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Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team

Bouldering with multiple mats

By Ashleigh Naysmith
13, Aug, 2014

One pad is better than no pads, so surely more pads are better than one pad? The benefits of bouldering with multiple pads, and the risks to look out for

What could be better than a nice, large, firm bouldering mat to land on? Even more bouldering mats of course!

The benefits of multiple pads

Given the option, I would always choose to boulder with multiple mats. Firstly, it's safer to cover a larger area with supportive foam so that you're more likely to land on it when you fall. If your landing is a jumble of boulders, you can fold that extra mat over a protruding rock or tree stump which will save your back if you fall awkwardly. (Hinged mats particularly good at this as the fold helps it stay in place more securely). When your landing zone is uneven, sloped or stepped, you can create a flat landing surface by stacking mats on top of each other. 

It's always worth having a spotter, even wth multiple pads to aim for when you fall! 


It's not all sunshine and lollipops though, there are a few things to bear in mind when bouldering with multiple pads.

What to watch out for with multiple pads

You still need to read the climb

Having a plethora of pads doesn't guarantee your safety: you still need to read the problem that you're attempting to work out where you think you'll hit the ground if you fall off.

Consider the angle of the wall, the direction of the climb, and any odd movements you might make that could cause you to fall in a less straightforward way. Be aware of how high you're climbing, practise good falling technique and take a spotter if you can.


Satellite pads

We don't all have space for two full crash pads, or the desire to carry them both to a faraway crag. I find the Waffa particularly useful for protecting sit starts, traverses and other low level parts of a problem. It protects your ankles if your foot slips off those early moves and helps keep your shoes clean, freeing up your main mat to protect higher parts of the climb.

On traverses I'd usually place the Waffa where I am least likely to fall or where I can just just step off. The main mat would be best positioned in an area where an uncontrolled fall onto my back is more likely.


Mind the gap! 

Look out for gaps between the mats when you're using multiple bouldering pads. When there are gaps between mats, you're more likely to roll your ankle on the edge or miss the pad entirely and break an ankle. In an ideal world your mats would sit flush against one another with no wiggle room for a flat landing, but this is rarely possible. 

Overlapping the mats could help to reduce the risk of injury, but you wouldn't want to fall on the ridge created by overlapping mats. Using a 'slider' satellite pad like the Sputnik to cover gaps or overlaps is a safer option, helping to distribute your weight so you're not falling directly into the gap.


Pads can slide

Bouldering pads stacked on top of each other can slide, I'd recommend a small jump on your stack of pads before setting off to make sure they won't slide about when you land on them though.


Carrying multiple pads

It can feel like an effort to carry multiple full bouldering pads to the crag. Boulderers will often carry one pad using the rucksack straps and hang their second pad over the first using a shoulder strap. If you want to take a third, you'll have to get creative! 

Sit-start and slider pads make the multiple pad walk-in much easier as they slot inside your main pad.

 

Remember, bouldering is an inherently dangerous sport and it takes a good deal of experience to master the art of placing bouldering mats to minimise that risk. If you want to chat pad placement, feel free to get in touch! 

Further reading

How to choose a bouldering pad

Hati's beta on buying a bouldering pad.

High Perfoamance

Read this article for some in-depth foam beta.

Our new bouldering pads

Hebe, our UK-made designer, talks you through how we put together our range of bouldering pads

UK Made by climbers

We have over 10 years of experience making pads, find out more about our design criteria.

Safer landings for bouldering

A pad does not give you carte blanche to climb without due care and attention. If you're new to climbing outdoors, read these tips on climbing and falling.

Design your own custom bouldering mats

Got specific needs? We make our pads in the UK so get in touch and we will do our best to help.

Keep your pad going longer

Looking after your bouldering pad, how to replace foam, repair your shell, clean and store it.

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