This is an area that if you do a little home work it may save you quite a lot by not having to buy replacement pads after only a short while. Most pads look similar on websites so it is difficult to tell bad from good quality. Here are some points to look for:
Cheap trampolines will use poor quality pads; they have to do so to be cheap! These are quite often blue in colour. Normally covered in the cheapest material possible called Polyethylene or often shortened to PE. This type of covering will normally perish within a few months.
The majority of pads are filled with EPE foam despite how it is worded. Some very expensive pads did use EPA foam which was slightly better on impact but it was marginal and we believe they now use EPE too.
The foam can be covered in PVC, this is far better than PE but it can also crack. Polyester is better than PVC. Best of all is a rubber/plastic compound material. This has been known to last in excess of 10 years. Whichever material is used they should be UV stabilised as standard. Green is normally the colour of better quality padding.
Some brands will be very vague about the thickness as of course the thinner the foam the cheaper their costs.
Beware the term “double thickness”. This does not mean what you would assume. It means the padding over the springs is thin but is “double thickness” at the frame part. For example 6mm over the springs and 12mm over the frame edge. This is wholly inadequate for protection from the metal springs and frame. Some “double thickness” will be 10mm going up 20 mm, this is the bare minimum required. A solid block of foam in each section of the padding across the springs to the edge of the frame is much better and safer. Some paddings have each section broken up into smaller pieces of foam rather than one large piece of foam in each section. This can allow spaces to appear and also give a wavy appearance to the pad over time. Again this is cheaper to produce. 20mm to 40mm thickness is ideal all the way across the padding.
Lastly the fixing of the pad to the trampoline is very important. Beware elastic ties which are sewn on to the pad as these can break when the pad is lifted by the wind. This will leave you with no way of attaching the pad back on as the ties cannot be replaced, therefore your pad will be useless. The best method involves elastic straps and a toggle system which should be passed through a loop or through metal eyelets which is usually a sign of a good quality padding.
Most websites should show all the information mentioned above. If it doesn’t, beware. If still unsure it is best to pick up the phone and ask some questions. Don’t be surprised if the seller doesn’t know all the answers themselves. As stated earlier a little home work can save you a lot of money in the near future.