Bouldering equipment- mats
Bouldering mats are cushioned pads of comfort to absorb the impact of a short fall when your bouldering and keep you off the dirt and debris. Alternatively, they make great mattresses for a siesta in the afternoon sun, or to recover from the night before.
Cushioned pads of comfort
The core structure of a bouldering mat is two types of foam: open cell 'springy' foam on the bottom, for the dampening effect, and closed cell 'firm' foam on top to spread the impact across the area of the mat. All this is sandwiched between mixed Denier and Cordura fabric, often with a waterproof plastic sheet to prevent water being absorbed from the ground. Some companies are now laminating the two foams together, for better distribution of the impact force and to extend the life of the foam. All this is fairly simple in theory, but it is important that it is done correctly.
What makes a good bouldering mat?
There are many companies making bouldering mats today, and a few do them well. There are many sizes available but more important are its features and the quality of construction. Make sure the mat does actually does keep you off the ground; good mats have 50mm of open cell foam and 12-25mm of closed cell foam on top of that. Some of the monster bouldering mats are even thicker, up to 150mm and are used for high balls (or base-jumping). Have a look at laminated foam pads and see what you think!
A standard mat
Your mat will be jumped on, dragged aroundand generally put through endless abuse, so be sure the outer fabrics are tough and durable. A heavy Cordura base is essential. Some mats feature a soft, brushed fabric (like car upholstery) on the top. This is durable and comfortable to sit and land on, and is good for wiping off your shoes before you climb (probably preferable to your car seats too!)
Look for well-crafted, smooth, round edges as corners are more prone to wear.
Some mats come as a 'burrito' style folding system, which eliminates the chance of bottoming out through the centre seam of a mat that folds in the middle. Metolius have solved that issue with the introduction of the 45-degree centre seam, keeping the foam distributed over the entire pad.
Centre-folding mats are better for placing over projecting objects in tight situations. Both 'burrito' and centre folding mats have their advantages and disadvartages.
When considering purchase of a mat, check that:
- It is comfortable to carry. Shoulder straps make a mat easier to hike over longer distances.
- How it packs up - will it fit into your car?
- Does it have low-profile metal buckles? These last much longer than basic plastic clips.
- You like the colour!
Tim is a professional climber and extreme sports athlete. He is an inspirational speaker and author which has led to him presenting many BBC programmes. He has recently climbed the first ascent of possibly the most famous ice climb in the world - Helmcken Falls, Canada. Nominated for the 'Piolet D'Or' award and has been amongst the winners 4 times at the World Ice Climbing Championships.
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