Bouldering is a recreational activity that is growing popular with every passing day. But there have been little changes in the overall design of bouldering mats, also called as crash pads. They are still rectangular-shaped nylon shells stuffed with foam and sewn with straps so that they can be carried as backpacks.
But designs of crash pads have been refined over the years to offer superior protection, added durability, and highly comfortable suspension. There are a number of factors about bouldering pads that a client like a gym, rock climbing, or recreational sports company must consider.
The most versatile bouldering pads are between 10 cm to 12 cm thick. Such pads tend to cover all requirements of bouldering and are also handy to carry around.
However, not all mats are created equal. 12 cm of open-cell foams, though inexpensive, will not protect one from bottoming out on higher falls. Additionally, the outer shell of the mat must be strong enough to take a beating.
Quality of foam
While foam helps keep one safe, not all foam is the same. Avoid scrimping on safety and seek cross-linked, durable foam, which effectively spreads the force of one’s fall and endures for a long time.
One may also find a combination of open cell and closed cell foam. Closed cell foam contributes safe protection against rocks while spreading the impact of the fall. Then, the open cell serves as a cushion for a softer landing.
In general, the heavier the bouldering crash pad, the more durable it is and can endure more falls in the long run. Mats of good quality are firm, thanks to the dense structure of the foam. Cheaper and lighter mats are firm only because they contain chemical hardeners. These break down faster, leaving you with floppy, soft, and lightweight pads, simply after a few sessions of bouldering.
Construction of the outer shell
Bouldering crash pads have a difficult life. These pads get dragged around in the mud, stacked against abrasive rocks, and endure a pounding when climbers fall. They must be made of hard-wearing materials and reinforced with bar-tacked seams, which will not give away when the climbers fall.
Types of mats
There are three kinds of crash pads: oversized, full and satellite. Each of them has a specific role to play to protect from one’s fall. There are also two kinds of openings: Hinge style and Taco pads.
These pads cover gaps where two pads meet, cover outlying rocks and protect one’s fall on a sit-start. They are portable because of their slim and small size.
These pads are the most popular. One full pad can suffice to keep climbers protected from a mid-level fall. These mats fold in half so they can be carried easily and fit into car boots. Professional boulderers often carry two of these.
Such mats tend to offer protection for high ball problems as well as the worst and toughest climbs around. They are big mats and ideal to support and cushion one’s fall. They weigh around 9 to 10 kg, need a sturdy carrying system, and will cover the full boot of a car.
There are two kinds of bouldering pads based on folding.
The Hinged pad features foam cut in half such that they fold flat on closing like a book. This makes it easy to carry and transport without the bending of foam.
Taco pads feature continuous sheets of foam without any hinges or seams in the middle, providing a seamless zone for landing. These pads fold like Tacos while being transported, leaving a space within which one can stash small items.
In sum, these are some relevant facts about bouldering mats. It is important to weigh considerations like the size of mats, their thickness, the quality of foam, their outer cell construction, and the type of pad.