The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

So iLL Iron Palm Review

This model features our favorite sloper and pinch training holds, plus great edges for strong versatility
Top Pick Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $110 List | $99.95 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Encourages good ergonomics, best slopers, seriously awesome pinches, 4-edged based design facilitates creativity
Cons:  Large dimensions, design is harder to track progress
Manufacturer:   So iLL
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 5, 2019
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Our Verdict

This is a larger-than-average board with more versatility than its four edges and massive ball-shaped holds might lead you to believe. Designed by shaper, Jason Kehl; one of the strongest boulderers in the US from the late '90s early 2000s who's near-over-the-top personality is well known and exemplified in this board with its slightly outlandish but functional design. The two huge ball-shaped slopers are larger than softballs and pretty unique in the fingerboard world (just like their shaper). They offer actual open-hand training and making the So iLL Iron Palm one of very few boards that effectively targets whole-hand strength. A total lack of pockets lends this board a more free-flow design, though it does make tracking your training a bit more challenging. Additionally, this model's combination of pinches on the lower edges of the board is by far the most effective pinches we tested. Because of its width and diversity of usage, this makes a great option for 5.9 to mid-5.12 climbers, who enjoy slopey areas, steep sport climbing, or want to increase strength for bouldering.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Iron Palm is an above average-sized hangboard with four primary edges; each with a different depth and shape. This model features no pockets with the idea that you can use any number of fingers on a given edge. While folks might have mixed feelings on edges versus pockets the effectiveness of this board's slopers and pinches are hard to argue with.

Performance Comparison


This uniquely designed board is one of our review teams' favorite all-around models. It's a sweet hangboard that helps make training fun and features a number of grips not seen anywhere else.
This uniquely designed board is one of our review teams' favorite all-around models. It's a sweet hangboard that helps make training fun and features a number of grips not seen anywhere else.

Edges and Pockets


Edges and pockets are the foundation of any good hangboard and at first glance, this model might seem overly simplistic. However, its four primary edges (along with its pinches and huge softball-like slopers) are far more versatile than first meets the eye. Typically we refer to an edge as any surface that all four of a person's fingers can fit on and a pocket as anything narrower. Using this definition, there are no pockets on this board.

This is where the Iron Palm takes a different approach when it comes to grips with edges so long you can use any number of fingers anywhere along each edge of the board. Some climbers actually prefer this, as it prevents you from getting any additional "cheater" grip from the sides of a pocket.

This model doesn't have the standard series of 2  3  and 4 finger pockets and edges. Instead  it offers four edge depths that are meant to be used with however many fingers the user desires. This allows a little more freedom and doesn't allow for "cheating" by contacting the sides of a given pocket  adding more firction  and making it easier.
This model doesn't have the standard series of 2, 3, and 4 finger pockets and edges. Instead, it offers four edge depths that are meant to be used with however many fingers the user desires. This allows a little more freedom and doesn't allow for "cheating" by contacting the sides of a given pocket, adding more firction, and making it easier.

Edges

This model has four primary edges, each of which offers a different angle and shape. The top-most edge is 1.5 inches deep and shaped with a positive incut. This mini-jug style edge is designed for warming up or cranking off a few pull-ups. The second edge down has a long rounded off outer rim which is easier on your fingertips. The second edge down is a 1.25 inch wide edge that starts to round at 1 inch out. This edge will still feel pretty big for most climbers with all four fingers but can be good for one arm (possibly assisted or weighted), hangs with four fingers, or good training with 2-3 fingers.

The third edge down is 1 inch deep and starts to round at around 0.75 inches, making it a little more challenging than the previous one. The lowest edge is flat and just a hair over 0.75 inches deep and in all likelihood, the edge you'll use the most with 3-4 fingers. It's interesting to note that the lowest edge has the nickname Cryptochild, which is the nickname of the model's shaper, Jason Kehl. While we generally liked this model edges we wished this board had one additional smaller edge.

Pockets

As mentioned this model has no true pockets but its four edges run the length of the board so that you can select the number and fingers you want to use for each hang.

This model's two HUGE slopers are bigger than softballs and offer exceptional sloper and whole-hand training. If you frequently find yourself bouldering in the Southeast or places like Fontainebleau then this board is the one to get. We love the gentle curve of the slopers letting you fine-tune training and adjust for difficulty.
This model's two HUGE slopers are bigger than softballs and offer exceptional sloper and whole-hand training. If you frequently find yourself bouldering in the Southeast or places like Fontainebleau then this board is the one to get. We love the gentle curve of the slopers letting you fine-tune training and adjust for difficulty.

Slopers and Jugs


This model easily has the best slopers of any hangboard we have ever seen. The slopers roll off nicely in steepness from a fairly low angle on top to near vertical on the front face letting you truly dial in your burn. While most training-for-climbing books don't have much information on sloper training it's mostly because a majority of hangboards don't have good slopers to train on. That is certainly not that case with the Iron Palm and every one of our testers loves the two ball-like grips on this model for open-handed training. Training on these helped us improve our ability to hang onto slopers (obviously), develop whole-hand strength, and facilitated building a vicious pump towards the end of our workout. Some other models have okay slopers but no model offers anywhere near the quality of sloper training as this one does.

This model has two pairs of pinches that can be used independently or together to allow for three total pinch options.
This model has two pairs of pinches that can be used independently or together to allow for three total pinch options.

Jugs

This model has no true separate jugs, but the highest 1.5 inch positive incut edge comes the closest. By most gym climbing standards, this edge is a mini-jug and plenty good enough for one-arm lock-offs, weighted pull-ups, or a flex arm hang. As we noted earlier, this model's massive slopers are also more than sufficient to warm upon.

Pinches

This model has two sets of individual pinches that can be hung on independently of one another or combined to form what essentially feels like a third set. Not only does this model have more pinches than just about every other hangboard on the market but they are also the best designed. Though training on pinches at first seems rather specialized, pinch training benefits most climbers - particularly boulderers and sport climbers who lean towards steeper routes.

A straight-on view of this uniquely designed board. The huge slopers on the Iron Palm provide a nice diversity of holds to utilize throughout a workout.
A straight-on view of this uniquely designed board. The huge slopers on the Iron Palm provide a nice diversity of holds to utilize throughout a workout.

Texture


Good texture can be a delicate balance, as every model attempts to find the balance of not being so slippery that your hand flies off the moment you get warmed up but not so grippy that it tears your skin up or makes hanging on too much easier. This model is molded out of urethane which is on the grippier end of the models we tested. It's easier to hold onto than most polyester resin models and a bit harder on your skin than wooden models.

The Iron Palm is one of the larger hangboards we tested. This is mostly due to its width  which is actually a good thing as it encourages better form  making it easier on your shoulders. However  this board is tough to mount in smaller spaces or under shorter ceilings.
The Iron Palm is one of the larger hangboards we tested. This is mostly due to its width, which is actually a good thing as it encourages better form, making it easier on your shoulders. However, this board is tough to mount in smaller spaces or under shorter ceilings.

Ease of Mounting


The Iron Palm is noticeably quicker and easier to hang than a two-piece board, but of pretty average effort overall. The primary challenge with mounting this model is its slightly larger-than-average dimensions that somewhat restrict the areas in which it will fit. Our testing team measured this board as 27 inches long by 11.5 inches high. This means it will fit above doorways in average size houses with 8 foot ceilings but likely won't work in low-hanging places or in homes with 7 foot ceilings.

The Iron Palm is made of urethane  which is quite strong and can make versatile shapes. Here you see the hollow backside of this model  which helps make it lighter overall.
The Iron Palm is made of urethane, which is quite strong and can make versatile shapes. Here you see the hollow backside of this model, which helps make it lighter overall.

It's also worth noting that despite its beefy appearance, this board is surprisingly light. This is partially because it's made of urethane which is lighter than the polyester resin that many hangboards are made of. Additionally, despite how far parts of this board stick out from the wall, nearly the entire board is hollowed out and is actually only 0.25 inches thick.

Though this board has four edges and no pockets  each edge is very different and they're easily adaptable for two and three-finger workouts.
Though this board has four edges and no pockets, each edge is very different and they're easily adaptable for two and three-finger workouts.

Value


This model is every-so-slightly on the more expensive side of non-wooden models, but we feel it's a pretty justified expense. It's made of lightweight and durable urethane, meant to last you a lifetime of climbing. Its unique shape allows for a near-infinite number of ways in which you can use it to train for general strength or specific projects and doesn't become obsolete as you become a better climber.

The Iron Palm is constructed of a urethane mix they call "Ultra Bomber Urethane".
The Iron Palm is constructed of a urethane mix they call "Ultra Bomber Urethane".

Conclusion


One of our favorite all-around models; the Iron Palm offers a number of unique grips with its huge ball-like slopers and a variety of pinches. This, when coupled with just enough diversity in its four edges that it will keep most 5.9 to 5.12+ climbers pretty happy. This board's fun-shaped holds inspire a little more creatively than most and its wide dimensions make it friendlier on most people's shoulders and elbows. Those wide dimensions do make it a little harder to mount in tucked-away places but they certainly increase its comfort. A great stand-alone model for training it also makes for the perfect second board with its unique pinches and softball-like-slopers that are the best such holds we have ever seen on a hangboard.

Maggie Brandenburg