Climbing is all about the detail in each and every movement, and the same holds true when it comes to equipment. Even the smallest features can make or break your send: the texture of your rope, the length of your draws, the point of your shoes, or how easily your chalk bag opens when your hands get annoyingly sweaty at that big crux move. As we honed our fundamentals on the rock this month, we had the chance to pit two of our favorite brands’ bouldering essentials head-to-head, to see just who is more devilish in their details.
Organic 5.10 Pad
Turns out your kindergarten teacher was right: teamwork makes good things happen. 5.10 and Organic, both already huge names in the climbing world, bumped heads on this project to create a solid crash pad without the bulk. Organic, an American company intent on producing handmade pads for climbers by climbers, has collaborated with 5.10 and come up with an even smaller version of Organic’s original Simple Pad
At first glance, this baby looks like it could use a good meal. It’s much thinner than other pads I’ve used, only 3 inches thick, and weighs a modest 8 pounds. I’ve been known to take quite a tumble out under the ledge, so the super-slim style did make me nervous in the beginning, but I quickly discovered there really wasn’t anything to fear – even for a clumsy climber like me. 5.10 and Organic, like the smarties we know them to be, have managed to pack that small 48 by 36 inch space with so much foam cushion that a big ol’ fall will just leave you smiling. Or at least all in one piece.
The lighter weight, as well as padded and adjustable backpack and waist straps, makes the pad an easy carry to and from the rocks – no need to worry about those long approaches and hard hikes. All in all, the 5.10 Organic crash pad is simple, convenient, and worth trusting from the ground to the top-out.
Boulderers must be getting tired of lugging extra weight around, because the Iceman Pad follows the same smaller-is-better trend. It’s slightly thicker than the Organic 5.10 Pad at about 4 inches, but is also not as long or as wide, 42 by 32 inches rather than 48 by 36.
But Evolv hasn’t failed us either, and makes sure the size remains a benefit to climbers and not a danger. The Iceman uses fancy dual-density foam to keep your fall nice and bouncy, and tops it off with a continuous cell foam layer. Plus, the Iceman’s got some really cool added features: the backpack straps are removable or changeable into shoulder straps, the corners are reinforced with rubber to keep the pad from running away under you, and velcro straps on the bottom lock the pad open so that the seam stays just as safe and tight as the rest. If you needed a second reason to give smaller pads a chance, let the Iceman be it.
This guy is intense. Rivaling even the legendary La Sportiva Solutions, the Hiangle may well be the most aggressive shoe I have ever crammed my foot into. I won’t lie – it was a painful process to get these on, but the good qualities definitely outweigh a hard break-in period. The close fit that makes the Hiangle difficult to wear intially soon becomes a huge asset, because it completely eliminates whatever dead space could make your foot slip around inside.
Like other slipper-style shoes, this one is designed to stay snug without too much effort, but comes with an extra Velcro strap to crank it down even tighter when you’re really feeling the pressure. It’s slightly stiffer than most slippers: I’ve had too many more-flexible shoes flatten out and lose their shape after a bit of wear and tear, but I’m confident that the Hiangle won’t do that. The powerful down-turn and point can seek out the tiniest pieces of rock, and the edge is just sharp enough to grab onto those little nubs perfectly. Of course, those same features limit smearing ability and slab performance, but that’s not this shoe’s focus. Instead, the 5.10 Hiangle makes an excellent partner on overhang climbs and can’t wait to hop on your next steep project with you.
Let’s give a round of applause to Chris Sharma for gifting the climbing world with this personal design. Maybe I can soak of some up his skill too by wearing these shoes. But whether or not that theory is possible (I’m not rejecting it just yet), the Shaman does some nice work. Though not quite as aggressive as the Hiangle, it still includes a strong toe and snug heel. In fact, the heel may be my favorite aspect of the shoe – it holds the foot tight, has plenty of rubber for a solid grip on hooks, and isn’t too narrow. Also take note of how well the toe box is made. Plenty of shoes have given me sore spots on my toes that made it difficult to put weight on the front of my feet, but Sharma has come up with a masterful solution. What he calls the “Love Bump,” an addition to the midsole, sits under your toes and pushes them into a comfortable yet powerful position. Sharma even built in extra room for that pesky big-toe, so everything has its place. The Evolv Shaman, like the 5.10 Hiangle, will support you through those pumpy overhang walls and will also keep your feet happy – a killer combination, in my book.
–Words and images by Blue Ridge Outdoors intern Lucie Hanes. Hanes is a senior at the University of Virginia and continues to kick ass as both a writer and an athlete. Thanks Lucie!