Black Diamond Drop Zone Review
Cons: Relatively thin foam, difficult to pack gear compared to other pads
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are looking for a pad to cover a large surface area as you complete a circuit of low to mid-sized problems, than this could be the pad for you. The taco closure system allows for there to be no dead spots along the entirety of the pad. This is especially beneficial if your local bouldering area's landings are peppered with smaller rocks.
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.
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