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Black Diamond Drop Zone Review

A solid pad for short problems
Black Diamond Drop Zone
Photo: Black Diamond
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Price:  $250 List | $249.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Large surface area for medium pad, lightweight, grippy waterproof backing
Cons:  Relatively thin foam, difficult to pack gear compared to other pads
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Henry Feder ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 16, 2019
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58
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 12
  • High Falls - 30% 5
  • Low Falls - 30% 7
  • Durability - 20% 5
  • Packing Gear - 10% 6
  • Features - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Drop Zone is a mid-sized crash pad that utilizes a taco style closure. The Drop Zone is Black Diamond's only taco style pad in their lineup. While it isn't our favorite crash pad we tested, it is very light for its surface area and did perform well on smaller problems. Our testers also enjoyed using the Drop Zone at the start of bigger problems. If you are the kind of climber who enjoys doing a circuit of shorter boulder problems, then the Drop zone could be for you.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $249.95 at Amazon$339.95 at REI$248.95 at Backcountry$198.95 at Backcountry$210.00 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Large surface area for medium pad, lightweight, grippy waterproof backingHuge surface area, narrow carrying profile, excellent featuresStraps to attach a second pad, plush suspension, sturdy foam for high fallsVersatility, soft, great for uneven surfaces, carries a ton of gearSuper durable, amazing foam, lightweight
Cons Relatively thin foam, difficult to pack gear compared to other padsCan't pack as much as a taco-style padFoam is hard for low falls, stiff for uneven landingsNot ideal for long, high falls, heavyLack of features, doesn't pack much gear well
Bottom Line A good pad that works well on shorter problemsThis tri-fold pad gives us plenty of protection, is very durable, and is easy to carryA unique strap system, useful features, and thick foam make this model a fantastic all-around padOne of the softest pads we tested, it shines for low falls and carrying equipmentThe best mid-sized crash pad
Rating Categories Black Diamond Drop Zone Metolius Magnum Mad Rock Duo Mad Rock R3 Organic Simple
High Falls (30%)
5
8
9
6
8
Low Falls (30%)
7
9
6
10
8
Durability (20%)
5
8
8
7
8
Packing Gear (10%)
6
7
9
10
6
Features (10%)
6
9
10
6
6
Specs Black Diamond Drop... Metolius Magnum Mad Rock Duo Mad Rock R3 Organic Simple
Surface Size (inches) 48" x 41" 70" x 47" 56" x 42" 55" x 35" 48" x 36"
Thickness (inches) 3.5" 4" 5" 4" 4"
Weight (lbs) 12 lbs 18.7 lbs 17 lbs 18 lbs 11 lbs
Hinge/Taco Taco Hinge Hinge Hinge(s)/Baffles Hinge
Closing Flap Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Warranty 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year Lifetime limited None, but they do repairs.

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The BD Drop Zone works fine for low problems with its relatively...
The BD Drop Zone works fine for low problems with its relatively thin foam and large surface area.
Photo: Henry Feder

Padding Falls


The Drop Zone was not our favorite pad for padding falls due to its thickness and taco closure. The Drop Zone's padding is only 3.5" thick. Small rocks and imperfections in the landing zone were easier to feel when compared to other pads in our test. In small falls, the thickness was less noticeable, and the Drop Zone padded talus at the start of problems adequately. Our testers rarely set up landings so that the Drop Zone would be the pad used from up high. When testers did fall on the Drop Zone from up high on a problem, the padding felt less than sufficient.

The Drop Zone uses a top layer of closed cell foam (black) and open...
The Drop Zone uses a top layer of closed cell foam (black) and open cell foam (white) for the bottom.
Photo: Henry Feder

The main issue that we experienced with the Drop Zone is the taco closure. When we set up the Drop Zone at the base of landings it was always "U" shaped. The Drop Zone liked to hold its folded shape when we tried to set it up on the ground. Despite the updated square corners it didn't pair well with other crash pads. When we tried to place the Drop zone on rocks, the "U" shape made the pad frequently roll off the rock.

Durability


The Black Diamond Drop Zone is made with durable 1000d nylon on all sides. The nylon used on the Drop zone was very durable against rocky landing and general abuse. The closure flap's material is not as durable as the rest of the pad. We anticipate the closure flap to show signs of wear with prolonged use but doubt it will affect the usability of the crash pad long term.

One of our testers about to test the Drop Zone. The Black Diamond...
One of our testers about to test the Drop Zone. The Black Diamond Mondo and Organic Simple are also pictured here as well.
Photo: Henry Feder

Packing Gear


Packing gear is difficult and frustrating with the Drop Zone. Our testers found the taco closure and the straps are to blame for the difficulties. When packing a small backpack in the Drop Zone the pad bulged out, making it uncomfortable to carry. This made carrying a loaded Drop Zone uncomfortable for long distances.

The Drop Zone is not the most comfortable pad for carrying gear.
The Drop Zone is not the most comfortable pad for carrying gear.
Photo: Henry Feder

While moving in between problems it is common to put your gear inside the pad and carry it like a suitcase. Using the Drop Zone to move gear in suitcase fashion is much more difficult than other hinge designs due to the taco design. Another issue our testers faced was that the closure flap is not a solid piece of material. This meant that if you stuffed your climbing shoes and other gear in loosely, it could potentially fall through the gap.

Features


The Drop Zone is a very streamlined pad with limited features. To close it, a flap wraps around the pad. Unfortunately, the closure flap has a small hole where unsecured items can fall through. The Drop Zone also features a zippered pocket on the closure flap. This very small pocket becomes bent around the side of the pad when using the closure flap. Our testers found using this accessory pocket annoying and not very useful.

The accessory pocket on the Drop Zone is not very functional due to...
The accessory pocket on the Drop Zone is not very functional due to its location along the closure flap.
Photo: Henry Feder

Value


At list price, this pad is pricey, especially when compared to some models we reviewed that cost less but have improved performance in some areas.

Moving the Drop Zone from problem to problem is more difficult than...
Moving the Drop Zone from problem to problem is more difficult than other pads in our test. Here you can see one of our testers getting pumped from carrying it as a suitcase.
Photo: Henry Feder

Conclusion


Overall the Black Diamond Drop Zone is a crash pad that our testers only carried in addition to carrying other crash pads. We tried to rarely use it to pad our falls from up high since the other pads in our test performed better for high falls. If you love the taco closure and want a lightweight pad, then the Drop Zone might be for you. Our testers felt that the functionality and cost of the Drop Zone led us to recommend other crash pads to our friends.

Henry Feder