A Crash Course in Crash Pads


Crash pads have a durable bottom shell and usually a less durable, more aesthetically pleasing top-shell. The innards of the pad are comprised of open and closed cell foam. The quality of a pad is dictated by a combination of the foam’s longevity to keep a falling climber from bottoming out, and the durability of the shell to not rip over rocks. After these two major components, there are more subtle attributes that one will find important– how it carries on a climber’s back, how it carries with other pads, and how it stores gear.

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Photo by Sam Davis of Ana Burgos getting at it above a couple full pads in Hueco, TX.


First of all, for the environmentally conscious consumers, Organic is dedicated and I mean DEDICATED to sourcing everything (from the fabric, to the foam, to the American Apparel tanks n’ tees) they use in their products from the US with sustainability in mind. Other companies will flaunt “Made In America” on their product but source cheap shirts and other materials from abroad, not Organic.

The Quality

The bottom portion of Organic shells are made from 1050 denier (d), military ballistic grade Cordura nylon fabric and the top shell is made from 1000d (both US sourced). Ask any crash pad user how long one lasts and you will find them laughing, stating they still use the one they bought nearly a decade ago. The foam is a soy-based foam sourced out of the US (do I need to keep saying this?) is comprised of a 2-3″ bottom open cell foam layer, with a 1″ middle layer proprietary foam-rubber, then another inch of continuous open cell foam spread over the entire pad without a seam on the top of each pad. Think, squish, resist, squish. The top open cell allows for a cushy landing, while the middle closed cell foam allows the user’s impact to be transferred and absorbed into the bottom open cell foam effectively. The sandwiching combination allows for a climber to keep from bottoming out, something your unbruised ankles will thank you for later in life.

The Subtleties

Organic Pads carry exceptionally well. The shoulder straps are adjustable to accommodate climbers of varying heights. All of the belts are durable and sit well on your hips. The pads also stack together so you can carry two, three, four or creatively five pads all at once with a Load Flap. (*Check out this video to see this in action.) 

Organic crash pads

The Art

Every pad and product coming from Organic is handmade. The artwork on the pads can be one simple color, a random mixing of geometric shapes, or custom tailored to suit any desire, no matter how geeky or abstract. I’ve seen some pretty amazing, inventive pads, and Josh is always psyched on new ideas. Did I mention you can carry your color theme and design over multiple types of pads and products?

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A coordinated color scheme between a Big Pad and Full Pad | Kati Peters coordinates a Big Pad and Chalk Bucket

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The Infamous Adela modeling the Mini Crag Pack (look out for the child size Chalk Bag)

The Family

Organic has a cult following for a good reason. The small company allows you to be a part of the custom pad creation process. Josh, the owner and creator of Organic, takes every order himself and is in constant communication with customers. Despite having a new child unit (Adela) who you can watch grow up, quite literally, in Organic products, Josh remains completely enthralled in the quality and composition of all Organic products. He is constantly designing new swag, most recently the Roll Down Pack; inventing innovative gear like the Load Strap; putting out gear to supplement climbing like Enamalware metal camp mugs depicting Cake battling Pie; and supplying consumers with well thought out apparel.

His personal Facebook page is filled with equal parts custom pad photographs and baby shots, which both surpass the number of photos of Josh himself. This psyche carries over to how he treats all his employees and ambassadors. From the time I began buying pads from Organic Josh has treated me with nothing but respect, kindness and kick-ass products. My first custom Big Pad (that I still use) needed to be made on a time crunch to prepare for a trip to South Africa. I expressed my concern for timeliness and Josh delivered, with multiple days to spare. Easy as cake… or pie.

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A morning at the crag’s best friend | The new Roll Down Pack for Fall 2014 | An example of a limited edition Wool Long Sleeve

The Secret

From the massive Blubber Pad to the tiny Briefcase pad, Organic foam comes in all shapes and sizes. If you go onto Organic’s website you’ll find about five items. However, Organic has many times that amount of products available to the public. You just have to know where to look. Ask any member of the Organic team, head over to their Facebook and peruse their photos. If something looks rad, email Josh and ask for it. He’ll reply back and you’ll see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Hopefully this article will suit you well if you are in the market for buying a crash pad. Think big, support small businessmen. And if you have any questions regarding pads, never hesitate to ask the littlest of the route setters, me.  🙂


DISCLAIMER FROM SHANNON– Let me preface this entire article by saying that I am 100% an Organic Bouldering Mat’s sponsored athlete. Although I do not get paid to say what I am about to wave in your face, I do get gear, support and most importantly encouragement to better myself and those around me by the Organic family. I did not get persuaded into climbing for Organic, rather, I fell in love with their product and positioned myself to be a useful asset to their team.

Shannon bioBorn under a smoldering Mars, it is rumored that Shannon began setting routes as a young girl in the gaudy playpens at the Sultan’s palace in Delhi on walls of pure velvet and pinches of wrought gold. As word of her startling talent spread she was adopted by a traveling English sugar baron and quickly inducted into the glittering halls and silk petticoats of London’s new rich, where she lived for a time before stowing away on the four-master Santa Guadalupe, bound for the Americas. What transpired aboard the vessel can only be guessed at by a tremor in her root-like thumbs—though many have of course cited the numerous horrific diaries discovered among the wreckages of two Japanese whalers. How she at last came to Planet Granite remains unknown…

*What is known* about Shannon is that she is an ambassador of La Sportiva, Organic Bouldering Mats, Joshua Tree Skin Care, Flux Coffee, and Solo Eyewear. She chooses to wake up in the morning with a Flux and a snuggle with her dog/black bear, Philia. She is a wealth of information about climbing products, training for climbing, climbing holds and outdoor climbing and eagerly invites you to seek out or rival her Valerian steel sharpened advice. She’ll likely have a smile and snacks for you too!


*Follow Shannon’s adventures on her personal BLOG and Facebook athlete PAGE.*