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Review: Wild Country Big Air crash pad

With the sun finally showing, climbers start hauling their crash pads out of their garages and attics. After firmly dusting it off, some climbers may find that their pads are a bit more worn out and stained than they recalled. A new season calls for a new crash pad! Siked will lend a helping hand and navigate you through the jungle of triple pads, tacos, and a whole lot more. Today we kick off with the first pad in our series: the Wild Country Big Air.

CPT - Wild Country - KdG-7

Standing in my sleepy co-editor’s hallway at the crack of dawn, the first thought that popped into my head was “Why am I Mr. Pink?”. I was on my way to Fontainebleau and was just handed the bright pink Wild Country ‘Big Air’ crash pad. Its stylish color sure is an instant eye-catcher and although I’m not afraid of a bit of pink, the pad’s British manufacturer seems to be clearly aiming at the female share of the market with this specific shade. Fortunately, the color conscious climber can choose from an array of different colors including fierce orange, bright yellow, and light blue.

Model & Design

Wild Country opted for a so-called “carry side up” design for this pad, meaning that the top face of the pad is turned outwards while carrying. The advantage of this design is that the landing zone stays clear of sand, since all the stuff you carry in your pad won’t be touching this side. However, this also means that the carrying system has been attached to the landing zone of the pad. Although the shoulder straps are detachable, additional action is required to get the pad ready for use. Furthermore you will also have even more scattered gear around your base camp. In conclusion, it is clever, but also somewhat impractical.

WC_BigAir_RB-4

In addition to sporting the removable shoulder straps, the Big Air pad can be combined with other Wild Country pads. This will significantly increase the area of your landing zone and works well if you possess more pads of the same thickness and brand. If you are however not using this functionality, the Velcro strips basically serve as a collection system for forest souvenirs.

WC_BigAir_RB-1Its taco design means that the pad does not contain a fold. This is a definite plus for your ankles during those unsuspected landings. On the other hand, this also means that it’s a bit more difficult to relocate the pad from boulder to boulder. A backpack can be stowed away in the folded pad, however it slips a bit askew causing the weight to be divided asymmetrically. Furthermore, it has become a habit of mine to stow away all my gear in the pad for quick relocation between problems. Perhaps it was because of my routine, perhaps it was due to my taco virginity, but at the end of the trip I was unfortunately one borrowed guide book short…

Landing

The pad’s top surface felt quite rigid, which prompted us to attempt landing on the softer, grey bottom side. Maybe the crash pad just needed some warm-up falls and jumps. Nevertheless, the bottom side did a fine job of fulfilling its crashing duties. The pad’s seams – one of the weak points of most pads – seemed to handle the landings and stowing well and its rounded corners will lead to less wear and tear.  Additionally, it is very enjoyable that the Big Air weighs little.

WC_BigAir_RB-2

The Big Air still has a lot of advantages compared to other pads considering its size and shape. The pad is not too thick which makes it safer when you accidentally land on an edge and even upside down it provides a lot of shock absorption. In contrast to some nearly square pads, the Big Air’s rectangular shape ensures that you never have to doubt it’s position underneath a problem. Add this to the fact that it has no folding seam in the landing zone and your ankles should feel pretty confident.

In conclusion, considering its performance and shape, the Big Air pad seems safer than many other pads in its price category. However, due to the rigid taco model the pad is not very practical compared to some cheaper folded pads.

Wild Country is not a widely available brand in the Netherlands, rather it’s popularity is highest in the brand’s country of origin: the UK. The tested model was kindly supplied by the gents of Igoko but can be found in some shops internationally.

Specs

WC_BigAir_RB-3

  • Producer:           Wild Country
  • Model:                Big Air, taco model
  • Weight:              5,5 kg
  • Size:                    130 x 100 x 9 cm.
  • Price:                  ~180 euro

The pros:

  • Stylish colors
  • Clean landing zone
  • Sustainable seams, ’rounded’ corners and strong buckles
  • Size and (lack of) weight
  • Safe due to the no-fold taco model and sufficient shock absorption

The cons:

  • The carrying system is attached to the upper face, requiring multiple actions before climbing
  • The pad’s rigidness is impractical when stowing your backpack
  • Relocating loose gear is inconvenient
  • Quite rigid landing zone
  • Velcro strips of the ‘pad-joining’ system mainly stick to the forest

Photography: Mathijs Janssen

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Ron Berends

Met een dikke knipoog legt Ron je haarfijn uit waarom hij alles verafschuwt dat met touwen te maken heeft. Deze boulderaar pur sang kent wellicht nog meer boulders uit z’n hoofd dan Bart van Raaij en zijn eindeloze enthousiasme is een belichaming van de Siked-filosofie.