Why Surfers Need Wetsuit Bags & Changing Mats

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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.

When you look at the category as a whole, most surfing changing mats are pretty much the same.

There are two things to look for.

One is quality.

Most bags appear to have the same or similar quality.

There is what we consider one cheaper option on our list, which has its place depending on your needs.

The second thing to look for is the features of the changing mat.

Some bags cinch up into a sack better than others.

Some have handles.

Some don’t.

Look for the features you want.

Features will be your guide to finding the best wetsuit changing bag for your needs.

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.

Artificial Grass

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

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.