September 3, 2021

What Is a Bouldering Crash Pad: The Complete Guide for Beginners

by Bernice

Table of Contents

Bouldering is a type of sport whereby one climbs the most known and accessible discipline. For indoor bouldering, all you require is a chalk bag and a pair of climbing shoes.

But until you feel lured to climb the real rock, you will need a crash pad for outdoor bouldering. It’s the most vital gear or piece of equipment that you should consider while stepping out. Here is a guide for starters. 

What Is a Bouldering Crash Pad?

A bouldering crash pad is a foam pad that protects the climbers when bouldering. It protects them from any injuries when they fall from a short or longer height. Mostly, it is used during outdoor bouldering to help reduce the impact of a fall by putting a foam layer between the ground and the boulderer. 

How Do Crash Pads Work?

As earlier mentioned, the work of the bouldering pad is to lessen the energy impact on the boulderer’s falling body, or rather it cushions falls. On how it works, the interior of 99 % of most crash pads is made of a few foam layers.

The top consists of a hard, closed-cell foam layer that spreads the crash energy and then another softer, open-cell layer that offers a cushion. Mostly, the crash pad has another closed-cell layer underneath that protects the pad from hitting the ground. 

How to Use a Bouldering Crash Pad

Can You Rent Crash Pads for Bouldering?

Yes, you can rent a crash pad for bouldering. Most local gyms rent out the bouldering pads to climbers. They have a great selection of pads, though the cost can vary depending on the crash pad that you choose. Note that crash pads are not the same; they come in different aspects. 

However, that should not worry you since some rentals will ensure that the climbing community can easily access the crash pads to help manage the risks of bouldering. Others will ask you to book via their system to reserve due to the demand. 

What Foam Is Used for Crash Pads?

The most critical part of the crash pads is the foam. They might look all the same, but each pad’s form core might be different; thus, they don’t take falls equally. Therefore, two types of foams, the closed-cell, and the open-cell make up the bouldering pads.

They both affect differently, whereby the closed-cell offers more support while the open-cell offers more cushioning. Mostly, crash pads combine the two foams for a safer and more sustainable structure. The durable, stiff, and weather-resistant closed-cell foam would not work alone unless you want to fall onto a plywood-feel-like pad.

The more closed-cell foam, the more uncomfortable and stiffer the crash pad is. So, it’s not advisable to have the entire crash pad using closed-cell foam. But it can be more if you are falling from highball climbs, it will give better protection since the impact is huge and chances of bottoming out are higher.

On the other hand, the open-cell foam does the opposite. It’s soft but not as absorbent, so it’s prone to mildew and durable as the closed one. Though it’s cushier and nicer to lie on, it has greater chances to bottom out during long falls.

Lately, manufacturers are adding some new crash pads models with a layer known as memory foam. However, pads with this particular foam layer tend to be more expensive but will make the falls relatively fair. 

What Foam Is Used for Crash Pad

How to Clean Crash Pads?

The long-standing crash pad goal for every climber is to lengthen its lifespan. So, maintaining it should be a priority. While at it, you have to understand the product’s structure or the foam’s science to keep it durable for more years. On cleaning the bouldering pads, you need to get a damp scrub or rag to wipe its shell or scrub using a soft brush.

Use some detergents to remove any tough stains engrained on the stitching line but avoid damaging the fabric. Using a lot of water might leave your mat moldy and smelly, so ensure to air dry it before storage. For drying purposes, you should unzip the shell so that the air can circulate.

Note that heating the mat to dry could make the foam degrade. Also, you shouldn’t remove the foam from its shell since it’s more durable inside, but it gets delicate, similar to a tortoise if you remove it. Storing a clean mat keeps it in good shape and avoids ponging in the house. 

How to Use a Bouldering Crash Pad?

The crash pad is placed under the climbing block. You need to move and adjust the pads in a great position at a potential impact point of a climber.

After all, a crash pad has a shell designed to withstand contact with a rough rock for a long period, and the interior can withstand multiple falls without leaving an impression. Here is how to use a bouldering crash pad:

Look for the fall zones

While bouldering, ensure that you place the pads on all the fall zones: the boulderer is likely to fall when coming off the rock. 

Make a Level for a better landing

At times you will realize that the ground is not well leveled due to the slopes or rocks. You can place some smaller pads to even the place and then position the larger crash pads on top.

And, you can as well fold them to the required height. After leveling, you can test the landing area by walking on top to ensure the bouldering mat doesn’t collapse in a specific area. 

Women doing bouldering

Avoid gaps in between the pads

While adjusting the crash pads, you should ensure that no gaps are left between them.

Stack pads well for highball boulders

It would be best to stack the crashing pads properly for highball climbers since the higher the climber, the harder the falling impact. Despite the landing being flat, it’s good to make the landing more than three pads deeper. 

Be a great spotter

For one to create a great and safe landing point, you need to be a good spotter.

Note that a good spotter is not the one responsible for physically getting hold of a falling boulderer but guiding them to fall into the well-set crash pad you just made. Read further how to spot while bouldering.

How Many Crash Pads Do I Need for Bouldering?

Crash pads come in different foam layers and qualities. The number will depend on many more factors, and whether the pad has two or five layers, it’s hard to tell how much you might require due to the coordination of your form layers. In addition, the boulder’s weight matters. 

Do You Need a Crash Pad to Boulder?

Yes, especially if you are going for outdoor bouldering. It’s helpful when it comes to cushioning the falls. Bouldering is among the climbing activities that significantly need less climbing gear than others. For indoor bouldering, you only need a chalk bag and a pair of shoes. You don’t need a crash pad in this case. 

How Many Crash Pads Do I Need for Bouldering

Why Are Bouldering Crash Pads so Expensive?

Crash pads are expensive due to the variety of attributes that add to their cost, for instance, the durability, folding system, foam layers and types, the pad size, and several unique features such as backstraps, floor mat, storage space, and the flexibility of switching it into a chair. However, there are cheaper crash pads as well. 

What Is the Biggest Crash Pad?

The Black Diamond Mondo isn’t just large but massively huge. It has a width of 44 inches and a length of 65 inches, and a total of 2,860 square inches of coverage.

The internal foam is 5 inches thick, the thickest you will come across in the market. Mostly, highball boulders use the Mondo or climbers with the regular-sized bouldering pad but feel it’s too soft or too small to serve its purposes. 

Are Organic Crash Pads Worth It?

Yes, they are worth every dime. The organic crash pads are the most valuable and durable bouldering equipment that you will ever have.

The other types could last for only two years, unlike the organic crash pads designed with durability and much higher quality that last longer. 

How Thick Should a Bouldering Mat be?

The standard thickness is utmost three to four inches. There are huge five or more-inch pads, and the thinner crash pads are available in just 2 inches. The thin, wider pads are useful for covering large areas to fill in gaps. 

However, the general rule requires at least 3.5 inches, but you should consider stacking pads together or using the thicker pads for higher falls. Though there are pads that open up, replacing the foam layer is possible. Some manufacturers sell new replacement foam pre-cut. 

With no further ado, it’s time to buy or rent that crash pad from the local gym for outdoor bouldering. Keep in mind that the most critically essential aspect of the pad is the foam layer. It might have all the super fancy design and attractive features, but you don’t need it if it’s not safe enough. Not all pads are expensive; the affordable ones can also serve the purpose.

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About the author 


Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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