Not too long ago, circa 2014, Canadian crusher Sean McColl was filmed attempting Hubble—Ben Moon’s masterpiece—with a knee pad.
McColl’s critics were swift and numerous comment threads were created instantaneously discussing the ethics of knee barring, i.e., if knee bars weren’t part of the FA, must knee pads stay at home for subsequent ascents?
We’re kinda over that discussion now, since if anyone FAs a hard route and someone downgrades it because at the heinous V12 crux they found a no-hands knee bar, shame on the former. Though common in Hueco for years, even in places like Siurana, Spain, not known as a knee-bar lover’s crag, they are becoming common. Dave Graham is using one on La Rambla.
Knee pads are now, or should be, part of every sport climber’s rucksack. Not an accessory, a necessity. Send Climbing’s Wizard Sleeve pad is a slip-on-and-off minimalist pad—i.e., without straps and buckles—and I’ve used it for a solid season already. Because of the sleeve fit, you have to really yank to get it on, which of course is the point. Duct tape? They write, “Though it sticks well to the leg, depending on how you size it, use of duct tape is not discouraged.” Yep, that’s right.
Strips of silicone, on the upper and lower inside cuffs, help the pad stay in place. Because of the required tight fit, it would be difficult to wear the Wizard with some pants, due to bunching and sliding and plain old getting it on; they make other pads with buckles for cold days when pants or layers are crucial. Their marketing material says, “Though it works on pants, against skin is better.” Correct again.
Despite having big quads, for me the surface area of the rubber remained wide enough for those high-step, scum-bars, which catch the outside of your thighs. As for durability, some stretch tears do exist, but these are, as of yet, minor and do not threaten the integrity of the pad.
Other pads in their line-up have the stitching on the rubber itself, but not the Wizard, whose pad appears to be glued directly to the “wet-suit” material. When on your leg, a very thin piece of spandex can be found on the back of your knee, to keep knee flexion comfortable. As for sizing, I used their chart, got out the tape measure and ordered what my size should be…and it worked. The rubber thickness is 3mm, not thick or thin, and the stickiness of the rubber isn’t a problem. The Wizard costs $39 and it’s worth every penny.
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