This Mid-Sized Crashpad is a Verified Back Saver
Field Tested: Trango's Stratus Crashpad
A durable and perfectly cushioned mid-sized pad with customizable carry settings and a kangaroo pouch.
Fantastic energy absorption, meaning that big back-floppers don’t hurt // Ripstop nylon outer layer was surprisingly durable in abrasive desert environments // The outer kangaroo pouch serves as an easy-access crag bag // Durable foam hasn’t compressed despite 60-plus days of use // Extra-long straps make it easy to carry two pads at once // Adjustable carry settings will fit to any body size.
Pad’s slippery outer material makes it unstable on sloped landings // Extra buckles and long straps feel unnecessary unless you’re carrying two pads // The kangaroo pouch and long straps flop around and are easy to trip or slip on when adjusting landings.
Trango’s first foray into the pad market, the Stratus is a highly durable mid-sized pad with an excellent blend of energy-absorbing foam—the sort of pad that inspires confidence on highballs while also remaining small enough to carry around on a lazy circuit. A nice bonus: it may have saved the life (or at least the hip) of one of our testers (see video below).
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I was too injured to climb for most of last fall and winter, so I farmed out some of my field-testing duties to my friend Peyton, who ferried the Stratus Crashpad from Hueco to Roy to a variety of local boulder fields around New Mexico, logging more than 60 sessions with it before I could convince him to give it back. When he finally returned it a few weeks ago, he told me that the pad has a variety of excellent qualities, but its standout feature is its energy-absorbing foam. “It gives you serious peace of mind when climbing high off the deck,” he said. And then, to prove it, he showed me the below video, in which he dry fires off the last hard move of Highlander (V10) and falls roughly 10 feet onto his hip.
Two notes before you watch: (1) The video is foreshortened and does not really do justice to the size of the fall and weirdness of the tiered landing; I’ve stood below that climb, and the thought of an uncontrolled digger from that spot makes me a little sick. (2) The spotter (another friend of ours) did a dang good job given the surprise trajectory that Peyton took off the boulder; when he’d previously fallen off the upper part of Highlander, Peyton had fallen to the left, where they’d placed a larger Organic crashpad, but the dry fire changed the fall zone.
“Honest to God, dude,” Peyton said when showing me the video, “this was the moment I knew this pad was legit. I could’ve put a glass of wine at the other side of the pad, like they do in those old Tempur-Pedic commercials, and I don’t think it would’ve tipped!”
He walked away from the fall with “zero repercussions. No bruising or soreness.” And buoyed by the fact that the Stratus had him should he somehow replicate his dry fire, he gave Highlander another go and sent.
Overall, Peyton adds, “It’s a great mid-size crashpad. It’s not particularly bulky, so if you’re going to take just one pad out for a session of lowballs or a mellow afternoon traverse circuit, this is a great contender. The side straps make it easy to carry like a briefcase from boulder to boulder if they are nearby. Then you can just throw your crag bag in the outer pouch for the walk back to the car.”
What we liked
The foam. All crashpads are trying to find a balance between closed-cell foam, which gives the pad a firm, stable feel and makes sure you don’t bottom out when you fall, and open-cell foam, which is softer and actually absorbs energy when you fall. Trango’s combination with the Stratus is a winning one: They use 1.75 inches of denser closed-cell foam on top, which give a structural layer to the actual landing surface; 2.75 inches of highly absorbent open-cell foam in the middle; and half an inch of closed cell foam on the bottom, which helps give structure to the overall pad. As Peyton demonstrated, these structure layers increase both fall comfort and overall durability. Even after more than 60 sessions, the pad has none of the soft spots that generally form in the middle of pads once they’ve been used a lot; and it still holds shape at the edges, so if you land on the edge of the pad you won’t roll off the side—a common cause of sprained and broken ankles.
Durability. The Stratus has a ripstop nylon outer layer with reinforced corners. Peyton’s Stratus logged some 30 days at basalt and volcanic tuff crags around Santa Fe—crags that are notoriously good at shredding the outer material on crashpads. The landing zones are generally composed of razor-sharp pebbles and rocks, and the approaches are a mine-field of sharp boulders, junipers, and cactus—yet the approaches had “no visible effect on relatively slick outer material of this pad, while the other pads I was carrying around (pads with a canvas material) were far more prone to getting caught on sharp edges and getting torn or abraded.”
Extra-long straps make it easy to piggyback another pad. The Stratus’s closure system is built with extra-long straps designed to allow you to strap a second pad onto it. On the one hand, this is awesome, since it means you don’t need to jury-rig a system like this. On the other hand, those straps can be a bit annoying when they’re tangled up in your landing. I have tripped multiple times on the straps while trying to carry the pad by the side handles.
Carry pouch. The kangaroo pouch has velcro sides, which makes it a secure and easy crag bag—especially nice when you’re carrying shoes and chalk on a circuit of your local boulders, or when you want access to things like water or bars on longer approaches.
Adjustable carry straps. The shoulder, chest, and waist straps are adjustable to various body sizes. We’ve tested them on climbers from 5’0” to 6’0” and everyone was able to find a comfortable fit for their size. That said, the straps aren’t as padded as some big-day crashpads (for instance the Organic Backfourty) and are not that comfortable if you’re carrying a lot of weight—and since the Stratus, at nearly 14 pounds, isn’t particularly light for a mid-sized pad, weight can quickly become an issue.
Pad construction. The 45-degree fold line means two things: (1) There’s no soft spot in the middle of the pad; (2) Falling in the middle of the pad doesn’t make the two sides of the pad fold upwards like a book, which often happens with other pads.
What we disliked
Unstable on sloped landings. One surprising discovery (first noticed by Peyton, later corroborated by me) was that the Stratus’s outer material doesn’t grip very well on sloping landings. You’d lay it down on a sloping rock or patch of dirt, fall on it, and the pad would zoom away down the hill—essentially tugging the rug out from beneath you. This prevented Petyon from taking the Stratus out to another of his projects, which required placing a single pad on a sloped landing. While the Stratus would just “slide like a sandboard every time I stepped or fell on it,” pads made by Organic and Madrock would hold fast.