Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Signature Asana Crash Pad: Phase 1-Concepts

I’ve been bouldering for about 12 years now. In this time, you think that I would come across a crash pad that I LOVE. One that is durable, comfortable to carry, has great features, isn’t too big, too small and looks good. Well, this is where working with a great company like Asana comes in handy. I’ve been working with Asana since 2006. I’ve used their crash pads on every boulder problem I have done since then, big and small. I’ve taken 25 foot diggers in Bishop, back-flops in Hueco, and patent-pending “tuck n’ roll” ass rockets from the 30 foot range. Every time I have walked away. My pad of choice in all of these years has been the “Gunther Highball.” It’s 5 inches thick and 5.5 feet by 3.6 feet. In my opinion, it’s a great size. Not to big or small. Despite being a great pad to land on, the Gunther was in need of a serious make over. So, after summer Outdoor Retailer, I went up to Boise, ID for 4 days to design my “perfect” crash pad.

Designing a new product takes time. It’s a process. It takes good communication between the athletes (testers), designers and producers. Compromises need to be made by all parties, egos need to be left at the door, and the common goal of making the best product possible must always remain the focus. We have broken this process down into 5 stages.

1: Concepts

2: Prototypes

3: Testing

4: Revising

5: Completion

We are in the thick of this process right now and I want to bring everyone who reads this blog along with me. I’m going to write a post on each stage of the process until we have a finished product. If you think we are missing a key feature, leave a comment and let us know what you want to see in YOUR perfect crash pad.

To begin, let’s look at the conceptual stage. Highball crash pads are classically heavy, bulky, and uncomfortable to carry. I wanted to fix all of these issues without compromising durability. So, I began drawing and listing all of the features I wanted to address:

  • Carrying system: Needs to be comfortable with a heavy load, have wide but thin shoulder and waist straps to distribute the weight, a chest strap, and carefully chosen torso measurement so the pad may be carried with comfort by short and tall climbers alike. The shoulder and waist straps need to positioned low enough on the pad so not to hit the bottom of the pad when hiking on a steep trail, but not so low that the pad it top heavy.
  • Closure system: No flaps. Instead, incorporate a gear pack that clips in. Needs to be simple and durable. No plastic. No clips or hooks. Needs to maintain the ability to hold tension over time.
  • Functionality: Need to create a bouldering system, a few select products that work well together and go out bouldering with you every time. By eliminating the closure flaps, we simplify. To keep gear from falling out, we should add a bouldering pack that clips into and comes with each pad. Needs big handles for moving around. Needs carpet somewhere on pad for wiping shoes.
  • Aesthetics: Big, bold color. Simple.
With these items in mind, I began imagining, drawing, listing, discussing, debating, measuring, and eventually, cutting material to make the pad.
The Drawing Board


Measure twice, cut once....

John Albright, Asana Head Designer

Cutting the new pad template...

I just received my first prototype and I'm currently in Bishop, CA with fellow Asana athlete Charlie Barrett and Asana Team Captain Ryan Held testing it out. Stay tuned for the first images of the new Signature crash pad. I must say, I'm proud of it.


  1. For the last time improvements needed on your pad: Put a giant cut out of our face in the center so people are even more scared to fall, they will send for sure.

    ALso, Ryan Held is the team captain ha I knew that guy back in Santa Barbara, say hi for me


  2. looks good work!
    Test it in albarracin with us!
    good luck!