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Black Diamond Drop Zone Review

A solid pad for short problems.
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Price:  $230 List | $229.95 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
#10 of 10
  • 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.


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Price $229.95 at Amazon$240 List$199 List$210.00 at REICheck Price at Amazon
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Pros Large surface area for medium pad, lightweight, grippy waterproof backingStraps to attach a second pad, plush suspension, sturdy foam for high fallsVersatility, soft but dense foam with multiple hinges conforms to uneven landing surfaces and cushions short to medium length falls very well. It also hauls a lot of gear well and has handy featuresSuper durable, amazing foam, lightweightFolds open and closed better than any other taco-style pad, innovative zip-up flap closure system securely stores gear, well made, sleek look
Cons Relatively thin foam, difficult to pack gear compared to other padsFoam is hard for low falls, stiff for uneven landingsSpecialized, the soft, squishy, shredded foam and slightly lumpy "baffles" are not the best for some long, high falls - they could possibly roll an ankleLack of features, doesn't pack much gear wellDoes not pack large or bulky loads of gear well, no center lifting handle, Velcro and zipper could wear out prematurely
Bottom Line A solid pad for short problems.Great crash pad distinguished by its innovative strap system for carrying a second pad and many other features that other pads lack.A unique pad with plush foam and plenty of space for packing gear.The best crash pad of its size.An expensive pad given its size and thickness.
Rating Categories Black Diamond Drop Zone Mad Rock Duo Mad Rock R3 Organic Simple Petzl Alto
High Falls (30%)
10
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5
10
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9
10
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6
10
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8
10
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7
Low Falls (30%)
10
0
7
10
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6
10
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10
10
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8
10
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7
Durability (20%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
Packing Gear (10%)
10
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6
10
0
9
10
0
10
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6
10
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7
Features (10%)
10
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6
10
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10
10
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6
10
0
6
10
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8
Specs Black Diamond Drop... Mad Rock Duo Mad Rock R3 Organic Simple Petzl Alto
Surface Size (inches) 48" x 41" 56" x 42" 55" x 35" 48" x 36" 46" x 39"
Thickness (inches) 3.5" 5" 4" 4" 4"
Weight (lbs) 12 lbs 17 lbs 18 lbs 11 lbs 12 lbs
Hinge/Taco Taco Hinge Hinge(s)/Baffles Hinge Taco
Closing Flap Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Warranty 1 Year 1 Year Lifetime limited None, but they do repairs. 3 Year

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


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

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

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

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.

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

Best Applications


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.

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 other pads in our test. Here you can see one of our testers getting pumped from carrying it as a suitcase.
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.

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