Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Great foam, big landing area for medium pad, big flaps to store stuff, easy-to-use hooks, cool waterproof backing.
Cons: Shoulder strap blew out, expensive, had to spend time finding foam and cutting it.
Best Uses: Lower boulder problems where you take repeated falls.
The Black Diamond Drop Zone was one of our favorite pads with one big downside: thin foam that wore out fast. The foam that comes with the Organic pads is our favorite. So we went to a local store, bought a $30 piece of one-inch "memory style" closed cell foam that looked and felt like the Organic foam. We then inserted it and were very impressed. Because we had compressed the original BD foam so much, we were able to barely slide in the new foam without having to remove any of the old. The result: instead of a wimpy 3.5 inches that the pad originally comes with, we now had 4.5 inches of great foam.
Of all the pads we reviewed, our creation was one of the best medium size pads. That said, it cost us $250+, which makes it one of the most expensive pads out there. The fact that we broke the shoulder strap was a bummer and kept us from recommending that everyone go out and make one of these. So all told, we only recommend you make this pad if you really love the features on the BD Drop Zone and don't load up your pad too much. Otherwise, you can buy almost two Mad Rock Mad Pads for about the same price. Or, if you don't need a taco design and the closure system, just spend $190 and get the Organic simple pad.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
There is a lot to like about the original Black Diamond Drop Zone and our new Super Drop Zone is even better. We tested a lot of pads before we chose the Drop Zone as the best to use for a mad science experiment. We liked the taco style design, handy features, and the closure system. We thought all it needed to be better than its competitors was the addition of an extra layer of quality foam. For the most part this was true. Suddenly we were no longer afraid to take big falls.
After adding the foam and using it in the field for about one year, the only dislike was that the shoulder strap broke. We do carry a heavier loads than most boulderers, so if you don't carry a lot this may not happen to you ever. That said, there are a lot of pads that we have abused much more and never had even a minor sewing failure let alone a major one.
This pad cost us $250 – $220 for the original pad and $30 for the extra foam. That doesn't count the gas money to track down the foam and our time spent. So once you are done it is a fairly expensive pad, especially considering we broke the shoulder strap after a year.
— Chris McNamara and Chris Summit
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 22, 2011
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