Rock climbing and its different styles has grown from a niche activity to a global community millions of people are a part of. One of the easiest climbing styles to get into is bouldering, where individuals attempt to scale a rock or ascend to a certain point without equipment.
However, due to the lack of harnesses and other traditional climbing gear, bouldering can be a dangerous activity if not practiced in a controlled manner. To protect against tumbles, both planned and accidental, boulderers often bring along a foam cushion bed called a crash pad to soften impacts. Crash pads are large enough to cushion a falling climber but mobile enough to be hiked into a bouldering site and hauled back out when finished.
These full-size foam cushions consist of multiple layers of different types of foam that combine to form a pad that is durable and impact absorbing, while being stable enough to land on without bottoming out or rolling ankles. Both open and closed-cell foam are used to make a cushion pad.
The basic crash pad consists of two layers of foam material. The bottom layer is a shock-absorbing open-cell safety polyurethane foam, two, three, or four inches thick depending on the amount of padding needed. High-quality foam is important to use due to the force of the full weight of a body crashing into the material over and over. Lower quality materials can bottom out to the ground which, for all intents and purposes, is just as bad as not having any pad. The top layer consists of one or two inches of closed-cell foam. This kind of foam is firmer and helps distribute weight across the pad’s form and offers a surface stable enough to land on feet-first in a controlled fall. Attempting to do the same with an open-cell-only pad can lead to injuries. Sometimes another closed-cell layer is added to the bottom of the pad to protect against sharp rocks or sticks that would tear the encasing fabric and more delicate open-cell foam.
For boulderers, crash pads are often the only piece of safety equipment used, other than spotters. For this reason, high-quality materials and construction are imperative. Fortunately, the right foam products are up for it.