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Bouldering Pads | Get Outdoors Top 5

By: Morgan Cvetkovic-Jones

With summer and the outdoor climbing season fast approaching, you might be planning to make your debut on real rock, taking the skills you’ve learnt at an indoor wall to your local crags or boulders. In this mini-series we’ll be looking at some of the kit you’ll need to get started climbing outside. This week it’s the turn of bouldering pads, the portable blocks of foam that you’ll be taking with you on a bouldering trip to protect you in the case of a fall. Below we’ll suggest our top 5 picks (in no particular order) for your first bouldering pad, taking price and quality into account.

Before we crack on with our suggestions, we’re going to clarify each type of bouldering pad closure mechanism, so you can choose the right one for you:

Hinge –Exactly what it says on the tin, a hinge closing pad will have an incision in the middle of the pad so it closes like a book. Great for storing your pad easily but can present a soft spot in the pad’s fall zone.

Taco –A taco folding pad doesn’t have a hinge and simply closes by folding the foam unit in half. This presents a safer landing zone but makes the pad harder to store. Storing it folded can degrade the mat’s foam over time. 

Tri-fold –Similar to a hinged pad but, instead of one central hinge, a tri fold pad splits in to three parts with two hinge folds. Ideal pads for maximum ground coverage but are larger when folded.

1. Moon Pluto

The cheapest full-sized bouldering pad on sale, the Moon Pluto couples its affordable price tag with real quality. Featuring a taco folding design with a multi-use strap, the Pluto is an ideal crag companion and the perfect choice for climbers wanting to sample some real rock for the first time.

Pros:

  • Removable and adjustable carrying strap.
  • Taco design provides a consistent, safe landing zone.
  • Reinforced corners for maximum durability.
  • Utilises two layers of foam (one open and one closed cell) for effective fall absorption.

Cons:

  • Not the largest pad on the market and its square shape is (arguably) not as useful as more rectangular shaped alternatives.
  • On the heavier side for a pad of its size at 5kg.
  • 600D ripstop polyester outer isn’t as durable as some of the competition.

metolius bouldering pads

2. Metolius Session II

The best bang for your buck bouldering pad on the market. The Session II is on the cheaper end of Metolius’ range but comes jam packed full of innovative features and quality materials that bely its modest price tag. A true all-rounder, the Session is the ultimate first bouldering pad.

Pros: 

  • The Session’s clever angled hinge design eliminates any soft spots along the middle of the pad’s landing zone whilst maintaining the ease of storage that comes with a hinge folding pad.
  • Efficient closure system secures climbing accessories like shoes and chalk bag within the pad itself whilst doubling as a ground cover for your carry straps, stopping them from getting dirty on the ground.
  • Fantastic, durable materials.
  • Useful carpet logo in the middle of the pad for cleaning dirty climbing shoes.
  • Premium 10cm sandwich (closed, open, closed) foam construction for optimal impact absorption.
  • Lightweight (4kg) for a pad of its size.

Cons: 

  • The reversible closure straps are secured with hook and loop Velcro which can get stuck to things like car fabrics and jackets.
  • On occasions, because of their construction, hinge pads will flip shut when you land heavily on one side and slap you across the legs which can be a little annoying. 

3. Organic Full Pad

Organic have a reputation for producing awesome bouldering pads and their Full Pad is perhaps the best of the bunch. Staking its claim as the most versatile pad Organic produce, the Full Pad is a standard sized rectangular pad that packs some cool carry features which enable it to carry another pad too.

Pros: 

  • Each Organic pad is made by hand from recycled materials. So, not only is an Organic pad sustainable and environmentally friendly, it’s also going to be a unique, one of a kind design.
  • An angled hinge design removes the soft spot down the middle of the pad.
  • Premium materials like 11cm of foam (thick and plush for a pad of its size) and a 1050d ballistics shell mean the Full Pad should stand the test of time (and lots of abuse) as well as keeping your ankles super safe.
  • Pouch feature enables another pad to ‘piggy back’ the Full Pad or provides an excellent storage option for your climbing kit, making solo outings easier and safer with two pads on your back, rather than one.

Cons: 

  • No carpet material present on the landing zone for shoe cleaning.
  • Heavier weight (5kg) is the price the Full Pad pays for its beefier, upmarket materials.

organic climbing bouldering pads

4. Metolius Recon

The second Metolius feature on this list, the Recon comes in at the upper end of their range with a tri-fold design that ensures the best ground coverage to storage size ratio pad on the market. Bursting with the same great features found on the Session, the Recon is the ideal pad for the solo boulderer or the climber who needs a larger pad with a small storage footprint.

Pros: 

  • Large landing zone.
  • The three padded units fold down to the size one making the stored size of the Recon perfect for small cupboards or cars with limited space for your bulky bouldering pad.
  • Angled hinges with hook and loop Velcro reinforcements to ensure a continuous landing zones with no soft spots.
  • Useful carpet logo in the middle of the pad for cleaning dirty climbing shoes.
  • Premium 10cm sandwich (closed, open, closed) foam construction for optimal impact absorption.
  • Durable 900d fabrics to resist abrasion against rocks and dirt.
  • Easy to carry with padded shoulder straps and, weighing only 6.5kg, is relatively light for a pad of its size.
  • From personal experience, the closure flaps can securely hold smaller ‘sit pads’, pairing perfectly with option number 5, which is a superb option for those boulders or crags with particularly spicy landings.

Cons: 

  • Hook and loop Velcro patches in the hinges are exposed on the outside of the pad when folded, these can snag of jackets and car seats.
  • Not as easy to carry bags or climbing kit inside the Recon as it is inside simpler, book folding bouldering pads.

5. Rock+Run Showdown Pad

Last but by no means least is our very own Showdown Pad. The Showdown is, in our opinion, the best ‘mini pad’ on the market and, although this isn’t a direct replacement for a full-sized pad, can be just as useful for sit starts, easy circuits and for covering awkward terrain with jutting rocks and tree roots. A perfect complement to a full-sized pad, the Showdown (and it’s smaller sibling, the Home Turf) are real bouldering game changers.

Pros: 

  • Made in the UK.
  • Durable (1000d), water resistant, removable and washable outer fabric.
  • Lightweight (1.1kg) and extremely portable – will easily fit inside another pad.
  • Great ground coverage for the weight.
  • 2.5cm of closed cell foam – our foam is tested to 45kg density, which is more durable than most other pad manufacturers and the extra size means you are getting more for your money.
  • Two grab handles.

Cons: 

  • Not a direct replacement for a full-sized pad.

 

Check out our full range of Bouldering Pads here

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