Best Bouldering Crash Pads of 2021

Neesha Basnyat – September 10th, 2021

Bouldering is one of the most accessible forms of climbing. It can be found at almost every climbing gym and requires the least amount of gear to get started. Why worry about a harness, a rope, and a belay partner when you can just put your shoes on and hop on a boulder?

Once you start bouldering outdoors, however, the one additional piece of gear you’ll need to invest in is a crashpad. And as it is your only piece of protective equipment for this type of climbing, doing some research before buying is advised.

Here we investigated the many factors to consider before buying a bouldering pad and rounded up some of the best crashpads to get started bouldering outdoors.

Best Crash Pads

Brand Crashpad Category Price Size Thickness
Organic Organic Full Crash Pad Best Overall Crash Pad $199* Regular 4 in. Learn More
Black Diamond Black Diamond Mondo Best Large Crash Pad $399.95* Oversized 5 in. Learn More
Backcountry x Metolius Party Pit 2.0 Crash Pad Best Cheap Crash Pad $169.95* Regular 4 in. Learn More
Mad Rock Mad Rock Mad Pad Best Crash Pads for Beginners $189* Regular 5 in. Learn More
Mad Rock Mad Rock Duo Best Crashpad for Carrying and Comfort $259* Full 5 in. Learn More

Best Overall Crashpad

Organic Full ($199)

Size: Regular (48 x 36 in.)
Thickness: 4 in.
Weight: 12 lbs.
Material: 1 inch memory foam | 1 inch urethane rubber | 2 inches open-cell foam
Style/Folding Type: Hybrid hinged 
Closure: Clasps and flap 
Learn More

Advantages:

  • Most durable foam and fabric on the market
  • Hybrid hinge basically eliminates problem of a gutter fall
  • Great backpacking suspension system
  • Simple straightforward design
  • Easy-to-use clasps
  • Highly customizable in terms of colors and additional add-ons sold separately 
  • Pocket flap helps carry additional items
  • Extendable straps on pocket flap help you carry an additional pad

Disadvantages:

  • Lack of features
  • Not a lot of space to hold extra gear
  • Slightly more expensive than other regular-sized pads (but worth the money when considering durability)

There’s a reason that Climbing magazine picked the Organic Full for their Gear Hall of Fame. Organic pads have a reputation as the best pads on the market, and for good reason. They use the most durable fabric and foam on the market, from 1050 ballistics and 1000D Cordura to a combination of memory foam, urethane rubber, and open-cell foam.

Organic pads are unique in that they have a hybrid hinge style, which combines the hinge and taco styles of bouldering pads. There is one long continuous piece of 1 inch memory foam and outer fabric and then two separate pieces of 3 inch material (1 inch rubber and 2 inch open-cell foam). This makes them easier to fold than taco style while basically eliminating the problem of the “gutter” with a hinge style. 

The suspension system is beefy, with fully adjustable padded shoulder straps and a 2 inch hip belt. This pad is the same as the Organic Simple pad but with the addition of the 24 x 15 inch pocket flap, which is a fantastic addition. This pocket flap helps to carry your gear and keep it from falling out, covers the shoulder straps when the pad is open, and features long closure straps that enable another pad of the same size or smaller to be attached and piggybacked.

With at least 40 colors to choose from and designs that can be easily added, Organic pads are fully customizable and unique to their user. They use recycled cutting room scraps for their accent colors and sell replacement open-cell foam. In addition, Organic offers add-ons (sold separately) to enhance your experience, such as extender straps to attach more than one additional pad (or a larger pad) and a deluxe hip belt. Even the clasp system, while typical of many pads, has earned praise for being easy to use and straightforward.

It’s important to note that, despite the name, this is not a full-sized pad but a regular-sized one. With comparable prices to other regular pads, it’s hard to beat the quality of Organic.

Best Large Crash Pad

Black Diamond Mondo ($199)

Size: Oversized (44 x 65 in.)
Thickness: 5 in.
Weight: 20.4 lbs.
Material: Closed-cell foam | open-cell foam on bottom | PU-coated 1000D nylon fabric
Style/Folding Type: Hinged 
Closure: Clasps 
Learn More

Advantages:

  • Huge footprint is very confidence-inspiring
  • Grab handles on all four corners 
  • Stays put on uneven ground with rubber bottom
  • Two different kinds of foam makes it more versatile
  • Adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt
  • Simple build

Disadvantages:

  • Heavy
  • Expensive 
  • Hard to transport as it doesn’t fit in smaller cars
  • open-cell foam and thinner strap and suspension attachment makes it not as durable as other pads

When choosing protection for any kind of climbing, you always want to go with what inspires the most confidence in you. Afterall, it’s not about the protection – it’s about climbing worry-free. With the Black Diamond Mondo, confidence in your padding should be no issue.

As one of the largest pads on the market with almost 20 square feet of padding, the Mondo is 5 inches thick and includes two different types of foam. The closed-cell foam on top creates a stiffer landing to support larger falls, while the open-cell foam on bottom allows the pad to conform to the ground easier. This makes the Mondo great for uneven terrain, and the bottom of the pad is also coated in rubber to further your confidence that your protection isn’t budging. 

The Black Diamond Mondo comes with adjustable shoulder straps and a hip belt, but at over 20 pounds it can still feel like a chore to carry to the crag, especially if you’re not working on highball problems.

While its size helps you trust the fall, it’s also too large to fit into the back of small cars. It’s also one of the most expensive crash pads on the market. Still, when it comes to oversized pads, the Mondo stands out as a great option among its competition.

Best Cheap Crashpad

Party Pit 2.0 Crash Pad ($169)

Size: Regular (36 x 48 in.)
Thickness: 4 in.
Weight: 9 lbs.
Material: Closed-cell foam | 900D Polyester Fabric
Style/Folding Type: Hinged (angled) 
Closure: Flap with Velcro and Clasp 
Learn More

Advantages:

  • Cheapest crash pad on the market
  • Good quality
  • Built-in carpet for cleaning shoes
  • Two carrying handles useful when moving pads
  • Classic Metolius Velcro design as reinforcement when unfolded
  • Lightweight 
  • Padded shoulder straps and waist belt for comfort while carrying

Disadvantages:

  • Soft foam breaks down faster and is not ideal for bigger falls
  • Fabric could be more durable 
  • Small pad that doesn’t cover much area

Through a collaboration between Backcountry and Metolius, the classic Metolius Session crash pad has been remade into the Party Pit. This lightweight, versatile pad is great quality for the money as one of the cheapest bouldering pads on the market.

The flap closure system is easy to use and allows users to fit quite a bit inside the pad without worrying about dropping items out the bottom or sides. This flap can hold a small backpack, shoes, and water bottle without hassle. This flap has the added bonus of flipping around the pad when it’s open to cover the shoulder straps so they don’t get in the way when bouldering or dragging the pad.

The shoulder straps are padded and also have an additional waist belt for carrying the pad to the crag, and the two side handles make it easy to carry or drag the pad around short distances.

The Party Pit also has an angled hinge fold design, which eliminates unwanted space in the hinge and reduces the possibility of falling in the crack. The extra reinforcement Velcro for when the pad is unfolded (classic Metolius design) also makes it easier to move around and reduces the likelihood of falling in the “gutter.” The logo is carpeted to help wipe away dirt and grime from your shoes before you climb.

This crashpad is offered in three different colors and also comes with a one year warranty. Really, the only downside is that it’s not bigger or more durable in terms of both its fabric and foam. However, at $170 it’s a great pad for the price and is well-suited for beginners to more seasoned climbers who need to supplement their other pads.

Best Crash Pads for Beginners

Mad Rock Mad Pad ($189)

Size: Regular (48 x 36in.)
Thickness: 5 in.
Weight: 14 lbs.
Material: 3 in. Soft open-cell foam | 1 in. layers of closed-cell foam | 600D fabric
Style/Folding Type: Hinged 
Closure: Clasps 
Learn More

Advantages:

  • Great price
  • Converts into a chair
  • Simple straightforward design
  • Velcro tabs to connect to other pads
  • Velcro strip at base when folded to keep items from falling out
  • Velcro in the inside of the hinge to keep the hinge from splaying open when fallen on
  • Stiffer foam lasts longer

Disadvantages:

  • Lack of features
  • Not ideal for shorter falls
  • Can’t fit much inside the pad
  • Fabric is cheap and not as durable as most other pads

If you boulder at all outdoors, you’ve probably seen the Mad Pad at the crag. A favorite low-cost option from Mad Rock, this is a great regular-sized pad that still has 5 inches of padding.

It uses both open-cell and closed-cell foam which provides a stiffer landing with some suspension ideal for larger falls and highballs. After some breaking in, though, the foam will start to feel a little softer.

Another great Mad Rock design feature is the Velcro on the sides of the pad which are used to connect to other Mad Rock pads and help create a continuous padded landing. 

The Mad Pad has the added bonus of straps that help you convert it into a couch/chair.

It’s lightweight and compact, but that comes with the downside of not much storage and no flap closure to keep smaller items from falling out on the approach. Although you can’t stuff much in the pad, it has a Velcro strip at the base so that, when folded, your shoes, water bottle, or day pack don’t fall out.

The hinged fold can create a “gutter” that can be fallen into, but the Mad Pad eliminates the danger of this by adding Velcro in the hinge to prevent it from opening on uneven terrain. The fabric used is some of the cheapest on the market, but it’s reinforced where it matters. Overall, its design is simple and straightforward, making it ideal for beginners getting into the sport.

Best Crashpad for Carrying and Comfort

Mad Rock Duo ($249)

Size: Full (42 x 56 in.)
Thickness: 5 in.
Weight: 17 lbs.
Material:  3 in. soft open-cell foam | Two 1 in. layers of closed-cell foam | 650D nylon face fabric
Style/Folding Type: Hinged 
Closure: Velcro and clasp
Learn More

Advantages:

  • Eliminates the issue of awkwardly carrying a second pad with the simple flap design
  • Velcro to connect to other pads (Mad Rock design)
  • Velcro for extra hinge reinforcement 
  • Large footprint
  • Great price for the number of features
  • Two different types of foam provide great cushion for big falls
  • Durable and adjustable suspension 
  • Three big webbing handles for dragging and moving ease
  • Water bottle pouch and daisy chains to carry extra
  • Carpet to wipe feet
  • Straps convert pad into a couch

Disadvantages:

  • The extra straps and fabric can get in the way during use
  • Face fabric is made of nylon which is less durable than fabric used with other pads
  • Stiff foam not ideal for low falls 
  • Heavy

So often you need to carry two pads, and it’s always clunky and requires some extra gear, rope, webbing, straps… no longer with the Mad Rock Duo. This pad is designed with carrying capability and comfort specifically in mind. A simple flap easily extends over another pad of any size, and extra padding in the shoulder straps and a great suspension system make carrying both pads on your back as comfortable as it gets.

A thick removable hip belt helps take some of the weight off the shoulders. Even when an extra pad is unneeded, you can fit a backpack or other carry-ons in the extra pouch. There is also a pouch for carrying a water bottle (easily accessible while approaching) and daisy chains for clipping shoes or chalk bags. 

Carrying an extra pad is not the Duo’s stand-alone feature, though. Like most Mad Rock designs, this pad comes with velcro on the sides to connect to other pads as well as reinforced velcro for the hinge.

A large footprint and stiff foam (with a soft foam core) make this a great option for highballs and long falls. There are few other pads on the market that offer carrying capabilities for a second pad, and those that do tend to be significantly more expensive, such as Organic’s Backfourty at $399. At $249, you get a versatile pad with many features that are definitely worth the price.

What should I consider when buying my first crashpad?

A crashpad serves to protect a boulderer’s ground fall and is basically a foam layer with durable fabric around the outside so that it doesn’t get damaged from all the dirt and rocks it lies on. Crashpads come in different sizes and widths, usually fold up, and almost all have shoulder straps to be able to backpack them. 

The main considerations when buying your first bouldering pad are where and how you will be using it and what your budget is. Where you will be climbing is important because, just like roped climbing, the character of the rock characterizes the kind of protection you need.

– Are the areas surrounding the boulders very rocky?

– Are there clean landing zones?

– Will you be doing many highballs?

– Is the approach long or short?

– Will you be traveling a lot with the pads in your vehicle?

Think about these factors as you shop around. Having comfortable shoulder pads for long approaches or a tri-fold pad to fit a big pad in a small car or to fold over rockier landings might be important personal considerations. Budget can also be a limiting factor for some. A bouldering pad is a piece of climbing equipment that lasts a long time, so be sure you’re purchasing what you want and thinking about it as an investment into your safety. 

The technical considerations you should look into before buying a pad include:

-Type of crash pad (size)

-Foam type and thickness

-Style/folding type

-Quality and durability

-Shoulder straps and suspension system

Types of Crash Pads

One of the most important factors when considering a bouldering pad is size. The point of a crash pad is to protect your landing if you fall. Short boulder problems with decent, clear landings might be easily protected with a single regular pad, but many problems have rocky landings or require a high topout or traverse where a larger pad is beneficial. Crashpads are often characterized as:

– Regular

– Full

– Oversized

– Supplemental

Regular Crash Pads

Regular-sized pads are the typical beginner pad size. Regular pads are about 36 x 48 inches and are usually 4 or 5 inches thick. They can sufficiently protect shorter problems or easy warm-ups and circuits where the chance of falling is slim. Because of their smaller size, they’re easier to move around as the climber is climbing. They also make a great addition to and can be strapped on the back of oversized pads.

Full-Sized Crash Pads

Full-sized pads are a step up from regular. These pads are roughly between 13 to 20 square feet in size and are great for experienced boulderers who are bound to fall on their harder projects. These pads tend to have more features and variety than regular pads. 

Oversized Crash Pads

Oversized pads are the largest pads on the market and are great for highballs. Typically over 20 square feet (around 48 x 60 inches), these huge pads can protect just about anything and are incredibly reassuring when looking at a 15ft+ fall. The downside to a pad this size is the cost and weight. If you’re mostly bouldering short problems or have a long wooded approach to your local boulder field, oversized pads can be inconvenient and are not worth the purchase. Some, like the Black Diamond Mondo pad, may not even fit into the back of a regular sedan. 

Supplemental Crash Pads

Supplemental pads are just that: meant to be used in addition to any of the above-sized pads. They range from a thin slider built to wipe your feet on before starting a problem to small pads like the Organic Briefcase Pad meant to level out landing zones.

The Asana Pro Spotter, for example, has the surface area of an oversized pad at 44 x 74 inches but is only .75 inches thick and is meant to cover and even out multiple pads and the space and cracks between them. Small sliders are nice for sit starts (especially under roof boulder problems) where a 4- or 5-inch pad might be too thick underneath you to start comfortably.

Foam Types & Thickness

There are two main types of foam: closed-cell foam and open-cell foam. closed-cell polyethylene (PE) foam is a stiffer foam that doesn’t deform under impact. Stiff foam is nice for big falls from high up, so if you anticipate doing highball boulders opt for closed-cell foam. Open-cell polyurethane (PU) foam is a softer foam that compresses to absorb impact. This soft foam is ideal for shorter falls. 

Both kinds of foam are used in bouldering pads, sometimes even together. Most pads are 4 or 5 inches thick, although supplemental pads can be as thin as .75 inches. Some pads have closed-cell foam on one side and open-cell foam on the other so that the pads can be used for both big and small falls. Other pads like the Mad Rock Duo have open-cell foam on the inside sandwiched between two layers of closed-cell foam to create a foam suspension system. 

Style & Folding Types

The “style” of a bouldering pad is how it folds up. Most pads are two separate pieces of foam that have a hinge (a midseam that folds) but some pads are taco style (seamless, just bends together without a fold).

Hinged pads often have two parts to them, but a few bouldering pads have three separate pieces of foam and are called tri-fold pads.

Organic pads are unique in that they are hybrid hinge, where there is one long continuous piece of 1 inch foam and outer fabric and then two separate pieces of 3 or 4 inch foam.

Quality & Durability

Most crashpads are built by outdoors companies with durability in mind. Different types of crashpads use higher quality fabrics and are more durable than other pads. Fabric usually ranges from 600D to 1680D. The “D” stands for denier, which is a measure of linear mass density, specifically the mass in grams of a 9,000 meter strand of material.

Basically, the heavier the material, the more durable it tends to be. The type of fabric matters, too. Polyester, nylon, and cordura are all common fabrics for bouldering pads. Nylon tends to be the most tear-resistant, while cordura is the most abrasion-resistant. However, the backing of a fabric, the compounds it’s treated with, and the way it’s stitched all play a hand in how well it will hold up to use. 

In addition to the fabric, the foam plays a role in pad durability as well. Stiffer closed cell foam lasts longer than its softer open cell foam counterpart. The area most prone to wear on bouldering pads is the shoulder straps, and so investing in a pad with padded shoulder straps, reinforced stitching, and a solid suspension system will help you get the most out of your crashpad.

Straps & Suspension System

Almost all crashpads come with shoulder straps to be able to wear the pad on your back like a backpack. These straps can include padding and adjustability for different heights.

The suspension system helps keep the pad upright and keeps all the weight from resting on your shoulders. Some pads also have hip belts which may be adjustable or removable. Another useful feature is handles.

These can help you pick up the pad while it’s closed and move it around while it’s open so you can drag it as someone climbs or to the next boulder. These features are not usually the first considerations when looking at bouldering pads, they’re important for long approaches and overall comfort.

FAQs

How many crash pads do I need for bouldering?

As many as it takes for you to feel safe.

For many boulder problems it’s helpful to have 2-4 crash pads, but if you have friends who boulder outdoors they probably also have pads to contribute. Even just having one other boulderer with you when you go is beneficial as you can spot each other and move pads.

If you prefer bouldering solo, having at least two crashpads is a good idea. After bouldering outdoors more, you can assess and see whether you’d feel more comfortable with more.

What should I look for in a bouldering mat?

Carrying capability

Comfortable shoulder straps

Comfortable and adequate foam for the type of bouldering you’ll be doing

Decent size for the type of bouldering you’ll be doing

Durable fabric

Is it safe to buy used crashpads?

Almost always. Damage or wear on a crashpad usually occurs on the fabric surrounding the foam and on the shoulder straps. It would take years and years of wear or severe misuse to damage a bouldering pad to the point it was unsafe, because the foam can hold its shape for a long time.

This is for climbing crashpads from reputable brands. Buying a used crashpad opens the door to potential scammers. Always ask details about the brand and model of the bouldering pad, why the seller is selling, and the wear the pad has been through. It should be obvious if the seller is a climber and used the pad properly.

How long does a crashpad last?

Many years. The first signs of wear usually appear on the straps, and after heavy use the pad may start to show wear on the fabric surrounding the foam.

This can all be repaired with some sewing and patches. The foam at the core of the pad is what protects you, and this foam can hold its shape and sponginess for a long time.