Crash Pad 101: The Basics

I’m guessing that you’re going on a bouldering trip and have realized the climbing gym mat will not be joining you. Perfect! Crash pads are the next best thing to keeping you safe, and are incredibly portable.

So, let’s talk crash pads.

How many do I need?

It depends on how many people are with you, but I would say at least two. You can make do with one, but only choose problems with clean falls and always have someone to spot you and move the pad around as needed. The more the better, but remember somebody will have to carry them!

This pad has been modified so it’s really the size of 2. My spotter, who is standing just out of the shot, eventually slid this pad to the left (half on to that big rock) as I moved to that side of the problem and stood there to direct me on to the pad in the chance of a fall. Success!

Where can I get a crash pad?

You can purchase them online or from select outdoor retailers who carry climbing equipment (like MEC for example). If you do not want to purchase one, ask your local bouldering gym or outdoor retailer if they offer rentals. If not, check to see if you can rent one at your destination. Popular bouldering areas like Red Rocks, Bishop or Fontainbleau rent out pads as a result of high traffic. This would save you money in shipping fees if you’re traveling by plane, space in your car if travelling by road, and overall just the annoyance of being responsible for a huge pad for the entirety of your trip.

How do I pack a crash pad?

Pads take up a lot of space, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing your vehicle and determining the number of passengers. My boyfriend’s Outback can fit 3 pads, gear, and 4 passengers, but my Accent fits significantly less of all three. You’ll have to play around with how you pack them in, but you WILL find more space the more you play around with stacking.

If you are travelling by plane, I recommend synching it tight. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but we have had great luck in the past with not being charged as an oversized bag (likely because they are light), so flying with a crash pad is not totally out of the question!

On a camping trip with camping gear, this Outback can fit 3 pads, gear, and 4 passengers (with the possibility of strapping more pads to the roof). My Accent in the front can fit much, much less.

Do they work?

Yes – but not as well as you’d like. That part is obvious I think – crash pads are clearly not a foot and a half thick like at your home gym. However, they do a great job for their thickness. More pads and spotters are ideal for ensuring a safe fall. Don’t expect a cloud to catch you like in the gym so be mindful of where your pad is at all times and climb smart!

Where do I place them?

Basically within the fall radius. Depending on the problem and the amount you have, you may have to move them around or even stack them. Have spotters stand around the mat and help direct your fall onto the mat.

A likely scenario where strangers pool crash pads together. Alex Johnson’s pad is in there too… no biggie.

How do I carry a crash pad AND my climbing pack?

You make a lovely crash pad climbing pack sandwich of course! You can: A) Place your pack in your pad before closing it and then tighten the straps or: B) Stand up your closed pad (with loosened straps) and stuff your pack in the top. The latter really only works if you have a small pack. You can always wear your pack on your torso but it is not advised as you will lose sight of your footing. If you do stuff your pack in your pad, you will become top heavy. It is perfectly manageable, but it surprises me every time how off balance I become.

Pack it in after you close the pad up or before, doesn’t really matter. Whatever works you know!

Please don’t climb without one. It might be cheaper, but you’ll be happy to have to have working ankles. I hope you enjoy your next bouldering trip! Thank your crash pad for the nice catch! 🙂

Expert mode. (He really does this)

Climb on xx