A yoga mat is a curious thing, because we are asking of it two seemingly opposing favors: 1.) to cushion us from the ground, and 2.) to allow us to maintain contact with the ground.
Choosing a yoga mat then becomes a back-and-forth battle between comfort and performance. After all, you can’t do yoga in a feather bed, as much as you might like to. Similarly, you won’t get very far if your spine is grinding up against a hard floor, sending shockwaves of pain throughout your body.
Traveling with a yoga mat is even more complicated, because it brings the whole idea of weight into the mix. While it might not be that hard to drag a heavy rubber mat from one side of the studio to the other, hauling it from New York to Los Angeles is a different story. The best travel yoga mats are the ones that manage to retain their cushion while cutting back on both weight and roll-up or fold-up size.
We’re taking a look at the 6 Best Travel Yoga Mats, followed by a Comprehensive Guide on how to choose the best one for you.
A Note on Yoga & Personal Health
Before we begin, we would like to take a moment to point out that yoga is a deeply personal practice that is, at its heart, a conversation with your own body. For this reason we ask that you listen to your body above all else when selecting new equipment. We are all built a little differently and are at different levels of practice. Be gracious with yourself and with your body, and listen to the things that its trying to tell you.
Best Yoga Mat to Take on Vacation
JADE Travel Yoga Mat
LENGTH: 68 inch / 74 inch
WEIGHT: 2.9 lbs / 3.3 lbs
BEST FEATURE: Lightweight and thin; great for traveling
At a slim 1/8”, JADE’s travel-style yoga mat is one of the thinnest that we looked at for our review, however, it is far from being the least comfortable. While the reduces thickness is chiefly in service of the products portability, it hardly feels as thin as it looks, providing enough support for whatever kind of activity you looking to do, from simple stretching to advanced hot yoga.
JADE mats have certainly become known for their added cushion, so even this thinner model manages to be significantly more comfortable than most entry-level yoga mats. Some users might appreciate a thinner mat over a thicker one, in which case, going with JADE’s model might not be such a bad idea.
However, there is more to these mats than cushion. In fact, one thing that might be even more impressive than their comfort is their incredible grip ability. Any JADE mat is going to be one of the most “grippy” mats that you have ever used, holding itself in place even through the most vigorous moves and sequences.
But there is one thing that we just can’t seem to get over, and that is the smell. The chemical-like rubber smell on JADE’s products is so strong that it makes it nearly impossible to use them right out of the box, in fact, it helps a lot to air them out for a number of days before you try to take them to class with you.
One other drawback is that this mat is not as easy to clean as most that are out there. In fact, the manufacturer doesn’t recommend using a normal mat spray, but rather a 4:1 mixture of water and white vinegar. So it’s a bit more high maintenance than our other yoga mats, but for this level of stickiness, it might just be worth it.
Best Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat for Traveling
DYNACTIVE Yoga Mat ¼” Thick
WEIGHT: 2.5 lbs
CUSHION: ¼” (7mm)
BEST FEATURE: Eco-friendly TPE material
One of the biggest problems with the yoga gear industry is that so many products sprang up in a relatively short amount of time, and in all the rush, many manufacturers settled for construction materials that were not only sub-par in terms of performance and comfort, but they were also pretty bad for the environment. What good is doing yoga every day if it’s going to harm the planet in which we live? Doesn’t that defeat the point?
Fortunately, the wiser yoga companies have started to wise up, and many of them have made eco-friendly materials and processes part of their mission. The folks over at DynActive are one such company, and they have managed to incorporate these eco-conscious materials into their lineup without increasing their costs significantly. In fact, the DYNACTIVE yoga mat happens to be one of the most reasonably priced yoga mats on our list.
The material we are talking about? They call it TPE, or Thermo Plastic Elastomer if you want to be precise. This material is a pretty big upgrade to the ordinary (& dangerous) PVC, EVA, or NBR mats that have been the norm for such a long time. The problem with those old style mats is that their production processes not only put harmful chemicals into the environment, but some of those chemicals ended up in the mat, and it is entirely possible that they can end up in your skin as well.
We love the eco-friendly concept of this mat, but it is perhaps not enough to redeem it from its chief drawback. This yoga mat is a bit too slippery, and no matter what surface you are on, it seems to slip a bit more than its competitors. Specifically it seems to slip across the skin, which makes even the most basic poses like Downward Dog difficult to perform.
Best Non-Slip Travel Yoga Mat
JODREAM Natural Rubber Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat
WEIGHT: 5 lbs
BEST FEATURE: Lots of different designs available
The first thing you are going to notice when taking a look at JODREAM’s newest entry into the yoga-mat market is its remarkable style. Unlike many other yoga mat makers who only provide a solid color or two, Jodream has made available a staggering 16 different designs, each one as unique as the last and guaranteed to help you express yourself and bring you a sense of aesthetic peace.
But as I probably do not need to tell you, the way a yoga mat looks has very little to do with how well it will perform in the studio. That’s why we put the Jodream yoga mat through the same rigorous testing process that we used with every other product, and the results were a bit surprising.
Considering the cost, you might think that you were paying for the design, and there might be little else to write home about. However, what we found was that it was actually a pretty comfortable mat. At 5mm thickness it certainly isn’t the most plush yoga mat on our list, but the amount of knee and joint support it offered was impressive.
Our favorite part? We would have to say that the ability to clean this thing with just water makes it ideal for the yogi on the go who doesn’t want to carry around specialized mat cleaners everywhere they go. We recommend putting a touch of soap in warm water for best results, but if you are just rinsing with water, you won’t notice any problems.
As for drawbacks? There were a few, but chief among them was that although this mat is being advertised as non-slip, we figured it would at least have enough grip for basic yoga, however, the skin-to-rubber contact is too slick to hold up to serious use.
Best Multipurpose Yoga Mat
Manduka EKO Yoga and Pilates Mat
WEIGHT: 8 lbs
BEST FEATURE: Extra length means that it’s great for Pilates too
Perhaps the biggest selling point behind Yoga gear manufacturer MANDUKA’s signature mat is its eco-friendly construction. The company has made it a cornerstone of their brand, and it seems to have paid off as the EKO has been one of the hottest selling yoga mats on the market the last few years running.
First off: no harmful PVCs or plastics. Everything is made from materials that are fully bio-degradable and not harvested from the Amazon, which is where many rubber products come from and contribute to devastating amounts of deforestation. In addition, everything inside the mat is non-toxic, which means that you don’t have to worry about any harmful chemicals seeping into your skin while your face is pressed against the mat in Cow Face pose.
Yet with all this talk about skipping the bad chemicals, there sure is a pretty distinct rubber smell coming out of this thing. We realize that this is simply what good rubber can smell like, but man! It sure is a strong odor. We left this mat out and unrolled for close to a week, and even then we were having trouble ignoring the smell. The odor has diminished some after a week and a half, so we do expect that the smell will continue to get better as time goes on.
If there are any other complaints we had with the Manduke EKO mat, it might just be the weight. 8 pounds is a lot to carry around for a yoga mat designed for travel, so if you are on the go and moving from studio to studio a lot, we might recommend going with one of the lighter models that we reviewed here.
Other than that, this mat offers a wonderful non-slip performance; one of the best that we’ve seen for a yoga mat that comes in at well below $100.
Best Yoga Mat for Frequent Traveling
ULTRALIGHT Travel Yoga Mat
BEST FEATURE: Folds down small for easy travel
Of all the yoga mats we looked at for this list, not a single one of them came as close to being a truly great yoga mat for traveling as this one did. That’s because it’s the lightest mat on the list (2.2lbs) and also packs down to a convenient 12”x3”x4” when all is said and done. That’s actually about half as big as the traditional yoga mat is when it’s all rolled up. When you consider all the extra space that this creates in your luggage, you’ll realize what we’re talking about when we say this is simply the best yoga mat for the truly on-the-go yoga enthusiast.
However all of this compact portability has to come at a cost, and unfortunately the cost here is cushion, as this mat is a scant 1/16” wide (1.5mm). This makes it the thinnest mat on our list by some margin. While that’s not exactly a deal-breaker, it does mean that this mat is more suitable to be laid on top of a soft surface like carpet or grass as opposed to hard or rough surfaces. In addition, some poses that put stress on joints or bones might be uncomfortable without the extra padding.
We can’t really take any points away from the ULTRALIGHT yoga mat for being thin, however. That’s because it was designed for the very purpose of being lightweight and portable. A thicker mat simply would not have been possible with the same overall weight and small fold-down size. However we can take away a few points for this mats lack of ability to handle significant amounts of sweat without becoming like a slip-n-slide. Anyone who sweats as much as we do (even in normal temperature yoga, much less hot yoga) knows how big of a problem this can be when you can’t even hold yourself up without slipping every which way.
Most Comfortable Yoga Mat for Traveling
ANDDOA TPE Bicolor 6mm Yoga Mat
WEIGHT: 2.5 lbs
BEST FEATURE: Very plush & comfortable
Here is a yoga mat that attempts to do the previously impossible by providing unparalleled cushion and comfort while dedicating itself to safe and eco-friendly thermos-plastic elastomer (TPE) construction. The fact that they were able to do both things in one product was nothing short of impressive for us, a team of yoga-heads who have at this point tried more yoga mat brands than we have cared to count.
At 6mm thickness, this is actually the thickest yoga mat on our list. The extra millimeters of foam may not look like much, but they increase support and comfort by an incredible factor and can actually make it easier for you to do some of the more difficult poses that require a lot of pressure on sensitive parts of the body. For instance, we can think of more than a few occasions when a bit of extra support along our spine would have been the difference between sticking it out and calling it early.
Anyone can make a thick piece of rubber, but making one that is light enough to carry around with you is a different story altogether. Somehow, some way, these guys were able to make a 6mm thick yoga mat that is only 2.5 pounds, which is lighter than most traditional yoga mats by some degree. We are going to mark this is the “pros” column.
The non-slip properties of this yoga mat are pretty good. Not fantastic, but better than most of the stuff on our list, and it seemed to hold up to sweat better than any one of us predicted.
Speaking of sweat, we might as well take a moment to mention that yoga mats constructed with TPE are not suitable for temperatures of over 100F, which means that they are not the best option for Bikram (hot) yoga.
The good thing about TPE however is how easy to clean it is. All you have to do is wipe the mat down with soap and water, then let air dry, and you will be good to go.
The thing about testing yoga mats is that you can’t just lie down on one and expect to know how well it is going to perform in the heat of the moment. You actually have to use it, and when it comes to yoga, that means a significant commitment of time and sweat.
Of the six yoga mats we took a look at, there were several that exceeded our expectations. More than we thought there would be. We were surprised by how many manufacturers have decided to make only eco-friendly yoga mats. It’s a trend that we can get behind.
For our money, we couldn’t find a better value than the ANDDOA TPE BICOLOR YOGA MAT. It is certainly not a name brand that is known for yoga stuff, but they managed to produce a mat that is both lightweight and comfortable, and wont slip out from under you every five minutes.
However we would be foolish to not recommend an actual travel yoga mat, considering that it’s in the title of the article. That’s why we give our full recommendation to the ULTRALIGHT TRAVEL YOGA MAT. You are not going to find a lighter or more compact yoga mat on the market that fits as well into your luggage or backpack.
How about yourselves? Are there any yoga mats missing from our list that you would like to see next time around?
A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing a Yoga Mat
Let’s be honest: choosing a yoga mat isn’t as easy as it used to be. With all the new companies on the market looking to take a piece of the pie, and each one of them offering new and innovative products to compete, it can be a bit overwhelming navigating the whole process. Fortunately, we’re here to help.
One of the things that varies most from one yoga mat to another is length. While it may seem like a pretty simple thing to figure out, the length of your yoga mat can play an important role into how effective your yoga session is.
For us, we like to recommend that you have enough room to move freely. That’s why our rule of thumb is to choose a yoga mat that is at least six inches taller than you. This will make sure that you won’t feel constricted when trying that new sequence.
Thickness / Cushion
The whole point of a yoga mat is to provide a layer of protection between you and the ground, so it is perhaps no surprise that thickness is one of the most commonly talked about dimensions of your yoga mat. Because it varies so greatly, it is perhaps necessary to take a look at what kinds of widths exist and what they are chiefly used for.
• 2mm Yoga Mats (1/16”)
While some thinner mats exist, 2mm is about as thin as most of them come. Because it’s not very thick, these types of mats are generally only recommended for travel applications as it is too thin for everyday use.
• 3mm Yoga Mats (1/8”)
This is a slightly more common thickness of yoga mat that adds a touch of comfort without a whole lot of extra weight, so it can certainly be considered ideal for the “travel yoga” category.
• 6mm Yoga Mats (1/4”)
It can be said that 6mm yoga mats are the industry standard in terms of thickness. It provides the best balance of thickness and overall weight. However they are significantly heavier than the 3mm and 2mm counterparts, so are not often recommended for frequent travel.
• 12mm Yoga Mats (1/2”)
While there are plenty of 12mm yoga mats out there, this amount of cushioning can actually make it more difficult to do yoga as it becomes significantly harder to keep balance on some one-footed poses. With a slightly thinner yoga mat, the user will still have comfort while being able to have more connection with the floor, which is needed for balance.
Construction Materials: What’s the Difference?
When shopping for a new yoga mat there is one thing that you will notice right away: there are a lot of different products on the market, each one seemingly with its own patented construction technique.
While many of them are more similar than they would care to mention, there are some key differences in these construction materials that can affect how the mat itself holds up to a vigorous yoga session.
Foam-Based Yoga Mats
There are a lot of foam-constructed yoga mats out there, and for good reason. It is a remarkably inexpensive material that can provide high-cushion with a reduced weight.
TPE (Thermo Plastic Elastomer) Yoga Mats
The rise of thermoplastic technology in the yoga industry has come of little surprise to many. It provides a durable and elastic synthetic material that is less harmful to the environment than traditional methods, and uses no actual rubber, whose harvest can damage rainforests worldwide.
Cotton Yoga Mats
More traditionally used for Yin Yoga and restorative yoga, these natural-fiber mats are more of a specialty product and are not commonly seen in beginner yoga classes. They are a natural from-nature product and not dissimilar from a thick canvas blanket.
All Natural Rubber Yoga Mats
All natural rubber is one of the best textures that a true yoga enthusiast will experience. It has an unmatched grip and cushion for the weight and are quite durable compared to their foam counterparts. When sustainably harvested they are not damaging to the environment, but you want to make sure that you get a product that is made from non-Amazon harvested rubber.
So What do I do with my Old Yoga Mat?
If you are doing what we think you’re doing and clicking your way over to your favorite store to buy a brand new yoga mat, then you might soon be faced with the question of what to do with your old yoga mat.
Fortunately, a solution is available. In fact, they’ve got about 50 of them. Check ou5 Gaiam.com’s 50 WAYS TO REUSE YOUR YOGA OR FITNESS MAT for the full scoop.
Frequently Asked Questions
• Q: How much does the standard size mat weigh?
A: If we were making a generalization, we might say that the average yoga mat is about 4 pounds, but there are plenty examples of yoga mats that are both lighter and heavier.
For example, a “travel-style” mat might be as light as 2lbs, while an extra-thick 12mm yoga mat might be as heavy as 8lbs.
• Q: Do they contain polyurethane or made of natural rubber?
A: Because there are so many different manufacturers producing yoga mats these days, it is important to look at the product specifications to see what kind of materials are going into yours.
In response to your question, there is no polyurethane in any of the yoga mats that we reviewed here today, however, some products may exist in which polyurethane might be a component.
As far as natural rubber, none of these mats utilize it as it is not the best material for a “travel-style” yoga mat, as heavy and bulky as it is.
• Q: Do they have a chemical smell?
A: One of the most common complaints that our team had about these yoga mats was the firm and lingering chemical smell that is often reported with new yoga mats. While others may describe it more simply as a rubbery smell, there is no debate about the scent’s existence.
While most of this smell should fade over time, it can take months of repeated use for it to fully air out. Our recommendation is to let your mat sit out and open for 2 to 3 months after you first purchase it. While that may seem like a long time, it will give that smell plenty of time to dissipate, so it doesn’t distract you from your practice.
• Q: Which of them is used for hot yoga?
A: This is a great question, because most of the mats we looked at here were constructed with Thermoplastics, which is a material that is not suitable for the high temperatures that are associated with Bickram / Hot yoga. For Bickram / Hot Yoga, a natural rubber mat is recommended. Something like the JODREAM NATURAL RUBBER YOGA MAT.