Howdy there fellow mountain bikers! Would love to have a chat with you about your preferences and your "journey" on pedals for mountain biking. Have you switched back to flats or a die-hard clipless user? Perhaps you have both...would love your thoughts!
I have both flat and clipless pedals and use them on different bikes and different occasions. Started mountain biking with flats and tried toe cages but had a really tough time with those (you can probably guess I started riding a while ago). Switched to clipless pedals quickly after the toe cages as I wanted to be a more serious rider and that was what people did then when they wanted to be in the core biking crowd at that time. Definitely fell over a few times after forgetting that my feet were attached and it is always at the most embarrassing times, almost always when stopping and often in parking lots or stop lights. Now they are second nature and I can get out even midcrash the majority of the time. Clipless is definitely the better option for maximum efficiency and I find them better in really rocky terrain as they keep my feet from getting bounced off the pedals (this is more a skill and practice issue though).
Flat pedals are on my fatbike as it allows me to wear warmer shoes (there are some warm options for clipess, but not warm enough for me). Flat pedals are also better if you are trying to learn to wheelie, manual, bunny hop, etc as it allows you to bail easier and makes you learn proper form. Getting decent quality flat pedals like the Race Face Chester is important so you feet don't slip off with every bump.
It really is a personal prefernce thing but there are both flat and clipless pedals that are really decent quality for around $50 (have to spend a little more for clipless shoes) so it isn't the worst thing to get both and try them out.
I have to agree with @SuzyF , I feel more comfortable being unclipped and riding with flat pedals. If I bail on a downhill section, I need my feet to find balance or to kick a rock/roots/trees. My father-in-law is a die hard clipless rider but when he falls, he's bruised or broken a couple of ribs which is enough to spook me. On the bright side though, he's still riding hard with the clipless!
Clipless all day every day. I run my pedals a little on the loose side and have never had a problem getting out when needed. I like the secure fit and feel of clipless pedals, my wife on the other hand runs flats and wont consider clipless, personal preferance.
Both. I bike so often its easier to keep flats on. If I'll be going on a ride over 20 miles, then I might switch to clipless. It's easier to keep feet on the pedals when you are tired.
Both for me, as it really depends on the ride itself. When is really rocky I go with flats (and knee protection). I have been using clipless for 20+ years on both road and moountain, and like to secure feeling of my feet on the pedals. That said a recent trip to Moab, showed where clipless can be a problem (we did the Whole Enchilada) on a super rocky (baby heads) terrain. As most have said it’s preference.
I use flats on my mountainbike, mainly because I mostly bike alone and it is easier to get out when needed. I have flats that provide a good grip for my shoes, so they don't bounce off easily. On my roadbike I wouldn't go without clips, though.
I've been on clipless since I started riding (17 years ago). Not until about last year I made a switch back to flats. As modern mountain bikes are getting more capable handling multiple terains, I started going airborn a little bit more. I've never had any issues clipping out while on clipless, even on some of the worst situation. And then last year, I had an incident where I need to bail off my bike on a jump and couldn't. I end up crashing but luckily, I only had minor injury.
That made me decide to try on flats. And I'm glad I did. I found out that there are a lot of thing I've been doing 'wrong' while I'm on clipsless. Riding on flats forced me to learn on the proper technique of how to do a bunnyhop, etc. It also gives me more confident especially going through jump trails.
I don't think one type of pedals is better vs. the other. It's all depending on the type of riding you do and the type of trails. I say one definitely complement the other. I believe that if you can master both, you can be a better rider vs. just knowing how to ride one type of pedal. I still ride both depending on the trails, etc.