highballing
- Huge 20 foot landing zone surface area
- Foam built to cushion you on bigger falls
- Padded suspension system for carrying
- Weight, it’s a heavy pad coming in at 20.5 pounds
- Bulky, hard to fit in a smaller vehicle
The Black Diamond Mondo is an awesome choice for highball boulder problems. Even Nalle Hukkataival thinks so, he repeatedly climbs above the dirt with a few mondos below him. The pad is big and heavy, coming in at almost 20 feet of landing zone surface area, with a weight of 20 pounds 6 ounces.
Black Diamond updated the suspension system for this pad by adding padded shoulder straps and a waist belt. And despite that massive surface area, this still isn’t the heaviest pad on the market. It’s a huge pad which is its biggest strength and weakness. You’ll be able to protect a huge portion of the ground and the 5 inches of foam will cushion you on high falls.
But the bulkiness of the pad will add some obstacles when carrying, transporting, and storing the pad. You’ll have to get creative, but it’ll be well worth it for this pad.
If you’re into highballs, get yourself a Mondo. It’s the best crash pad for this use case.
Black Diamond Mondo Tech Specs
|Weight||20 lbs 6 ounces|
|Foam Composition||Closed-cell PE foam layup on top, high compression PU foam on bottom|
|Features||– Hinge for easy transporting|
– 1000d nylon for water and abrasion resistance
– Shoulder straps and waistbelt
|Open Dimensions||44 x 65 x 5in|
|Closed Dimensions||44 x 32.5 x 10in|
|Landing Surface Area||Almost 20 feet|
Mad Rock Mad Pad Crash Pad – Runner Up Best Highballing Pad
- Less expensive than the Mondo
- Weight, only weighs 14 pounds
- Landing surface area only 12 feet, very small for highballing
- Firm foam can feel hard on impact
This rhyming mouthful, the Mad Rock Mad Pad Crash Pad is a good option for highballing and is also less expensive than the Mondo pad. The Mad Rock Mad Pad Crash Pad (it’s too fun to not type out every time!) has a landing surface area of 12 feet and weighs 14 pounds. It’s smaller and lighter than the mondo. If you have storage concerns or are looking to spend less money the Mad Rock Mad Pad Crash Pad (I can’t help myself) is an excellent choice.
The Mad Pad (it even has fun nicknames), offers 5 inches of foam and has a 1-3-1 construction for all of your high falls. One Inch of closed cell foam, 3 inches of open cell foam, and then another 1 inch layer of closed cell foam. We have our soft cushiony foam sandwiched in between two inches of firm foam.
Like most pads, the Mad Pad features adjustable backpack straps, a waist belt, and a chest belt to make this pad a breeze to carry to your boulder problems. The Mad Pad can also be converted into a comfy lounge chair.
Mad Rock Mad Pad Tech Specs
|Foam Composition||One inch of closed cell foam on top, 3 inches of open cell foam in middle, one inch of closed cell foam on bottom.|
|Features||– Solid foam composition to protect high falls|
– Converts into a comfy chair
– Adjustable backpack straps, waist belt, and a chest strap
– Velcro attachment straps to create a seamless landing zone (Mad Rock pads can support this feature).
|Open Dimensions||48 x 36 x 5in|
|Closed Dimensions||24 x 36 x 10in|
|Landing Surface Area||12 feet|
Black Diamond Circuit Crash Pad – Best Budget Pad
- Friendly price
- Variety of colors that match the Black Diamond chalk pots
- Good foam for landing
- Suspension fasteners are plastic, not metal
- Only 11.5 feet for landing surface area
The Black Diamond Circuit Crash Pad is the perfect pad if you don’t want to break the bank and still have a quality pad. The pad retails for just $149 and comes with all the features you would expect. Layers of closed cell PE foam are bonded to high compression open cell foam giving you a landing that is firm and soft at the same time. Three convenient metal buckles create a three-strap closure system and the pad is covered in a durable 900D nylon.
Finding the perfect gear when you’re new to the sport is important. You can save a lot of money by purchasing the right pieces of gear. Climbing gear is durable and can last a long time for many different styles of climbing.
This is the best bouldering pad for beginners. Black Diamond added the circuit to their line of pads so people could try out the sport without making a huge financial commitment.
The Circuit is a hinge design, which means there are two pieces of foam that are connected by the outer nylon. These pads can fit easily in an apartment because they fold up into such a small space.
This pad oozes in functional minimalism. The suspension system lets the pad hover on you while you’re hiking to the boulder field. You won’t twist your ankle on a gap between pads because the clean-cut corners allow the Circuit to snuggle up to other pads. And the foam is easily accessible if you ever need to replace the foam.
The pad color scheme pairs nicely with the Black Diamond Mondito Chalk Pot! It’s the best crash pad for matching with your chalk pot!
Black Diamond Circuit Tech Specs
|Weight||8 lbs 5 ounces|
|Foam Composition||Closed-cell PE foam layup bonded to high compression PU foam|
|Features||– 900d nylon outer exterior|
– Square corners to fit in with other pads
– Easy hook metal buckles with 3 strap closure system
|Open Dimensions||47.2 x 35 x 3.9 in|
|Closed Dimensions||23.6 x 35 x 7.8 in|
|Landing Surface Area||11.5 feet|
Mad Rock R3 Crash Pad – Best for Uneven Terrain
- Uses recycled foam
- Soft foam within its seven sections
- Innovative baffled design makes the pad perfect for uneven terrain or covering boulders
- Heavy, can be 17-20 pounds and only covers 13 feet of landing surface area
- Not ideal for flat landing terrain
The Mad Rock R3 gets a spot on our list as an honorable mention because it’s a fantastic pad in its own right. But it excels in specific scenarios. We think the above pads are better options for your first or second pad. But the Mad Rock R3 can earn a spot in your quiver.
The Mad Rock R3 uses recycled EVA foam within the pad (R3 standing for “reduce, reuse, recycle.”) The foam filling is thick but soft. But the design of the Mad Rock R3 is different than the other pads we’ve shown above.
The R3 has seven different verticle baffles or sections. When the pad is laid out flat, you can see the seems in between each section. This means that the pad won’t lay flat, which is a downside and why we recommend other pads for your first one. But this means is that you will be able to mold the pad over roots, rocks, and any uneven surface and will be well protected. Traditional hinge-style pads have a hard time laying over these obstacles because of the big rectangular pieces of foam inside. Thanks to the baffles in the Mad Rock R3 you can have extra protection.
The R3 is also heavy, coming in at 20 pounds. It also doesn’t use a ballistic nylon shell but has a 1680D polyester shell. In strength ratings, 1680D nylon was 1.4 times stronger than the 1680D polyester.
Mad Rock R3 Crash Pad Tech Specs
|Weight||17 – 20 lbs due to foam variance|
|Foam Composition||Recycled EVA closed cell foam|
|Features||– 15 pounds of foam recycled for every purchase|
– Shoulder straps and hip belt
– UV resistant treatment on the outer polyester protection layer
|Open Dimensions||55 x 35 x 4 in|
|Closed Dimensions||23 x 12.5 x 36in|
|Landing Surface Area||A little over 13 feet|
Organic Simple Pad
- Simple pad, has everything you need and no extra features
- Friendly price
- Made by one of the smaller climbing companies, loyal following.
- Lacks features for connecting and carrying like the Mad Rock Pads offer
- 12 foot landing area
I love bouldering with the Organic Simple Pad because… it’s simple! From the design, the features, and the ordering process, the Organic Simple Pad is simple. Ask any boulderer what their favorite pad is and you’ll hear a lot of one-word responses, “Organic”.
The simple pad’s landing area is 36 ” x 48″ giving you 12 feet of surface area to land on. The foam is a proprietary blend that is durable and responds back to full form fall after fall. You won’t need to cover the ground with a tarp thanks to the 1050d ballistics nylon shell and 1000d pad top. These materials can be found withstanding the daily high traffic at bouldering gyms. This is a quality crash pad that comes with everything you need: adjustable shoulder straps, a chest stabilizer, and a hip belt.
What we love most about Organic is that it is handmade in the USA and they offer replacement parts for their pads. We hate it when a tool breaks and you can’t fix it, why should our bouldering pads be any different?
Compliment this pad with a smaller pad from our list and you will be well protected
Organic Simple Crash Pad Tech Specs
|Foam Composition||Highest quality open cell foam and closed cell foam|
|Features||– 1050d ballistics shell|
– 1000d nylon pad top
– Hybrid hinge with 3 convenient grab handles
|Open Dimensions||36 x 48 x 4in|
|Closed Dimensions||36 x 24 x 8in|
|Landing Surface Area||12 feet|
What is a boulder pad?
A boulder pad is a large piece of layered foam that is designed to protect you from the hard ground when you’re outdoor bouldering. The pad is placed at the bottom of a climb and can be repositioned by your spotters as you climb higher. The crash pad is placed in the landing zone and reduces the impact on your feet, ankles, and legs from high falls. The layers of foam will usually be protected by ballistic nylon. Throw the pad between a rock and a hard place and the nylon will protect the pad.
How do I choose a crash pad?
Here are a few tricks for choosing the best pad for your objectives.
If this is your first pad, then get one that will cover a large surface area. When you go out bouldering with friends, you’ll combine all the crash pads you have to protect the landing zone.
After you already have one large pad, you can then complement it with smaller crash pads and build out your pad rack.
If you’re bouldering objective is at the end of a long alpine hike, get a lighter pad! The Black Diamond Circuit Crash Pad ticks it at only 8 lbs 5 ounces and comes with shoulder straps and a waist belt. Heavier crash pads will offer more protection during a fall but weigh more.
Each pad will have a closure system, which is just a fancy way of saying “how to make this pad compact.” Closure systems will either be velcro, metal buckles, and straps, or a zipper.
A velcro closure system will be like the velcro straps on your climbing shoes. You’ll have ease of use but the velcro may disintegrate over time.
Metal buckles are the most common closure system you’ll see. Straps that have metal hooks attached to the ends will interlock with sewn daisy chain runners on the pad. Then pull on the straps to secure the pad. I prefer metal buckles because they are the most durable of the options. Velcro or zippers can break or lose functionality over time. But in my experience, the metal buckles will hold true.
To Highball or not to Highball
How high is the boulder you’re climbing? Mad Rock offers two pads catered specifically to highball projects. Both the Mad Rock Triple Mad Pad and Mad Rock Mad Pad Crash Pad are built with 5 inches of foam to protect big falls. Pads will have two types of foam: closed cell foam and open cell foam. The closed cell foam gives you a firmer landing and prevents you from rolling your ankle on the pad. Open cell foam is the soft cushion that reduces the force of a fall.
Styles of Crash Pads
When you hear people talking about the style of a crash pad, this usually means how the pad is going to close up. You can get some inexpensive pads, like the Asana Rock Star or Petzl Nimbo, that lie flat and do not close up. These pads can be useful for a home gym where you won’t be transporting the pad much.
Hinge crash pads refer to crash pads that are two separate pieces of foam that are then joined together. These pads are able to open and close like just like a book. There is even a tri fold boulder pad design that exists because of hinge pads. The Metolius Recon is a tri fold pad that folds up into a narrow profile. This is perfect for storing and transporting. But since there are three sections of this tri fold pad, there are two hinges where your foot could poke an object protruding from the ground.
- Lay flat on surfaces
- Folds into a compact size
- Doubles as a couch!
- Can’t protect even terrain well
- Rocks can poke through the hinge material
Hybrid pads are the same as hinge pads, but they will have a thin closed cell foam layer that spans the entire top of the pad. The thin top layer prevents objects from protruding through the hinge, but we’re still able to close the pad like a traditional hinge pad.
The baffled design is similar to a hinge pad. There will be multiple sections of padding, but these hinges will be better protected by padding. The Mad Rock R3 is one of the best baffle pads on the market. The R3 will have seven smaller sections consisting of padding.
- Better at conforming to uneven landing areas. The pad can be laid over boulders and roots and securely fit.
- Comfy! More sections of padding make it better for conforming to your body if you need a catnap.
- Heavier. More material is involved for this pad which means more weight for us to lug around.
Taco style pads are one piece of foam, not two separate pieces like a hinge style, that can be folded and closed together like a taco.
- One piece of foam to protect you over uneven terrain. Won’t have to worry about landing in the middle of the pad and hitting a rock.
- The same level of cushioning at any point on the pad
- Difficult to fold up and take up more room
- May need to store it open so the foam doesn’t degrade
How many crash pads do I need for bouldering?
I have at least two crash pads and a spotter whenever I am outdoor bouldering. It can be tempting to forgo these items if we’re about to do a lower graded problem, but a broken ankle isn’t worth it! But if there are boulders, roots or I’m not above flat landings, I like to bump up to three or four pads. That might be overkill, but every fall while bouldering is a ground fall. Protect yourself wisely!
The placement of each pad is important. Before going up the climb, talk with your spotters about where to reposition the pad as you’re climbing. Have a plan in place so that if the route traverses away from the start, you’ll always have a pad underneath you.
What foam is used in bouldering pads?
Bouldering pads are made up of polyurethane foam for cushion and nylon exterior shells to protect the pad from the elements. There are two different types of foam: closed cell foam and open cell foam. These foams are layered together to provide stability and cushion.
Open Cell and Closed Cell Foam
Closed cell foam is firmer than open cell and it seems counter-intuitive to have a firm piece of foam to land on. But the firmness provides a feet-first landing surface where you won’t twist, tweak, or roll your ankle. Landing feet first on closed-cell foam enables you to land on your feet, bend your knees to absorb the shock, and prevent further injury.
The size of your climbing shoe also plays a role in potential injury during a fall. If you size your climbing shoe extremely tight your foot will have a smaller surface area to absorb impact. And a smaller surface area means more impact force concentrated to your foot and could result in a potential tweak or injury.
Open cell foam will make up a majority of the cushioning in the pad. Most of the thickness in a bouldering pad comes from the soft open cell foam. And this foam really shines during an uncontrolled fall when you don’t have your feet ready to absorb the impact. It handles the heavy impact due to its soft strength. You won’t bottom out and hit the ground, but it pads your fall by staying firm while absorbing the fall and still cushioning your body.
What is a taco style crash pad?
A taco style crash pad just means that when the pad is folded up it looks like a taco! The pad will be one continuous piece of foam so it cannot lie flat and it’s hard to get it folded to a compact size. A taco style pad will excel covering uneven landings because it can fold nicely over exposed roots and rocks. However, it isn’t the best option for a flat landing because it will not lie flat. If you’re thinking of buying a taco style pad, make sure you have adequate storage space so you can store it in an open position. Don’t keep it folded up and add unnecessary compression to the one piece of foam!
Frequently Asked Questions
Crash pads can weigh from 8 to 24 pounds. The Black Diamond Circuit Crash Pad comes in at 8.5 pounds while the Mad Rock Triple Mad Pad weighs 24 pounds. Don’t worry, pads will come with shoulder straps so you won’t be fumbling a huge mattress on your way to the boulder field. You can also place some gear in the pad before folding it up for easier transporting!
Bouldering crash pads aren’t expensive as you think. The Mad Rock Duo Pad comes in at $259.00. And let’s say that somehow it only lasts for two years, (we have seen people using crash pads for five to even ten years.) The amortized cost of that pad is not even $11 per month. Much cheaper than the price of the gym and cheaper than the standard Netflix subscription.
The Black Diamond Mondo is the biggest crash pad in the market. The dimensions of this pad come in at 44 x 65 x 5 inches. That’s almost 20 feet of surface area for your landing zone! The pad weighs 20 lbs and 6 ounces. And despite its serious mass, it comes with padded shoulder straps and waistbelt for ease of transporting.
We hope you enjoyed this full and in-depth crash pad guide. We love to geek out on the details and figure out just how stuff works. Leave us a comment below with any questions! Happy bouldering!
- Price – we like to get the best bang for our buck.
- Durability – when we buy something, we’re hoping to buy it for life. Now we know that isn’t always possible, but it’s what we strive for.
- Functionality – how does it perform during our testing?
We try to include all relevant info in our reviews to help you make the best informed opinion. Sometimes, it’s hard to know exactly how you’ll like a piece of gear until you physically hold it in your hand. We do our best to include every first impression and seemingly meaningless detail to help you know what you’re getting into.
Further reading on what we use for gear review criteria.