The 15 Best Bouldering Crash Pads (2023 Buying Guide)
Published on: 10/14/2022
Last updated on: 08/03/2023
Few pieces of gear are more important in bouldering than crash pads. They keep climbers as safe as possible during smaller and bigger falls when climbing rope-free.
The recent popularity of bouldering has resulted in an enormous market for crash pads. With multiple types of crash pads and dozens of brands to choose from, how can you choose the best model for you?
In this article, we cover 15 of our favorite crash pads on the market right now. We also discuss things to look out for when purchasing a new crash pad and how to use them safely.
Our Method – How We’ve Selected the Best Bouldering Crash Pads for this List
All of the crash pads that we’ve included on our list are manufactured by highly reputable bouldering brands. This helps us ensure that we are exclusively recommending dependable products that uphold high standards.
Part of our selection method included extensive online research on the subject across various bouldering and climbing publications. Besides our personal experience, we’ve also consulted with an informal panel of climbers and bouldering enthusiasts to ensure we represent an array of viewpoints for each of the crash pads listed here.
Our Selection of the Best Bouldering Crash Pads for 2023
|Crash Pads||Type||Thickness||Size||Weight||Best for||Best Offer|
|Metolius Magnum Crash Pad||Tri-fold||4″ (10 cm)||Large||18.7 lbs (8.5 kg)||Overall||Check Prices|
|Evolv Home Pad||Tri-fold||5″ (13 cm)||Extra-large||33 lbs (15 kg)||Home gym||Check Prices|
|Black Diamond Impact Crash Pad||Hinged||4″ (10 cm)||Small-Medium||9.8 lbs (4.4 kg)||Beginners||Check Prices|
|Metolius Session II||Hybrid||4″ (10 cm)||Small-Medium||9 lbs (4.1 kg)||Shorter falls||Check Prices|
|Mad Rock Duo||Hinged||5″ (13 cm)||Medium||17 lbs (7.7 kg)||User-friendliness||Check Prices|
|Black Diamond Drop Zone||Taco||3.5″ (9 cm)||Small-Medium||9.5 lbs (4.3 kg)||Taco design||Check Prices|
|Metolius Recon||Hybrid||4″ (10 cm)||Medium||14.3 lbs (6.5 kg)||Larger supplemental pad||Check Prices|
|Mammut Slam Pad||Hybrid||4″ (10 cm)||Small-Medium||11.7 lbs (5.3 kg)||Durability||Check Prices|
|Black Diamond Circuit||Hinged||4″ (10 cm)||Small-medium||8.3 lbs (3.8 kg)||Budget||Check Prices|
|Metolius Short Stop||Hinged||3/4″ (2 cm)||Small||5 lbs (2.3 kg)||Small supplemental pad||Check Prices|
|Organic 4″ Thick Big Pad||Hybrid||4″ (10 cm)||Medium-Large||17 lbs (7.7 kg)||Bespoke pad|
|Asana Pro Spotter Pad||Pile||3/4″ (2 cm)||Large||5 lbs (2.3 kg)||Pile pad|
|Petzl Alto||Taco||4″ (10 cm)||Small-medium||12.6 lbs (5.7 kg)||Premium taco||Check Prices|
|Mad Rock R3||Baffled Taco||5″ (13 cm)||Small-medium||17-20 lbs (7.7-9 kg)||Baffled design||Check Prices|
|Organic Simple Pad||Hybrid||4″ (10 cm)||Small-medium||11 lbs (5 kg)||USA-made|
A Note on Crash Pad Sustainability and Manufacturing Standards
You may be concerned about the sustainability or ethics of the different brands featured in this article. Where manufacturers have outlined if a product is sustainably made, we have indicated this in the product’s entry on our list.
Are the Crash Pads on this list Vegan?
None of the crash pads on this list have been explicitly listed by their manufacturers as being vegan or cruelty-free. However, they are all manufactured with fully synthetic materials, so it’s safe to assume that they are vegan.
1. Metolius Magnum Crash Pad: Best Overall
This top-end offering by Metolius is our favorite large crash pad on the market right now.
Metolius pads are known for combining great build quality with helpful design features and excellent durability. Even among other Metolius offerings, the Magnum is top-of-the-line. This generous crash pad offers great impact absorption for both low and high falls and is highly durable, despite being fairly lightweight at just 18.7 lbs.
The Magnum does an excellent job of cushioning bigger falls. This is probably due in no small part to the Magnum’s combined use of open and closed cell foam. Additionally, the Magnum feels insanely sturdy and durable with a nearly indestructible 900-denier nylon outer. Its excellent suspension system makes transporting it a breeze, too.
In fact, we struggled to find much to critique with the Magnum at all. Naturally, being a tri-fold pad, you can’t use it to carry as much gear as you could with a taco pad. It’s also worth noting that the Magnum’s closure flaps are long and can pose a tripping hazard when the pad is opened. Despite these shortcomings, we’d recommend the Magnum to climbers looking to invest in a top-quality, large pad that will last and last.
2. Evolv Home Pad: Best for Home Gyms
Are luxury crash pads a thing? If they are, the Evolv Home is sure to be the cream of luxury crash pad crop! This model was designed specifically for home gym use and is intended to double as furniture. With civilized extra features, like its shoe-cleaning carpet and sternum strap for easier carrying, the Home offers a very cushy crash pad experience.
The Home is absolutely enormous, too – this oversized crash pad is one of the largest on this list at a whopping 8 feet long. Testers found that the Home also holds its own at the crags. Using 5″ foam, the Home feels very supportive for big and small falls alike. The only issue is getting it there – weighing in at 33 lbs, it’s not exactly the most portable pad in the world.
Also, while nice to have, many of the Home’s features don’t actually make it more functional or useful in a bouldering context. Essentially, if you’re looking for a home gym crash pad with plenty of bells and whistles, then the Home will be perfect for you.
3. Black Diamond Impact: Best Crash Pad for Beginners
Black Diamond’s Impact is a small, no-frills, lightweight pad that is great for projects with straight, shorter falls. This 4″ thick pad weighs in at just under 10 lbs and uses a combination of closed and open-cell foam for impact absorption. The Impact is also durable and easy to transport, thanks to its hardy polyester outer, handles, and shoulder straps.
While you can certainly use the Impact as a standalone pad, we also found it works really well as a supplemental pad. Its smaller size, combined with its grab handles and lighter weight, make it great for filling in gaps on awkward, uneven terrain.
However, the Impact definitely wouldn’t be our top pick for highball projects. Its foam is just not quite thick enough for us to feel comfortable sticking to the Impact for higher falls. As such, we’d mostly recommend the Impact to beginner boulderers sticking closer to the ground.
4. Metolius Session II: Best Soft Pad for Shorter Falls
Metolius’ Session II is a smallish, relatively lightweight hybrid crash pad. One of the pad’s standout features was how soft it felt right out of the box. Most crash pads have something of a break-in period, where you need to use them fairly extensively to soften them up. We found that the Session II felt incredibly soft when it was brand new, offering a cushy experience for routes with short falls.
Surprisingly, the softness of the Session II didn’t appear to impact its longer-term durability. Combine this with the Session II’s great features, like its carrying straps and felt square for shoe cleaning, and we feel the Session II offers excellent value for money. It also boasts angled hinges, which can be a lifesaver for falls on more awkward terrain.
However, the softness of the Session II comes at a cost – we don’t feel it has the robustness or impact absorption you’d need to confidently use it for highball routes. Essentially, if you’re looking for a softer landing surface and good value for money, you might want to look into the Session II.
5. Mad Rock Duo: Most User-Friendly Crash Pad
Mad Rock’s Duo is hard to overlook if you’re looking for a well-made pad that combines robust 5″ foam with excellent functionality. It’s the Duo’s smart features that really distinguish it from its competition – with straps for attaching additional pads and velcro flaps to prevent the Duo’s hinge from folding, Mad Rock has clearly gone the extra mile to make the Duo as user-friendly as possible. You can even use the straps provided to convert it into a couch!
The aforementioned velcro flaps can also be used to connect the Duo to other Mad Rock crashpads. This is a fantastic feature because you can make a giant crash pad to cover as much ground as you need.
Using a 5″ combination of open and closed cell foam, the Duo feels absolutely great for higher falls. It refuses to bottom out and feels dependable, even over rocks and sketchy terrain. However, the Duo’s stiffer foam makes shorter falls feel less comfortable.
We’d recommend the Duo to climbers on the market for a well-made, incredibly user-friendly crash pad, especially for highball projects.
6. Black Diamond Drop Zone: The Best Taco Pad
Love them or hate them, taco-style pads certainly aren’t for everyone. While they can be exceptionally practical for longer trips due to their carrying capabilities, taco pads present difficulties on flatter terrain as they tend to fold in the middle.
Black Diamond’s Drop Zone is the brand’s only taco-style pad and is our favorite on the market today, thanks to its light weight, durability, and how practical it is. Carrying gear with the Drop Zone is easy, thanks to its robust shoulder straps. The Drop Zone’s outer is also waterproof and grippy, making it feel highly dependable on angled terrain and damp ground.
While the Drop Zone covers an incredible amount of ground while being lightweight, it’s likely due to its 3.5″ thick foam. This makes the Drop Zone one of the thinnest pads on this list and is one reason we wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it for higher projects. Still, if you’re looking for a portable, large taco pad that you can use for routes with shorter falls, then we highly recommend that you check out the Drop Zone.
7. Metolius Recon: Best Larger Supplemental Pad
Many of the pads on this list work excellently on their own – this is not necessarily the case for the Metolius Recon. However, that’s no reason to write it off. We feel that thanks to its size, tri-fold build, and portability, the Recon works very well as a supplemental pad.
While the Recon does a decent job cushioning smaller falls, it’s when used in conjunction with other pads that the Recon truly shines. Its great durability and build quality make the Recon a highly dependable crash pad. We were also fans of its suspension system, with both shoulder straps and handles for ease of transportation. However, it’s worth noting that the Recon does a fairly poor job of transporting other gear.
While we think of supplemental pads as far smaller than Metolius’ Recon, we’d argue that’s exactly what this model is best suited to. If you’re looking for a secondary pad that is large, fairly lightweight, and easy to transport, why not check out the Recon?
8. Mammut Slam Pad: The Best Crash Pad for Durability
Combine clever design with fantastic build quality, and you get Mammut’s Slam Pad. This Swiss-made, incredibly durable pad is a great option for boulderers of all levels. Its excellent, multi-level foam performed well for both smaller and bigger falls, and its suspension system makes it incredibly easy to carry and store.
We loved the Slam Pad’s unique hybrid design, too – by combining a taco and hinge layer, you get the convenience of a hinged pad with enhanced support for falls. The Slam Pad’s 1000d nylon outer feels like it’ll last forever, making the model well worth the investment. However, the Slam Pad wouldn’t be our first choice for flatter terrain due to its taco layer.
Having said that, it’s hard to find fault with the Slam Pad otherwise. If you’re looking for a versatile and insanely durable medium-sized pad, consider the Slam Pad!
9. Black Diamond Circuit: Best Budget Pick
With fantastic durability, impact Absorption, and portability, the circuit is our favorite budget bouldering crash pad.
The Circuit is one of Black Diamond’s more affordable offerings, but this doesn’t mean the model skimps on quality at all. As far as cheaper pads go, you can’t beat the Black Diamond Circuit in terms of durability and performance. It’s incredibly lightweight at just 8 lbs and 5 oz and features a rugged, dependable 900d nylon outer.
We also loved the suspension system on the Circuit. With sturdy shoulder straps and an adjustable waist belt, the lightweight Circuit feels incredibly easy to carry, even on longer treks. Using 4″ foam, the Circuit feels most supportive for shorter falls, though we found it acceptable for high falls, too.
One potential drawback of the Circuit is its lack of special features. While this is likely what makes the Circuit, so affordable, many climbers appreciate pads that are more user-friendly or offer better flexibility.
However, we loved the Circuit’s functionality, especially at its price point. If you’re looking for the best budget bouldering crash pad out there and want something straightforward, we’d definitely recommend the Circuit.
10. Metolius Short Stop: Best Smaller Supplemental Pad
Incredibly lightweight and cleverly designed, the Short Stop is the perfect smaller supplemental crash pad for filling in gaps.
If you’re looking for a smaller supplemental crash pad, the Metolius Short Stop is pretty much the ideal candidate. Lightweight and versatile, you can use the Short Stop on top of bigger pads for larger falls, to cover hinges, or even as a spotting shield. We also found the suspension system easy to use and the Short Stop effortless to transport and store.
You won’t want to use the Short Stop on its own, but this was our favorite bouldering crash pad to use in conjunction with other pads. The only drawback we’ve noticed is that some climbers find the Short Stop to be strangely stiff.
Still, we’d highly recommend the Short Stop if you’re looking for a supplemental pad to fill in gaps or add some extra cushioning to a larger pad.
11. Organic 4″ Thick Big Pad: Best Bespoke Pad
Organic is known for producing quality, made-to-order crash pads, and this is our favorite bespoke model out there right now.
Organic pads are renowned among the bouldering community for being some of the highest-quality of any on the market today. Most Organic pads are made to order and bespoke, which is also the case for the 4″ – you can customize the look and design of your 4″ to your heart’s content.
In contrast with tri-fold pads, the Organic 4″ offers a smaller landing zone, but its foam is incredibly supportive. The pad’s hybrid hinge feels very sturdy and well-padded, too. Having just one hinge also makes the Organic 4″ easy to store and transport, as well as its relative light weight at just 17 lbs.
While this is obviously a quality crash pad, many competitors’ pads at this price point tend to offer much more by way of flexibility and special features. If this is a priority of yours, then you might find the 4″ by Organic somewhat disappointing. However, this might be the best bouldering pad on this list in terms of sheer build quality and performance. If you’re on the hunt for a bespoke pad that offers top-notch build quality, you can’t go wrong with this offering from Organic.
12. Asana Pro Spotter Pad: Best Pile Pad
With four separated pads joined by a cross-shaped hinge, this is our favorite ‘pile pad’ thanks to its versatility
If you’re on the lookout for a supplemental pad and like to get creative, then the Pro Spotter by Asana might be just the thing for you! The Pro Spotter’s innovative hinge system splits it into four separate pieces of foam, making it a fantastic choice for routes with uneven landing surfaces.
Depending on the gaps you’re trying to fill, you can open out or fold up the Pro Spotter. You can even use the Pro Spotter as a sleeping mat or for picnics. We found this model to be fairly portable, too, thanks to its side handles. Our only gripe would be that the Pro Spotter’s outer is quite loose, which can be a tripping hazard.
So, while the Pro Spotter might not be the simplest pad, we recommend it to anyone looking for a wildcard supplemental pile pad.
13. Petzl Alto: Best High-End Taco Pad
While taco pads tend to be the more affordable, less elite models of crash pads, the Alto by Petzl is a clear exception. This high-end bouldering pad offers excellent, innovative features, like its highly flexible suspension system and zip flap storage.
With padded shoulder straps and an ergonomic, contoured shape, carrying the relatively lightweight Alto for longer distances is a breeze. Also, the Alto boasts incredible build quality and durability, which we feel justifies its price tag.
While great for storage, we found that the zip flap closure definitely limits how much you can pack in the Alto. Many climbers who favor taco pads use them for transporting lots of gear, so we can see this potentially putting people off the model. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a highly practical, durable taco pad that’s easy to transport, you might want to check out the Alto by Petzl.
14. Mad Rock R3: Best Baffled Model
Mad Rock’s R3 is the only pad that uses baffles on this list and, for many, needs no introduction. Using recycled, shredded EVA foam and highly durable 1680d nylon, the R3 is both sustainable and a massively reliable crash pad.
While the R3 isn’t ideal for higher falls due to its softness, it’s incredibly supportive for shorter falls. You can also use it on top of firmer pads for higher falls to soften them out and add extra support. The R3’s baffles also make it basically unparalleled for use on the most uneven, bumpy surfaces and terrain.
Another great feature of the R3 is that it’s excellent for packing gear due to its size and system of baffles. However, it’s important to point out that the R3 is on the heavier side, and its weight can also vary considerably from model to model due to it using recycled foam.
If you know how to use it, the R3 is, we think, absolutely worth the price. It’s built exceptionally well, versatile, and great as a standalone pad for smaller falls. However, if you’re primarily searching for a pad for big falls, we recommend looking elsewhere.
15. Organic Simple Pad: Best Made in USA Crash pad
With excellent build quality and durability, the Organic Simple is among our favorite medium-sized pads.
If you’re looking for a medium-sized crash pad with unparalleled build quality and performance, then you can’t go wrong with the Simple. Unlike most medium-sized pads, the Simple felt great for high and low falls alike. Combine this with its lightweight and how easy it is to transport, and you have an incredibly versatile and practical crash pad.
Another feature that we loved with the Simple is that you can easily use it with other pads, thanks to its squared-off corners. The only real drawback we found to the Simple was that it doesn’t pack other gear all that well.
Other than that, we think this is probably one of the best crash pads out there in terms of value for money. We’d recommend the Simple to any climber looking for a quality, medium-sized crash pad, as long as extra features aren’t a must.
How to Find the Perfect Crash Pad for You
What is a Crash Pad? Core Features Explained
A crash pad or bouldering pad is a foam pad that you can use to break your fall when bouldering. Unlike many other styles of rock climbing, bouldering does not involve the use of any ropes or clips to help you stay on the route. So, if you slip or fall on a bouldering project, you’ll usually fall off the rock itself. This is where crash pads come in!
Crash pads vary in terms of their size and style, the foam they use, and any special features they might have. Most pads use either closed or open-cell foam, and some use memory foam as well. Closed cell foam is typically made of polyurethane, is stiffer, and is better for absorbing bigger impacts. Open-cell foam is softer and makes for a cushier landing but is less durable than closed-cell foam.
Many pads also feature waist straps, shoulder straps, side handles, or a chest strap to make them easier to carry. These features are collectively referred to as suspension systems and can vary considerably from crash pad to crash pad. Additionally, crash pads often have other special features, like a carpet square for wiping your climbing shoes off, storage pockets, water bottle holders, and so on.
An Overview of the Different Types of Crash Pad
The Taco style pad
Taco-style crash pads are, in essence, the most straightforward kind of bouldering pad. They typically use one single piece of foam. Usually, this is a softer foam than pads that use a hinge because taco-style pads need to be able to be rolled. Because of how they’re stored, taco pads tend not to be very flat when you open them up, so are usually better for uneven terrain.
The Baffled Style Pad
Only a handful of bouldering mats use a baffled style. These pads use a partially hinged design, which makes the hinged area more padded and helps it absorb falls and impacts better.
The Hinged Pad
Many bouldering pads use a single hinge, and these pads tend to be the flattest. This makes hinged pads ideal for flat terrain, where they can cover your landing zone more effectively than other types of pads.
The tri-fold Pad
It’s probably fair to say that, nowadays, most bouldering crash pads use a tri-fold hinge system. Tri-fold pads use two hinges, so you can experiment with your pad’s configuration when you use it. Having two hinges also makes tri-fold pads easier to store and transport.
The Hybrid Pad
Some pads attempt to combine a taco and hinged style by using foam layers over the hinges of the pad. This design feature essentially aims to make landing on hinges safer by padding them out.
The Angled Pad
Some crash pads are designed to be able to be used on an angled landing zone. For instance, they may have a sticky rubber outer to keep them in place or an angled hinge to cover angled terrain.
Important Criteria to Keep in Mind when Buying a New Crash Pad
A good crash pad should ideally use layered foam rather than exclusively using a single type of foam for the entire pad. The best crash pads use a combination of both closed and open-cell foam, as this improves their durability and ability to cushion higher impacts.
Thicker foam is better for bigger falls; you’d usually want a 4″ pad at the very minimum for big falls (and 5 inches is preferable).
Consider the terrain where you usually climb, too. For instance, as mentioned above, a taco-style pad is unlikely to be your best bet if you often climb on flatter terrain. You should also consider the pad’s suspension system, how comfortable it is, and how much gear the pad can carry.
Finally, the durability of a crash pad is key. Pads that use heavy-duty nylon or polyester outer will likely be your best bet.
Tips and Things to Avoid
When you’re on the hunt for a new crash pad, there are some things we recommend that you look out for. While buying used gear is often a great way to save money, we advise against doing so when it comes to crash pads. This is because you cannot know how they’ve been stored or maintained.
Even if you’re on the hunt for a budget crash pad, we would encourage you to be open to saving up enough for one of the more budget-friendly options on this list. Going with a well-known brand name is a failsafe way of ensuring that you’re investing in a reliable product.
Important Safety Recommendations for Using a Crash Pad
Even when you’ve got a crash pad to break your fall, bouldering with a spotter is always recommended where possible. This is especially true of routes with higher falls. If you’re newer to bouldering, having a spotter more experienced than you is strongly encouraged.
We also recommend that you familiarize yourself with how to safely use and place crash pads. A bouldering pad won’t do much to break your fall if it’s in the wrong place!
Finally, we suggest that you monitor any crash pads you use throughout the climbing season and replace them when they start feeling too soft.
The number of crash pads you’ll need for a particular bouldering project depends on a number of factors. These include the type of terrain where you’re climbing and how high up the route is. Depending on these, you might just need one pad or multiple pads. If you’re unsure, it’s best to have a spotter to make sure you fall in the right place.
Yes, you always need fall protection when bouldering. Bringing a crash pad is an absolute must if you’re planning on taking your bouldering outdoors.
How long your bouldering pad will last depends on how frequently you use it, the type of foam it has, how hard you use it, and how you store it. A very rough estimate for a decent crash pad is that it should last somewhere between three to five years based on these conditions.
Generally speaking, the thicker your crash pad, the better. We usually recommend 4″ pads at a minimum for projects with high falls.
Did your crash pad get rained on? No stress! Just make sure you let the foam dry out thoroughly. Failing to do so can sometimes result in the foam developing mold.
Using a mattress for bouldering isn’t something we’d recommend. Mattresses aren’t specially designed to absorb the impact of a fall, and you might seriously injure yourself if you use a mattress instead of a crash pad when bouldering.
Yes, you can take crash pads as checked bags on a plane. However, it’s common for airlines to treat crash pads as oversized luggage due to them being larger than most suitcases, which can incur a hefty fee. Usually, renting a crash pad at your destination is likely to be the more economical option.
It’s possible, but it’s a lot of work, and you need to know sewing (a difficult skill that takes time to master). Also, it will be difficult to get the same result as a commercial pad in terms of ease of use. We don’t recommend it. Still interested? Read more about it here.