Published on: 11/17/2022The Black Diamond Drop Zone is super lightweight and offers great coverage, but how well does it perform? In this review, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Drop Zone, as well as which climbing projects it's best suited to.
Thanks to its taco-style design, the Black Diamond Drop Zone crash pad allows you to carry large amounts of gear with ease. It’s ergonomic and streamlined, and the pad’s PU-coated 1000d nylon outer is highly durable. The Drop Zone does well on sloped terrain, in particular, thanks to its sticky backing, and its taco-style design means no foam dead spots.
However, climbers who favor higher, longer bouldering projects may want to look elsewhere; the Drop Zone tends to bottom out on bigger falls. Also of note is the Drop Zone’s relative lack of features compared to competitors’ pads sold at a similar price point. Finally, the Drop Zone tends not to flatten out completely when opened up, so it might not be your best option for use on flatter terrain.
- Despite being a ‘medium’ pad, the Drop Zone covers a considerable surface area
- Thanks to its high-quality outer, the Drop Zone is highly durable
- Incredibly lightweight, weighing in at just under 10lbs/4.75kg
- Features a comfortable suspension system
- The Drop Zone’s backing is waterproof and grippy, perfect for slippery terrain
- The pad’s taco-style fold eliminates foam dead spots
- The Drop Zone’s taco-style fold makes it less than ideal for flat landings and uneven ground alike
- Because of its relatively thin foam, longer falls feel sketchy with the Drop Zone
- Lacks some features that competitors’ pads offer
The Black Diamond Drop Zone’s design has been updated by Black Diamond. According to the company, the redesigned Drop Zone features improved buckles on its closure system, updated graphics, and newly-modified square corners. The medium-sized taco pad also boasts a 1000d nylon outer, 3.5 in/8.9 cm of open and closed foam, weighs just under 10 lbs/5 kg, and measures 41″ x 48″/104 x 122 cm.
Fall Impact Protection
Black Diamond’s Drop Zone boasts decent foam quality and offers better coverage than many other medium-sized pads. Thanks to its sticky, rubberized backing, the Drop Zone does a good job of staying put when used on sloped terrain. And, because it doesn’t use a hinge design, the Drop Zone provides a continuous landing surface with no dead spots.
However, the pad doesn’t tend to lay flat when used on even ground, which is fairly typical of taco pads. For the same reason, our testers also struggled to use the Drop Zone on rocky, uneven terrain; it has a tendency to slide off rocks.
While the Drop Zone offers great coverage for a medium-sized pad, its soft, thin foam bottoms out easily on larger falls. For the same reason, we wouldn’t feel comfortable using the Drop Zone for projects with sharp rocks.
One strength of Black Diamond’s Drop Zone is its durability. It features a high-quality 1000d nylon outer that provides both abrasion and water resistance. Additionally, the newly redesigned buckles on the quick closure mesh flap feel hardy and reliable.
The high-compression PU foam that the Drop Zone uses, while thinner than many of its competitors, also holds up well to extended use. However, the closure elastic mesh flap feels decidedly less sturdy than the rest of the pad.
Ease of Use
The Drop Zone is fairly straightforward to use. It’s easy to pack, close up, and carry and has grab handles for maneuverability. However, many crash pads available at a similar price point offer considerably more features than the Drop Zone.
Packing and Transport
The redesigned Drop Zone features a new suspension system with grab handles, shoulder straps, and a waist belt. We found that, on the whole, the carrying system feels comfortable, easy to use, and ergonomic. The shoulder straps are molded, and the waist belt helps to distribute weight evenly.
Another strength of the Drop Zone is that it does a decent job of packing climbing gear and other essentials. Thanks to its taco-fold design and soft foam, you can pack considerably more than you would. The quick-closure elastic mesh flap also features a handy, small pocket that stores gear inside.
However, the Drop Zone isn’t always the easiest pad to store and transport. As a result of its taco-style design, even when stored folded, it takes up more room than your average hinged pad would.
Main Pad vs. Supplemental
We found the Drop Zone less than ideal for use as a supplemental pad. Its redesigned square corners are somewhat awkwardly shaped, which makes using it adjacent to other pads difficult. The Drop Zone performs much better when stacked on top of a second pad, thanks to its sticky backing.
Types of Projects the Black Diamond Drop Zone is Suited To
The Drop Zone is a near-perfect pad for bouldering circuits with lots of short projects or for shorter projects on sloped terrain. It’s lightweight and can pack a ton of gear, as well as being easy to carry thanks to its suspension system.
However, we wouldn’t recommend using the Drop Zone exclusively for any projects with longer falls or above sharp rocks due to how thin its foam is. We’d also recommend that you use another pad for flat terrain, as the Drop Zone tends not to lay completely flat due to its taco fold.
The Drop Zone might be the perfect bouldering pad for you if you’re looking for something lightweight for shorter falls that offers good coverage in terms of surface area. Thanks to its taco-style fold and softer foam, it’s also a great pad for packing gear.
However, it’s difficult to argue that the Drop Zone represents truly great value for money. Many similarly-sized pads on the market now offer better functionality and fall protection, often at a lower price point.
|41 x 48″/104 x 122 cm
|9 lb 8 oz/4.75 kg
|Open and closed-cell foam, 1000d PU-coated nylon outer
|Flap with buckles
Reference: Black Diamond
Where to Buy It?
We buy most of our stuff from REI. Their service is great, and it’s a co-op, so they treat their employees well and answer to their members, not shareholders.
You can also check the official Black Diamond Equipment website. They tend to be pricier, but they can also have interesting deals!
Note: we receive a commission when you buy through us. This keeps our team of writers/climbers going!