“ Brand: B&M / Type: Camping Mat „
I have absolutely no intention of going camping ever and the very idea of exercise makes me come out in a cold sweat, so there is a certain irony in my owning a camping mat for the purpose of doing exercises indoors. Needless to say, this was a largely unwanted gift from my well-intentioned Mum, after I had been moaning about the state of my tummy. I had, rather half-heartedly, tried to do a few sit-ups which resulted in aching stomach muscles and carpet burn on my behind. What I wanted from my mother was a bit of sympathy and some reassurance that my stomach doesn't look fat at all - what I actually got was this camping mat from B&M's so that I had no excuse not to continue those stomach crunches!
My mum picked this up from her local B&M store (part of a national chain of discount stores - like a pound shop, only slightly more expensive!) Apparently, this was reduced from £2.49, down to just £1.49. At that price, you may well think that you can't go wrong. The reality is that you also get what you pay for and for £1.49, you get an incredibly thin and flimsy feeling long foam mat.
The mat comes ready rolled up inside a cellophane wrapper. Once opened out and stretched out, the mat continues to think it is rolled out and both ends seem to want to curl up again. This is not so bad if you want to keep it rolled up but to actually use it, particularly as a camping mat to offer some support under a sleeping ball, it may well be a battle of wills. It's not overly wide so would be suitable for slimline one-man tents where space is really restricted, but doesn't offer much leeway if you're looking for a wider surface to exercise on. A potential advantage is that the mat is much longer than I'd imagined, so it should certainly accommodate even taller campers or exercisers. The length is far too long for my purposes but the excess can be rolled over quite tightly (which is very easy due to the thin malleable foam material) and I then use the rolled up section as a makeshift pillow.
As an aid to exercising, this approach works okay. I wouldn't say it's particularly comfortable, however, and I wouldn't fancy spending a night out in the outdoors using this as a base. The reality is that the material is just too thin and lightweight to offer much in the way of comfort. It is smooth to the touch so at least it avoids those dreaded carpet burns as the friction is certainly reduced when doing sit-ups. If I'd chosen a mat myself, I would have gone for something a little more padded and luxurious though as there is very little difference in terms of comfort between laying on this mat and laying directly on a hard concrete floor.
The foam material is incredibly light and flexible so it would be easy to cart about on top of a backpack for some hardened campers. It is not particularly robust though. My kids managed to tear a piece of the mat off on the very first day as they all wrestled to play with it. (They have discovered a fun new game involving laying at the edge of the mat and getting the other sibling to roll them up like a sausage roll! Hours of fun although not, of course, its original purpose!) The material should be okay for my limited usage - assuming I can keep it away from the kids- but if dragged about the great outdoors on a regular basis this would easily chip, tear and have numerous holes.
Despite being billed as a camping mat, this really isn't durable or thick enough for that purpose. As an exercise mat, it's okay but realistically if you're after a little support and comfort this doesn't offer much and you'll probably burn off more calories trying to get this to stay unravelled as you lay it out!
As far as I can tell, the 'Homeliving' brand is simply the name of B&M's own range of products so this will be exclusive to B&M stores. Despite its small price tag, I really wouldn't recommend anybody bother making a special trip to B&M for one of these, unless you have a specific task in mind that requires an overly long, very thin piece of foam. In that case, the B&M website has a handy store locator: