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Black Diamond Drop Zone Review

   

Bouldering Crash Pads

  • Currently 4.0/5
Overall avg rating 4.0 of 5 based on 2 reviews. Most recent review: February 24, 2010
Street Price:   $230 | Compare prices at 5 resellers
Pros:  Big landing area for medium pad, big flaps to store stuff, easy-to-use hooks, cool waterproof backing, strong shoulder straps.
Cons:  Foam that wears out fast and is thin.
Best Uses:  Lower boulder problems where you take repeated falls.
User Rating:     
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 (4.0 of 5) based on 1 reviews
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Chris Summit, Chris McNamara ⋅ February 24, 2010  
Overview
The Black Diamond Drop Zone is a crash pad loaded with features and attention to detail. It has a hinge-less “taco” design, solid waist belt, handy flaps, buckles, straps, and rubberized “Batman suit” waterproof backing. We like the big side and bottom flap to hold gear inside when in backpack mode. The straps, buckles, and handles are all well designed.

Of all the pads we reviewed, this is one of the best medium size pads for all-around use except for one thing: the foam. We wish it had thicker and better foam. If you ordered the type of closed cell foam that is in the Organic Simple Pad and put it in the Drop Zone frame then this would score much higher. We did this and it cost $30, which starts to make this pad pretty expensive but worth it if it fits your personal needs. The Mad Rock Mad Pad foam isn't necessarily any better, but at 4 inches thick vs 3 inches for the Drop Zone there is just so much more of it that you get more peace of mind and longevity. Its other main competition is the slightly more expensive Metolius Boss Hogg, which has better foam but not as good of a carrying system and closures.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
This pad is three inches wider than most medium pads we tested, giving you a slightly bigger landing area. It excels for lower problems where you are taking repeated falls. The soft and thin 3.5-inch foam means you are less likely to roll an ankle if you land on the edge and the bigger surface area gives you a big target. It works for circuit training or exploring where there is no need for a large pad, just one big enough to sit on and do a few burns on some classics. This is the only pad with a rubber backing that both protects it from soaking up water and keeps it less likely to slide on a hillside.

We like the securely attached shoulder and waist straps that are sewn in, meaning there is no Velcro to wear out. Also, this is the only pad with a handle on top of the shoulder straps that helps you lift it onto your back. This is very useful if you really like to load your pad up. The big flap on the side has two easy-to-use hook buckles. They have a smooth, rounded shape that makes them easier to hook and unhook as compared to more square-cut hook buckles. Overall, the suspension, handles, and closure are among the best we tested.

Dislikes
There was one main dislike with this pad and it was a big one: thin foam that got soft after a few months. When that happened we no longer felt as comfortable taking big falls as we were with most other pads. This was one of the lowest performers in the test where we put a single softball-sized rock under the pad and fell. At that point we felt the pad was only good for lower problems. To address the foam problem, we bought some new phone and created a Black Diamond Drop Zone With Custom Foam Insert

While overall we do like the extra width of the pad, it does make it hard to fit in the back of Chris Mac's Subaru. It is harder to stack and store lots of pads when space is tight.

Finally, we did rip the shoulder strap off. We can't totally fault the pad for this as we did have it pretty loaded up. However, we have put similar abuse to pads like the Misty Mountain Magnum which have never shown any signs of wear. We won't say this pad is not durable. But there are more durable options out there. The way to tell generally if a pad has a durable suspension system is to look for big bar tacks (or not) connecting the tops of the shoulder straps to the pad.

Best Application
This pad is best for lower problem on flat terrain and is not ideal for taller problems or terrain where sharp rocks may stick through.

Value
At $220 it is toward the expensive side of medium pads. It comes with a ton of features, but since the foam wears out quickly it is spendy compared to an Organic Full Pad that has longer lasting foam and is less expensive.

Other Versions
Black Diamond Satellite is a smaller pad. The Black Diamond Mondo is their bigger pad. We made a Black Diamond Drop Zone with Custom Foam Insert

Chris Summit, Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: February 24, 2010
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (2)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Jan 27, 2010 - 09:16pm
climbinginchico · Climber · Modesto, CA
The Drop Zone is a nice overall pad. It was the first and only one I have bought. As a "taco style" pad it folds ok but doesn't have any hinge areas that can mess up ankles on landing. The flip side to this is that it almost always has some curve to it, so it doesn't lay perfectly flat. I find it better for uneven or rocky landings than a hinge type because ankles magically find the hinge and are more likely to get twisted. But the bottom flap and taco make it carry your stuff better than a hinge, so I prefer the taco.

Construction is top notch, as with most things BD. Beefy materials should stand up to the long haul. Weight is acceptable, but I don't carry other pads to compare much, so take it for what it's worth. The suspension works well for carrying, but I found if you load it up heavy the straps can dig into my shoulders a bit. But I'm bony, so again Take it FWIW. The padding is perfect for me. The high density foam disperses loads and the softer stuff absorbs bigger falls. Again, I'm skinny so can't comment on clydesdales. EDIT: maybe mine is a slightly earlier model because I have two densities of foam in mine. Did they change this?

Can't comment about cost as I got a nice deal, but no complaints here. I don't boulder much but my buddies always come by to borrow it, so I guess they like it.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Black Diamond - Drop Zone
Credit: Black Diamond
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