I spent about two years bouldering around in Northumberland with nothing but the thin suggestion of cushioning that my beer mat could provide when I had just taken up climbing, followed swiftly was my greatest ever purchase a Wildtrak own brand bouldering mat. Now I'm seldom seen climbing anywhere without a couple of mats. Bouldering mats are the simplest way of making your day out on a circuit more enjoyable; they save your knees, back, and ankles, and give you the mental capacity to commit to the move ahead.
Environmentally mats make sense too. They help prevent the ground beneath popular boulders becoming eroded. Anyone who doesn't think that this is a problem should take a look at some old photos of the Langdale boulders, and compare them to the scorched earth which lies beneath the top boulder now. You'll also find your climbing shoes last longer when you aren't strolling around getting them encrusted with mud, and find problems easier when you don't transfer this to the rock.
Above all mats contribute to making your day out climbing more fun which ultimately is what it's all about. Right, now that you agree with me that mats are a good idea (if you don't your wrong) I have reviewed several bouldering mats over the last year. Here's the first two, the Moon Warrior and Pluto mats. If you've experience of these mats feel free to comment on the thread associated with this review (link at the bottom of the page).
Moon's Warrior pad joins the leagues of new Burrito style folding mats, which close with the landing surface on the outside. This style of mat has a few major advantages, firstly it means they lie flatter when open; anyone who has used an old style mat where the landing zone folds to the inside will have experienced the annoying bowing effect where the edges curl up. Mats, which fold in this way, also end up with a crease in the layer of hard foam creating a weak area in the landing surface, which is just downright annoying. The burrito also has an edge, in that the ground side of the mat folds inwardly so you and your car don't get covered in mud.
The downside of this is that you now have to come up with a snazzy, marketable way of removing your shoulder straps so they don't trip you or your spotter up. Moon has gotten around this in a rather origami sort of way by concealing them behind a Velcro closing flap, which covers the shoulder straps, and when not in use folds underneath the mat attaching on the other side to stop anything stashed inside falling out of the bottom. There is no doubt that this works well and is a rather elegant solution to the problem.
The Warrior is unashamedly BIG! which is often what you want underneath you when you're bouldering. It is also plenty thick enough, measuring in at 4 inches of soft goodness between you and mother earth. Having said that, the hard layer of foam is only three quarters of inch thick, to three and quarter inch thick soft foam. I'd like to see the hard foam a little thicker to firm the landing surface up a bit, and increase the lifespan of the foam.
Closing the Warrior pad is child's play as burrito style pads fold neater due to the soft foam being on the inside of the closure. Lightweight but strong aluminium buckles simply pop through a few hoops and your done. There's plenty of room to stash a bag full of bouldering essentials on the inside of the mat. The shoulder straps are S curved to stop them biting into either side of your neck and falling off your shoulders and are easily adjusted with a couple of plastic buckles.
The outer of the Warrior pad is hard-wearing nylon, which has also been stitched together very well so features on the mat should stay put. The corners have been rounded to reduce wear which is a nice touch and aside from all this the Moon range of pads are available in a variety of funky colours including a few camo variants presumably for use at banned crags.
The Warrior pad is a very strong offering from Moon and is one of my top recommendations for a soft landing at the moment.
Named after Mars the warrior planet. The Warrior measures 130 x 100 x 9.5 cm or 51 x 40 x 4 inches. Features padded rucksack shoulder straps. Approx weight is 6kg or 12lbs.
In the modern world of the beanie clad boulderer mats of this size are often used to accompany larger mats the like Warrior, and the Pluto is a smart little pad which works well to this effect. It is basically a scaled down version of the Warrior, but just has a single shoulder strap carrying system. It does incorporate the burrito folding method, which is worthwhile on this mat as it isn't a hinged design, which most mats of this size are. This means it still folds down quite neatly, and presents a single sheet of hard foam to land on. One of the advantages of burrito mats is that they don't have a weak point in the join like hinged designs.
Again the Pluto is available in a range of funky outer designs and would be ideal as a second pad or for cruising around circuits in Font.
Named after the smallest planet in our solar system Pluto measures 100 x 80 x 8 cm or if you work in imperial 40 x 32 x 3 inches. Features a single shoulder strap. Approx weight is 5kg or 10lbs.
Tom Dixon is almost entirely taken by bouldering, nothing else gets him psyched aside from the odd bit of easy winter climbing when the conditions come good (he's done a winter ascent of Tower Ridge) and he has walked from Ambleside to Newcastle. He works at Lakes Climber (www.lakesclimber.com) in Ambleside, Cumbria.