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.
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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.
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
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