Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Some notes on the new Pads

Hey Everybody,

So if you scroll down this page, you’ll notice that this is the first post we have done in about 30 months! I’m not really on the ball with this whole blog thing, obviously. But since there’s only about 7 or 8 of you who will read this, I don’t have to spread my apologies too far.

Last Sunday was the 18th anniversary of Cordless and it’s spawn/brethren Revolution Climbing. For more info on what happened on September 1st, 1995, you can check out this previous post, because we’re going to talk about something else today.

This post is not about me getting all nostalgic, I’m here to explain something more important: the 2014 line of Revolution Crash Pads. This may be a longer discussion, addressed in a few future blog posts, but we can at least get started here.


In describing these new Crash Pads, the first thing we should start off with is the foam and the fold. Yes, it is possibly the most boring aspect for those of you who are not total nerds about this, like I am. But since a Crash Pad’s main use is for padding and security, it is the most important.

Every Crash Pad has some manner of folding in half...except for those tiny foot-mat Pads or super big-ass gym Pads, of course. No matter what anyone says, the safest Crash Pad fold is the one-piece Taco fold. Period, end-of-story. Yes, the hinged Pads are easier to close, I can’t deny that. But the subject here is safety, not convenience. I don’t care if it’s a hybrid taco/hinge design, or angled foam fold or whatever, if there is a gap anywhere in those foam pieces, then it is a weakness in the landing area. Sorry to put it out there like that, but that’s how it is.

This problem is less evident when a hinged Pad is on perfectly flat ground, but once the Pad is folded or bent at all, the weakness becomes more prevalent. And when was the last time you went bouldering at an area as flat and smooth as a football field?


But that’s not to say that standard Taco-folding or Burrito-folding Pads are perfect. They have some distinct faults, too. Before we address those issues, I would like to suggest that all Crash Pad fold designs should be named after tasty Mexican dishes. We already have the “Taco-fold” and the “Burrito-fold”, I suggest that the “Hybrid-fold” should be called the “Enchilada-fold” from now on.


As I was saying, Taco-folds are great, but they ain’t perfect. The main problem is what happens to the top layer of foam. Since that top layer is the thinner, firmer and more dense layer of foam, it is harder to fold in half because of it’s higher density. And that top layer is on the inside of the fold; it has a smaller area in which it must bend. This is difficult to verbally describe, so let’s just show you a photo.


Because the fabric shell of the Crash Pad constrains the foam and does not allow anywhere for those ends to go, there are two things that happen; the foam ether extends over the ends of the thick piece of foam (like the photo above), or it buckles/ripples in the center of the fold (like the photo below).


So, how can you have the security of a one-piece, Taco folding Crash Pad without the warping of the top layer of foam? It took years of me asking myself this question before it hit me: Put the firm foam on the outside of the fold…. DUH!


That answer is fairly obvious; since the firm sheet of foam is on the outside of the fold, it allows a larger folding radius for that foam, therefore the ends don't stick out beyond the softer foam and there's none of the tight “pinching” areas on the inside. However, there is one problem…

If the firm sheet of foam (the landing side of the Pad) is on the outside of the fold, then the backpack straps would also be on that side of the fold. So now you have a bunch of straps and buckles and stuff where you’ll be landing. And that’s a problem; introducing a bunch of stuff to potentially trip on or tangle up your feet on the landing area.

We were confronted with this dilemma on the first Crash Pad to introduce this “reverse-Taco-fold” design; the 2000 Cordless Evel Pad. It was 5” thick overall and had 1/2 “ of Crosslink PE foam as the top landing layer. Although the “reverse-Taco-fold” was a great idea, I was too dumb (or drunk) to think of how to include the backpack set-up. So the result was just fold-it-in-half-and-carry-it-like-a-giant-purse. Considering that even when folded, the Evel Pad was four and a half feet by three feet, that was a totally bad idea.


Simple? Yes. Inconvenient and cumbersome? Oh Hell Yes. But at least the foam didn’t warp.

For the 2001 Evel Pad, we did the same “reverse-Taco-fold” design AND we included a backpack set-up, but we made the shoulder straps removable, so when you landed you would not be (potentially) tangled up in the straps.

Again, this was not my shining moment in design; to make the straps easily removable, we simply threaded one big strap through some webbing to make the shoulder strap. Since the strap was not attached securely to anything, the whole damn Pad would shift and wobble around on your back. And considering that Pad was 54 inches long, 11 cubic feet total and about 20 lbs. empty, that’s a lot of wobbling.


By the early 2000’s we put the refinements to the “reverse-Taco-fold” on hold, since we had some six-figure problems to deal with instead. But the resurrection of this concept came from one of our old crew.

Remember that dilemma we were talking about five paragraphs ago? Y’know, the one about reverse-Taco-folds being good for the foam, except they expose the pack area on the landing side? Well, Ben Moon and his designers came up with the answer that is so simple and obvious that I wanted to smack myself in the face: Just cover the Pack straps, dumb ass!



(As a side note, I want it to mention that I have no problem acknowledging and giving credit to the design advancements of others. Since I have had so many of my designs and products ripped off by half-assed Wal-Mart companies, I want to give credit to people who are actually trying to take things forward, instead of those companies making retrograde, shitty knock-offs.)

Anyway, the simple genius of the Moon Pads is the introduction of a flap to the “reverse-Taco-fold”. Yes, closure flaps have been around for years, but the Moon flap solved three necessities; covering the Pack area when open, enclosing/covering the bottom gap when closed, and providing a rug to clean off your shoes. You might think that a cleaning rug is not really a necessity, but that means you have obviously never been bouldering in Muddy Olde England.


But in my opinion, one of the faults of having a bottom flap (which converts to cover the pack) is that it almost requires the Backpack straps to be mounted lower than usual, creating a Crash Pad that rides a little too high on your back and throws off it’s center of gravity.

It could also be argued that closing the side is a little more important than the bottom, since it is a larger opening, and therefore more difficult and more important to close or cover, although gravity would naturally pull your stuff out the bottom first, not the side. But we’re getting overly nerdy at this point. They both work well.

Instead of a bottom flap, the 2014 Revolution Crash Pads have a side flap that covers the side gap when closed. When the Pad is open and ready for business, the side flap reverses to cover the Pack area and it provides a big shoe-cleaning carpet/rug, covering the width of the Pad. What holds that flap/rug in place? Tough, secure 3 inch wide strips of Velcro, that’s what.


But a side flap/pack cover allows us a larger carpet area and lot more potential on the backpack straps. Both the Mission Pad and the Cannon Pad have height-adjustable shoulder straps, so climbers of all sizes can modify the Pad for a better ride.



We also modified the hip belt this year. We’ve had a padded hip belt on our larger Pads for the last couple years, but we had complaints from the XL and XS peoples. Big guys said that the belt did not cover enough acreage, and the wee lil’ ones could cinch the belt all the way down and still have too much slack.

So instead of a big one-piece padded belt, we have moveable pads on the belt. This way, you can adjust and move the pads back & forth, so it rides right on the hips regardless if you’re some freakish giant or a dainty pixie.



Since we’re on the subject of the Pack set-up, the “reverse-Taco-fold” design also solves another problem that might not be obvious: because the Pack straps are on the landing side, they’re not facing the ground. Which means the Pack area will not get covered with mud, snow, sand, etc. and then transfer all that shit to your back when you put it on.

It also means that there are no straps that can potentially get caught on rocks, stumps, plants, etc. on the ground. This may seem like a minor point compared to the one discussed above, but when you’re trying to move a Pad while spotting someone and the Pad gets caught on something, this minor point becomes a major one.



In fact, have a look at the back side (ground side) of our Pads. What do you see? Nothing? Exactly.

Just a large, uninterrupted piece of burly 1680 d. Ballistic Nylon. No straps to get caught on anything, no seams or stitches to gradually erode, just tough-ass fabric. So in this case, nothing is actually something…. that sounds like something Buddha would say.


So that’s it for now. Yes, that was a long-winded speech/diatribe/rant/tirade about the subtle aspects of Crash Pad design and I’m sure many of you would be more entertained reading the phone book. I think if you’ve made it this far, you deserve some kind of prize.

But as dull as it might seem, this shit is important. Ideas, concepts, improvements and innovations are what keep this industry, this community and most importantly this sport, advancing (is climbing really a sport? Game, pastime, hobby, habit, divertment? Let’s work on that next).

Hexes, Friends, sticky rubber, artificial holds, Crash Pads… these were not only new pieces of gear, they helped, or even forced, climbing itself to evolve and expand.

Thanks to all those people who do that work.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed this post! It's nice to have a peek into the development minds to see the innovation process. I definitely dig the covered straps also, mine are always covered in mud at the end of the day bouldering!

    ReplyDelete