Flashed Tanto, a perspective.

We’ve been using the Flashed Tanto for years, so it only seems like the next logical step is to offer some perspective on the mini pad.

We’ve wanted to do this review for some time; that time has allowed us to congeal our thoughts and understandings of thin pads while focusing on the Flashed Tanto mini/carry pad. The Tanto serves the same basic purpose as the discontinued Black Diamond Butler pad, a pad I’ve had limited use with during a 3 week stay in Hueco, but in a much smaller footprint. Of thin pads I’ll be talking about, the Tanto presents a multi-pronged approach to filler pad design instead of being a specialist like the BD or Evolvs, which will be mentioned too. The thing about a small pad is it can be placed on top covering the joint of two pads and not endanger the landing area, or be used by itself for lowballs.

As it came on day one. sans cat.

As it came on day one… sans cat.

What we’ve used:

Flashed Tanto
Black Diamond Butler
Evolv Wingman/Ringer

(Disclosure: I climb for Evolv and Flashed, the latter as a product tester and former through previous collaboration and sponsorship). 

Some data:

Besides the Butler and Tanto, another set of thin pads I’m familiar with are the two Evolv pads called the Wingman, a double folded 1″ (shown below, 28″ x 21″ x 2″ overall, 56″ x 21″ x 1″ opened), and the Ringer, a single (28″ x 21″ x 2″ overall). I don’t know the weight for these two, but being as they’re quite light, bringing them is an easy decision.

here is the Wingman image from the evolv website. the Ringer is the same size closed.

here is the Wingman image from the evolv website. the Ringer is the same size closed.

Regarding the butler, it’s 36 x 36 x 1 inches open (shown below behind a closed example, 36 x 18 x 2″), 3 lbs 5 oz, and the Tanto is 32 x 24 x 1 inches open (16 x 24 x 2 closed), and 2 lbs 3 oz.

here is shot I pulled from the internet (an original bd product shot) showing the butler opened and closed.

this looks to be an original bd product shot showing the butler opened and closed.

here is the tanto open  slightly

here is the tanto open and shoulder straps visible at top

here is a stripped down view of the back

here is a stripped down view of the back while possibly lying on the kitchen floor of Rob Guinn’s place.

Though smaller then the BD, the Tanto also allows you to bring your stuff, sans main pad, via shoulder straps. They both utilize removable straps, but the BD doubles (one strap for both uses) for messenger-style carry while the Tanto messenger-style carry strap doubles as a waist best, and still retaining the backpack setup. Perimeters on both thin pads close via a heavy duty double zipper. The BD has to be rigged to configure as a backpack by threading the strap through the up-side-down V loops. the Tanto, on the other hand, can be in both configurations simultaneously. The Tanto uses a fleece-like inner lining that makes eliminating dirty starts super easy. This was a huge plus if you don’t carry a rag ghost often used in the Fontainebleau forest. (Though to be fair, some full size pads have similar linings. Metolious anyone?)

shoulder straps dedicated for one purpose. removable as shown.

shoulder straps dedicated for one purpose. removable as shown.

here the shoulder strap top is attached.

here the shoulder strap top is attached.

simple clip and d-ring

simple clip and d-ring

shoulder straps attached

shoulder straps attached

The BD pad is a contiguous body with no hinge or break in its padding. The principle is simple: a long strap for backpack or shoulder carry, but only one. The Tanto is split between two main inner pads that cover each half when closed and then another thin strip that runs between them for the “backbone or spine” of the Tanto case. This also creates the hinge effect of the pad.

Some thoughts on all 3 types:

this is the inside center of a very used tanto. the hinge is visible in the folds.

this is the inside center of a very used tanto. the hinge is visible in the folds.

When the Tanto is open (photo above) the hinge lays flat, but with thinner sections on both sides of the strip. I haven’t found this a problem but it’s worth noting.

The main strength in using any of these types of pads, is they’re easy fillers for where gaps appear, and they will appear when it matters most. The Evolvs serve one purpose only and have to to be carried on a main pad or in hand, but they do have small tie-off points, flush with the seem edge on two of four sides.

We tried keeping all the straps on the pack for quick changing as necessary, but the pack is a bit unwieldy when used on the ground. There is a side zip storage compartment that is great for small things, but packing it does add height without padding, and keeping the shoulder straps in them just adds to this problem of increased ground height. The Tanto straps can be removed slightly easier than on the BD. Jill keeps the over-the-shoulder strap on for going into a gym, but I’ve noticed that even the Tanto is too big for some gym personal gear storage, so mine stays stripped of straps and empty of most all things except a knee pad in the side zipper. The Butler is way too big for anything but its specialty. It was designed for one purpose and one alone. The Tanto can be used for various things including carry a decent load since the space inside is increased slightly with long side zipper flanges (see below).

these flanges help add room without pushing out on the padding. if these lips, or flanges, are too high,  you can reverse them as shown.

these flanges help add room without pushing out on the padding. if these lips, or flanges, are too high, you can reverse them as shown, but in reality we’ve never done it.

The main characteristic of the Tanto is that it’s softer and more pliable to surface contours, including a good hinge in the middle. It lays well on rounded boulders or unequal surfaces. This last element is where the Evolvs (mainly the 2″) have a problem as they’re very stiff. (stiffness matters most on irregular surfaces but becomes a drawback if clearance is an issue on uneven surfaces). The Ringer has one unique advantage of being very rigid and small. I’ve “cammed” it between boulders creating a bowl or crown effect that supports more than a passive pad by itself. And when it comes to covering a corner with minimal clearance, the Wingman is golden. At one inch, it’s the absolute minimum that’s useful while having a full hinge in the center. Their one main drawback is the slick nylon fabric. they need at least one side to be pliable and grippy on smooth rock or to the climber, so said climber doesn’t slide off on an angled surface. It’s a disconcerting feeling.

The BD, based on experience with Rob Guinn’s pad in Hueco in early 2012, shows that it gets more pliable with use, and because of its size naturally will be more susceptible to bending, a very good thing. The stiffness needs to be used in conjunction with breadth. Under the auspices of Rule #1, no dabbing, any contact would void a potential ascent. This being the case, anything that stands up or sticks out on the pad is not good. Obviously, the Evolvs have nothing but themselves, and their stiffness. The BD has that too, but under one side are the straps for carrying it. Ditto for the Flashed Tanto. If the pad is stuffed into a main pad, I’d remove everything from the outside. Given that, I find taking things off and on just means it’s more likely that something will be left where it shouldn’t and won’t be available when it’s needed.

though this is an old buckle, the hinge is still used evidenced by the lower steel rivet below the buckle

though this is an old buckle, the hinge is still used and is evidenced by the lower steel rivet below the buckle. the main problem with this spinning loop is it spins and allows the shoulder strap to twist.

There is something to be said for the size of the BD, and when you’re close to the ground, the reality is that it’s not always just a small patch of earth underneath either. In fact, it’s usually fair amount of earth and odd objects that aren’t always on the same plane. The Tanto is designed for various uses: gym visit or non-climbing carry (I carried one on my back on a fixed-gear), circuit bouldering (like at font, gritstone, josh or squamish), carry pack for stashed main pads, carry pack for general crag gear (stuffed inside main pad), lowballs, irregular objects to cover. The Butler is for crag carry like the Tanto, circuits and the best overall coverage. The Evolvs are for minimal coverage, oddball uses, and circuits.

Also, all of these pads are very light, or light enough to not matter.  The BD is the heaviest for obvious reasons, and the Evolvs are VERY light.

What next?

There are basically two good sizes, IMHO. A small one that can be attached to other small ones to cover a larger area would create basically a matrix of potentially unlimited numbers, all connected with some form of velcro-like connection. The other one is a single larger size. That size is debatable, but I’d say start with something a bit larger than the Tanto… say, 2″ taller closed.

I’d also maintain some form of hinge, but make it gapless, and fairly rigid; furthermore, I’d keep the zipper close to the pad edge. Zippers, properly cleaned like any tool works pretty well for us.


I would recommend that even though one is good, a second one is worth it if neither is Butler-sized, and virtually irrelevant in the weight department. Since we are using the Evolv pads regularly to test their usage and only bring out the Tantos when necessary, we leave all our stuff in the Tantos. The Butler is no longer made.

The Tanto is a very good tool. With refinement, it will only get better. Size could be a bit taller (when closed), but doing so would make it more specialized. Yet I prefer this since I feel the current size is already a bit big for carrying to the gym. I’ve used it with the waist belt backpack-style on my fixed gear and it worked well. Not to mention the fact that while out at the crag, the Tanto replaces a gear bag while doubling as a thin pad. And the fleece lining to wipe the shoes is definitely a plus. With regard to size, in it’s current iteration, it’s a very good compromise: any smaller and it’s nearly useless as a pad, any bigger and it’s too unwieldy for most things but padding.

Note: Asana makes the Pro Spotter, but it’s not designed to carry stuff. It measures in 3 configurations: 74 x 44 x .75″, 74 x 22 x 1.5″, or 38 x 22 x 3″ and fits in a bag turning it into a single crash pad/shield. Shields are cool, but most standard pads can be used as a shield with an arm under the shoulder straps and the other pushing/directing the other end (most standard pads have shoulder straps on one side of the back; therefore it’s not centered.)


~ by r. mulligan on 2013/12/30.

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