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Beginners Introduction To Crash Pads


Submitted by miagi on 2002-04-03

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     Tired of suffering from sore ankles? Want more safety for your boulder or sport climbs? Need reassurance that 3 inches of foam will break your fall?

A crash pad is the answer to all of these questions. For a beginner, he/she might think that crash pads are for wimps. This is entirely false. The crash pad is to boulderers as rope is to crag climbers. Its a necessity if you want to reduce injuries.

So what is a crash pad? A crash pad is set up with a top layer of closed cell foam with a larger amount of open cell foam underneath it. The foam is contained in a durable nylon with accessories such as fanny pockets, shoulder straps, and waste straps. The crash pad basically and simply lessens the shock factor when you fall. The layers of foam beneath you absorb a signifigant amount of shock. Keep in mind these pads dont fully protect you. Large falls or slightly missing the pad can still injure you so dont feel invincible if you buy one.

What is the phsyics behind the pad? The closed cell of foam on top is usually an average of 1 inch. The open cell foam layer beneath it is at an average of 2 inches. When you fall, you land on the closed cell. The closed cell "distributes" the shock force to the entire pad. Still confused? Picture yourself jumping on a bed. You jump on the bed with feet together and you feet sink through the mattress and you can feel the springs. You just jumped on an open foam cell. Your weight was not distributed so your feet sank right where you stood. Now lets put a closed foam cell on top. For this imagery we will use a 2x2 piece of plywood. So you have your plywood over the mattress and you jump on it. You dont sink this time because your weight was "distributed" to all of the 2x2 area. This pricipal of using the closed cell allows higher boulder problems with less injury.

So i understand this crash pad thing. Where do i buy them? Crash pads are roughly $150 US dollars. You can buy them at:

Metolius Pad
Cordless Pad
Misty Mountain
BitterSweetGear
Globe Climbing

So i have all these choices. What do i look for? The following are the differences in crash pads:

Size - Crash pads vary in length, width, and thickness. For your length and width, crash pads can be as small as the misty mountain regular at 36" X 48" X 31/2 to as big as as the XXL metolius crash pad at 72" x 48" x 3". Usually, unless your doing some hard probelms with not many other climbers you should buy an average of 3 x 4 crash pad. Its thickness you can choose. Obviously, more thickness = better protection. 3 x 4 is a good size for a single climber and it keeps the price down. Usually if your climbing with several other people you can all combine your climbing pads together so dont worry about buying a huge one.

Accessories - Crash pads from different companies come with different accessories. Some types of these are pockets, metal buckles, fabric, style, and shoulder and waist straps. Some things you should look for that are important are: The fabric; make sure its a durable fabric because your crash pad will take alot of beating. You dont want it ripping now do you? Shoulder straps; These come in handy if your going on a hike to get to your boulder or sport climb. It makes things much easier carry. Pockets; pockets are nice to have because you can carry your shoes and chalk bag - all you need for a boulder session.

Price - Ok, these crash pads are only foam!! How can they cost $150!! Well, a closed foam cell is about $50. That, and the construction of the fabric and accessories is what skyrockets the price. Yes, it may seem to be an obserd price but it is worth it. If you dont want to pay this your in luck! You can make your own. You need to buy a layer of closed and open cells of foam. Usually 1 inch of closed and 2 inches of open. Next you need to find some heavy nylon that can take a beating. Wrap the nylon around the foam and stitch it with heavy stitching. Make sure you leave one side open so you can take the foam out. If you want to add more, get webbing, backpack straps, metal buckles and so forth. You can stitch the backpack straps in and put the webbing on so you can close the pad. Home made pads cost around $90. I suggest buying one for they are more durable and last longer.

Well this is great! Im going to buy a crash pad. Anything else i need to know?

Well yes. First off, your crash pad is not full protection. Test it out by falling off of some small problems and see its limit. You can still hurt your ankles if you doing some high balling and land on it. The best way to boulder is to have one or more crash pads, have spotters, and do a roll technique if your fall is going to be hard. All of these can reduce the shock force of a fall. As said, crash pads take beating. You can remove the foam from your crash pad and wash the fabric. Make sure you do this once in awhile for dirt and rock will tear away at the fibers. It helps to put a cloth canvas under the crash pad to help reduce wear. Keeping all this in mind

Climb safe and happy!

Mike Lopez - Miagi
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