Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team
A Boulder Construction
By Ben Meakin
19, Apr, 2017
Making up our UK bouldering mats to take a hammering
When I think Alpkit I think bouldering pads. Before I started working here I owned an old Phud which got used and abused, but it was great. Alpkit has been involved in pads from the very start. Producing really good quality products which the end user can trust over and over again. Like every other product we make we don't cut corners by skimping out on top materials and make sure they are built with a good dash of made to last construction.
From the archives - AlpNick testing our pads back in the early days
It might be a shock to you but a bouldering pad spends most of its time on the floor in the mud and lying on rocks. With that being its common habitat the fabric needs to be tough, water resistent and very strong. Cordura fabrics are known for their durability and resistance to abrasions, tears and scuffs. With all of this in mind there was only one choice, sure many other pads on the market do use Cordura but quite often only on the top or bottom to save on price. Cordura has a higher abrasion resistance anyway, but on top of that we make sure we use a real tough 1100d Cordura on all of our high end pads, top, bottom and sides. The exception is the Phud which uses a tough 600d PU coated polyester so that we can offer a great price that.
Alpkiteer Tom Newman with landing all prepped ready for the off.
Having great materials is pointless without a construction which will last. We have a great mixture of people making our UK made products from the experienced machinists who have been doing this for many years to the super keen individuals who are not only fantastic on the sewing machines but get outside and crush some boulders, trad routes and are brilliant bikers. With this mixture, we all know how important it is to make producs which last and can be trusted. So how do we do this? Firstly, all the seams on the top sheet have been top stitched. Not only making it look good, it doubles the strength of the seam by adding an extra layer of stitching. This is a very important process as over its lifetime you will land on it hundreds of times, some more than others! Next all the webbing and handles points have been bartacked. A bartack, refers to a series of stitches used to reinforce areas of a product that may be subject to stress or additional wear. All climbing harnesses use them which shows they can be trusted and are very strong. Lastly quality control or QC. As we make anything in the factory we are always double checking that the work carried out meets out high standards. Before any product leaves the factory it's given a final look over. If it doesn’t meet the requirements it doesn’t get sold.
The Team behind our UK made pads.
When we developed our current pads Pete did a lot of research into this before choosing the foam. You can read his article here . When it comes down to the nitty gritty we can say hand on heart we are using top quality foam. We could easily cut corners by using cheaper foam and reduce the price by 20%, but that's not the Alpkit way. Cutting on safety is a big no no. We might not be able to stop accidents completely, thats the nature of the game, but we can do as much as we can to help people avoid injuy, especially now bouldering is getting higher and higher. The foam we choose doesn’t use an artificial hardener to make it lighter and feel like is has a high density. We are natural all the way whilst also using a carefully balanced combination of open and closed cell foam to maximise impact resistance and prolong the foam life. But over time it will get soft, no matter how good your foam is. We would except your shell to last longer than the foam, offering an AK 3 year bond the shells. We don't want people to bin their pads so we can provide replacement foam so you can continue to get out and enjoy big days out bouldering.
Chief Maker Ben oversees the UK factory, but makes sure he gets out in the field for some proper QC. Out in Albarracin. Ph, Eric Andrew
ProjectUltimate fall protection, a workhorse for climbers pushing their grade in the meanest of bouldering arenas where you need to know your pad has got your back.£180.00
MujoThe default choice for unyielding boulderers with a build quality to make even the most frequent flyers happy. An innovative package with everyday portability.£150.00
PhudStripped down to be all you need in a pad. Uncompromising performance, uncompromising quality, uncompromising price. Just throw it over your shoulder and hit that next problem.£79.00
Opening GambitThat extra pad, commonly known as a 'satellite pad' perfect for your sit starts and covering outlying rocks. Gambit will fold and fit inside any Alpkit full mat, essential to the aspiring boulderer.£30.00
Boulder BucketUnique self standing bouldering bucket with roll top and large pocket£25.00