Gaiam Foldable Review
Cons: Minimal padding
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Gaiam Foldable mat is a 2mm thickness travel mat with integrated creases for maximum portability. It weighs only one pound and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. It's made of 6P free PVC (free from 6 harmful phthalates) and is 68" long and 24" wide.
We scored the Gaiam Foldable mat in all of the same categories as the regular, full-thickness mats that we tested. While it didn't have a great all-around score, it still beat some regular mats overall for performance, including the Gaiam Premium.
Traction is a key consideration when purchasing a yoga mat, particularly if you have a vinyasa-style practice. When you're holding your umpteenth Down Dog, you want your hands and feet to stay where you plant them.
The surface of the mat is surprisingly sticky, much more so than the Gaiam Premium. It has a tacky feel to it, and when we pushed our hands on it, they tended to stay in place. As we noticed when testing a travel mat next to a regular mat, part of the traction achieved on a mat comes from your hands pushing down and into the yoga mat. With an ultra-thin mat like this one and the 1.6mm Jade Voyager, there is little "give" in the mat to help with traction. This was particularly noticeable when practicing on a hardwood floor with no additional padding or mat underneath it. However, once we layered this mat on top of another one or used it on a carpet, we were able to achieve even better traction.
The traction is still not as good as the Jade Voyager though — that company seems to have the secret sauce to creating ultra-sticky mats, so if traction is your thing, then you might want to consider that mat instead. However, as we'll discuss later, the Gaiam Foldable has some other great features that made it a better overall choice as a travel mat in our estimation.
While the name of this category might imply doing yoga over a puddle of water (which we did test for by the way because that's what we do), it also means how the traction on the mat changes with even just a slight sheen of sweat on our palms. Some mats get stickier, like the Lululemon The Mat, and the mat/towel hybrid Aurorae Synergy, while others, like Manduka PRO, get slicker. This mat fell into the latter category, and its wet traction just wasn't as good as its dry.
As with all of the other PVC mats that we tested, as soon as they become even slightly damp from your sweat, they start to feel like a slip and slide. The tacky nature of this mat did make it feel slightly better than the full size Gaiam, but not nearly as secure as a mat like the Lululemon The Mat. The wet traction on the Jade Voyager was also slightly better than this one.
Comfort and Stability
Well, we can't say that this mat offers much of anything in the Comfort and Stability category, hence its meager score. With only 2mm of padding underneath, it feels like there is almost nothing there, particularly when practicing on a hardwood floor.
We now a single mm doesn't seem very big, but the difference between a 2 and 3mm mat, and a 3 and 4mm one, is significant. Some people do prefer to have less cushioning underneath, as it can help make standing poses easier. But, it doesn't offer much padding for your joints. We tend to opt for more padding on our regular mat, and then we can step off the thing when trying difficult standing poses like Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana or Extended Big Hand to Toe pose. This is a travel mat though, and as such, it can't be too thick, or it won't fit in your suitcase. And, if you're practicing on a hotel room floor (which is typically carpeted), there will be enough padding already that a thin mat like this should suffice.
It did feel slightly more stable than the Jade Voyager, and it tended to stay in place better when practicing than the thinner Voyager. If you're looking for something that is the complete opposite of this mat, we recommend the Manduka Pro. It is 6mm thick and sure to cushion and support even the boniest of yogis.
We were pleased with the durability of this mat and gave it a 7 out of 10 for this category. PVC mats tend to have a long lifespan if well cared for, and they're more likely to get shredded by your cat than anything else. However, it being so thin, it might not last as long as a thicker mat. We did really like the way the creases for folding it are stamped into the mat. This should help prevent it from cracking along those lines, something that concerns us about the Jade Voyager. It might be wise to store it rolled up rather than folded though, just in case.
A yoga mat doesn't get much more portable than this, and we gave the Gaiam Foldable a 10 out of 10 for portability. We loved how this mat folded down compactly, and it weighs only one pound. You'll barely notice this mat in your backpack or yoga bag, and it takes up little to no room in a carry-on bag. You can change the configuration of the fold lines a bit, and we preferred to almost line one side of our bag with it and then pack our clothes and other things on top. While the Jade Voyager can be folded as well, it doesn't pack down as neatly or easily as this one. The stamped creases let you fold the Gaiam in seconds, which is very convenient.
Ease of Care
This mat was also relatively easy to care for. Because it has a "closed-cell" construction, it won't absorb your body oils or sweat, but you might want to clean occasionally anyways. Gaiam recommends spot cleaning the mat with some mat wash and a damp cloth and laying it flat to dry out of the sun.
This mat will set you back only $25, which is not an unreasonable amount to spend to guarantee that you never have to stretch out on a dirty hotel room floor again!
It seems as though yoga mats are getting more and more specialized, with ones for Hot Yoga, or Yin, or super sticky ones for Vinyasa. But what's a yogi to do when they travel? Have a dedicated travel mat as well, apparently. If you and your practice are always on the go, it makes sense to have something with you, and the Gaiam Foldable is a decent option.
— Cam McKenzie Ring