Bouldering was once considered a simple training activity for longer climbing routes and big walls, but has since become one of the most popular forms of rock climbing.
Compared to other climbing disciplines, bouldering is approachable and easy to understand. All you need to get started is a pair of climbing shoes, chalk, and a good crash pad.
The object of the game is simple: climb to the top — no rope required. As you improve, more difficult routes open up to you with fresh possibilities, offering a satisfying method for tracking progress. It’s a social world, where hanging out with fellow climbers is as much a part of every session as the actual climbing.
Well-placed crash pads are vital for safe outdoor bouldering. And now, as new products arrive to meet the growing demands of pebble wrestlers everywhere, there are more crash pad options than ever before.
From recognizable and well-established brands like Metolius and Organic to newer, innovative designs from the likes of Asana and Trango, we tested and compiled the best crash pads available in 2023.
Editor’s Note: We updated this article in September 2023, adding four new crash pads and lots of fresh buying advice.
The Best Bouldering Crash Pads of 2023
- Best Overall Crashpad: Organic Full Pad
- Runner-Up Crashpad: Metolius Session II Crash Pad
- Best Large Crashpad: Black Diamond Mondo
- Best Featured Crashpad: Petzl Alto
- Best Sit Start Pad: Metolius Short Stop Crash Pad
- Best Supplemental Surface Pad: Asana Pro Spotter
- Folded dimensions 36” x 24” x 8.5”
- Open dimensions 36” x 48” x 4”
- Weight 12 lbs.
- Best for Those looking for high-quality function with minimal extra features
- Excellent foam quality
- Good value
- Customizable colors
- No bells and whistles
- Open dimensions 36" x 48" x 4"
- Folded dimensions 36" x 26" x 8"
- Weight 9 lbs.
- Best for New climbers seeking their first pad and climbers on a budget looking for the best value
- Great value
- Functional features including carpet square and flap enclosure
- Less durable than other options
- Open dimensions 44” x 65” x 5”
- Folded dimensions 44" x 32.5" x 10"
- Weight 20 lbs. 6 oz.
- Best for Highball boulders with bad landings
- Thick foam and huge surface area
- Suspension system with lots of padding for heavy loads
- Open dimensions 46" x 39" x 4"
- Folded dimensions 26" x 39" 10"
- Weight 12 lbs., 9 oz.
- Best for Those who appreciate an innovative design
- Lots of features
- Many of its features solve common issues with other pads
- Expensive relative to its surface area
- If the zipper breaks, the pad is difficult to carry
- Open dimensions 36" x 23" x 0.75"
- Weight 2 lbs.
- Best for Filling gaps between pads, sit starts
- Perfect for solo bouldering
- Only works alongside other pads
- Open dimensions 74" x 44" x 0.75"
- Folded dimensions 36" x 22" x 3"
- Weight 5 lbs.
- Best for Covering gaps in pads and smoothing over landings
- Perfect for covering gaps between pads
- Highly versatile
- Easy to carry
- Slightly slick surface occasionally causes the pad to slide around
- Open dimensions 39” x 51” x 5”
- Folded dimensions 27 x 39 x 9.8"
- Weight 12.4 lbs.
- Best for Boulderers of all levels looking for a midsize pad for regular use
- Good value
- High-quality foam
- 45-degree hinge eliminates dead spots
- No bells and/or whistles
- Folded Dimensions 47" x 25" x 13"
- Open dimensions 47" x 70" x 4"
- Weight 18 lbs., 11.2 oz.
- Best for Solo sessions, highballs, standalone use
- Massive surface area
- Good value
- Folded dimensions 26.4" x 35.8" x 8.6"
- Open dimensions 47.2" x 35.4" x 4.3"
- Weight 8 lbs., 12.8 oz.
- Best for Long arduous approaches, regular use
- Comfortable to carry
- Fits in almost any car
- A bit small to use on its own
- Open dimensions 60" x 48" x 5"
- Folded dimensions 30" x 48" x 11"
- Weight 19 lbs.
- Best for Tall boulders and scary mantles
- Great impact absorption
- Large surface area
- Neat graphics
Crash Pad Comparison Chart
|Pad||Open Dimensions||Folded Dimensions||Weight||Best For|
|Organic Full Pad||36” x 24” x 8.5”||36” x 48” x 4”||12 lbs.||Those looking for high-quality function with minimal extra features|
|Metolius Session II||36″ x 48″ x 4″||36″ x 26″ x 8″||9 lbs.||New climbers seeking their first pad and climbers on a budget looking for the best value|
|Black Diamond Mondo||44” x 65” x 5”||44″ x 32.5″ x 10″||20 lbs. 6 oz.||Highball boulders with bad landings|
|Petzl Alto||46″ x 39″ x 4″||26″ x 39″ 10″||12 lbs. 9 oz.||Those who appreciate an innovative design|
|Metolius Short Stop Crash Pad||Does not fold!||36″ x 23″ x 0.75″||2 lbs.||Filling gaps between pads, sit starts|
|Asana Pro Spotter||74″ x 44″ x 0.75″||36″ x 22″ x 3″||5 lbs.||Covering gaps in pads and smoothing over landings|
|Trango Stratus||39” x 51” x 5”||27″ x 39″ x 9.8″||12.4 lbs||Boulderers of all levels looking for a midsize pad for regular use|
|Metolius Magnum||47″ x 70″ x 4″||47″ x 25″ x 13″||18 lbs., 11.2 oz.||Solo sessions, highballs, standalone use|
|Trango Cumulus||47.2″ x 35.4″ x 4.3″||26.4″ x 35.8″ x 8.6″||8 lbs., 12.8 oz.||Long arduous approaches, regular use|
|Evolv Launch Pad||60″ x 48″ x 5″||30″ x 48″ x 11″||19 lbs.||Tall boulders and scary mantles|
How We Tested Crash Pads
This list of recommendations has been compiled by Austin Beck-Doss, an avid climber and climbing instructor who has been bouldering and falling repeatedly on crash pads for many years. Based in Lander, Wyoming, Austin is surrounded by world-class bouldering areas. GearJunkie Climbing Editor Seiji Ishi also tested and reviewed multiple pads.
With several decades of bouldering experience between them, Austin and Seiji have developed a keen sense of how a crash pad should perform, and which ones stand out above the rest.
While testing crash pads, we paid particular attention to foam density and durability, versatility, design, and overall value. Accounting for each of these factors, this list contains the top-performing bouldering pads available today.
In addition to field testing, we polled opinions from elite climbers and novices alike. Our final list of recommendations is the combined result of thorough first-hand experience and numerous nerdy conversations about features, fabric, foam, and sketchy landings.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Crash Pad
When selecting the best crash pad for you, you’ll first want to identify your specific needs as a climber. If you are new to outdoor bouldering and looking to buy your first pad, buy a good, all-around option that is durable and fits your budget.
If you are looking for something to protect your 30-foot-tall highball project, you’ll want something with thick padding and lots of surface area.
Several factors contribute to the overall protection that a crash pad offers. Size, thickness, foam type, outer material, and hinge type should be considerations for anyone looking to purchase a crash pad.
Crash pads come in a variety of sizes. Of course, more surface area is a positive trait in a crash pad. More surface area equals more protection.
However, simply purchasing the largest pad available might not be the best move for everyone. Large pads are expensive, and they also tend to be quite heavy.
If you drive a small hatchback or a sedan, you might not be able to fit a large pad inside for transport to the boulders. Generally, a large pad is any pad with a landing area measuring over 20 square feet. These behemoths often have names like the Mondo or the Magnum, and they’re especially handy for high bouldering.
Pads with a landing area of less than 20 square feet can be considered regular-sized pads. This category varies quite a bit in size, and it’s usually a good place to start for those looking to buy their first pad.
The Organic Full Pad and the Metolius Session II are both options in the regular pad category. Pads of this size can sometimes stand alone as protection for short boulder problems with flat landings. More often, climbers use multiple regular-sized pads together to create a safe landing zone.
Yet another size option is the supplemental pad. Expect pads in this category to be less than half the size of open regular pads, and a bit thinner, too.
These smaller, lighter pads are designed to be used as supplements to regular or large pads, and they don’t offer much on their own. Instead, a supplemental pad can provide a key piece of coverage over a pointy rock or ankle-threatening crater.
Supplemental pads are great for boulder problems with a sit start — especially when the ground is wet or muddy.
After surface area, pad thickness is the most important characteristic to consider. Regular pads are usually between 3 and 5 inches thick. Large pads are almost always at least 4 inches thick. Supplemental and sit start pads are usually around an inch thick.
A nice, thick pad goes a long way to cushion your fall from that precarious top out at the lip of your project. If you plan to pursue tall boulder problems with potentially scary falls, opt for a thicker pad.
For certain falls, the thickness of a single pad is not sufficient. You’ll need to stack multiple pads on top of each other. Bottoming out and feeling the ground through your pad is an experience that every boulderer wants to avoid.
However, thickness alone does not tell you how effective any particular pad is at softening a fall. Materials are also a factor.
Materials and Layering
Two primary types of foam are used in the layers of a crash pad. Open-cell foam contains small compartments that are open to the air. When compressed, the air within each of these cells can escape. After compression, air will rush back into these cells to pump the foam back up and help it return to its original shape.
Closed-cell foam does not have nearly as much give as open-cell foam. Closed-cell foam is firm and fairly rigid, as the air inside the cells is not able to escape, even during impact.
Most crash pads use a layered system that combines closed-cell foam with open-cell foam. Generally, these layers are configured so that the stiffer closed-cell foam can disperse the impact across the pad’s entire area while the soft open-cell foam absorbs the impact.
Different manufacturers choose to layer their foam in various strategic configurations. Some pads are filled with chunks of foam rather than large, flat layers. This results in a more pliable crash pad overall, which is great for specialty use but is not as effective as a standalone pad.
When foam wears out, which it inevitably will with heavy use, companies like Organic Climbing offer replacement foam to give the pad new life.
Crashpad foam is housed in a durable outer casing — typically made from abrasion-resistant nylon. Since your crashpad will be in contact with rocks, trees, and mud, be sure it comes with a quality outer covering.
Types of Hinges
Because of their large landing zones, bouldering pads have to be folded to become small enough to easily transport. A few different folding methods exist, and each comes with its own pros and cons.
The most common types of crash pad hinges include the classic hinge, the angled hinge, the taco, and the hybrid.
Crash pads with classic hinges are the most common. A classic hinge is found on a pad that simply folds in half along a crease made of nylon or other fabric. Each side of the pad is a separate compartment of layered foam, and the two sides fold perfectly together without creating any space in between.
While folded, the classic hinge does not compress any of the pad’s foam, which is good for longevity. When compressed, foam loses its integrity over time.
The downside to the classic hinge is that, when the pad is laid out during a climbing session, there is a small gap between the two symmetrical compartments of layered foam. This gap — also known as a gutter — can create a hazard because there isn’t any foam to absorb impact beneath the nylon.
When using a pad with a classic hinge, it’s important to ensure that no rocks or other hazards are sitting inside the gutter’s open space. Some manufacturers like Black Diamond have added Velcro to the inside of the hinge to help eliminate negative space.
To solve the gutter problem, other manufacturers, including Metolius, utilize an angled hinge that is lined with Velcro. When the pad is open, this hinge style creates overlapping foam layers and greatly decreases your chances of bottoming out.
The taco-style hinge is hardly a hinge at all. Instead, taco-style crash pads are one continuous piece of layered foam that simply folds in half and gets secured into position for transport. While tacos totally eliminate the gutter problem, they need to compress quite a lot to fold, which can harm the foam’s integrity over time.
Taco-style pads like the Petzl Alto are great for storing lots of gear, but they tend to be more difficult to switch into backpack mode. We recommend that taco-style pads are stored open when not in use to prevent excessive compression.
Finally, a few pads combine a classic hinge with a taco fold in an attempt to get the best of both worlds. These hybrid pads include a cut hinge that is covered by a surface layer of foam. With hybrid hinges, the gutter is hidden beneath foam and tends to be less of a hazard.
Outer Materials and Durability
Crash pads need to meet the demands of rough terrain and heavy use. Over the lifespan of a pad, it will cushion falls and be dragged through the dirt over and over again.
The inner foam is contained by an outer layer of nylon fabric that is tasked with facing the stress of constant wear and abrasion. For this reason, look for a pad with a durable cover.
All nylon comes with a denier count that measures its thickness and abrasion resistance. Generally, the greater the denier count number is, the tougher the fabric will be. Most crash pads come with 1,000-denier nylon or greater.
The Black Diamond Mondo pad has a rubberized underside surface to add durability and prevent pad slippage. If you know you’ll be bouldering in areas with lots of highly abrasive surfaces, like Joshua Tree or Vedauwoo, you need an extra robust nylon cover.
While the landing surface is the most important functional part of any crash pad, some other features can decrease hassle during transport. Once you know the pad size and thickness you are after, you can begin to consider other traits that may impact your decision.
Depending on where you like to go bouldering, approaches can be long and strenuous. If you’ll be dealing with difficult hikes during your climbing day, you’ll want to select a pad with a well-designed suspension system.
Some pads on this list weigh over 20 pounds — even before you account for any extra gear. After you add your snacks, water, layers, shoes, chalk, camera, tripod, fan, and supplemental pads to the load, you may end up lugging over 30 pounds to your project.
Approaches to boulders notoriously include talus scrambling and bushwhacking. In these conditions, a good suspension system can make all the difference.
Padding and Straps
The larger the pad, the more padding you’ll want on the carrying straps. Some straps are adjustable, so make sure you’ll be able to customize your pad to fit your body.
Some pads have a built-in sternum strap, which adds additional support and helps the pad move in sync with your body. The Black Diamond Mondo has a noticeably comfortable suspension system, whereas the Petzl Alto has reinforced straps that inspire confidence in the suspension system’s longevity.
During bouldering sessions, easy grab straps or handles allow you to quickly adjust the pad’s placement. Too many bells and whistles can make a pad cumbersome and overly complex. However, well-placed handles are worth seeking out.
Finally, remember that the best crash pad is the one that meets your climbing needs and fits into your lifestyle. Think about how you will transport your pad from your home to the boulders. Typically, a single regular-size pad will fit in the back seat or trunk of most small sedans. Larger pads require larger vehicles for transport.
If you spend a lot of time traveling, be aware that a crash pad can be difficult to transport by plane. Most crash pads are too large to be checked, and you have to pay extra to bring them along.
Although we recommend crash pads like the Organic Full Pad and the Metolius Session II for their value and overall performance, the best crash pad is the one that serves your current and future needs as a climber.
Ask yourself questions like: How much space do I have to store a crash pad when I’m not using it? What kind of boulder problems do I most like to climb? What is my budget?
Once you’ve identified your needs, you can select the pad that will best serve you. We recommend all of the pads on this list.
Crash pads have two major elements — the inner foam that provides cushioning, and the outer covering that offers abrasion resistance and durability.
On the inside, two kinds of foam are usually layered to create an effective system of impact distribution and absorption. Open-cell foam is easily compressible because the air within each cell can seep out under pressure. This kind of foam gives a pad its plush cushioning qualities.
Closed-cell foam is more rigid and doesn’t soften when compressed. Inside a pad, the layer(s) of closed-cell foam will be thinner than the layer(s) of open-celled foam. When layered, these two types of foam combine to dissipate and absorb impact.
To contain the foam and protect it from the elements, most pads employ thick nylon covering. Nylon fabric has a denier count, which basically conveys the thickness of the material.
For crash pads, look for at least a 1,000-denier count. When you’re dragging your pad across the forests of Squamish or the deserts of Bishop, you’ll want to know that your pad can hold up to constant abrasion.
Back in the day, climbers often went bouldering without pads, opting instead for a thin carpet square that would hardly inspire the confidence of contemporary boulderers. Now, crash pads have become a standard piece of necessary gear. We don’t recommend going bouldering without pads.
Depending on the boulder problem, you may only need one or two. In some cases, you’ll want to get the whole squad together to contribute pads before giving that highball project a go.
Foam is usually the first part of a pad to wear out. After cushioning lots of falls over the years, foam can become lumpy, flat, and lifeless. When this happens, it’s wise to retire the pad from climbing and perhaps repurpose it as a bed for your pet.
Some pads — including offerings from Organic Climbing — can be refilled with fresh foam that is available from the manufacturer upon request.
The lifespan of a pad depends on the frequency of use and quality of materials. But, you should expect to get at least a few years out of any good-quality option.
Because crash pads come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, prices vary a ton. Most regular-sized pads cost between $150 and $300, while most large pads cost between $300 and $500. Supplemental pads are rarely more than $100.