Puffy Camping Blanket Buyer’s Guide
Staying warm during camping trips is crucial for your enjoyment. No matter how gorgeous the scenery is, or how much you are enjoying the company, you won’t have a very good time if you spend the whole trip shivering.
Fortunately, it’s usually pretty easy to stay warm while you are hiking or working hard collecting firewood or pumping water with a dry bag from a nearby creek. But once the sun sets and it’s time to kick back, enjoy the campfire and relax, it’s often challenging to stay warm when the night air cools.
Some campers try to stay warm by wrapping themselves in a sleeping bag, but this is not a good idea (we’ll explain why in a moment). Instead, the best way to stay warm and cozy while hanging out in the cool mountain air is by wrapping yourself in a puffy camping blanket.
But you can’t just pick any old camping blanket – you’ll want to select a high-quality model, that will not only keep you warm but hold up to years of use on the trail too. We’ll help you learn how to separate the best blankets from their not-so-great counterparts below and discuss some of the things you’ll want to look for when making your choice.
What Is a Puffy Camping Blanket? How Do They Differ from Other Blankets?
There are a number of different kinds of blankets that are suitable for outdoor use. Nevertheless, most experienced hikers and campers tend to prefer puffy blankets to the alternatives.
Unlike wool blankets, which are relatively flat and often itchy, puffy blankets are full of fluffy fill materials and feature a silky nylon shell that feels quite nice against the skin. The fluffy fill material not only means that the blankets are comfortable and can also be balled up and used to cushion your head, hips, knees or shoulders, it also means they contain quite a bit of air. This trapped air helps to insulate your body and keep you warmer than most other blankets will.
Puffy blankets do take up a bit more space than wool or foldable blankets, but most campers will consider this an acceptable tradeoff, given the additional comfort puffy blankets provide. In fact, you can even use puffy blankets for a variety of purposes besides keeping you warm at night or while relaxing in your hammock or mosquito net (we’ll talk more about these uses later).
Five Big Problems with Using Sleeping Bags Outside of Your Tent
Sleeping bags are great for doing one thing: Keeping you warm while sleeping in your tent each night. But they aren’t terribly useful in other applications. In fact, they can actually cause quite a few problems when used in other ways.
A few of the most notable problems sleeping bags can present include the following:
1. Sleeping bags are trip hazards.
Trying to use your sleeping bag to stay warm while outside of your tent is a recipe for disaster. Most sleeping bags don’t open all the way, which means they’re awkward to use in this manner. Many times, you’ll find that the ends of the bag drag near the ground. If you accidentally step on the bag, you could wind up tumbling into rocks, your gear or – if you have particularly bad luck – the campfire.
On the other hand, camping blankets are easy to wrap around your body, without dangling down by your feet and potentially causing you to trip.
2. Modern sleeping bags don’t make good ground covers.
There are plenty of times during a camping trip in which you'll want something soft and comfortable to sit or lay on. You may need to prepare lunch, make repairs to your gear or simply kick back with a good book. But unfortunately, modern sleeping bags – which usually feature a mummy-style design – don’t always open completely so you can lay them flat.
Puffy blankets, however, make fantastic ground covers, as they are easy to lay flat and they still provide plenty of cushion.
3. Sleeping bags are heavy.
Modern sleeping bags are often made from relatively light-weight materials, but they are still somewhat heavy. This can make it difficult to take with you on day hikes, and it makes them difficult to carry with you around the campsite.
But puffy blankets, which contain about half of the material that sleeping bags do, are much lighter than typical sleeping bags are. This means that they are much easier to haul around while on the trail.
4. Sleeping bags are expensive.
A high-quality sleeping bag is a crucial component of your camping gear collection, but unfortunately, high-quality bags aren’t cheap. Accordingly, you’ll want to baby your sleeping bag as much as possible to prevent it from becoming damaged. This means leaving it inside your tent, rather than using it to keep you warm at camp. Similarly, you won’t want to use a sleeping bag when going for a picknick at your local park.
On the flip side, you can usually find high-quality puffy blankets for a fraction of the cost of a comparable sleeping bag.
5. Sleeping bags take forever to dry.
If your sleeping bag becomes wet while out on the trail, it may take days to dry out completely. Because most modern sleeping bags feature a mummy-style design, they don’t allow much air to reach the interior. Accordingly, you never want to use your sleeping bag on the damp ground.
By contrast, puffy blankets are relatively easy to dry out while on a camping trip. Because they are flat, you can simply hang them up from a tree branch with a carabiner, which will allow air to flow over both sides of the blanket and dry it out relatively quickly.
Six Reasons to Bring a Camping Blanket on Your Next Trip
Sleeping bags may not be ideal for many camping-related needs, but camping blankets are incredibly helpful items to bring along during your next trip. Some of the most important benefits they provide include:
Puffy camping blankets are great around the campfire.
While sleeping bags don’t work well for keeping your back warm while roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories (and they even present trip hazards), a camping blanket works perfectly at such times. Campingblankets usually provide plenty of insulation for your back, and they’re easy to keep away from your feet so you won’t trip.
Puffy camping blankets help keep you extra warm at night.
A properly rated sleeping bag will usually keep you warm at night, but if you go camping long enough, you’ll surely have a night when the temperature drops more than you expected, and you end up shivering all night long. A camping blanket will work perfectly on these extra-cold nights and prevent you from having to purchase a sleeping bag rated for colder weather.
Puffy camping blankets can be used as ground covers or pillows.
While you don’t want to sit on your sleeping bag while trying to put together breakfast (and it wouldn’t work very well for the task anyway), a good camping blanket will work wonderfully in such situations. Additionally, you can ball up a camping blanket and use it as a pillow or prop.
Puffy camping blankets can be used as wind or privacy screens.
Campsites are sometimes located in windy areas, which can cause problems if the temperatures are low or you are trying to start a campfire. There are also times when you’ll want to stymy prying eyes and enjoy a bit of privacy, and a camping blanket can be hung up across a branch or rope to provide an effective visual barrier
Puffy camping blankets can cushion your backpack.
Sometimes, you’ll find it necessary to bring oddly shaped items in your backpack. This can cause your backpack to rub your back and leave you miserable as you try to enjoy the great outdoors. But you can use a camping blanket to help cushion your back, thereby preventing the items in your pack from poking you while you hike.
Puffy Camping Blankets: Not Just For The Trail
As you can see, puffy camping blankets provide a number of benefits you’ll enjoy on a typical camping trip. But they’re also quit evaluable to use while you are hanging out in civilization.
For example, you can use your puffy blanket while having a picnic at the local park or while taking in an outdoor concert. You can also use a puffy blanket when snuggling by the fire in your living room on a romantic winter night.
But puffy blankets are also great for your emergency or natural-disaster kit. If, for example, you lose power for several days at a time, you’ll be glad you have a puffy blanket at the ready to keep you warm. You could even stash a puffy blanket in your car, so you can stay warm if you end up running out of gas or breaking down in the middle of nowhere.
Things to Look for When Selecting A Puffy Camping Blanket
Now that you understand the value a high-quality camping blanket can provide (as well as the litany of ways you can use a camping blanket rather than a sleeping bag), it is time to find a good one that will keep you warm and last for years. This essentially means comparing features and construction characteristics to whittle down your list of potential options.
Just look for a camping blanket that satisfies as many of the following criteria as possible.
- High-quality Materials – Many low-quality manufacturers save money while making blankets by using cheap materials. So, to ensure you end up with a blanket that will keep you warm and last for years, just be sure to select one made from only high-quality materials. Rip-stop nylon, for example, is typically used for the shell of the best camping blankets. Several different materials can be used for the insulation, but hollow-fiber synthetics are currently the fill material that most of the leading manufacturers use.
- Machine Washable– If you can’t wash your camping blanket in your washer and dryer, you’ll likely grow tired of using it and eventually start leaving it at home. Unfortunately, this is the case with many low-quality camping blankets. On the other hand, most manufacturers who make quality camping blankets use materials and stitching methods that will hold up to machine washing.
- Reasonable Size – It is important to select a blanket that is made in a reasonable size. You don’t want a gigantic blanket that’ll be hard to fit in your pack, nor do you want a tiny blanket, which won’t be able to cover your whole body. A blanket between 5 and 7 feet long and 4 to 5 feet wide is usually ideal for most campers.
- Adequate Temperature Rating – It is important to select a blanket that will keep you warm enough, but be careful of overkill – you don’t need a blanket thick enough to keep you toasty in Antarctica. In fact, by selecting a blanket with an extremely low-temperature rating will generally just add unnecessary weight to your pack. Instead, look for something that is rated for 30- to 50-degree Fahrenheit temperatures. This will provide plenty of warmth for hanging out around the fire, and it’ll help make your sleeping bag even warmer, but it isn’t more blanket than you need for run-of-the-mill camping trips.
- Included Stuff Sack – You’ll want to keep your puffy camping blanket in good condition so that it will last years, and the best way to do so is by storing it in a high-quality stuff sack when it is not in use. You can always by standalone stuff sacks, but the best camping blankets will usually come with one.
- Stitching in the Middle of the Blanket – Low-quality puffy blankets typically feature stitching only around the edges of the blanket. However, you’ll want to avoid such blankets, as the lack of stitching in the middle can allow the fill material to clump near the edges of the blanket. Instead, opt for a blanket that features stitching across the middle sections of the blanket.
Puffy Camping Blanket Care: Making Sure Your Blanket Lasts
If you take good care of your puffy camping blanket, it’ll likely last for years, giving you the chance to bring it on dozens of more camping trips (not to mention all the use you’ll get from it while you’re at home). Fortunately, it is pretty easy to take care of a puffy camping blanket –just follow the tips outlined below.
Shake the Blanket Vigorously After Each Use
Always be sure to shake off the blanket after each use, including afternoon cat naps in your hammock, as well as each morning when you wake up in your tent. By shaking off the blanket, you’ll help rid the blanket of any twigs, leaves or other types of debris clinging to it. This will not only keep the blanket cleaner, but it’ll also help prevent sharp items from causing rips or punctures.
Shaking off your blanket after using it outside will also help get rid of any pollen that may be clinging to it. This will help prevent you from dragging pollen back into your tent, where it could aggravate your allergies all night long.
Wash and Dry the Blanket as Recommended by the Manufacturer
Always wash your new puffy blanket after each camping trip or outdoor adventure (including picnics and similar activities). This will not only prevent the blanket from developing odors, but it’ll also keep the blanket’s shell nice and supple, and it’ll help prevent the fill material from clumping (just be sure that you dry it completely).
Hopefully, you selected a puffy blanket that can be machine washed, as such blankets are far easier to keep clean. Just make sure that you wash and dry it per the manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t use hot water if the instructions call for cold water, and don’t dry it on a high heat setting if the instructions recommend using a tumble-dry setting.
If you end up purchasing a blanket that must be hand-washed, you’ll still want to clean it after each outdoor use – it’ll just be a little more labor-intensive to do so. It’s probably easiest to hand-wash blankets in your bathtub or a large laundry sink. Then, you can simply hang it up outdoors and let it air dry. Just be sure to rotate the blanket every half-hour or so to help prevent the fill from clumping at the bottom.
Store The Blanket Properly
Once you’ve washed and dried your puffy blanket, you should always store it properly. This step alone will prevent most of the accidents that cause blankets to become ripped or otherwise damaged.
If you plan on keeping the blanket with your camping gear or in your car, just roll it up tightly and keep it in a stuff sack. If you are concerned about moisture in your storage area, you may want to use a dry bag instead of a conventional stuff sack, as this will help keep it dry and prevent it from mildewing.
On the other hand, if you anticipate using the blanket a lot between camping trips, you may want to just fold it neatly and store it in your linen closet.
Address Any Tears or Punctures Promptly
It is always imperative that you mend damaged blankets as soon as possible. Doing so will help limit the size of the rip or tear, and it will also help prevent large amounts of filling from falling out of the shell. Take your time when doing so, use a thick and durable thread for re-stitching seams, and use the patches included with the blanket (if present) to cover large holes.
If you find yourself faced with a ripped blanket on the trail, you can use a few pieces of duct tape to make emergency repairs. Just make sure that you make long-term repairs once you return home.
Use Care When Stuffing the Blanket in Your Pack
When packing your backpack, be sure to use care so you don’t damage the blanket when inserting sharp items or from the tips of your trekking poles or folding walking poles in your pack. It’s often wise to pack the blanket early in the process, and then place other items around it. If you only plan on using the blanket in conjunction with your sleeping bag at night, it may be possible to roll it up inside your sleeping bag, there by eliminating the need to keep it in its own stuff sack.
Puffy blankets provide a ton of value for campers, and they’ll help keep you warmer and more comfortable during winter trips. In fact, they’re starting to become standard equipment for modern outdoor adventurers.
Just be sure that you select a high-quality puffy blanket that meets the criteria recommended above and that you take good care of it so that it will last for many trips to come.