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Crashpads: A Boulderer’s Best Friends

Christmas came a little early for me this year. I recently bought a bouldering crashpad. Does this make me a real boulderer? I don’t know, but I think it’s very cool.

What’s a Crashpad?

Crashpads/landing pads/bouldering pads are a boulderer’s best friends. Thick, foam crashpads are used to cushion and break a climber’s fall. Placed next to the rock, these protect climbers from hitting the hard ground and injuring themselves.

These are the only pieces of protection for climbers while bouldering. Unlike roped climbing, you don’t have a someone controlling the breaks if you fall off. Once you do, there’s no stopping until after you’ve hit the ground. Plus, no one wants to land on a hard surface.

Types of Crashpads

Pads come in three varieties:


These are smaller and thinner than full pads. They can provide a spot to clean shoes and start a problem. Half-pads are also used to pad surfaces just outside the fall zone. So, these pads besides full pads, are for extra “just in case” protection. They aren’t designed to be the primary crashpad for falls.


My new Mad Rock crashpad. Can't wait to test it out.

Full crashpads are the ones you want under your fall zone. These pads contain 4 to 5 inches of thick foam. They are made roughly 3 feet by 4 feet. Heavy-duty nylon covers two layers of foam in the pad: one thin and moderately stiff, the other thicker and softer. Full pads are the best for bouldering.

There are two popular styles of full pads, the taco (mmm, tacos) and the folding-style pad. Taco pads are continuous foam, which makes it bulkier when closed but doesn’t have thin spots when laying on the ground. This kind of pad would be a preferable pad to have.

Folding-style pads have a partition in the middle allowing for easier packing and carrying stuff, but at the fold, it exposes the climber to unpadded landing areas. In the case of a fall, this would be bad to have. Some pads have an angled fold with two pieces of separated thick foam tied together with a continuous layer of thin foam. The design is to eliminate the problem of a climber falling into a gap. This kind of hybrid pad seems to be more standard.

Most full pads come with shoulder carry straps and a waist belt. These are helpful for carrying the pad to the crag. Pads aren’t heavy but are awkward. So, a smaller person such as myself will want them to make it easier to transport it.


Highball pads are thicker and bigger than full pads. These allow for safer landings from higher falls. For example, climbers would want to use the pads for highball problems. Because of their size and thickness, highball pads cost more than others. However, if you want to climb a higher distance off the ground, one of these would be worth the money.

A Little History About Crashpads

In the 1980s, climbers started making and bringing homemade crashpads out to the crags. They originally started off as pieces of carpet to clean climbing shoes off. Later, they evolved into the crashpads we see today. These made what was considered hazardous terrain possible to climb on. Previously ignored or unclimbable low overhangs opened up new opportunities for ascents.

However, crashpads use among climbers doesn’t take off in the U.S. until the mid-1990s. About this time, bouldering also becomes more popular in the climbing world. Since then, they’ve become standard gear for serious boulderers.

Bouldering Safety

If you decide to buy a crashpad and take it out to the crag, it’s best to also have a spotter with you. Don’t just depend on the pad to protect you. The purpose of a crashpad is to cushion your fall, that’s it. You can still get hurt from the impact.

Depending on the size and the direction you’re climbing on a problem, you might want to consider getting multiple pads to increase the area of protection. I would say 2 to 3. They’re not cheap but worth not getting injured.

Ideally, one would have enough pads in a semicircle extending out as far as the problem is tall. Also, one would make sure there aren’t any gaps between the pads. Either attach or tie them together. When placing the pads down, you should keep in mind to not disturb too much of the area around the rock. And make sure to leave things where you found them.

Is That Your Pad?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I recently bought a crashpad. It’s a full pad. If all goes well, I’ll have a gear review article relatively soon about it.

My husband and I are planning to camp at Robbers Cave State Park. I hope to bring the pad with and try bouldering out there. Afterwards, I’ll have a gear review and let you know how it went. I’m looking forward to trying it out. Until next time, happy bouldering!