Traveling to exotic locales?
Best to take a mat of some sort with you and my vote is for the Manduka eKO SuperLite.
But are travel mats a necessity or a luxury?
I’d say that depends on several things…
If you’re going to be practicing in your hotel room, you’ll probably need a yoga mat of some sort. We’ve all tried throwing a towel on the floor and maybe wetting the ends a bit to get it to stay in place. It sorta’ works, but not very well. I usually spend time smoothing out the wrinkles that inevitably occur and that ruins my flow. Not optimal.
If you plan on practicing at studios while traveling, you can most likely rent a mat. That’s not always guaranteed though, so checking ahead of time would be a good idea. Even if the studio does have rental mats, you can also put your travel mat on top for cleanliness purposes. I’ve done this and it works great with my Manduka eKO SuperLite.
So even though a travel mat can be an addtional burden, many reviewers said they were very happy they took their travel mat on the road with them.
The best travel yoga mats on the road
After a lot of personal research, I came up with two mats that I would pick as good choices for being the best travel yoga mat. I own both of them and they’re very similar.
There was one other travel mat that scored 4.4 on Amazon, the Jade Travel Yoga Mat. This one came in third on my list for a few reasons that I cover in this review of the Jade Travel Yoga Mat.
In this review, I’ll focus on my overall favorite for best travel mat: Manduka’s eKO SuperLite.
Size and weight
The Manduka eKO SuperLite mat measures 24” x 68” and weighs just 2 lbs. Manduka does stipulate that the weight may vary due to the uniqueness of the natural rubber material from which it’s constructed.
The thickness of the Manduka eKO SuperLite mat is 1.5mm, just a smidge thicker than the Gaiam Sol Thin-Grip Yoga Mat, which is 1mm. But, I just gave my new Gaiam Sol Thin-Grip a try and could not tell any difference in thickness between these two mats. They appear to be twins.
The size and weight difference in these two mats is negligible.
Yes, but can I stuff in a shoe?
Both the Manduka eKO SuperLite and Gaiam mats boasted exceptional packability, saying they fold into a small size and can be carried easily in a travel bag (even a carry-on size) or large purse or backpack. I can attest to the fact that the Manduka mat can fold up and go in my small rolling carry-on bag. It takes up about as much space as a hoodless sweatshirt (hey, those hoods can take up some SPACE!).
But considering you’ll have your own mat with you, the folded size seems acceptable. I think if it was thinner it wouldn’t perform as well and wouldn’t be worth taking.
When I first got the Manduka eKO SuperLite mat I was really amazed at the size and performance and I’m still very happy with this travel mat. I’ve also loaned it to friends and got glowing reviews back on it.
Many of the online reviewers for the Manduka eKO SuperLite were impressed by the packability and described all types of bags they tucked their mat into to get to class. Only a few reviewers complained that the mat took up too much space; my guess is that these customers were a little unrealistic in their expectations. Try carrying around a full-size mat on a long trip, and you’ll be singing a different tune.
I love what one reviewer shared, who used the Manduka eKO SuperLite as his everyday mat. He found the thickness (or lack thereof) helped his body communicate with the “touch points on the ground more,” enhancing his practice. “Thick mats now feel ‘numb.’ ” He finished his review by saying it was “the finest mat available.” Manduka should consider keeping this dude in mats for life!
Good for the planet
Manduka’s eKO SuperLite travel mat is made in two layers. The top layer is rubber (from the real Amazon, not the website) and the bottom layer is a biodegradable cotton and polyester blend that’s embedded in the rubber using a heat process (no glue, so no toxins). This fabric scrim is said to increase the stretch-resistance of the mat. I agree that the mat does not stretch during use. It stays put and provides a good base for your practice.
Although most reviewers didn’t bring up this issue, a few reviewers mentioned that the mat moved or bunched up a bit during their yoga practice. This may be due to the style of yoga people practice or the way different yogins move during their practice. I don’t find that an issue with my Manduka travel mat. It stays put.
Manduka does say that the eKO SuperLite is 99% latex free and if you are very sensitive it would be best to go with their ProLite or Pro mat (which are not travel mats and are not made of rubber).
The trade off with natural rubber mats is that they usually don’t have as long a lifespan as synthetic mats. Reports on this mat have it lasting at least three years or more. Some people are using the mats daily as their primary mat and not just as a travel mat.
I’ve had my Manduka eKO SuperLite travel mat for about six years and it looks new. I store it properly and use it primarily for travel. I’m pleased with the durability of this mat.
But the big pluses with a rubber mat are that it’s toxin-free and biodegradable! When its life is over, you toss it in the trash and rest assured that your conscious will be clear. 😉
Let’s talk price
Manduka’s travel mat is available in five colors with inspirational-but-nondescriptive names (Delmara, Evolve, Insight, Thunder and Zola) on Amazon.com and the price ranges from around $35 to $43 at the time of this review.
But will it be supportive of my every need?
Grip, texture and slip-resistance are key factors for any mat and this mat rates highly in these areas. In my experience, a rubber mat has great grip, noticeably better than any synthetic mat.
In fact, my Manduka eKO SuperLite travel mat has better grip than my Manduka Pro mat (formerly known as The Black Mat). Other owners of the eKO SuperLite mat loved the grip and feel of it as well, and only a very small percentage complained about slipping, one because she had lotion on her hands. Lotion combined with sweat will cause slipping on ANY mat.
If you’re a heavy sweater keep a towel handy. Again, any yoga mat will slip if you have pools of sweat on your mat. And the Manduka mat has a closed-cell design to not absorb water or sweat, which is said to improve its durability and keep bacteria growth down (now that’s a plus!).
The construction of Manduka’s eKO SuperLite travel mat seems to make for optimal grip, durability and slip-resistance. I can back up these claims.
Manduka eKO SuperLite in ThunderFor the love of mat
When you first get your rubber mat out of their packaging you may notice a rubber smell. Some reviewers complained about the strength of this odor and how it lingered. I personally didn’t notice a strong smell when I opened my Manduka mat for the first time, but maybe my sense of smell isn’t as sensitive.
I suggest you air the mat out before first use or give it a wipe down with a yoga mat spray. Find a super-simple homemade mat cleaner recipe here. If you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, then here’s a whole page of great mat cleaners on amazon.com.
Manduka suggests you let your mat dry before storing it and roll up the mat for storage, don’t leave it folded. I agree with this. Leaving the mat folded for long periods will make it reluctant to lay flat when you unfold it for use. (Ha! You want to practice on an eager mat, not a reluctant one.)
And because this is a natural rubber mat it is best to not store it in a hot car or in the direct sunlight. This will speed up the biodegrading process.
When you feel the need to clean your mat, don’t toss it in the washing machine (although I’ll admit that I have washed mine once or twice…ssshhhhh, this is our little secret, k?). Just spray it with a good mat wash and wipe it down. This’ll lengthen the life of your mat. Don’t use soap, scrub brushes or other extreme cleaning measures.
The Manduka eKO SuperLite travel yoga mat is really a top-notch travel companion. The benefits of carrying it with outweigh the costs. I know you won’t be disappointed.
Is it the same experience as practicing on your cushy home yoga mat? No. But having gone without a mat while travelling in the past, it’s a whole lot better than leaving home without it.