Moon WarriorBouldering Pad
130 X 100 X 9.5cm (51 X 40 X 4 inches)
Approximate weight 6kg or 12lbs
Retails at £130
You would expect a bouldering mat designed by the one and only Ben Moon to have a few features worth writing about in a review! Well you're not wrong.
The Warrior is the middle sized mat in the new Moon range (the Saturn is the big daddy, measuring 160 X 120 X 11, with the Pluto a mere 100 X 90 X 8). It fits snugly in the boot of my estate. The first thing that you notice is that it is a Taco style mat - i.e. it folds rather than hinges. Not the biggest fan of Tacos because of the extra space that they take up (there is inevitably some dead space inside the fold) I was sceptical. I am further put off Taco's because they never tend to lie flat, having a permanent bend to them. There are a few differences with this range. First and foremost the mat is designed to be placed the other way up to most Taco style equivalents - i.e. you place it with the concave face, i.e. the side that is inside when everything is folded up for transport, down. This has the obvious benefit that you if your mat gets horribly muddy in use, the mud is contained when loading back into your car. On the flipside if you stuff your rucksack into the folded mat on the way home it will absorb the very same mud! The most striking difference however, is that the mat pretty much instantly lies as flat as a pancake! Whether this is some magic formula in the foam used or just a matter of gravity, it lies flatter and neater than any Taco style mat I've ever used (regardless of which way I've placed them on the floor). This is obviously a very reassuring characteristic when faced with a high, awkward or uncontrolled landing.
On the subject of foam this is the next thing which definitely needs a mention. It is standard practice to use two densities of foam in bouldering mats, a thicker softer one on the bottom to cushion the impact and a thinner higher density on the top to spread the load. The higher density layer in the Moon pads is of better quality than any other mats I've seen or used before. This makes for a stiffer mat.
Aside from the above deviations from the norm there is one more innovation that I kinda like. It's not that straightforward to describe so bear with me! Many pads include a set of stow away shoulder straps that often double as a single carry strap with a bit of jiggery pokery. However these pads generally leave the straps dangling about in the mud when the mat is being used for its true purpose. The Moon pads have a Velcro flap which contains the straps when not in use, and then wraps back on itself, underneath the bottom of the folded mat, to clip into a loop on the opposite side to the straps when in carry mode. This not only releases the straps and keeps the flap from flapping, but provides a 'base' to the space inside the mat to stop your rucksack from falling out. Very clever and very neat! The flap also features a small zipped pocket for keys, phone and wallet.
The Velcro flap in 'climbing position'.
Opening the Velcro flap the staps are visible.
The flap in 'carry position'
Note how the flap covers the (inverted) base of the folded mat to stop your sack falling out.
Features which I would expect any bouldering mat to have these days, and are no exception with the Moon pads, include: twin carry handles so you can simply fold and walk between problems (though the mat is still pretty stiff at the moment so you need strong hands to hold them together!), a zippable, hard wearing and water resistant outer containing the foam inside, and lightweight aluminium buckles.
So what was it like in practice? As a pad to land on from great heights it was as good as I have used and better than most. Absolutely no complaints there. The flat nature and the lack of hinge mean you have no worries about 'going through' the mat. The Velcro in the flap is quickly becoming clogged with bits of grass and mud which means a little maintenance to maintain its stickiness. The strap used to secure the flap to the mat whilst carrying could do with being a bit longer as I had to pull it pretty hard to make it reach when my day sack was inside, causing the single stitching to stretch. Because the mat is so stiff there isn't room inside for a bag bigger than about 30l. The aluminium buckles work well, but I would have preferred to see a lip on each one to stop the straps sliding off. The rucksack straps were comfortable enough, but a waist strap would also have been useful. Not the cheapest pad on the market, but you are paying for better quality foam than average, and also some pretty funky innovation.
For those wondering why it's called a warrior, it's named after Mars, the warrior planet...
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