Bouldering techniques - using mats
- Reduces the onset of long term injuries by reducing the impact forces of falls on the ankles, knees, hips and back.
- Reduces ground erosion by spreading the landing impact zone over a larger area.
- Improves climber's confidence knowing the landing zone is 'safe'.
- Allows you to go bouldering alone, without a spotter.
- Bigger mats provide a better landing zone - easier to hit and greater margin of landing 'error'
- Small mats are easier to transport and carry to the venue.
The optimal size is 'large' but remember that you'll have to get it in your car, or on the bus, and it needs to be stored somewhere too
Do not use a mat
- May hide hazards (tree roots, sharp rocks and the corners of the mat).
- False sense of security (landing looks safer than it really is).
- Larger mats are awkward to store, carry and transport.
On very smooth, sloping surfaces the mat is likely to slip away. It is better to land on the ground in control rather than fall on to the mat and slip wildly out of control!
Stacking mats is simply the process of placing one mat on top of the other. Stack mats on highball problems, when the climber is most likely to be in control of a fall. This should only be done on flattish ground to ensure that the mats do not slip when they are fallen on.
On a long traverse or roof problem, get a spare spotter to drag your mat out with you so that it remains underneath you.
How to choose
- The optimal size is 'large' but remember that you'll have to get it in your car, or on the bus, and it needs to be stored somewhere too.
- The outer must be strong and highly resistant to abrasion.
- Most of the main mat manufacturers use very high quality foam to absorb impact forces. Each manufacturer tends to choose a slightly different density - some feel softer and others are harder than the norm. It is a personal opinion whether you chose the hard or soft option.
- Mats may have a single shoulder strap to carry them or rucksack style straps (which are preferable for those long walk ins).
- Buckles are usually the first things to break, so look for metal ones rather than plastic.
Andrew Earl is a professional climber and climbing coach for regional and national teams. For many years he has been at the forefront of the British climbing scene. Andrew was British Bouldering Champion for three consecutive years, competed for Great Britain at international level for 5 years and was winner of the 2007 World Cup round in La Reunion.
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