Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Nice suspension, tons of foam, long landing area, many handles, great buckles
Cons: Soft middle seam, be careful of rolling your ankle.
Best Uses: Highball bouldering problems and all-around bouldering.
The name says it all: the Black Diamond Mondo Pad is one mondo piece of foam. It is a crash pad that seems like overkill in the store. But when you take your first big fall on one, you wonder how you could boulder again with anything smaller. In addition to a ton of foam, the Mondo carries a lot of gear and comes with good suspension and grips to drag it around with.
If you are a serious boulderer and want a big landing area, it is a close call between this, the Organic Big Pad and the Voodoo Highball 5000 Pad. The Big Pad has firmer and longer lasting foam that inspires more confidence on rocky terrain and a Hybrid Hinge for added protection. The Mondo has a softer and more forgiving feel especially on abrupt low-ball falls on your backside as well as some handy features. The Voodoo gives you an unhinged surface (taco style pad) that is great for uneven landings but is more unwieldy to store, pack and move around or use on flat landings. Also, the foam softens up equally as fast. Overall, the Mondo is a top contender and worth a close look.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Update - March 2015
It appears that the Mondo Pad has changed colors and may have gotten a few upgrades. We have contacted Black Diamond and are awaiting confirmation. Below you will find a side-by-side photo comparison, with the 2010 version on the left and the latest model on the right.
What makes the Black Diamond Mondo Pad stand out is how big and thick it is without compromising its all around functionality. It comes with a ton of cushy foam and out of all the big pads we tested, this is one of the softer and more forgiving even brand new. It is great for high problems as well as low problems or for sleeping on. It really is nice to have one pad to manage rather than always stacking other pads and worrying about where the pads join.
It has large handles on either end that are big enough to get over your shoulder. There is also a handle on the corner so there are a fair amount of ways to get the pad from problem to problem. We like how the suspension is sewn in and comes with a very handy grab handle above the center of the shoulder straps. When you stuff your pad full of gear and then want to put it on, that extra grab handle helps a lot. At 65 inches in length, it makes a decent bed and it is almost long enough to work as a bed liner for a truck or van. It is a little too wide to fit as a bed in the back of most wagons.
I like how they use a waist belt hook buckle: the hook buckles on this and all Black Diamond pads are some of our favorites.
If you land with your foot exactly in the center, you can feel the hinge more than with other big pads. Part of this is because it is not a hybrid hinge. It is also because the foam is a little softer than with other big pads so your foot can really find its way into the seam. To remedy this the Mondo does have extra Velcro tabs that pull it together on the bottom and make it less likely your foot will go through the seam and find a pointy rock. However, it is only a partial solution. Although on flat terrain this is not a big deal, we would be very careful of this pad on uneven rocky terrain like you often find on Pacific Coast beaches or talus fields in the mountains. In comparison, the Organic Big Pad, with a hybrid hinge and stiffer foam, feels much more like a single piece of foam. Landing with your foot in the middle seam is not as scary.
With very thick foam, you need to be especially careful about landing on the edge of the pad and rolling an ankle. Also, because this pad is so big, you need to make sure your car is big enough to transport it. It can be a struggle to get in the back seat of a compact car but unlike taco style pads it does fold into a thin space.
Because this pad is longer than most, when folded in half and worn on your back it is quite wide. That's not ideal for tight approaches through shrubs and boulders. Most other big pads are narrower and taller when on your back, which makes them easier to maneuver.
The removable shoulder strap hooks often come unhooked when laying on the ground being used as a pad and it is very annoying when you go try to put it back on. (our proposed remedy: 2 hooks opposite/opposed. For our 5' 10" frames, we found the waist belt to sit a bit too low on our hips. Also, when heavily loaded, the suspension seemed really loose because of the way it attaches to the foam.
This pad excels at high problems and also works well for lower problems because the foam is relatively soft. This is more for experienced boulderers who want one of these jumbo sized pads in their quiver as well as a small pad. Beginning boulderers or those on a budget will probably want to buy a smaller pad, then later either buy a big pad like this or buy another small pad. The Mad Rock Mad Pad is a good inexpensive pad to start with and they have Velcro attachments to connect them together into a bigger sized pad. The other good small pads are the taco style Black Diamond Drop Zone and the excellent foam and hybrid hinged style design of the Organic Simple Pad and Organic Full Pad.
At $399, this is toward the more expensive end for price. Durability is expected to be medium.
— Chris McNamara, Chris Summit
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Most recent review: February 22, 2012
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