Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Review - Organic Full Pad and Half Pad System

In 2004, shortly after I moved to Mammoth, Pusher, Cordless and S7 went away forever. They had a great ad campaign beforehand that consisted of the three logos on a black page with the words "the Revolution will not be televised". It drew me in and I was excited to see what was happening. On May 31st those same companies changed their collective names to Revolution and Clark Shelk took over sole responsibility of the company.

I was drawn in by the marketing and "guerilla" feel of the company. I called them up and ordered a couple of pads as soon as I had the money. The pads served me very well and, aside from a few rips, have held up very well considering the abuse I put them through.

This spring though I started to notice that they were finally starting to pack out and wear down. On top of that our third pad was an old first or second generation Metolius mat that had since been dubbed the "X-Mat" thanks to a bit of spray paint. The X-Mat was old and being solely used as an extra pad and wasn't holding up all that well.

Katie and I decided to retire the X-Mat to the homewall/Bunnies and get some new pad setups. The decision was pretty easy to make as to which to get next. We sent a note to Josh at Organic Climbing and got the ball rolling.

I'd made the decision a year or two prior that when I needed to replace my pads I'd get Organic. Everything I saw was perfect about them and everyone seemed psyched about the company. They're handmade in the USA and Josh works closely with every single order that comes in. His care and attention is clear and very much appreciated by everyone who owns one.

In short, I was happy to give him my money.

I wanted to wait until I had a decent amount of use on the pads before I reviewed them. We've been using them for about 5 months now and are extremely happy so far. Figured that now was as good a time as any, with the fall season coming up, to send out the review.

Aestethics - We placed the order for two Full Pads and two Half Pads. I picked out my colors and Katie decided that she wanted a custom design. We eventually came up with the idea of a lightning bolt and floated the idea to Josh to see if he could work with that. To be honest, it couldn't have come out any better! We were blown away.

My pads turned both turned out phenomenal and looked great. Josh matched up colors for both of our Full Pads and Half Pads and based on solely looks, they're perfect. He took cues from the old Zealot pads and the attention to detail shows through. Custom designs for each pad give the owner a unique feeling when you see it for the first time. Not knowing exactly what it's going to look like makes it a little better when you do finally see it!

Foam - Foam makes a pad what it is. I don't care if it has a lightning bolt on it or not. If it has crap foam then it's not worth my time and attention. Revolution did a fairly good job with their pad/foam combo, but Organic does a better job. Some people have complained in the past of Organic foam being too stiff and, to be honest, that blows me away. There is absolutely no way that I'd choose a pad with softer foam over something like an Organic. Any day of the week I'd rather knock the wind out of myself than bottom out a pad.

I don't NEED a soft catch, but I do need to have my bones intact.

On top of that Josh has started using Soy based foam and while it's not a huge deal, I do feel like it needs mentioning. He's very committed to making products that last a long time. As well as his incredibly high quality open cell foam, he uses a proprietary material for his this upper layer. While he won't tell anyone what it actually is, it's hard to deny that it transfers impact and weight very well.

Josh has a great video up on his website that demonstrates him standing on two pieces of his foam and then also on two of his competitors. It's a great way to see exactly what it means to have good foam and is a pretty impressive visual. The video speaks for itself.

Materials - I give Josh a lot of credit for many things but one thing stuck out in my mind when we were ordering. We were looking at a hot pink background for the lightening bolt and Josh came back with a couple of options. He had a couple colors of pink but he was worried about giving us a fabric that wasn't his ballistic 1000d fabric. We ended up going with the Pink that was the 1000d and I was super impressed that he took the time to talk through it with us and make sure we had something that was gonna last.

To go along with the burly shell fabrics Organic uses an insane thread that just doesn't seem to break. Everything is double or triple bartacked and is finished that one extra time to make sure it will last as long as possible.

Suspension - I know some people carry more stuff than I do and some carry less. In general I'll stuff a pack full of shoes, chalk, tape, brushes and whatever the hell else along with a separate camera pack into the pad. It's not a lot but enough. So far I have no complaints about how the pack carries. The hipbelt is pretty basic and does everything I need it to do. I'm sure if you strap more pads onto it that a beefier hipbelt would be appreciated.

The shoulder straps are actually quite nice, especially for a crash pad. They're nicely padded and fairly tough. Again, I don't carry a ton of stuff, but enough to weight the suspension. While the weight is noticeable it has never been a concern. No complaints here.

Maybe the best part about the suspension is the ability to move the shoulder straps down a notch for the shorter folks. Katie wore hers in the standard slot for a couple of weeks before we moved it down to the lower slot. It completely changed how it carried for her and made EVERYTHING more enjoyable. The one caveat was that we couldn't get the straps out of the buckle to move them down. The bartacks at the end of the shoulder strap was just a bit too think unfortunately. I'm sure if we wrestled with it enough it would have happened but we ended up just cutting them a bit and moved the shoulder straps down. Not a big problem at all but something we noticed.

Katie wanted to extend a HUGE thanks to Josh for adding in the second notch for the shoulder straps. It might be her favorite feature.

Half Pad/Briefcase Pad - A couple weeks before we ordered the pads I floated the idea of maybe getting one or two of the half pads to go along with the full pads. Katie kind of looked at me funny and laughed a little. She said that we could get one and see if we like it. I said that was fine and skulked away.

Then, while we were ordering we decided to just order two anyways. It's a small cost and we can always use extra foam. After using them I think they are Katie's second favorite part of the pads! I can't say enough good about the little pads. You can put them anywhere and they pack right onto the Full Pad with ease! Here's a picture to show it a little better.

Like I said, it just straps right onto the back and takes up very little space. One of the best systems I've ever seen or used!

Plus it only costs $65 if you buy it with a Full Pad. Definitely worth it!

Features - There are a number of noteworthy features that are unique and add to the value of the pads. As we all know pads are expensive and we want the best we can for out money. Here are a few reasons why Organic makes it worth your while.

One of the main features is the Hybrid Hinge closure system. A couple of companies have done similar ideas in the past but none have really popularized it like Organic has. The idea of a crashpad is simple. Put a stiff layer of foam over a soft layer of foam. Easy, right? The downside is that normally you either get a taco design where the foam in the middle wears out because it keeps getting folded. Or you have a hinge design where there is a crease in the middle and you can turn your ankle. It's pretty easy to do.

What the Hybrid Hinge does for you is combines the positives of the taco design, no hurt ankles, with the durability of the hinge design. Josh puts a nice stiff, continuous layer of foam over the top of the pad and then puts two compartments of cushy open cell foam under that. The open cell is then separated by a hinge that keeps your ankles happy and with the added durability of the top layer, you get a much longer lasting pad.

By far the best feature on the pad.

One thing that I don't actually use too much on the pad is the side pocket. I like having it, as I tend to put my keys, tape, super glue and any other random bits and pieces in there. That said, I wouldn't be lost without it. Katie seems to use hers a lot more than I do.

One wish that I do have is for a bottom flap with a pocket on it. I would definitely use that more than the side flap. I think that is my only complaint about the pad, actually. Without a bottom flap the water bottle, insect repellant and stick brush all seem to find their way out through the bottom of the pad. More often when you're hopping around the talus fields from boulder to boulder. It's definitely not a deal breaker though.

Cost - All important cost. Everyone seems to complain about monies and not having enough to pony up and get an organic. Then, one season later, that same person has blown out their POS pad and needs to replace it with a better one.

What can I say other than save your money for an extra week or two and get an Organic. They're worth their pennies. All of em.

The Full Pad/Half Pad setup, as we have it, costs roughly $260 and I would buy it all over again at no hesitation. The Full Pad alone is a mere $195. I've included some price comparisons here from some other companies out there so you can get the feel for where everyone sits.

Organic Full Pad - 48" x 36" x 4" = $195
Asana Hero Highball - 48" x 36" x 4" = $195
Flashed Ninja - 50" x 36" x 3.5" = $179
Metolius Boss Hog - 48" x 36" x 4" = $215
Metolius Stomp - 48" x 36" x 4" = $142 - Of note is that Katie, RV and I all bottomed this pad out by stepping on it!
Misty Mountain Highlander - 48" x 36" x 3.5" = $250
Revolution Mission Pad - 48" x 41" x 3.625" = $299
So Ill Hazmat - 48" x 41" x 3.5" = $197
Mad Rock Mad Pad - 48" x 36" x 5" = $140 I just don't have enough bad things to say about this pad. It needs to go away. Fast.

As you can see, by the specs only and not taking into account where they are made, what they are made with and what kind of foam is used, Organic is very standard as far as their prices go. On top of that they have THE best foam on the market and are all proudly made in the USA. I can confidently say that I'll be climbing over Organic for as long as Josh is slingin' foam. I can't recommend them enough.

Phew, thanks for bearing with me there. I know it's long but I wanted to do the pads justice. They really are the best thing on the market right now. Let me know if you have any questions.

Oh, and Katie wanted me to add something in: "will you say i heart organic? because i do. i heart organic."

Well said.


  1. Thanks Steve. I somehow ended up with 2 Mad Pads and one of those taco light blue pads, I think from Black Diamond. The light blue one has not worn all that well, I suspect it would be easy to bottom it out and it's relagated to my son's little home wall, since he weighs 40#. I don't hate the Mad Pad but your arguments are compelling. I too have bottomed out an older crappy pad, not sure which one it was, I think it was Travis' pad. My ankle will never be the same. Next pad will be an Organic, no doubt. What price can you put on walking? Worth an extra $60 or whatever. ce

  2. Great post Steve! Organic is the shit!

  3. Yeah Chris the Organics are hands down the best system I've seen. Josh makes the best stuff with the best foam. They work super well for the lake because you can move them around so easy with the half pads. Perfect!

  4. This is a great post and I am going to be putting in an order for my Organic soon! When I first started bouldering I was looking at crash pads and ended up getting the Triple Mad Pad. I really liked it at first but it didnt take long before the foam just wore out. It bottoms out now by just being stepped on. Then, one of the straps ripped in half. Now I have a big bulky pad that is impossible to carry comfortably that really isnt worth carrying anyways. I agree 100% do not waste your money on a mad pad.

  5. That's great to hear!! I'm glad you're picking up an Organic!! What are you gonna get? You won't be disappointed!

  6. Just sent a request to Josh for a pad and had an e-mail response in less than two hours. Josh was friendly, professional, and seemed super psyched about helping find me the colors I wanted and then designing a nice pad. On top of that he gave me a bit of a hookup, and then followed up telling me that he was going to be able to get the pad to me in 1-2 weeks, rather than 3-4. Josh then blew my mind by sewing and shipping the pad 3 days after our first conversation. Great pads, amazing customer service, and made here in the USA by climbers.