Bouldering is puristic. Climbing finches, chalk and a crash pad are enough. But especially with the supposedly simple pads, there are some important little things that you should consider when buying. We explain in detail why crash pads are more than just soft mats and what they have in common with Mexican food.

The other day I was involved in a conversation that I have heard of quite often. A buddy who is new to bouldering wants to take the step from the hall to the rock. The first thing to do: get a crash pad. A great idea. On the other hand, buying the first mat available because it was only a mat was not a smart consideration. Nevertheless, there is understanding - crash pads are really not high-tech devices. At least not at first sight. And that is exactly where the crux lies.

In order to take a closer look at the most important property of a crash pad: It is designed to absorb falls and is therefore far removed from a mattress or lying mat, purely from a material point of view. The filling of a boulder mat consists of at least two layers of foam.

The crash pad and its different layers

The top layer is hard. A fall is distributed over a large area, preventing the joints from twisting. Underneath there is a soft layer that can absorb as much fall energy as possible and ensures a gentle impact. Some models also have a third, hard layer. This reduces penetration and provides further stability. But none of this is set in stone.

The French manufacturer Snap, for example, swears by its own damping system with several small air chambers.

The upper material is inevitably made of durable synthetic fibers. It has to. If a crash pad lies on sharp stones, it gets dirty and wet.

Beni Blaser at the Boulder Doctor Med Dent in Chironico.
Beni Blaser at the Boulder Doctor Med Dent in Chironico.

Carrying system and foldability of boulder mats

With the technical properties in mind, let's go into detail. At least now, personal preferences play an important role. In addition to safety, the most important factor is transport and handling. You have to be aware that a crash pad is often carried piggyback on your back through sometimes rough terrain. A clever carrying system is essential. Adjustable, comfortable shoulder straps are a must. A hip belt provides additional support.

A bonus is when the carrying system is removable or stowable.

During transport, you will also notice the size and thus the weight of the pad. Preferences clearly play a role. A light, compact crash pad is easier to carry around, but does not offer the same level of safety when bouldering as its larger counterparts. 

Another factor brings us into the realm of Mexican food. Tacos and burritos are delicious. The former are kinked, the latter folded. This can be easily adapted to crash pads. Taco mats are creased, the foam filling remains continuous. Burrito mats consist of several inner parts and have a fold, which is a small safety risk. Burrito crash pads are easier and faster to fold for this.

Last but not least, the small, fine features play a decisive role.

A clever bouldering mat should have loops on all edges for easy movement on the floor. You should also pay attention to the locking system: The Petzl models, for example, can be conveniently stowed in a cover with a zipper, which also has space for all the rest of the stuff like climbing finches and chalk bags.

Highball or Traverse?

A lot is a matter of taste and, last but not least, the bouldering preference comes into play. Do you often climb around roofs as a couple? Then a small crash pad that can be easily moved comes in handy. Are highballs your thing? Then a larger model with high damping makes more sense. Is your favorite area in blocked terrain? In this case, multiple pads are likely to help.

Whatever you choose, in the end you will only find out what works for you outside on the rock. Try and test - or let yourself go Bächli mountain sports advise so that you can tinker with your next projects carefree.

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About Bächli mountain sports

Bächli mountain sports is the leading Swiss specialist shop for climbing, mountaineering, expeditions, hiking, ski touring and snowshoeing. At currently 13 locations in Switzerland, Bächli Bergsport offers its customers expert advice and high-quality service. Published on LACRUX Bächli mountain sports periodically exciting contributions to the topics climbing, bouldering and mountaineering.