I had the great pleasure of receiving one of Petzl's new crash pads early this past summer. I went straight to work putting it to the test in the field. In this review I will outline the features of the Petzl pads and my overall thoughts of the new Alto pad.
This is Petzl's first kick at the can in terms of pads and they put some serious thought into the design. There are three different sizes available: Cirro (148 x 118 x 12.5 cm), Alto (118 x 100 x 10 cm), and the Nimbo (75 x 50 x 3 cm). All 3 pads are guaranteed for 3 years.
There are many different features that make these pads standout from their competitors. First and foremost would have to be the zippered closure system. This is very handy for a few reasons. First off it eliminates the finicky buckles that most pads have. I have had three other pads, Cordless (old school), Flashed, and Metolius; they all have a tricky buckle that you have to thread into a little piece of webbing. Without the buckles and straps there are less things to get tangled or caught up in.
The zipper is burley, very smooth and easy to operate, making opening and closing the pad a breeze. This enclosure makes a completely secure storage space for your gear. You won't loose your water bottle or chalk bag out the bottom. I really like this feature, being able to just throw your gear in and go.
The pad is constructed using a one piece hingeless design with 3 layers of different density foam. Most conventional pads the high density foam is on the inside of pad, when it is folded up. This is a bit different with the Petzl pad, the high density foam is on the outside of the pad. If the high density foam is located on the inside of the pad over time the hinge point creates a crease where the foam has broken down from being compressed. My Metolius pad is the taco style, so it has 2 different hinge points and they have gone flat. This is not optimal and I have rolled my ankle from landing in the flattened section. One way around this is to store your pad in the open position, but this is not always an option (it takes up a lot of room).
One might question the Petzl pad for having the high density foam which absorbs a lot of the impact force on the outside when you open up the pad. Won't it be on the wrong side of the pad and won't the straps get in the way if you use it upside down? Well this is where the zipper comes in again. When you unzip the pad the front material gets folded over straps and zipped back up. This keeps the straps out of the way and get that high density foam to the topside of the pad.
A really nice function of the material zippered flap is that it conceals the straps completely. This is a great feature especially when you live in an area where it tends to rain a lot! I have had many a wet back from putting my other pads down in soggy ground.
The zipper is really the heart of the pad and in my opinion a great feature.
When the pad is fully open and you want to move a short distance there is an option to fold the pad in half and use a shoulder strap to carry it. This is another great feature and I used this often. Basically you fold the pad in half, clip a buckle (yes there is one finicky buckle), and throw the strap over your shoulder (see photo below). Very quick and easy. This same strap transforms the pad into a comfy seat for use at the crag or around the campfire (see photo below).
The final great feature of the pad is the shoulder straps and waist belt. They are very comfortable and fit a variety of body shapes and sizes. Gone are the days of the uncomfortable straps that dig into you shoulders, especially when the inside of the pad is stuffed with gear.
Overall this pad is amazing! I really love it. It is very easy to use, it's packed with really well thought out features, it's comfortable to carry, and very functional. It has held up very well and there are no visible signs of wear.
If you are looking for a new crash pad then you should seriously consider the Petzl line up, you won't be disappointed.
For more information on the Petal pads click here.