Climb Gear Reviews

Best Climbing Mats

When you are ready to venture outside your local gym and to try bouldering on real rock, it is essential that you can trust your equipment to protect your safety to be able to focus on the climb. A durable and supportive crash pad is essential for protecting your fall. Keep on reading to find out more about our favorite climbing mats, and some important details to bear in mind when purchasing and using them.

What are the Best Climbing Mats?

As seasoned boulderer, we have taken many falls onto many different crash-pads and have collated our experiences with reliable online reviews and customer feedback to create a list of our favorite crash-pads currently available. We have spent time comparing the thickness of the pads, the surface area that they cover, additional features, and price to come up with the following order below. Please bear in mind that this is just a guide and that every individual climber’s needs are different, so what is best for one person may not be best for you, but we hope that this provides a solid starting point for your personal comparisons.

After the reviews, we have answered some frequently asked questions to hopefully provide some more guidance on some intimidating and important related topics.

1. Mad Rock Duo

Specs
Price: 💲💲💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Weight: 17 Pounds (7.7 kg)
Size: 56 x 42 x 5 Inches (142.2 x 106.7 x 12.7 cm)
Material: Waterproof Canvas
Padding: Foam
Pockets: Yes

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The Mad Rock Duo is a large climbing pad designed to keep the climber safe, even after falling from a considerable height. Although its rigid structure struggles on uneven terrain, the sturdy foam cushions high falls without bottoming out, and the increased surface area can protect a large fall-zone without the need to move it mid-climb. We also think that the added straps for attaching additional pads are a very helpful feature. For that, it stands at the top of our list.

Pros

  • Great for high fall,
  • Large surface area,
  • Comes with additional straps to attach more crash pads

Cons

  • Slightly stiff for low falls,
  • Not as malleable on uneven terrain

2. Black Diamond Mondo

Specs
Price: 💲💲💲💲💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Weight: 10.6 Pounds (4.8 kg)
Size: 44 x 10 x 33 Inches (165 x 12.5 x 112 cm)
Material: Closed Cell PE Foam and High Compression PU Foam on the bottom
Pockets: No

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The Black Diamond Mondo is a GIANT crash pad, with its 2,860 in², well placed, it´s really hard you fall out of it. It is a thick high-quality pad featuring a rubberized bottom, which cements the pad in position even on steep terrain, loose soil, or uneven rocks, arguably better than other pads on this list. It also has loops on its sides, so you can grab them and drag the pad to position it better while your friend is climbing.

Pros

  • Biggest surface area on the list
  • Rubber bottom
  • Easy to drag while someone climbs

Cons

  • The stiff padding can be uncomfortable on the lower falls,
  • No handle to carry on the hinge side

3. Petzl Alto

Specs
Price: 💲💲💲💲💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Weight: 12.6 Pounds (5.7 kg)
Size: 118 x 10 x 100 Inches (118 x 10 x 100 cm)
Material: Waterproof ultra durable Cordura ballistic fabric
Padding: 3 Layers Foam
Pockets: Yes

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The Petzl Alto has some innovative features like its zip-up closure and rubberized corners, but it does have its drawbacks. The zip-closing system is great for securely carrying a limited amount of gear, and the lightweight compact design makes the portability of both the pad and your other bouldering gear a huge selling point in comparison to other pads on the market.

Pros

  • Innovative zip-up closure
  • Lightweight and big surface
  • Closure system keeps gear securely stored

Cons

  • Zipper could wear out prematurely,
  • Doesn´t fit a lot of gear inside it,
  • Needs to reinforce the rubberized corners

4. Mad Rock Mad Pad – Black

Specs
Price: 💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Weight: 17 Pounds (6.3 kg)
Size: 25 x 37 x 12 Inches (94 x 30.5 x 6.3 cm)

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The Mad Rock Mad Pad is a sturdy all-around crash pad that climbers can rely on while bouldering. Although falling in the hinge could be an issue, it does give you a decent amount of protection. Newer pads can be a little on the stiff side, particularly for lighter or younger climbers, however, this does soften with use over time. The pad has a very generous five inches of padding, perfect for those slightly higher routes.

Pros

  • Great for high falls,
  • Compact and portable,
  • Thick and stiff foam

Cons

  • Could be too hard for kids,
  • Loses firmness over time,
  • Falling in the hinge won´t protect you as much

5. Metolius Session 2

Specs
Price: 💲💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Weight: 8.8 Pounds (4 kg)
Size: 91.4 x 10.2 x 121.9 Inches (122 x 10 x 91 cm)
Material: Burly 900d poly outer fabric
Padding: 4″ sandwich foam
Pockets: Yes

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The Metolius Session 2 is a great pad for lower boulders and traverses that meander close to the ground. It is a lightweight pad that comes complete with a detachable piece of carpet for conveniently wiping off all the dirt that accumulates on your climbing shoes while being outdoors, which is one less thing you will have to remember to take with you. It is not the best pad for high-balls but will still provide some level of protection.

Pros

  • Good for medium and low falls
  • Useful carpet square to clean your shoes

Cons

  • Carrying heavy loads could break the closure strap,
  • Not the best pad for high falls,
  • Stops the fall roughly

6. Black Diamond Drop Zone

Specs
Price: 💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Size: 35.4 x 23.6 x 23.6 Inches (90 x 60 x 60 cm)
Material: PU-coated 1000d Nylon
Padding: Closed-cell PE foam
Pockets: Yes

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The Black Diamond Drop Zone is a good beginner pad, durable, and perfect for low falls, and complete with a special waterproof backing. It is comfortable to carry into the wild, but 3.5 inches is not enough for higher falls. It works well as an additional pad to enlarge the fall zone or to protect the climber from rocks, or for lower to moderate routes

Pros

  • Good for low falls
  • Lightweight
  • The back is waterproof

Cons

  • Not a good mat for high falls,
  • Thinner foam than other pads,
  • Could be used to accompany other bigger pads

7. Metolius Recon

Specs
Price: 💲💲💲💲 (fewer 💲 = cheaper)
Weight: 14.3 Pounds (6.5 kg)
Size: 42 x 4 x 60 Inches (106.6 x 10 x 152.4 cm)
Material: 900d body fabric with ballistics on bottom
Padding: 4″ / 100 mm Sandwich foam design
Pockets: No

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The Metolius Recon is an extremely portable and durable pad engineered to keep you safe after low to moderate falls. While not the thickest of pads, the large surface area will give you confidence that there will be a soft landing should you drop off the wall. It works especially well as an additional mat as it is easy to carry, so is perfect for protecting you from rocks or enlarging the drop zone around a thicker pad.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Easy to open and close
  • Comfortable to carry

Cons

  • Not great for high falls,
  • The hinge can be rigid on uneven landings,
  • Not a lot of place to carry your gear

Verdict

After all of our long research about the best climbing mats, we found that Mad Rock Duo is the best climbing mat available today.

There’s also a Premium Option with all the best features and high-quality materials if you have more money to spend, namely Mad Rock Mad Pad – Black.

However, if you are on a slightly tighter budget, you can also consider the Black Diamond Mondo as an affordable alternative.

Our other reviews you may find useful in your research:

What You Should Know Before Buying Climbing Mats

Features To Look Out For In A Climbing Mat

Crash pads are available in numerous sizes and are often designed for specific situations, which may not be so obvious for first-time buyers. If you already know what kind of bouldering you wish to do, you can fairly easily find a streamlined product to fit your needs. If not, try to find something that is a good all-arounder for a multitude of purposes. You have to know the limitations of your gear and to be able to trust it, and a great starting point is to ask an expert or to do some research on the company website. For smaller boulders, the more affordable crash pads should protect you sufficiently from a fall, despite often being a little thinner or less supportive. However, if you intend to high-ball, you will want to invest in something a little more professional to both reduce the impact of your fall and to cover a larger area of ground.

It is also possible to buy additional pads, often very thin, for simply covering a weird edge or protruding rock. Some other features to bear in mind are as follows:

The outer material of the pad: this should be as durable as possible as it takes a serious beating.

The padding material: not all padding is equal, and some new technologies have reduced the amount of padding needed for a safer fall, so often even thinner pads protect better than some thicker counterparts. The portability: even if you are cycling or driving to the crag, there is likely to be walking involved. An easily carried crash pad can save you stress and energy. How to carry the rest of your gear: while you may not be approaching a multi-day trad climb with your porta-ledge, you will still be needing space to carry your shoes, chalk bag, brushes, coffee maker, emotional support dog, and spotter.

Home climbing gyms also require crash-pad protection, but that is a different article for a different day.

Materials Of A Climbing Mat

Crash pads can be made from a plethora of different specialized materials. The recovery is usually made of ballistic nylon or polyester, but some pads may include special features like a detachable carpet to wipe your climbing shoes clean or rubberized corners to stop the pad from sliding on uneven terrain.

Inside the bouldering mats, there is foam, usually made of polyurethane, that stops your fall and lets you keep climbing another day. This foam is divided into closed-cell foam, stiffer and to stop bigger falls, and open-cell foam, which is softer and helps to absorb the impact of the fall. Each type of foam complements the other and stops you from “bottoming-out” or having a stiff landing on the crash pad.

Precautions

There are many important things to consider when climbing with crash-pads, and it helps to bear these in mind when making a purchase too. You should check that the pad will be thick enough to protect you from injury during your fall, but this can be a little complicated to figure out. Just bear in mind that the higher the boulder, the more foam protection you will require, and after compressing the bouldering mat on impact, you should not be able to touch the ground, yet it shouldn’t slow down your momentum too abruptly.

How To Properly Use A Climbing Mat

How you position your crash-pads has a huge effect on their functionality and poorly places pads could be more or less useless in a serious fall. Ensure the thickest and most supporting pads are squarely positioned where the largest potential fall can take place. Thinner pads should be placed around to cover the surrounding areas and any dangerous objects such as rocks or branches that can’t be moved. You can use very thin “sit-start” mats or connecting crash pads to cover any gaps between, but do be aware that overlapping crash-pads can make you fall at weird angles and try to foresee how this might happen in each situation. That being said, without overlapping at all, be aware that your foot can fall between crash pads and onto the ground beneath. With all of this in mind, there is a more elegant solution. Bouldering alone is possible, but if you can take a friend to spot you and to move the pads mid-climb into optimum position, you will not only be less lonely but also better protected. You can even take multiple friends – one to spot and one to move the pads for example, but do make sure to return the favor and spot them too.

Questions and Answers About Climbing Mats

How many crash pads do I need for bouldering?

This depends entirely on the route that you wish to climb, and how good you are at placing crash-pads. High boulders that travel more or less vertically require a thicker landing but less surface area covered, and two, well placed, well-padded pads should do the trick, or one pad and an expert spotter or two to move it accordingly. Lower traverses or boulders where you could fall in a range of directions require more of the ground to be protected but usually less padding. Again, this problem can be solved if somebody is expertly moving the pad as your climb. Be sure to fully evaluate the route, how you might fall, possible cruxes, possible dangers, and how to best protect the climber before placing pads and beginning each route. If in doubt, pad it out.

How thick should a crash mat be?

There is no universal measure for the thickness of the crash pad. Thinner pads can be around inches and thicker pads can be around five, both of which have their pros and cons. The thickness you should use depends on how hard the fall may be. The higher the fall, the thicker the climbing mat needs to be to keep the climber safe. And, if you are in doubt, thicker pads are always better.

How do you carry multiple crash pads?

Not all crash pads come complete with a strapping system like the Mad Rock Due to carry more pads with, and so the climbing community has invented multiple creative methods for getting numerous pads to the boulders without the need for multiple trips to the car. You can often use the handles on the side of the pad to tie them together with carabiners. You can also stuff smaller pads inside larger pads. If it has backpack straps, you also have two spare hands for carrying gear and more crash pads. You can also tie them together with compression straps… The possibilities are endless!

How do you fall properly bouldering?

While the best way to fall is not at all, falling is an inevitability, and while crash pads reduce the impact considerably, injury is still a possibility. The best way to fall is to flex your legs as you land, distributing the force of the fall, and eventually to sit. So, in other words, first your legs, and then your butt.
Try to avoid falling forward, although this is not always possible. Always try to throw your weight behind. If you are unsure of the best falling technique, try asking the staff at your local bouldering gym who will, more than likely, be happy to show you the safest way to dismount the wall.

What are organic climbing pads?

Organic Climbing Pads is a brand of crash pads that makes bright-colored, high-quality, custom crash pads in the USA. They are renowned for having some of the best padding and prettiest colors on the market, however, are much more expensive than all of the pads on our list.

Besides a crash pad, what else do I need to climb?

There are several pieces of gear that you need in order to practice de sport. Check our article on getting your first set of rock climbing gear to know more about it. For those who do not have enough time to read another article, the short answer for outdoor bouldering is as follows:
Approach shoes
Climbing shoes
Climbing chalk (where it is allowed to use it)
Brushes to clean the holds
Comfortable climbing clothes
Drinking water
Something to clean your shoes with (helpful but not vital)
A friend to spot/film you (helpful but not vital)
Multiple cameras to document your awesomeness for the gram.

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