Hands-on Gear Review

Metolius Session Review

An impressive medium-sized pad at a low cost
Metolius Session
By: Chris Summit ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 22, 2016
Price:  $149 List  |  $149.00 at REI
Pros:  Securely holds a fair amount of gear with easy flap closure, handy carpet square for cleaning shoes, durable, affordable.
Cons:  The single buckle flap closure can come open when hauling heavy or bulky loads.
Manufacturer:   Metolius
72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 10
  • High Falls - 30% 7
  • Low Falls - 20% 8
  • Packing Gear - 20% 7
  • Features - 10% 7
  • Durability - 20% 7
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
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  • 5
Best Buy Award

Our Verdict

The Metolius Session has replaced the Metolius Bailout as one of our Best Buy award winners. The Session is the same basic design as its predecessor but has a handy new flap closure. Is the Session a change for the better over the old Bailout? Yes. Is it worth the extra $10? Yes. Is it the best pad for your specific needs? Maybe. The Session has an angled hinge design that, like all hinges, can bottom out if something protrudes into the hinge from underneath but with the angled hinge it is much less likely. Although no hinge is failsafe, this "angled hybrid hinge" is slightly safer since it is even less likely to bottom out.

New Color - November 2016
The Metolius Session now comes in the standard Grey/Black that we reviewed here, as well as a flashier Orange/Black. We've confirmed with Metolius that there have been no recent changes to the Session besides the addition of a new color.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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Performance Comparison


Sean Brady tests the Metolius Session on second ascent of "Backstabber Arete" V7 at the new Biddles area near Castle Rock CA. 2015
Sean Brady tests the Metolius Session on second ascent of "Backstabber Arete" V7 at the new Biddles area near Castle Rock CA. 2015

Padding Falls


The 4" sandwich foam design has a 0.5" closed-cell ground layer, 3" open-cell foam core layer and a 1" closed-cell top layer.
Metolius Session 4" foam sandwich
Metolius Session 4" foam sandwich
This foam is uniquely layered in a way that cushions well in most scenarios from short back-jarring falls to high-falls. Only extremely sharp rocky landings might need the added foam of the "angled hybrid hinge" on the Organic brand pads. The added foam helps protect from outside objects protruding into the hinge and bottoming out. This slightly safer hinge design makes it even less likely to bottom out. No hinge designed pad is failsafe. Only non-hinged pads with a solid piece of foam in the taco style design are to be trusted over sharp rocky landings. One of our favorite taco style pads is the Black Diamond Drop Zone. The taco style pads' downside is that they usually do not fold as flat for transportation and storage and they often don't lay flat to fall on when first opened after being folded up in pack mode. For landings that are lumpy and uneven the single best pad is our Top Pick Award winning Mad Rock R3 that has multiple baffles that conform to uneven terrain.
This photo demonstrates how rocks can poke through a hinge-designed pad. This shows a Metolius with an "angled hinge" that does a lot better job at keeping objects from protruding through the hinge from underneath than the basic non angled hinge style.
This photo demonstrates how rocks can poke through a hinge-designed pad. This shows a Metolius with an "angled hinge" that does a lot better job at keeping objects from protruding through the hinge from underneath than the basic non angled hinge style.

The Mad Rock Mad Pad is in the same price zone and shares the Best Buy award with the Session strictly based on the Mad Pads super thick 5" foam. If you are bouldering mostly on highballs or in steep caves over mostly flat-ish landings then the Mad Pad's additional inch of pad thickness will help to cushion hard falls. The Mad Pad does have the basic hinge that is at risk of failing on sharp rocky landings so if you boulder over jagged rocks frequently then the Session would be better or consider a non-hinged taco style pad that are the best for rugged landings. Also if you ever want to carry a large or heavy load the Mad Pad does not pack loads as well as the Session or most taco pads. Simply put, the Session is more than adequate to pad most falls on most landing zones.
Bouldering Pad Hinge Designs 2015: Left stack of pads (taco style); Black Diamond Drop Zone (classic taco) top left  Mad Rock R3 (custom multi baffles) mid left  Petzl Alto (custom taco) bottom left -- Right stack (hinge style); Black Diamond Impact (classic hinge) top right  Metolius Session (angled hinge) mid right  Stonelick (custom stepped hinge) bottom right.
Bouldering Pad Hinge Designs 2015: Left stack of pads (taco style); Black Diamond Drop Zone (classic taco) top left, Mad Rock R3 (custom multi baffles) mid left, Petzl Alto (custom taco) bottom left -- Right stack (hinge style); Black Diamond Impact (classic hinge) top right, Metolius Session (angled hinge) mid right, Stonelick (custom stepped hinge) bottom right.

Packing Gear


This pad stores a small to medium size daypack or bag of gear, food, water bottle, etc., all very well with the easy to open/close one buckle flap. Unfortunately, the stretchy flap with just the one top buckle makes it possible for a big load to push its way out of the bottom when hiking or especially running down steep terrain. This only happened with a very heavy and bulky load and even then it is rare, but it did happen in our tests. In backpack mode the contoured shoulder straps and adjustable waist belt make it comfortable to haul medium to semi-heavy loads very well. The waist buckle is the standard medium size plastic clip style.
Backwoods bouldering testing with Shawn Rogers and the Metolius Session.
Backwoods bouldering testing with Shawn Rogers and the Metolius Session.
The suspension is only lacking the small chest strap that connects the shoulder straps that is nice to have but is only really missed when carrying very heavy loads on rough terrain. A lot of pads on the market now also have a handle between the top of the shoulder straps that is very handy to help lift the pad up onto the back when carrying heavier loads. The Metolius pads do not come with this handy handle and that is one of the only detractors of the pad in backpack mode. Check out the more expensive Black Diamond Impact ($200) and our Editors' Choice Award-winning, Black Diamond Drop Zone ($240) for similar sized pads that have the center lifting handle as well as a few other useful features.
Black Diamond Impact on left and Metolius Session on right. Notice that neither of these entry level pads have the shoulder strap chest connector strap but the Impact has the handy center lifting handle between the top of the shoulder straps and removable shoulder straps for tying the pad to a tree and to keep from tripping over.
Black Diamond Impact on left and Metolius Session on right. Notice that neither of these entry level pads have the shoulder strap chest connector strap but the Impact has the handy center lifting handle between the top of the shoulder straps and removable shoulder straps for tying the pad to a tree and to keep from tripping over.

Features


The Session securely holds an average amount of gear with the quick and easy to use one strap flap closure system. Keep in mind that the closure flap can come open at the bottom when hauling a heavy load of gear so if you like carrying heavy loads neither of those pads would be the best. For heavier loads check out the taco style Black Diamond Drop Zone and the uniquely baffled Mad Rock R3, as both come with very secure flap style closures. The thick 4" sandwich foam is good all around and the handy carpet square is good for cleaning or drying off your rock shoes before burns.

Durability


This pad is showing only little signs of wear after a lot of testing on multiple landing surfaces at many different areas and on several different rock types, it is proving to be a survivor. The previous Metolius model, the Bailout, was a durable pad and so were the previous Metolius pads with a similar style which shows a proven design and consistent manufacturing. All Metolius brand pads have been around for a long time and are proven to be durable and reliable.

Best Applications


The Session is great as a first pad for a beginner or for an average level boulder and even as part of a collection of pads for an expert. It stores and hauls gear well for long hikes and the size is just big enough to use alone or with a single other similar sized pad to form a fair sized landing zone.

Value


Good for anyone looking for a great value on a very functional pad. Very good if you have limited storage space in your car or home or both since the hinge helps it fold up flat very quickly and easily and the custom angled aspect of the hinge does not sacrifice too much security on jagged terrain. The flap closure system on the Session is an overall major improvement over the Bailout. For the price, the Session offers a good all-around pad for most bouldering sessions.

Conclusion


The medium size foam is just right for a solo lowball circuit or in conjunction with a few other pads. The angled hinge folds flat and protects against bottoming out. Compared to the other Best Buy award winner the Mad Rock Mad Pad, the Session just beats it out in most cases. The Mad Pad is only better if you are bouldering mostly on highballs or in steep caves over mostly flat-ish landings. Then the Mad Pad's additional inch of pad thickness (5") helps cushion hard falls and its basic hinge is not at risk of failing on sharp, uneven, rocky landing zones. For uneven landings the angled hinge of the Session or one of the taco style pads would be safer. Also if you ever want to carry a large or heavy load the Mad Pad does not pack gear as well as the Session or most taco pads. The Session takes the best Best Buy award because it does what its name implies, helps any level boulderer have a great session at an affordable price.
Metolius Session
Metolius Session

Other Versions


Metolius Recon
Metolius Recon Crash Pad
  • Cost - $265
  • Medium to large pad
  • Quick single strap closure
  • Narrow and easy to carry
  • Ideal as a secondary pad

Chris Summit

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Most recent review: November 22, 2016
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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