Crash Pad Review: The Best Bouldering Pad

We selected over a dozen of the best bouldering crash pads, lined them up, and took practice falls on them repeatedly. Then we took them on as many bouldering excursions as we could. We found big differences in each of them when evaluated by foam, design, durability, and features. We put them all through a variety of tests including high falls, low falls, packing big stuff, packing small stuff, and overall durability. We then chose both our Editors' Choice award winner and Best Buy winners.

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Review by:

Top Ranked Bouldering Crash Pads Displaying 1 - 5 of 11 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Mad Rock R3
Mad Rock R3
Read the Review
Video video review
Black Diamond Mondo Pad
Black Diamond Mondo Pad
Read the Review
Metolius Boss Hogg
Metolius Boss Hogg
Read the Review
Video video review
Metolius Magnum
Metolius Magnum
Read the Review
Video video review
Metolius Bailout
Metolius Bailout
Read the Review
Video video review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award      Best Buy Award 
Street Price $189
Compare at 2 sellers
$400
Compare at 6 sellers
$215
Compare at 4 sellers
$325
Compare at 3 sellers
$142
Overall Score 
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72
Editors' Rating
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Pros Versatility. Soft but dense foam with multiple hinges conforms to uneven landing surfaces and cushions short to medium length falls very well. It also hauls a lot of gear well and has handy features.Nice suspension, tons of foam, long landing area, many handles, great bucklesOne of the best hinges with a more safe angled design and a separete top foam layer, flap holds in a moderate amount of gear, burly reinforced cornersEasy to transport, easily to open and close, handy carpet square, durable, velcro hinge reinforcement, doubles as bedEasy to transport, easy to carry, easily closed/opened, lays flat, useful carpet square, well made, durable.
Cons Specialized. The soft, squishy, shredded foam and slightly lumpy "baffles" are not the best for some long, high falls - they could possibly roll a weak ankle on a lighter person.Soft middle seam, be careful of rolling your ankle.Sometimes flap opens at the bottom if packed a lot, hinges can sometimes be less secure than a taco designDoes not carry very much gear inside (barely even the essentials)Velcro closures on the hinges do not seal it tight enough, a handle on both sides (not just one side) would be handy.
Best Uses Conforms to uneven landing zones. Great for short to medium length problems and steep falls with back jarring landings. A versatile general use pad that hauls gear in backpack mode very well.Highball bouldering problems and all-around bouldering.All-around bouldering, highball bouldering, long approaches with an average amount of gear, circuitsShort hikes to tall problems or as an easier to store extra padGreat first bouldering pad as well as perfect second pad to combine with a big n' burly pad.
Date Reviewed Feb 08, 2013Feb 24, 2010Feb 16, 2010Jun 27, 2012Jul 28, 2011
Weighted Scores Mad Rock R3 Black Diamond Mondo Pad Metolius Boss Hogg Metolius Magnum Metolius Bailout
High Falls - 30%
10
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8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
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7
Low Falls - 20%
10
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10
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
Packing Big Stuff - 10%
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
4
10
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2
10
0
8
Packing Small Stuff - 10%
10
0
10
10
0
6
10
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10
10
0
8
10
0
6
Comfort Hanging Out - 10%
10
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5
10
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6
10
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9
10
0
8
10
0
7
Foam Durability - 20%
10
0
7
10
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5
10
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7
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8
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7
Product Specs Mad Rock R3 Black Diamond Mondo Pad Metolius Boss Hogg Metolius Magnum Metolius Bailout
Size (inches) 55 x 35 44 x 65 36 x 48 48 x 72 36 x 48
Weight (lbs) 18 20.5 12 19 9
Foam Thickness listed top to bottom (inches) 4" 5 (1 C x 3 O x 1 C) 4.6 (1 C, 3.5 O) 4 4
Hinge/Taco hinge(s) / baffles Hinge Hybrid Angled Hinge Angled Hinge(s) ? Angled Hinge
Suspension Sewn in Sewn in Velcro Velcro Velcro
Closing Flap Yes No Yes Yes No
Warranty Lifetime limited 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products

While overall some pads edged ahead of others, all the pads excelled in some areas. For this reason, it is especially importantly to evaluate the pads on both individual scores as well as overall scores. In selecting a pad, you really need decide what features are most important to you. Is is foam? Pad design? Carrying ability? Cool materials? Value? Read more below to see how the pads compared when being tested head to head.

We defined a "medium crash pad" as being about 36" x 48". We also put pads that were 41" x 49" info the medium pad category. A medium pad is the most common size because it fits in most cars, is relatively easy to carry, and is a good size for most low to medium height problems.

Large pads are generally 48" x 60" all the way up to 50" to 72."

Click to enlarge
Anna Joseph on Fly Boy Arete, Bishop, CA.
Credit: Max Neale
High Fall Test
Our favorite foam to fall on was the Organic, which was not too stiff but also prevented us from bottoming out. While most companies use standard open and closed cell foam, Organic uses a unique "memory style" foam that is both durable and impact absorbing. Other top contenders generally scored based on how thick the foam was. The Mad Rock Mad Pad had the thickest foam (five inches), which gave us confidence on the big drops. It was also really stiff, which made it the pad least likely to bottom out. The Metolius Boss Hogg and Voodoo Highball 4000 also did well on the tall problems but got noticeably softer over time. The Black Diamond Drop Zone started out great but after a few months it got really soft due to its thin foam (3.5 inches). It remained a great pad for shorter problems but we were scared to take big drops onto it. Any pad with foam thinner than 4 inches we would not recommend for high bouldering problems by itself.

Low Fall Test
Our favorite pads for repeated low fall were the Black Diamond Drop Zone and the Voodoo Highball 4000. Both had slightly larger surface areas and had softer edges. The softer edges were key to making the pads less likely to cause a rolled ankle. For the same reason the Drop Zone was not ideal for tall problems, but it was nice on short problems because it was so soft. The Voodoo, with its custom felt, was especially nice for when floundering around on sit starts. The Organic pads and Boss Hogg were also nice on repeated low falls. The Misty Mountain Magnum also stood out for being cozy yet big: it was the nicest of all the big pads to fall on onto our back from low problems. The Mad Pad was the only pad that was too stiff when brand new. We joked that you had to pad the Mad Pad. If you landed on your back from a low sit start, you really felt it. One option was to flip the pad upside down and land on the softer side. However, then you had a big gutter in the middle and had to deal with the suspension system. Ultimately, the best solution was to just let the Mad Pad break itself in by falling on it a lot from up high.

Uneven Terrain Test
We put the pads in uneven terrain to see how they handled when you feel right in the middle of them. Not surprisingly, the taco pad with medium-stiff foam did the best: The Highball 5000 and Misty Mountain Magnum. For a hinged pad, the Boss Hog also did well because of the angled hybrid hinge. The Mad Pad did well because it had so much foam; it was hard to get rocks to come up through the hinge and the Triple Mad Pad has velcro to you can seal up the hinge. All hinged pads acted like bear traps (see photos above) except for the Mondo and Triple Mad pad which come with straps to "deactivate the bear trap." If you fell in the middle of most hinged pads, the pad folded in half around you. This is more annoying than dangerous, but there is always that chance that your foot can find the hinge and then find a rock underneath.

Packing Big Stuff
The pads that hauled the bulkiest, heaviest loads were the Misty Mountain Magnum and the Highball 5000 because of their larger size and taco style. Both pads also were in unique in that they had burly sewn-in straps (no Velcro) and handles on top of the shoulder straps. These handles make it much easier to put the pad on when it's heavily loaded with gear. Most other pads did okay with the big stuff. The Metolius Boss Hogg, Mad Rock Triple and Metolius Colosus were the only pads that failed to handle a big pack. The velcro closure on the Boss Hogg actually burst open (see photo at the Metolious Boss Hogg Review). We didn't find a big difference in the comfort in carrying big loads. One difference was the Organic's shoulder straps have two levels of height adjustment. If you are less than 5' 6", you might appreciate the lower suspension setting.

Click to enlarge
The more crash pads the better. Bishop, CA.
Credit: Max Neale
Packing Small Stuff
The Drop Zone and Boss Hogg both have closing flaps that keeps the small stuff from falling out the bottom. The Organic Full Padd does not have a closure flap on the bottom but does have a big pouch to stash the small stuff. Most other pads have neither closure flaps or pockets, which means you need to put your stuff in a backpack or bouldering bag.

Buckles
The Drop Zone hook buckles are the best we tested but we liked all the buckles. They are all more or less indestructible and easy to use. All are much better than the old plastic buckles that broke or the Velcro closures that eventually wore out. All pads used similar plastic waist buckles. The only pad without a waist belt was the Mad Pad. We generally don't care much about the waist belt unless the pad is heavily loaded or your are doing a long approach.

Straps
The straps were all about the same on all pads generic nylon webbing. All the pads had padded shoulder straps. The Mad Pad has extra long straps that make the pad into a lounge chair, which is a cool feature but also means you have extra long straps that dangle around (a little annoying).

Top Materials
The Voodoo has by far the best top material. It's a cozy velvet that is comfy to hang out on and great for cleaning your feet. Even once the foam is beat down, this is still a great pad to hang out on. The Metolius Boss Hogg and Misty Magnum come with auto upholstery up top that makes it the second most comfy pad to hang out on. It is great stuff to wipe your feet on and hang out on. The only down side is it seems to be a magnet for little grass and twigs. Most other pads used similar burly topside materials. The mad pad was the only pad that used more slippery top material. This was not ideal when falling on problems on a slope because your feet were more likely to slip.

Custom Features
Most pads had a few custom features. However important many of these features are is debatable compared to the big deciders like foam quality.

Metolius Boss Hogg: Hypalon reinforced corners and hinge. Hypalon is a durable rubber-like fabric and will probably keep the corners from blowing out. That said, we find the foam goes limp long before the corners on a pad blow out completely. The more innovative feature was the hybrid angled hinge that does a good job of addressing the issue of a rock sneaking up through the hinge.

Black Diamond Drop Zone: very cool, rubbery Batman-suit-style bottom side that is technically called Anti Slide waterproof EVO (PVC Free). This keeps water from soaking into the pad and helps it "stick" to sloping rocks and hillsides.

Mad Rock Mad Pad: comes with a handy square of carpet for keeping the feet or butt clean and dry when the pad is stationed at the landing zone and not at the start. It also comes with Velcro attachments to connect multiple Mad Pads together. This is a great idea. If you are torn whether to get a giant pad or a medium pad, you can buy two of these, lash them together and have the best of both worlds.

Voodoo Highball 4000: custom velvet topsides. So comfy.

Organic Pads: awesome "memory style" foam. No other pad has it.

Editors' Choice Award
We chose the Organic Full Pad for best medium pad and Organic Big Pad as our best large pad because we liked the foam the best and liked how it held up over time. In the end, we felt that when considering all the features, it is the foam that matters not only the most, but much more than any other consideration. We also recommended Voodoo Highball 5000 because we liked the taco design, awesome topside material, and sewn-in shoulder straps.

The Drop Zone was originally a favorite because of the taco design and it was clearly the best pad for carrying stuff. It has that cool backing material and bomber suspension. But after a month the foam was too soft for high problems. So ultimately we couldn't recommend it. However, we are going to try and find some "Organic-like foam," replace the beat up BD foam, and see if we have constructed the ultimate pad.

Best Buy Award
The Metolius Bailout was the best value because it is one of the least expensive yet has a great design and attention to detail. It is not just an entry level pad, because it is so light and easy to carry, we use it has a second pad with our main big pad. It just edged ahead of the Mad Rock Mad Pad With the Mad Pad, not only do you get a ton of foam for $140, you get some cool features like the little carpet square, lounge straps, and ability to mate it with other Mad Pads. This is a great option for anyone who is on a budget and does not mind the sharp edges (beware of the angle roll) and stiff foam (give it a few hundred falls to break in).

Chris Summit, Chris McNamara
Buying Advice
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How to Choose the Best Bouldering Crash Pad - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Bouldering Crash Pad

by Chris Summit, Chris McNamara
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