With thick foam and excellent functionality, the Mad Rock Duo took our Editors' Choice Award home. For climbers who want to carry multiple crash pads at once, it is a uniquely designed pad with a strap system to make this task relatively comfortable. A large pouch and two straps on the back of the pad accommodate the addition of a second pad. Its stiff foam was great for high falls and a large footprint makes it a good pad on its own. The Duo has many features, including a water bottle pouch, integrated doormat, and straps that convert the pad into a couch. It shined while padding even landings and we couldn't get it to bottom out, even in long falls.
Mad Rock Duo Review
Cons: Foam is hard for low falls, stiff for uneven landings
Manufacturer: Mad Rock
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Our Analysis and Test Results
With 5" of padding, the Duo is beefy. There are three layers of foam; 3" of soft open cell foam sandwiched between two 1" layers of stiffer closed cell foam. The foam didn't soften much over time and we found it to be best suited for relatively high falls where softer pads would likely bottom out. This was comforting over landings with sharp rocks that would be felt on softer pads. For low falls, the Duo is less plush than softer pads.
There is a velcro flap on the backside of the pad that prevents the hinge from folding, which is the primary safety concern of using a hinged pad. This is not a foolproof safeguard against landing on the hinge but felt significantly better than landing on an open hinge.
Because the Duo's padding is fairly stiff it performs best on relatively flat landings. It has integrated velcro flaps on all sides, which enables it to be connected to most other Mad Rock Pads. By connecting pads you essentially create one giant crash pad with covered seams.
Because it has such stiff foam and reinforced stitching the Duo is one of the most durable pads in our review. The foam softened up after extensive use but not to a point where it wasn't effective at cushioning hard falls. Compared to most pads in our review, Mad Rock's 5" foam layering was some of the toughest out there and it seemed like the closed cell foam layers helped to maintain stiffness. Using the welcome mat also saves the pad from excessive wear on the top material. The strap holster on top of the pad ended up with a few holes but is still functional. This was the one component that could have been made with a stronger material.
The Duo's name comes from its unique strap system that enables you to easily attach a second pad. This is incredibly useful and compatible with any crash pad that fits under the straps. Two straps attached to a large pouch cinch down a second crash pad. We liked this feature a lot, especially for solo missions that would have been sketchy with only one pad. Any smaller pad will fit and we easily attached larger pads, though this made approaches noticeably more tiring. A small backpack also fits in this space if you don't have a second pad but want to carry a bag.
Because it is hinged, the Duo does not have much space for stuffing smaller items between halves of the pad, which is much easier with taco-style pads. This wasn't much of an annoyance because the back of the pad has daisy chains that are good for clipping gear such as shoes, chalk bags, and water bottles. It's also possible to fit extra items inside the pouch when a second pad is being carried.
It has a thick removable hip belt, fully adjustable shoulder straps, and comfortable shoulder padding. At 17 pounds and significantly heavier with a second pad attached to it, the Duo isn't lightweight, yet we still found it to be one of the most comfortable because of its plush suspension system that evenly disperses weight between your shoulders and hips.
The Duo is one of the most highly featured crash pads that we tested. In addition to its standout suspension and pad attachment system, there are two daisy chains on the back for clipping gear. Testers liked the integrated water bottle pouch, which enables you to stay hydrated on the approach without having to take the pad off.
A built-in mat serves as a place to wipe your feet before stepping on the pad and starting up your problem. This is a nice feature that keeps the pad clean and saves you from cleaning your shoes on the pad or pants. The mat also doubles as part of the closure system when the pad is closed.
When you're taking a break in between burns or hanging out at around the fire the Duo can double as a couch with two straps that connect opposing corners of the pad. This adds to the pad's versatility and we missed this feature on ones that lacked it.
There are several handles on the pad and it is very easy to move around. These include a center lift handle and two handles on opposite sides. Having plenty of handles was helpful for moving the pad when it is fully loaded with gear and a second pad strapped to the back of it.
If you want to easily carry two pads then the Duo will not let you down. With abundant features and a large footprint of 56" x 42" the Duo is well suited as your only pad but its main advantage is in the strap system to accommodate a second pad. This capability makes it a great option for people who boulder alone and want to carry two pads or for those who want to maximize padding under tall problems.
The Duo lists among the more expensive pads in our review, though far from the most expensive. This is a great value given the pad's surface area. It has more features than any other pad in this review, which seems to be factored into the pad's price since simple models are cheaper.
The Mad Rock Duo is unparalleled when it comes to carrying multiple pads at once. Its well-padded suspension is designed for this task, making it comfortable to carry on long approaches. If you don't want to carry a second pad then the Duo may be too heavily featured and more affordable options might be more appealing.
— Steven Tata and Henry Feder