UK Climbing Group Test: Mid-Sized Bouldering Pads

Bouldering mats have come a long way since the beer towel and improvised mattress. Not only do modern mats give a better quality landing, they have also got bigger, been made easier to carry, and boast useful extra features. Whilst most pads are based on the same fundamental design, the details can still differ a lot. This test highlights the range of options currently available.

Here are some of the things we look for in a quality mid-size bouldering mat:

  • Foam Quality: The foam is the bread and butter of the pad - it should be stiff enough to provide support when landing from high up, but soft enough that it's comfortable to land on. Some use two layer, which is only suitable for use one way up, wheras others use three layers, which is usable either way (and tends to have a different feel when landing on). Foam should also be durable, capabale of taking a repeated pounding of falls over several years.
  • Carrying System and Comfort: Mats can be big, heavy and cumbersome so a quality carrying system is a must. Our preferred system is a set of rucksack straps, often with a hipbelt, as after lugging numerous pads up numerous hills this we've found this to be the most effective.

How many is too many?, 177 kb

  • Closing System: The closure is particularly important as more often than not you're going to stuff all of your climbing gear inside it. It should be robust and easy to use and, most importantly, nothing should fall out of the pad.
  • Durability: Not only the foam but also the outer fabric, the straps and the fastenings all need to be durable. Even if the foam remains good quality, if one of the straps or handles breaks on a mat it can easily be relegated to the basement.
  • Weight: Obviously something light enough to comfortably carry is preferable, but quality pads do still often weigh a lot. However some of the best models manage to be relatively light and exceptional to land on, so that's not always the case.
  • Other features: There are myriad extra features available nowadays. Some of our favourites include an in-built door mat to dry your feet on and rubberised fabric to prevent slippage.

Moon Warrior

Price: £175

Weight: 6kg

Dimensions: 130 x 100cm

Depth: 11cm

Best in Test Large, 13 kb

Moon Warrior, 82 kb

Pros: The Warrior has all the features you'd want, is a good size, well made, and comes in at a highly competitive price

Cons: Needs a bit of flattening out before use, but nothing too challenging

Organic Simple 

Price: £190

Weight: 5kg

Dimensions: 121 x91cm

Depth: 10cm

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large, 14 kb

Organic Simple , 136 kb

Pros: Bomproof, High Quality Foam, Not Overly Cluttered with Features

Cons: Quite pricey considering the absence of any features

Petzl Alto

Price: £250

Weight: 5.7kg

Dimensions: 118 x 100cm

Depth: 10cm

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large, 14 kb

Petzl Alto, 134 kb

Pros: Most comfortable to carry on test, great for days out & putting a pack/gear inside

Cons: Price (it's the most expensive on test). Closing system - great though it is once done up - is quite a faff

Black Diamond Impact

Price: £175

Weight: 4.3kg

Dimensions: 114 x 100cm

Depth: 10cm

BD Impact , 73 kb

Pros: Simple, clutter free pad

Cons: One of the smaller pads on test, very basic on features

DMM Highball

Price: £195

Weight: 5.4kg

Dimensions: 122 x 99cm

Depth: 10.5cm

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large, 14 kb

DMM Highball, 95 kb

Pros: Durable, Lots of foam

Cons: A little more expensive than some

Beal Double Air Bag

Price: £206

Weight: 5.3kg

Dimensions:

Depth: 10cm

Beal Double Air Bag, 129 kb

Pros: Verso system - one side is harder, the other softer

Cons: Poor carrying and closure systems

Ocun Dominator

Price: £225

Weight: 6.4kg

Dimensions: 132 x 100cm

Depth: 14.5cm

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large, 14 kb

Ocun Dominator, 127 kb

Pros: Lovely thick and unique foam (thickest in test), excellent robust design and build, extremely light for its size

Cons: The material on the base of the pad can be a bit slippery

Snap French Toast

Price: £165

Weight: 4.5kg

Dimensions: 100x100cm

Depth: 7.5cm

Best in Test Good Value Large, 10 kb

Snap Toast, 52 kb

Pros: Simple, durable and great foam

Cons: Fiddly buckles

Alpkit Mujo

Price: £175

Weight: 4.5kg

Dimensions: 130 x 100cm

Depth: 9cm

Alpkit Mujo , 168 kb

Pros: Relatively cheap compared to most in the review

Cons: Not durable and a poor carrying and closure system

Boreal Crash Pad 

Price: £175

Weight: 5.8kg

Dimensions: 140 x 100cm

Depth: 12cm

Boreal Crash Pad, 124 kb

Pros: One of the largest pads on test

Cons: The looped shoulder strap system renders the pad very awkward to carry. Ridge down the hinge presents a landing hazard

Edelrid Balance

Price: £240

Weight: 5.8kg

Dimensions: 140 x 110cm

Depth: Variable (due to bean bag)

Edelrid Balance, 101 kb

Pros: Well made and unlikely to break

Cons: Doesn't fulfill its primary purpose and is slightly unsafe on flat ground

Moon Warrior - £175

Foam Quality

The Warrior uses a single sheet of 25mm closed cell foam on top of a single sheet of 95mm open cell foam, totalling an overall depth of 12cm. The result is a good balance between firm and fair, with good initial spread from the harder foam and good absorption from the soft stuff. Due to the taco design there is - perhaps unsurprisingly - a little bit of a bump when first opening the pad out, but nothing that isn't easily remedied by flattening it out.

The one peculiarity about the foam is that it is encased in plastic. This is there for two reasons, the first being that it keeps the foam nice and dry and the second being that (apparently) it makes the pad a lot easier to put together. Whilst we're a little sceptical about how much water foam actually absorbs, we can see the case for it; however, the end result is a very crinkly sound every time you walk on it.

photo
Penny Orr testing the Moon Warrior in Bishop
© Rob Greenwood - UKC

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Penny Orr on The Nadser at Kyloe in the Woods, using the Moon Warrior
© Rob Greenwood UKC

Carrying System

The back system of the Warrior was redesigned last year, making what was already a comfortable system into something far more state of the art. The straps now resemble something you'd expect to see on a mountaineering pack, with a good amount of padding, a chest strap, and a minimalist/unpadded waist belt.

As a result of the taco design there is plenty of space to slip a pack down the middle of the pad for those long days out. Due to the addition of the felt overlay (mentioned below) it is also quite secure, as it's unlikely to fall out. Coupled with the fact that the back system is already very comfortable, these features combined make the Warrior a great pad for any crag with a walk-in.

Aside from the back system, there is also a variety of grab handles for you to use if you're just ferrying the pad short distances.

photo
The Moon Warrior with the felt overlay covering the back system

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The Moon Warrior with the felt overlay removed from the back system

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The Moon Warrior with the felt overlay reversed, so the pad can be carried cleanly 

Closing System

Here in the UK we are blessed with a lot of good bouldering, but also a lot of wet weather and mud - as such it is frequently the case that one's bouldering mat gets covered in the stuff. The result, historically, has been for the whole of the back system to get wet as a result, but not so for the Warrior due to the cunning use of the felt/velcro cover, which protects the back system, keeping it nice and dry once folded over and into place. The felt also doubles as a foot mat, upon which you can clean your shoes before climbing - a nice touch.

Aside from that the closing system is simple, with three easy to use buckles. The good news is that they stay in place, the bad news - if we are being picky - is that they can be a little fiddly with gloves or cold hands.

Durability

The Warrior is built to last, with 600 denier nylon used throughout. So far it has stood up well to the test of time, with the zip on the side spontaneously springing open once, but not having done so since.

Other Features

The base of the mat features an anti-slip fabric, which is really useful when stacking pads. Nylon on nylon can create something of a skid pad, especially when on a slope, and that has no doubt led to more than one intrepid boulderer surfing their pads back down towards the cars (Lordy, Lordy in the Llanberis Pass is a fine place to test this out). The rubberised fabric on the base helps to minimise this problem.

Easy to use buckles, 76 kb

High wear edges, 53 kb

Anti-Slip fabric, 86 kb

Grab handle, 80 kb

The foam/packaging, 69 kb

Carpet/felt, 118 kb

Summary

The Warrior definitely hits the spot on a number of levels: it's well made, features high quality foam, is comfortable to carry, and is easy to put a pack and extra gear into the middle of. Looking at it like this it is hard to find a fault unless we're really picky. Even the price is reasonable!

For more info see Moon Climbing

To see the other pads tested see the rest of the article here: https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/climbing/bouldering_mats/mid-sized_bouldering_mats-10017