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.
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!
Hati's beta on buying a bouldering pad.
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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.
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