A surfer has a wide variation of changing mats to choose from in the market today. Some are only mats, some are mats and bags (or if you prefer “sacks”), and some come with changing robe. While buying a changing mat isn’t a big commitment, most bags in the $20 to $25 range, choosing the right one will make getting out of your wetsuit more convenient as there are few features to consider.
As suggested above, most mats can be converted to bags when the drawstrings are pulled, so we will be using “mat” and “bag” interchangeably in this review. Let’s get into the reviews so we can get you out of your wetsuit easier.
What is a Surf Changing Mat?
A changing mat provides protection between you and the ground when changing out of your wetsuit. Most of them are flattened, circular pieces of plastic that prevents direct contact between you and your wetsuit with the ground.
The mat helps to keep the dirt and sand and from the ground from getting back on to your wetsuit after you shower off as you change out of it. Also, the changing mat gives you a barrier between you and the ground, so you won’t find yourself pushing and pulling yourself out of your wetsuit directly against the asphalt which could lengthen the life of your suit by preventing holes and rips that would otherwise occur from mashing it against the asphalt during your getting out of the wetsuit dance, almost falling, I’m in a hurry, post-surf ritual.
As mentioned, many of these mats transform into bags, really sacks, that are pulled closed via a drawstring. This helps prevent any residual water left on the wetsuit from spilling out of the bag and into your car which ultimately makes your car smell like some terrible mix of wet dog, bad fish and the carpet of a frat house. How you care to (or not) describe the stank, that smell is terrible and it can stick around a long time even after you have cleaned the car. You can avoid it all together and get a changing mat.
Who Are Wetsuit Changing Mats Good For?
If you want to keep a soaking wet wetsuit from causing troubles while traveling, these mats/bags are a must. If you want to keep your wetsuit and your feet clean, get a changing mat.
How to Use a Changing Mat
It’s pretty simple.
- Once you are done surfing you need to spread your surfing mat.
- If it is a stringed mat, you should pull out the strings as long as possible and spread it flat on the sand or the ground.
- Step on it with your bare foot and start to take off your wetsuit.
- Any sand, water, seaweed, etc that has been collected on the surf suit will collected on the mat.
- After you are out of your wetsuit, draw the string back tightly in to close bag.
- Pop the bag in the back of your truck or in the trunk of your car in a way that it won’t topple over when you are driving.
Features of a Changing Mat
The following are the features required for a good surf changing mat
- Comfortability – Some of the thicker mats are like stepping on (fake) grass. They are comfortable and is a consideration if you have sensitive feet.
- Foldable - The surf changing mat should be flexible and easy to fold. This is because once it has been used it is usually folded and carried as a bag for easy. Bags will be easier to fold as you use them.
- Portability - The mats should be easily portable by being light in weight and not bulky (see foldable). Most bags are comparable in weight and bulk. The exception is the grass mat.
- Retain water – A quality bag and your care of the bag will help prevent micro holes from developing, which then leads to leaking and stinky cars, negating the whole reason you got the bag in the first place. So, treat your surfing changing mat (bag) well, and it will treat you well.
Yes, the mat may be made with artificial grass. It makes it more comfortable and a little bulkier.
Transformation Into Bag or Not
When purchasing your mat consider if you want to use it for storing your wet wetsuit. Some mats come with a drawstring that is sown in, making it bag that when the strings are tightened.
This feature allows you to carry several items, like multiple wetsuits or wet towels, in a single bag and protects against any spillage from water that is still in the mat/bag.
Pull-up drawstrings make it possible to convert the mat into a bag. When tightened the surf changing mat becomes a bag and vice versa. The strings also increase or decrease the size of the bag.
Some bags come with easy to adjust barrel locks that keep the drawstrings in place after pulling them up. It’s a rather nice feature.
Storage (Does It Have Its Own Bag)
Some mats come with a little bag that you can use to tuck the mat into after you use it. It’s a nice to have feature that keeps the mat in a separate container vs allowing it to mix in with your towel in a bigger bag.
BPS Wetsuit Changing Mat/Waterproof Dry-Bag/Wet Bag
We think this bag has everything you need. It’s a simplified design with a few nifty features.
- Comfortable - The comfort is great to the user when using it both as a surf changing mat or when one carries it as a wet bag.
- Durability - The BPS wetsuit changing mat is made of durable material and can have a good life span if you take care of it.
- Size - The BPS wetsuit changing mat is 35” wide. Most other bags are 29”.
- Pocket – It’s got a little sealable pocket to pop in a bar of wax or sunscreen.
- Handles – Handles make it easy to us.
- Drawstrings – It’s got lockable drawstrings.
Dorsal Surf Changing Mat and Waterproof Wetsuit Bag
We liked this one because of the convertibility to a bag. It also has handles which help if you find yourself walking after your surf or you don’t like to fumble with wet drawstrings.
The drawstrings have a lock that is able to secure the items safely inside the bag. It’s helpful to know that your wetsuit is in the bag and water isn’t spilling out into your car.
Other Surfing changing Mats
Here are few more options to choose from.
Surf Grass Mat
This is the one true mat on the list. It does not change into a bag and it won’t keep your car dry.
However, we think this is a pairing with any changing mat you go with. We recommend using this mat to put on the ground and then putting the changing mat on top of it. Why? This grass mat gives you extra buffer between you changing mat and the ground and by doing so will help increase the lifespan of your changing mat. As durable as they are, sooner or later they do get micro holes and they start to leak. Using this mat may prevent that all together.
SUN CUBE Surf Poncho Changing Robe with Hood
Coming in at 30” wide, this bag is a good choice and it comes with a changing robe.
It comes with a bag to keep your changing mat in and it converts into a dry bag with a pull of the drawstrings.
SPRINGWT Wetsuit Changing Mat
The SPRINGWT wetsuit changing mat comes in 3 sizes: 19.5”, 35” and 50.7”. It is the cheapest bag on our list starting around $5 on the low end and $12 on the high end. Prices map to the size of the bag. It’s got drawstrings.
This is a no-frills (if that is a such a thing in the changing bag category) at a low price point. It’s great for younger surfers who are going to end up beating up the bag regardless of which bag they use.
Ho Stevie! Durable Wetsuit Changing Mat/Waterproof Dry-Bag for Surfers
The name of this bag pretty much says it all. It is durable and turns into a dry bag via drawstrings. It keeps your wetsuit from getting banged up when changing and prevents water from spilling out into your car.
EasyGoProducts Surf Sac
This surfing changing mat, or sac in this case given the name, has all of the typical features including durable material and drawstrings. The unique aspect of this bag is that it comes with a shoulder strap which would help with transportable as you are lugging everything out of your vehicle after a surf.
COR Surf Wetsuit Changing Mat
The COR surf wetsuit changing mat changes into a dry bag when you pull on the strings. The strings lock into place with barrel locks.
That's our short list of the best surfing changing mats and bags. Most have similar features, but there are a few that stand above the rest. Keep your car dry and stink free. Get a changing mat.