Nick B gives us a crash course in this bouldering essential and gives his thoughts on Organic Climbing’s one-of-a-kind bouldering matt.
Bouldering pads are brilliant! A simple statement but it’s true. I have been bouldering on and off for nearly 20 years and I can honestly say that if they weren’t invented around the time I started climbing I would never have done half the cool problems I have as I like to be able to walk out of the crag!
There are loads of them out there from many manufacturers and they are all built under the basic premise of (hopefully) stopping you from hitting a very hard surface, namely the floor, from a great height. Hinged, angle hinged, multi-hinged, taco, modular, there are so many out there it is hard to choose one, and in my experience, it’s best to have more than one anyway.
I am the proud owner of 4 different pads. A very old Black diamond drop zone, an even older Franklin pad, a newer Beal triple air pad, and the latest member of the family, the Organic full pad.
They are quite often used together on a day (or night) out bouldering which can be a challenge if you want to get much else in your car but I don’t leave home with less than 2 as I value my ankles.
First things first this is a mid sized pad , roughly 3 feet by 4 feet when folded out flat and 4 inches thick. Fairly standard although I must say that it really is a neat pad when folded and looks and feels smaller than the dimensions suggest. This thing is built to last! You can tell from the build quality and the finish of the pad that it was made with care and attention. The fabric is noticeably more durable than the stuff used on the Beal and black diamond pads and similar in feel and thickness to the Franklin one. There are several rips in the Beal pad so it is fairly obvious that fabric thickness counts. Organic use 1050 denier ballistic nylon on the base of the pad which is about as tough as it comes, its the same stuff they make protective motorbike clothing with which is designed to withstand hitting tarmac at high speeds so dragging this pad around will not be a problem, even on Dartmoor granite!
The colourful top or landing zone is made of 1000 denier Cordura which is still tough and has a little more stretch to accommodate you hitting it from a height and compressing the foam. Apparently, each pad’s landing zone is individual due to the panels being made up of random colours and shapes which is nice. God forbid you are seen at the crag with matching pads eh?
Organic use a multi-layer foam system in their pads much like other manufacturers however the foam in these pads is meant to be at least twice as durable as most other brands.
There are 3 layers, 2 of the softer open-cell memory foam and one of the harder closed-cell foam which they believe to be the best balance of landing comfort and performance.
The mat has been well thought out with many nice design features such as:
Continuous foam across the hinge point
Addresses to a certain degree the hinge versus taco debate. The foam is pretty thin here but it is definitely better than nothing and could potentially lessen the impact of landing on it from low down on a problem or just stepping back off onto the mat or sit starts etc.
Adjustable load flap which folds back to cover the shoulder straps keeping them dry
Excellent idea and the only mat I have that has this feature although it is on plenty of other mats out there too nowadays.
Long adjustable straps for carrying a second pad piggyback
These work on any pad that is smaller than another full pad so are useful. Because the pocket is incorporated into them it also works well for strapping a normal day bag on to the back of the pad as well if you don’t own 2 pads.
Well padded shoulder straps and a good waist belt for extra comfort
The carrying comfort of this pad is good and far superior to the other 2 pads I have , even when loaded up with another pad or weighty day bag. The shoulder straps are well shaped and have a chest strap and the waist belt although not padded is quite wide and pretty supportive. The tape they have used to put it all together is noticeably thicker and more durable looking than on my other pads.
I have been using the full pad for about a year and due to it being new it generally goes on the top of the pile especially on any highball problems so its already had a good testing and I am pleased to say the performance is excellent.
As the foam is relatively new it is quite firm and can feel pretty solid when only jumping off from a few feet up. However this all changes above about 5 feet where it comes into its own and that is comforting when you are a fair few metres above it.
It is not the biggest pad but the super bright colours make the landing zone nice and spottable. The slightly smaller size is good as if you are carrying it suitcase style in between problems the dimensions mean it doesn’t drag on the floor which is nice. This will be especially useful somewhere like Fontainbleau if you like the circuits. Another plus for the compact size is that it goes in the boot of a small car easily so no need to put the seats down if you are only taking out the one pad.
The fact that it is not taco means you can easily use it folded in half if you want to level up uneven landings or use it to cheat start when you are working a project and with the split-fold and continuous foam layer when you turn it over to cover a rock it generally sits much better than the Taco style of pad.
I’ve not weighed it but it seems light enough on its own. Most of the time it has another pad attached to it or it is stuffed with gear (or both) so its own weight seems irrelevant however as I said above it does carry well even when loaded up with stuff so it can’t be that heavy.
Durability appears to be good so far, I must have used it for 50+ sessions and it is showing no appreciable signs of wear apart from a very slight bagginess in the landing area where the fabric has stretched a little. I initially thought it was the foam that had compressed a bit but it isn’t.
Talking of foam, you can replace the foam in the full pad if you really want to, organic will supply you with a replacement set of the soft open cell parts, the closed cell layer will probably never degrade enough to need to replace it.
Do I like the Organic full pad, hell yes! It’s a great little pad and I would thoroughly recommend buying one.
In an ideal world, you will always want a few pads on the floor below that latest project you are trying but if I could only own one pad I would most likely go for the organic full pad.
This was written by Nick B, one of the Taunton Leisure buyers and outdoor experts. He spends most of his spare time climbing and running in the UK and Europe. His favourite day out would involve abseiling into a sea cliff followed by camping and an evening around the camp fire with his climbing partners.