Jack Wolfskin Trail Mat Air | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Jack Wolfskin Trail Mat Air | Review

We test out Jack Wolfskin’s brand new lightweight sleeping mat for lightweight backpackers – the Trail Mat Air

Ready for the 2020 spring and summer season, Jack Wolfskin has released two new sleeping mats: the Trail Mat Air (£100) and the Cosy Rest (£110). Both are pitched in the mid-range price bracket, but each product has a different target audience. The Trail Mat Air has been designed for hikers and wild campers who need a lightweight, compact sleeping system for their summer adventures; while the three-season Cosy Rest – which is really rather heavy (1.2kg heftier than the Trail Mat Air) but extremely warm – is better designed for campsite use.

We haven’t tested out the Cosy Rest yet, but we did manage to get our hands on the brand new Trail Mat Air. Coronavirus ruined our plans to take it up a mountain, but we’ve fully analysed its performance at home including a ‘wild camp’ in the garden. This is what we learnt.

Described by Jack Wolfskin as ‘ideal for summer trekking and hiking trips’, the Trail Mat Air is a sleeping mat designed for adventures where weight and packed size are key priorities. Weighing in at just 490g, it definitely fits into the ultra-light category and won’t weigh you down when you’re powering up Helvellyn or blasting out the miles on the West Highland Way.

“Anything under 500g for a full-length… sleeping pad is pretty good going”

Anything under 500g for a full-length, inflatable sleeping pad is pretty good going, but 490g isn’t revolutionary (the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite checks in at 250g, for example). But you can’t really complain at this price point. Costing £100, the Trail Mat Air is certainly competitively priced, and you’ll likely have to spend around 50% more to get yourself a sleeping mat weighing less than 490g.

All outdoor gear involves compromise between different priorities and we reckon Jack Wolfskin have struck a nice balance between weight and price. In terms of packed size, again there’s nothing world-beating here, but the Trail Mat Air does pack down compactly (22x10cm). It’s almost exactly the same size as a 1-litre Nalgene bottle and fits neatly inside a thin, 100% polyamide sack. No complaints with that, whatsoever.

Giveaway: Win Jack Wolfskin’s New Lightweight Sleeping Mat

In terms of warmth, the Trail Mat Air has an R-Value of 1.8. In the same way insulation efficiency in houses is measured, the R-Value is a system used to quantify the thermal efficiency of sleeping mats – the higher the value, the better the insulation. There’s no hard-and-fast rule with this system, but as a guide opt for an R-value of 5 or higher for winter wild camping and above 2 for three-season use. This puts the Trail Mat Air firmly in the two-season use category, or – at a push – suitable for autumn use on warmer days or if you’re the type of person who doesn’t struggle with the cold.

For £100, we’d have liked to see a slightly higher R-Value, providing consumers with the versatility of three-season use. But for wild campers who are mostly active in spring and summer, the Trail Mat Air is a good choice. Similarly, if you want to camp all year round, a sensible strategy is to own a very warm, thick sleeping pad with down insulation for winter, and an ultra-light, two-season mat for spring and summer. The Trail Mat Air hits the brief for the latter.

The design of the Trail Mat Air features ‘special welded air chamber construction’, as Jack Wolfskin put it. The individual chambers are interconnected, meaning air inside the mat can flow freely between them and the mat can flex and reshape to adapt to your body and sleeping position. This improves comfort during sleep, while the dimple-like structure of the mat’s outer is far more conducive to a good night’s sleep than some other designs. Vertical baffles, for example, can feel like you’re lying on a cheap lilo and closed-cell foam pads are not very cushioned at all.

“Vertical baffles… can feel like you’re lying on a cheap lilo”

The Trail Mat Air’s outer – the material you lie on – has a soft, textured finish that is agreeable to the touch. Made from a sturdy 30-denier brushed polyester, with a high tenacity weave and abrasion resistance, it feels far more durable than other ultra-light mats constructed with super-thin materials. Jack Wolfskin’s approach has two main benefits: punctures are far less likely, and creaking and rustling when you shuffle and turn over at night (a problem that plagues some ultra-light mats) are minimised.

The size of the Trail Mat Air is pretty standard. The length and width are ample for most users, although anyone north of 6ft may have their toes poking off the end of the mat. The thickness of 6.5cm is really quite good, providing good clearance between your body and the ground. This makes the low R-Value of 1.8 slightly surprising, although the mat’s two-layer construction with only very light insulation probably explains this. The mat is very gently tapered towards the foot end, measuring 40cm at its narrowest, which ensures effective use of your precious tent space and syncs well with mummy-style sleeping bags.

Related: Best Walks In The Lake District

Perhaps the niftiest feature of the Trail Mat Air, however, is its twin valves: one for inflation and one for deflation. A very wide inflation aperture enables super-quick, effortless inflation, helped by the fact that the valve is one-way only – no annoying loss of the air you’ve just blown in, a gripe many campers have with other mats. The equally wide aperture for deflation works perfectly too: simply open it up and the mat self-deflates effectively, ready to be folded lengthways, rolled up and packed away in its bag. Both valves also feel durable and well-made, providing extra peace of mind – flimsy, easy-to-break valves have proven to be a flaw with other ultra-light mats.

Sadly, due to the Covid-19 lockdown I wasn’t able to really put the Jack Wolfskin Trail Mat Air through its paces on a genuinely rugged and adventurous wild camp. Instead I was forced to make do with a night under the stars in my back garden, on a rather balmy spring day in the Lake District. But that at-home adventurous spirit certainly gave me a valuable insight into the pros and cons of the Trail Mat Air.

It is very easy to inflate and deflate, which I loved, as I hate all the inefficient faffing around of setting up camp and de-camping, and I had no complaints about comfort either. It was cosy, cushioned and supportive to lie on and I slept really well, once I’d stopped gazing at the stars through the mesh of MSR Hubba NX tent.

“The Trail Mat Air knows what it is and isn’t trying to be anything else”

It was easily warm enough for spring and summer use, but I definitely won’t be reaching for it in colder conditions. That said, the Trail Mat Air knows what it is and isn’t trying to be anything else. It’s a well-priced, mid-range sleeping mat that’s designed for adventures in warmer climes, where weight and packed size are key considerations – and, if those are your priorities too, it’s a solid choice.

Full Specifications

Abrasion resistant 30-denier polyester / Flexible air chamber construction / 2 wide-aperture valves for rapid inflation and deflation/ 100% polyamide stuff sack / R-value 1.8 / Repair kit included

Available from:
jackwolfskin.co.uk

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