Choosing your crash pad

Minis

The pads in this category are the smallest and lightest, with a landing area of around one square meter or slightly more, a weight of less than 5 kg and a thickness of no more than 10 cm. They are generally considered entry-level options, which makes them less expensive. However, prices can vary according to manufacture and material quality, ranging from €80 to €175.

These pads are well-suited for low-level falls of less than 4 meters, or for moving easily from one block to another without having to carry a heavy load. Their maneuverability and lightness are their main assets.

The "medium" models

Intermediate models are designed to offer greater versatility of use. Their reception area is generally around 1.25 m². Their greater size and thickness make them more suitable for receiving large falls. However, this also translates into greater weight and bulk, as well as a higher price tag.

This category certainly offers the widest choice and diversity in terms of formats and designs. Prices generally range from €150 to €240, with thicknesses ranging from 10 to almost 15 cm. You can find a wide variety of models to suit your specific needs.

Maxis

The largest and most expensive crash pads are designed to ensure optimum reception during falls. They can be distinguished by the size of their landing surface and/or the thickness of their foams. These models are larger, heavier and more expensive, but are designed to provide maximum safety for climbers.

In this category, prices can reach between €200 and €350. There are also smaller supplementary pads, often called "pizzas" or "additions", which are useful for filling gaps between several crash pads, covering weak areas on folding pads, or enabling more natural starts.

Foams

One of the most important components of a crash pad is the foam, which plays an essential role in cushioning the fall. In general, the basic principle for cushioning a fall is to superimpose several foam panels. A first, high-density, closed-cell top layer distributes the impact force of the fall as evenly as possible, while a thicker, open-cell foam is responsible for absorbing this force.

There are three main types of foam used in crash pads. The top dense foams include EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), which offers the best compromise in terms of dynamism and durability. Then there are PE (polyethylene) foams, which are more economical and lightweight, but age more quickly. Finally, for thicker absorption foam, PU (polyurethane) is widely used, in various variations, and is also the least expensive of the three types of foam.

It's worth noting that these three types of foam come in different qualities, and their density, expressed in weight per cubic meter, would be an interesting indicator to know. However, manufacturers do not divulge this information because of the confidentiality surrounding the manufacture of crash pads. It's important to note that the best foams are generally the most expensive, and often the heaviest.

The covers

The main function of the crash pad envelope, also known as the cover, is to protect the foams and guarantee their longevity. Before discussing the cover, it's important to note that some foams are wrapped in a very thin plastic film. Although this is quite rare, it's worth mentioning because it's an excellent first line of protection to insulate foams from humidity, dust, sand and any other external aggression that could accelerate their ageing. If you'd like to preserve your foam easily, you can try making this protection yourself.

As far as the cover itself is concerned, its quality of manufacture, the materials used and its durability over time are the main criteria to consider. The cover plays an essential role, because if it tears or is no longer watertight, this will have a direct impact on the lifespan of the foams, whatever their quality. So it's essential to choose a good-quality cover that can withstand external aggression.

It's also important to note whether the cover is non-slip or has a tendency to slip. This is particularly crucial when landing on a sloping surface. The quality of the cover's grip can have an impact on the crash pad's stability during landing.

As far as the different types of cover folding are concerned, there really is no "best" system, but rather choices to be made according to your preferences. Folding a single panel of foam helps toavoid weak points in damping by eliminating junctions, but this requires leaving the crash pad open between sessions to avoid the formation of a fold zone by settling. On the other hand, if the cover is folded into several panels, the junctions between the panels may constitute areas of weakness, but the crash pad will be more compact when folded, which can be convenient for transport.

In short, the quality of the crash pad cover is essential to ensure foam protection and durability. The cover must be resistant, waterproof and non-slip if necessary, and the choice of folding will depend on your preferences in terms of practicality and storage.

Carrying

When it comes to choosing a crash pad, portability is essential. There's no point in having the best pad if you can't transport it easily. Likewise, it's important to take into account the comfort of carrying, as well as the practicality of the transport system.

When evaluating the quality of the portage, several aspects are taken into account. These include the carrying system's comfort, practicality and versatility. Some crash pads can be carried like a backpack, with back straps for optimum comfort when walking. Other models can be converted into a shoulder strap for more convenient carrying. Some models even offer the option of using both the back straps and the shoulder strap, for even greater versatility.

It's important to note that the criteria for rating the portability of a crash pad differ according to its size and weight. It is not possible to consider the carrying quality of a small 3 to 4 kg model in the same way as that of the heaviest models weighing close to 10 kg. Wearability ratings are therefore relative to the respective category to which the crash pad belongs.

It's also important to take into account individual morphologies, statures and carrying capacities. What may be considered the best carrying system for one person may not be suitable for another due to these personal differences.

In short, when choosing a crash pad, it's essential to take into account carrying quality, comfort and practicality. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, and it's important to choose a carrying system that matches your needs, body shape and carrying capacity.
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