There’s nothing complicated about boulder mats. They generally consist of several layers of foam of varying stiffness placed on top of each other snugly wrapped in a “bag” of tough, resistant fabric. It is generally true that:
- The selection of materials and thickness of individual layers is more or less the only thing that can be modified.
- There are not many ways to affect the ability of a mat to absorb falls from heights.
- There’s a simple equation for this: “The more foam, the bigger highballs I can climb”
But what if there’s another way?
When designing the Dominator, the developers let their fantasy run wild and abandoned the classic horizontal structure of the mat, replacing it with perforated foam in which they placed small cylinders – upright!
This resulted in the patented system we have named FTS (Foam Tube Suspension), which was awarded a prize for innovation in our field by the jury of the international ISPO fair of outdoor gear in Munich.
When a climber falls, the foam tubes compress differently than classic horizontal layers of foam. While regular boulder mats absorb falls best in their center and have a tendency over time to sink in the middle (like a bed mattress after several years), because of its vertical construction the Dominator is equally effective in absorbing falls in all places. Even along the edges. For the same reasons the Dominator also lasts longer – it’s not made of foam layers that over time become compacted into one another.
One more important thing – because of its unique internal construction, the Dominator is able to effectively absorb falls from both great and small heights. Boulder mats designed for highballing are generally made of thicker foam, because higher falls require more forgiving material so that the landing is as soft as possible – if you fell from four meters into a soft mat, you would fall through to the ground. The Dominator is different. The vertical construction of elastic tubes absorbs energy from a fall differently, making it an all-around mat. You can lay it out under Evilution (famous highball in Bishop) and also use it after twenty sit-start falls.
A great advantage of the FTS system is that it weighs less. Thanks to its unique internal construction the Dominator is 20% lighter than other boulder mats of the same thickness.
Everything written above can be measured. The method used to measure how effective boulder mats are at absorbing falls is relatively new and was inspired by the method used to compare the safety of surfaces for children’s playgrounds.
It may sound a bit brutal, but the rebound height of a round body (roughly the size and shape of a child’s head) is measured after falling onto a soft surface. The measurements are used to objectively compare the energy absorption capabilities of materials used in children’s playgrounds. A similar method works very well for boulder mats, which is why we have adopted it.
Without mentioning the mats of competitors, suffice it to say that the Dominator performed excellently in its category of medium-thick boulder mats. It is able to absorb the energy of a falling climber better than any other boulder mat of comparable thickness.
How the Dominator is sown
To give you a better idea of what the Dominator looks like on the inside, we’ll take you behind the scenes to the manufacturing plant in Polička in the Czech Highlands.
A seamstress at a large sewing machine sews a yellow/black bag made of ripstop fabric (Cordura and Plastel , highly resistant to moisture and abrasion). She works systematically, repeating each task ten times to make the basic sets for ten mats, and then moves on. She also sews shoulder straps to the bags (made of patented WeBee foam), loops and zippers. By the way, thanks to the zippers sewn along two sides, the Dominator can be laid out widthwise in classic fashion, or also lengthwise. This is something you will particularly appreciate under long traverse boulders.
At the next table over a colleague works with the perforated foam, inserting the cylinders that are the foundation of the FTS system. From above, it almost looks like she is filling honeycombs in a beehive.
Once both parts are ready, they are assembled. The inner foam layers are snugly packed into the yellow/black bags so no free space remains and the damping foam cannot move in the bag. Voilá! The boulder mats are ready to head with you to Fontainebleau, Bishop, Magic Wood, Rocklands or wherever else your heart desires.