Evolv Wingman Pad
Dimensions: 42x28x1 (open); 21x28x1 (closed)
Weight: ~3 lbs.
Foam Structure: 1” closed cell foam
Construction: Ballistic nylon
Features: One carrying handle, double-velcro closure
Colors: Fire Orange, Lime, Purple
Days Tested: About 6 months
Test Locations: Joes Valley, UT; Rock Shop, Lander, WY; Rocky Mountain National Park and Mount Evans, CO
Bouldering is super simple gear-wise, right? All you have to do is grab your shoes, chalk, and a crash pad, and you’re off to session your project.
Sometimes this is true, but not all boulder problems have perfectly flat landings, and many require multiple crash pads and spotters to be climbed safely.
This is where the Evolv Wingman Crash Pad—a small, simple addition to a boulderer’s kit—comes into play.
Foam / Construction
The Evolv Wingman has only 1 inch of closed cell foam. Bigger, more traditional crash pads like the Asana KJ or the Black Diamond Mondo typically have a dual density structure made from both closed and open cell foam. With these pads, the closed cell foam is stiffer and will break the force of a fall, while the softer, open cell foam provides a soft landing.
Since the Wingman only has stiff, closed cell foam, it doesn’t give you a cushy landing like the bigger pads will, and it’s not designed to protect you from a high fall. Instead, the Wingman can be used as either a secondary pad to protect sit start moves, to help level a landing, or to cover gaps between bigger pads. In these situations, the relatively small size of the Wingman is really beneficial.
When used as a sit-start pad, the Wingman lets me pad opening moves while saving my bigger pads to protect moves higher on the boulder problem.
I’ve found that the Wingman is a great tool to help pad out as much of a landing as possible, something that’s especially useful when I’m bouldering alone. I’ve recently been making solo trips to Lander’s Rock Shop to work on the classic V10 The Giving Tree, where, even with four full-sized crash pads, I wasn’t able to completely cover the rocky landing. However, I could use the Wingman to protect the opening two moves and thus position my other pads underneath the more difficult sections.
Granted, since the Wingman only has 1” of closed cell foam, it’s not very comfortable to land or backslap on. But while other small pads like the Organic Half Pad have both open and closed cell foam and provide softer landings, they’re thicker (3” for the Organic Half Pad) and bulkier. So while it may not give you the most comfortable landing, the stiffness of the Wingman’s foam still makes it an effective safety measure, letting you climb with confidence. The pad is also really easy to transport since it’s so lightweight.
Even when I’m hiking into Rocky Mountain National Park Upper Chaos boulders where the approach is long and difficult, I bring the Wingman along since, even though it’s not designed to take the impact of a large fall, it’s small enough and lightweight enough that it doesn’t make the approach any more difficult.
I also use the Wingman as a secondary pad underneath larger pads to help create a leveler, safer landing area. Although there are instances when the Wingman is simply too small or too thin to actually aid in leveling a landing and I have to resort to large, thick pads, I can bridge the gap between small/medium sized terrain features since the Wingman’s foam is so stiff.
Used like this, the Wingman helps make a potentially ankle-breaking, uneven landing flatter and much safer. So while the Wingman doesn’t help to level all landings, I always bring it along since it’s so easy to transport.
Covering Gaps between Pads
I also use the Wingman as a top layer to cover gaps when I have multiple pads. When I use several crash pads to protect a boulder problem (especially on slightly uneven landings), gaps can form between the pads. These gaps are a major concern since your foot can easily slip into them, endangering ankles and heels. Tossing the Wingman on top of these gaps fixes this problem by helping create an even landing surface.
The pad doesn’t need to provide any extra padding to cushion a fall when used in this manner—all it has to do is keep your foot from sliding into the gaps. The stiffness of the closed cell foam is a major plus in this regard since it provides a solid platform to land on and helps prevent you from breaking ankles.
Apart from the foam and nylon shell, Evolv included only one handle for easy briefcase-style carrying and two Velcro straps to secure the pad when it’s folded in half. By not including any excessive handles or straps, Evolv created a very simple, streamlined product.
The result? An easy-to-pack, simple-to-transport, and all-around user-friendly pad that provides additional safety and padding without adding any real hassle to your bouldering session.
Evolv used ballistic nylon to cover the closed cell foam. In doing so, they created a very durable, abrasion-resistant pad that I have dragged over, tossed on, and ground into all manner of jagged rocks. I’ve been using the Wingman extensively for six months, and the only sign of wear so far is that the Velcro seam that allows access to the pad’s foam regularly comes undone as the Velcro wears out. This is really only a minor inconvenience and one that shouldn’t prevent me from using the Wingman in upcoming seasons.
The Evolv Wingman crash pad is a perfect secondary or supplemental crash pad that (especially for such an affordable price), should be considered by any serious boulder. Boulderers will find that the Wingman is easy to transport and excels as a sit start pad, or as a tool to level out landings and covering the gaps between pads.
Keep in mind that the Wingman is not really meant as a primary crash pad since it’s only 1” thick. I wouldn’t recommend it to a beginner boulderer, to anyone looking to purchase their first crash pad, or as a “one-pad quiver.”
But I think boulderers like myself who often climb alone will find the Wingman helps cover a little extra ground and creates a bigger landing area—it often provides the necessary peace of mind to allow me to commit without the security of a spot.