Usually when I want an item for yoga I am able to make a choice in a short period of time. This search for a yoga mat bag is continuing into its second week and I still have not made up my mind. I have however begun to realize what I really want in a mat bag which will help me to narrow the field a bit.
Like anything else related to yoga these days, the choices are endless. With mats, your choices include thickness, material, color and cost. The some of the same choices are involved in selecting a mat bag, but there are also special considerations I had not thought much about before I began my search.
Consideration 1: Do I want to carry the mat vertically or horizontally?
All of my mat bags prior to this have been vertical carry. This means that once the mat is in the bag, I sling it over my shoulder and the mat hangs out parallel to my body. Many of the mat bags I have been looking at would have me carrying the mat at my side horizontally, level to the floor. Other bags of a backpack variety have the mat situated where it rides horizontal across the back of your body. I can tell you right now that I want to avoid getting hung up in doorways and I can see that happening if my body space all of a sudden becomes 27 inches wide.
Consideration 2: How do I want the mat to go into the bag?
There are typically two choices: top load or side load. Top load is usually through a drawstring opening and I can tell you my experience with this is a hassle, even with a normal sized mat. My current yoga ‘log’ is 8.25 inches in diameter which gives it about a 26 inch circumference. Most mat bags are designed to fit a 6 inch diameter mat. Even what are termed extra large bags typically offer only an 8 inch diameter. I do not want a mat bag that makes me wrestle it on and off each time.
Side zippers are nice, but again the bag must be properly sized. If the zipper does not run the entire length of the bag then the mat must be negotiated through the opening. This has in the past proved difficult with relatively normal sized mats. Although not nearly as frustrating as a top opening scenario, the awkward side opening can take several attempts to get right.
The best answer to how I want my mat to go into the bag is that I want it to be effortless. I want to just plop the mat into the bag and be done with it. This is not totally due to my being lazy. That accounts for only about 20% of my desire. The reason I want my mat to just plop into the bag is because most of the time I am doing this I am also absorbed in a conversation with a student. In a perfect world I would devote all of my attention to the person I am talking to, but in the real world there is this thing called time. Time constraints require that I multitask and the less attention I have to pay to the mat bag, the more attention I can pay to the conversation. There is also a small consideration give to style. If I can put my mat in the bag in a seamless and smooth way then it looks stylish. If I have to struggle with a mat bag then points are taken off the style meter.
Consideration 3: How much am I willing to spend?
Little did I know when I began my mat bag search journey that the yoga market would let you pay as much or more for a yoga mat bag as you could pay for the most expensive yoga mat. This like many things in life seems a little strange. A yoga mat is something that you use to do yoga. Although you don’t technically need a yoga mat, I can tell you from personal experience that having a yoga mat makes yoga better. It also reduces yoga induced abrasions. Better mats are often thicker and provide better cushion and stability. It makes sense to me that mat prices range from just a few dollars to more than $100. Some of the expense is justified by the quality of the materials.
A yoga mat bag however is not actually a necessity. Oh, sure, using something to keep our mats from unrolling will help us carry the thing, but we could use twine or a scrap of cloth for that. It could even be said that a mat bag protects the mat but if protection was all that we were after we could drape a towel over the mat. Nope, a mat bag is 10% necessity and 90% convenience and style. Thus mat bag prices have little to do with function and a lot to do with looking good. This means that unlike the price of the mat, the price of the mat bag does little to let you know if it is a better bag. In my search the prices range from about $1.99 for the Coo2day mat bag to about $150.00 for the Manduka On Road Travel Bag. Granted one of them is just a mat bag and the other will hold your mat and a bunch of other junk, but seriously that is quite a difference in price.
I don’t know when my quest will end yet but I am learning a lot while I am looking and I will share with you the interesting parts. Stay tuned.