Update - June 2015
We added three new pads to mix: the Petzl Alto, Metolius Session and the Black Diamond Impact as well as one revised pad, the Black Diamond Drop Zone that has new foam and a slightly new design. Out of the fifteen pads tested, we chose the top ten that are currently for sale at our major retailer affiliates. The other five pads are only for sale with a custom order from the manufacturer's website and are all listed at the bottom of the review in our Favorite Custom Order Pads section.
Best Overall Crash Pad
Black Diamond Drop Zone
Large landing surface for its class
Carries gear well
Robust backpack straps
Waterproof material on back cover
Thin foam wears out faster than others
The Black Diamond Drop Zone
is our top choice for an all around/everyday/general use bouldering pad. It has a hingeless taco style design to solidly cover jagged rocky landings, a flap closure that holds gear well in pack mode and many useful handles. The rubberized coating is waterproof, durable and functional, helping the pad stick to angled landings zones. Black Diamonds sturdy metal hook buckles are some of the smoothest operating of all the buckles we tested and the straps dis-attach to protect from tripping on or to tie the pad to a tree.
Read full review: Black Diamond Drop Zone
Best Bang for the Buck
Easy to use flap for carrying gear
Unique shoe-cleaning carpet feature
Not for hauling large loads
The Metolius Session
replaces the Metolius Bailout as our Best Buy award winner because it is one of the least expensive pads yet and has a simple proven design, new storage flap closure and attention to detail. It just edged ahead of the other shared Best Buy winner the Mad Rock Mad Pad
. With the Mad Pad, not only do you get the 5" thick foam for $140, you get some cool features like the little carpet square, lounge straps, and ability to connect it to other Mad Pads, but, that was not enough to beat the all around functional simplicity of the Session. The Mad Pad is a great option for anyone who is on a budget, likes the thick 5" foam for long falls and does not mind the 5" height that creates a sharp ankle rolling edge and the stiff foam that's jarring for short falls (give it a few hundred falls to break in).
Read full review: Metolius Session
Mad Rock R3
Baffled design offers incredible versatility
Awesome hauling ability
Not our favorite for long falls
The Mad Rock R3
stands out because of several reasons: The unique baffle design makes it the only pad made that conforms to uneven landings, the flap closure allows it to carry gear as well as our Editors' Choice award winner, the Black Diamond Drop Zone, it's not too expensive and it is made out of recycled / leftover scraps of foam. The suspension system is top notch and has reinforced shoulder straps with a handle between the straps to aid in lifting when heavily loaded.
Read full review: Mad Rock R3
Favorite Custom Order Pads
We also chose the Organic Full Pad
as one of the best medium pads and Organic Big Pad
as one of our best large pads because we liked the dense, quality foam and how it held up over time. In the end, we felt that when considering all the features, it is the foam that matters most.