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8 Best Beginner Crash Pads For Bouldering

Bouldering and using crash pads for safety.

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The Best Crash Pads

Bouldering with Metolius crash pad in McConnell's Mill State Park.

Let’s jump right into it. Bouldering crash pads are used for protection while you are climbing a boulder problem. If you should fall, you want to land on your nice soft crash mat instead of the hard, ankle-twisting ground.

A few things you want to pay attention to when shopping for a crash pad are:

  • Weight
  • How the crash pad is carried
  • How big the pad is when opened
  • How easy it is to move around

Things like the type of shoulder strap, whether it has pockets or not, and the kind of closing mechanism are secondary traits that can help you make your final decision on a crash pad.

By the way, if you’re thinking about getting into sport climbing, you can read about all the gear you need to start sport climbing here.

Without further delay, let’s take a look at 8 of the best crash pads for outdoor bouldering. Below is a summary of our picks for the best beginner bouldering pads. 

Crash PadDimensionsWeightPrice
Black Diamond Circuit Crash Pad47.2” x 35” x 3.5”8 pounds, 5 ounces$199
Metolius Session II Crash Pad36” x 48” x 4”9 pounds$200
Evolv Drop Pad48” x 36” x 5”14 pounds$269
Mad Rock Mad Pad48” x 36” x 5”14 pounds$249
Metolius Recon Crash Pad60” x 42” x 4”14 pounds, 5.1 ounces$350
Mad Rock Duo Pad56” x 42” x 5”17 pounds$299
Metolius Magnum Crash Pad70” x 47” x 4”18 pounds, 11 ounces$400
Evolv Launch Pad55” x 45” x 5”19 pounds$350

Black Diamond Circuit Crash Pad

First up on our list is the industry standard – Black Diamond. They’ve blazed a path in the climbing world since 1989, engineering some of the most top-notch equipment used by famous athletes worldwide.

If you’re looking for a crash pad that will last, the Black Diamond Circuit Crash pad is the way to go. It can be carried as a backpack or a suitcase and has a hip strap to help distribute the weight while carrying it as a backpack.

The circuit crash pad has 3 hook-style metal buckles to keep the pad closed once you fold it in half. Also, if you’re stylish, this crash pad is available in 4 different colors!

  • Pros: The lightest crash pad on our list, weighing in at 8lbs, 5oz. Despite its feather weight, it still packs over 47 inches of length into the pad. 
  • Cons: The padding is only 3.5 inches thick, making it the smallest of all the crash pads on our list.

Overall, the Black Diamond Circuit Crash Pad is a great beginner crash pad if you are willing to have a rougher landing. The price is reasonable for what you get and the easy hook buckles and hip belt make it easy to lug around and pack up after your climbing sesh.

Metolius Session II Crash Pad

Back in the 1980’s Metolius was just a few guys in a garage hammering out nuts and bolt hangers. Nowadays, the name Metolius carries a certain weight and respect behind it, from humble beginnings to being one of the biggest names in climbing – their story is truly inspiring!

As are their crash pads!

The Session II Crash Pad weighs in at just 9 pounds. It has similar dimensions to the Black Diamond Circuit, measuring about an inch bigger. The Session II has 4” padding, which is pretty standard for a crash pad.

While the Black Diamond Circuit is more of a basic pad, the Session II is more innovative. It has a velcro flap that can hold your shoes and chalk bag while carrying it. While you’re climbing, the flap can be reversed to cover the shoulder straps so they don’t get muddy.

Another innovation of the Session II is a carpeted logo on the pad that you can wipe your climbing shoes on if you top out on a mossy or muddy boulder.

  • Pros: Small innovations that make your life easier while you climb. The waist belt helps stabilize the backpack while you walk. Only one closing strap – the velcro flap holds the rest shut when folded.
  • Cons: Velcro attracts leaves and grass that get stuck in it. The flap takes more effort to close the pad than straps would.

If you’re looking for a crash pad with all the bells and whistles, the Metolius Session II Crash Pad is a great choice.

Evolv Drop Pad

Evolv is a relative newcomer to the game based out of Southern California. Despite not being around when dirtbags were sneaking into Yosemite at night, their gear checks out as being on par with some of the most competitive companies.

The drop pad has the same dimensions as the Metolius Session II, but it has an extra inch of padding. That being said, it also has an extra five pounds of weight, weighing in at 14 pounds. 

Evolv offers two awesome designs for their Drop Pad – Skull and Joshua Tree. The looks make the extra five pounds worth it! They’re so cool!

  • Pros: Built to be able to strap on an additional boulder pad. Waist band and straps are built for comfort for long approaches. Comes with a large shoe carpet to keep your climbing shoes clean and dry. Handles on multiple sides for easy maneuvering between boulders.
  • Cons: Heavier than other pads of the same size. Requires 3 straps to keep it closed. 

The Evolv Drop Pad is a great choice if you know you have long approaches to your favorite bouldering spot. It was built with comfort in mind and comes with a few clever innovations to make your time at the crag more enjoyable.

Mad Rock Mad Pad

Mad Rock surfaced in the climbing world in 2002, but their story dates back to the 1970s when founder Young Chu was too broke to afford climbing gear, so he made his own. His gear turned out to be so good that he started his own company! After many trials and tribulations, Mad Rock was born.

And we’re glad for it! The Mad Rock Mad Pad is on par in weight with the Evolv Drop Pad, sitting at 14 pounds. It also has the exact same dimensions as the drop pad, 48” x 36” with 5” padding.

One nice thing about Mad Rock is that they pride themselves on making affordable climbing gear. Despite being the same dimensions and weight as the drop pad, it rings out at $20 cheaper.

  • Pros: Built for multiple pads to connect via velcro for a seamless larger landing zone. Easy buckle strap to keep it folded. Comes in multiple colors. Can fold into a portable lounge chair when not being used. Reasonably priced.
  • Cons: Not as firm as other bouldering pads. No pockets for gear. 

If you’re looking for a crash pad that does its job, the mad pad is a good choice. It may not have all the bells and whistles, but a 5” pad feels a lot better landing than a 3.5” pad! Plus, when you’re ready for victory beers you’ll have a place to sit!

Metolius Recon Crash Pad

We’re getting into the big boys now! The Metolius Recon has a huge 60” x 42” drop zone with 4” padding. With a larger area comes a bigger price tag, but for tricky problems, it can be worth it. Especially when the weight doesn’t increase too much – the Recon is just 14 pounds, 5.1 ounces.

The Recon has a 3-panel design that packs up surprisingly slim when all folded up. As with Metolus’s Session II, the flap can reverse to keep the shoulder straps from getting muddy while you climb. The recon uses a single buckle strap that connects the flaps together.

  • Pros: Large landing zone. Compact design when folded and paired with a waist strap makes for easy carrying on your approach. Velcro over the hinges strengthens the folding creases in case you land directly on the crease.
  • Cons: Pockets are small and may not fit all your gear. Doesn’t have handles on all sides so it can be difficult to maneuver around at the crag. Velcro for hinges attracts dirt, dust, and plants.

Overall, the Metolius Recon Crash Pad is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a pad with a larger area. Its slim design means it doesn’t add bulk while carrying it despite having a larger area. As with the Mad Pad, the Recon can be folded into a makeshift couch when not in use!

Mad Rock Duo Pad

The Mad Rock Duo Pad is slightly longer and wider than the mad pad but has the same size padding at 5”. It packs an extra 3 pounds to the carrying weight but is built with comfort in mind with padded backpack straps and a waist belt.

Like the Mad Pad, the Duo is equipped to be able to attach two bouldering pads together. The Duo also comes with a few more bells and whistles than the mad pad, mainly carrying pouches and a mat to wipe your climbing shoes.

  • Pros: Can attach two bouldering pads together. Great for high falls. Multiple handles to move it around on the ground. Many pouches to carry gear and a water bottle holder. Velcro allows for seamless connection with other pads. Can be converted into a couch.
  • Cons: Not great for shorter falls because the foam is a bit stiff. Multiple straps and flaps can be confusing and difficult to manage at times. Velcro can attract dust and leaves.

The Mad Rock Duo is a great choice if you plan to boulder alone as you can carry two pads at once. If you’re willing to put up with the flaps and straps, the Duo has a lot of great innovations that make your life easier while carrying and climbing.

Metolius Magnum Crash Pad

Our third Metolius crash mat comes with a big step up in size. Measuring 70” by 47” makes this the biggest pad on our list. The Magnum comes with 4” padding, a little less than the Drop, Mad, and Duo pads, but still a decent-sized pad to make falling feel somewhat comfortable.

With such a large drop area, the magnum makes for a great pad if you’re bouldering solo and can’t move it as you climb. The design itself is very similar to the Metolius Recon with a trifold-style pad that folds up to a manageable backpack.

  • Pros: Large drop area makes for a safer landing. Angled hinges eliminate any bad landings on the creases. Multiple pockets to put your gear. Flap reverses to protect shoulder straps from mud.
  • Cons: Hinges are only on two sides, making it a bit difficult to move around. The backpack straps are not as padded as some of the other pads. Heavier than most pads.

If you only want to bring one pad to the crag, the Metolius Magnum Crash Pad is the right choice. It may not be as easy to maneuver around, but the huge size means you probably never have to! 

Evolv Launch Pad

The final recommended crash pad on our list is the Evolv Launch Pad. It is larger than the Drop pad and comes with the same comfortable 5” padding. As with the Evolv Drop pad, the Launch pad comes with shoulder straps, waist straps, and sternum straps built for comfort for long approaches.

The design of the Launch pad is very similar to the Evolv drop pad with a large carpet area for cleaning your shoes. The flaps can also be used to attach a second boulder pad.

  • Pros: Handles on three sides for easy maneuvering. Comfortable straps for carrying on long approaches. Larger size pad for better cover. Can carry multiple boulder pads together.
  • Cons: Heaviest pad on our list weighing in at 19 pounds. Carpet can attract dust and leaves.
Bouldering in Coopers Rock State Park with Black Diamond and Metolius crash pads

The Evolv launch pad is another great choice if you’re heading to the crag solo. It’s not only a large drop area but it also can attach to another crash pad to carry two at once. It’s the heaviest pad on our list but built with comfort in mind with padded straps.

Which Crash Pad Is The Best?

Even with it all laid out, it can still be difficult to narrow down which crash pad you should buy. It’s a big investment, so any hesitation is understandable!

Let’s check out some specific situations and go over which pads are the best for you.

Best Basic Crash Pads

If you just want a crash pad that’ll do its job and doesn’t come with any complicated innovations, then you have two great choices:

The mad pad has an extra inch of padding and is a little bigger than the Black Diamond, but it’s also 5 pounds heavier and $50 more expensive. 

Best Crash Pads For Solo Climbing

There’s nothing wrong with climbing on your own! Except maybe not being able to move the pad below you when you’re on a twisty route or a traverse. In these cases, you want a crash pad that’s either large or one that can hold multiple pads on a single backpack.

Our top picks for solo boulderers include:

Most Innovative Crash Pads

Crash pads may be a basic piece of equipment, but that doesn’t mean they have to be unsophisticated. Some of the most cleverly designed crash pads include:

Most Comfortable Crash Pads

For those long approaches, you want a crash pad that won’t dig into your shoulder or distribute your weight in an unwieldy way. If you’re carrying two crash pads, you definitely want something that’s comfortable.

The crash pads with the most comfortable backpack straps include:

That’s All For Now!

If you’re just getting into outdoor bouldering, welcome! If you’re a long-time veteran, then welcome back! Choosing the right crash pad can be a difficult decision, not to mention a big investment if you’re roughing it like most climbers.

To recap, our top 8 picks for best beginner crash pads include:

If you’re looking for other climbing information, check out our climbing blog!

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