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Hands-on Gear Review
Mad Rock R3 Review
Cons: Specialized, the soft, squishy, shredded foam and slightly lumpy "baffles" are not the best for some long, high falls - they could possibly roll an ankle
Bottom line: A unique pad with plush foam and plenty of space for packing gear.
Thickness (inches): 4
Weight (lb): 18
Manufacturer: Mad Rock
The R3 is the best pad we tested for conforming to lumpy landings and for packing gear. It is also one of the best pads for steep low-ball falls on your backside. It is very well made and durable; with strap hooks that are some of the smoothest and most secure. The foam is recycled and shredded into small bits that make a nice and soft feel. At 18 pounds it is one of the heaviest pads we tested, weighing in roughly twice as much as our Best Buy award-winning Metolius Session. Except for being heavy, all the other attributes combined with our love of the eco-conscious aspect, earn this pad our Top Pick award. Unless you are doing extreme highballs this pad will work best for most people's needs, especially if you frequent areas with uneven landings.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Bouldering Crash Pad Review
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The R3 has unique padding with seven separate "baffles" that are filled with shredded EVA foam. The foam has been shredded into popcorn size pieces giving it a unique, soft and flexible, yet dense and compact feel compared to most other crash pad foams. The primary benefit of the baffles that no other average sized pad on the market shares is the ability to conform to any surface. This is the best pad design for covering rocks or any lumpy landing zones and is, therefore, an important part of any collection of pads.
The softness makes for one of the best pads we've tested in cushioning low to medium-high falls. For high-ball falls it tested just about average for its size category. Mad Rock's other pads like the Mad Pad and Duo have much stiffer foam, making them more suitable for cushioning high falls or landings over sharp rocks. The baffles give this pad a hybrid mix of the good and bad qualities from both a hinged style pad and a hinge-less/folding taco type. Mainly this means that you get the more reliable landing zone coverage of a taco design with the ability to open up and instantly lay flat like a hinged design.
Packing a lot of gear into the R3 is very comfortable and secure with a robust suspension system. The closure flaps don't allow any gear to fall out and the baffled construction turns the pad into a giant pouch when it is folded in half. No other pad in our review had so much space for gear as the R3.
The shoulder straps and waist belt are well-padded to accommodate the heavy construction of the R3 and any additional gear that you pack into it. The chest strap is a useful addition and the handle between the shoulder straps is helpful when lifting the pad onto your back. Daisy chain webbing on the back of the pad is great for clipping gear and making adjustments of the closure straps.
The R3 (Reduce Reuse Recycle) uses recycled EVA / PU foam that, according to Mad Rock, would normally be collected and shipped for disposal. This reduction in manufacturing costs and use of environmental waste enables Mad Rock to provide a high quality 1680 denier nylon shell that they say is the most durable in the industry. Mad Rock offers replacement foam for the R3 system, which can be ordered by contacting their customer service team.
The R3 is a relatively simple pad with few frills. We liked its zipper pocket as a safe place to store small items. Unlike other Mad Rock models the R3 lacks velcro and flaps to be seamlessly connected to other pads. Though this only works if you only have Mad Rock pads it was still a nice feature to have for large landing areas with multiple adjacent pads. The R3 doesn't have straps to make it into a couch, which was a sorely missed feature, even though it was still comfortable to sit on. It performed well as a bed and was extra comfortable to sleep on because of its soft shredded foam.
The 1680 Denier nylon is touted as being the most durable in the industry and we were impressed with how well it held up after extensive use. After months of catching falls and being shoved into and out of cars the shell material showed almost no signs of wear. This was impressive and we would expect the R3 to stand up to years of constant use. The shredded foam packed down and the baffles began to feel a bit less full over time, which was expected given how soft the foam filling is. This didn't have a significant impact on the R3's ability to pad falls but it did feel less springy. When the shredded foam gets worn out or packs down too much, additional foam can be ordered through Mad Rock's customer service. We didn't order any but spoke with a representative from the company who told us that the main cost is shipping and the total cost typically ranges from $30- $80.
If you mostly do difficult low-balls and steep cave problems where you're falling hard on your back a lot then this is one of the best pads out there. This could also be an integral part of a team of pads for covering the lumpy/uneven parts of highball landing zones. If you need a pad that works well in backpack mode this is one of the best at packing and hauling a lot of gear.
At $200, the R3 is a fair deal for a specialized product with innovative features, quality materials, and good craftsmanship. At 55" x 35" x 4" it is a good value, beating the Black Diamond Drop Zone in square feet per dollar and tying with the Editors' Choice-winning Duo. The Mad Rock Mad Pad lists for $170 and is slightly smaller (36" x 48" x 5"), but offers fewer features and less carrying capacity in a hinged style. The thicker padding on the Mad Pad makes it better for your average medium to high problem.
Packing gear is easy and secure with ample room inside as well as side and bottom flaps to hold the stuff in. The suspension system is solidly attached with comfortable shoulder straps, chest strap, waist belt and the extremely useful handle between the shoulder straps for loading the pad onto your back in pack-mode. There is also daisy chain webbing on the back of the pad for quick attachments of the straps as well as any other gear. The 55" x 35" x 4" size is a fair amount above the average size of about 48" x 36" x 4" but it still feels like a smaller size pad while being carried. It is heavy relative to comparably sized pads. The weight can be worth it when you consider it is the best pad for conforming to uneven landing zones, its carrying capabilities, and the dense recycled foam. In our opinion, these benefits are worth the extra poundage and make the pad an overall winner.
— Chris Summit & Steven Tata
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