How to Choose Camping Blankets and Outdoor Blankets – Expert Advice
If you’re serious about camping, you know that a good night’s sleep is a necessity. Spending a cold night on the verge of hypothermia makes for a dangerous situation. Even if you’re camping in the desert at night, temperatures can be bone chilling.
We made this guide to guide you into the correct camping blanket. The right camp blanket is just as important as any other essential piece of your camping or hiking gear.
How To Choose A Camp Blanket
Types of Camp Blankets
Making the correct type of camp blanket can be a lifesaving decision. Choosing the right camping blanket can also save you energy if you buy light weight or keep you dry if you choose a water proof type.
- Pocket Blankets – These are a blanket conveniently packed in a small pack. They can be carried in a pocket and are extremely light weight. These are ideal to use outdoors at any time. If you are hiking, camping, picnicking, or even in the mood for outdoor yoga!
- Sleeping Bags – Sleeping bags are the general choice when camping, if you need the extra insulation and don’t mind packing the additional weight and area. Sleeping bags come in a variety of shapes, styles, sizes and thermal ratings.
- Wool Blankets – Wool blankets are a natural way to stay warm. They are good enough for our military to use because even when they are wet, they still insulate.
- Emergency Blanket – Emergency blankets come in many styles. They come in large and small sizes. Some are small enough to put 3 in a shirt pocket. Most emergency blankets are constructed for a few uses before tearing.
- Fleece Blanket – A fleece blanket is made of a synthetic polyester that maintains warmth and wicks away moisture to keep you dry. Some people may be allergic to fleece camp blankets, so test one before depending on it.
- Thermal Blankets – These thermal blankets are very similar to the standard emergency blankets but are generally more durable and made for more than one use. They do have a high thermal rating but don’t really feel as comfortable as a blanket.
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Camping Blanket Materials
- 100% Wool – Wool is probably the warmest of all natural materials. Wool blankets keep you warm by trapping air between its fibers. Even when these blankets become wet they still have trapped air between the fibers. They don’t soak up moisture or water like some other materials. This makes it ideal for wet situations. If your wool blanket becomes wet, just wring it out. The only drawback is that if it is wet it can take some time to totally dry out. Wool will also wick moisture away from your skin keeping you dryer and still insulated. Wool is made from sheep hair and can become itchy with direct skin contact. If you buy Merino wool, it won’t give you the itch that most wool will. Another benefit of wool is that it’s fire resistant!
- Fleece – Fleece is a material made to mimic wool. It’s great at trapping air between its fibers. Fleece camp blankets also wick away moisture while holding warm air between its fibers. The main difference from wool is that when this gets wet it can be rung out and dries quickly. It’s much lighter than wool but is highly flammable.
- Cotton – Cotton has a very comfortable feel but it is heavy especially when wet. If wet, it tends to clump and can take a very long time to dry out. It’s flammable and not a really good choice for most camping. Some blends of cotton with synthetics have proven to work well using a synthetic shell with a cotton center.
- Acrylic – Acrylic is a synthetic fiber that is made into a filament then cut and spun like wool. Acrylica can be made from many synthetics but will contain at least 85% acrylonitrile monomer. It’s used in many applications like faux fur, clothing and boot liners. This synthetic fiber is good at wicking moisture and is becoming a top choice for sportswear. Acrylics will pull sweat from the skin keeping you dry and pull it to the outer layer where it can evaporate. This is a stain and mildew resistant fiber. It is very flammable so caution should be taken near open fires.
- Polyester – A non-flammable synthetic fiber like polyester can shrink if exposed to high heat. Don’t leave it too long in the dryer either! Polyester is an extremely warm and lightweight fabric with a luxurious feel. This synthetic fiber will also wick moisture from the skin and keep it’s insulated properties when wet.
- Nylon – Nylon is a very strong fiber and highly resilient. As one of the first synthetic fibers, it’s used in many types of clothing and furnishings. Nylon is fairly heat resistant but can melt if exposed to direct heat. Nylon can be machine washed but should be hung to dry or put in the dryer at low heat. If you dry on high heat, it may shrink. Nylon is also waterproof!
- Nylon Ripstop – As if regular nylon wasn’t durable enough. Nylon Ripstop is a woven fabric that is highly resistant to tearing. The fabric is woven in crosshatch pattern making it tear resistant. This has all the benefits of regular Nylon water proof, easy cleaning and wicking action with extra durability.
- Mylar – Mylar is the synthetic aluminum foil-looking material you see in survival situations. Mylar is really lightweight and can save your life, but it has many drawbacks the other listed materials don’t have. It is waterproof but isn’t a wicking material. If you do get wet or perspire, the Mylar material will hold it in. It’s noisy and also tears easily. It will hold the heat in but should only be used as a last resort. If you have a chance to prepare properly, other choices would be better.
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Weather plays a big part in the proper choice of camping blankets. Colder temperatures may call for higher thermal ratings. Warmer weather will obviously call for lower thermal ratings. But you have to ask yourself: if weather will change, will it be windy and will it be wet? All these questions need to be answered if you want to make the right choice.
- Heat – What sort of high temperatures will you have to deal with? When it’s hot outside you will still need some sort of cover. The ideal camping blanket offers protection from wind, insects and simply makes you feel secure while you sleep. While you sleep in the heat, you will sweat ,and a proper wicking camp blanket will keep you dry and feeling cooler.
- Cold – The cold weather brings challenges. A high percentage of people get hypothermia because of sweating in cold conditions. The best thing you can do if you find yourself sweating in hypothermic conditions is to undress and dry off. This is where the right cold weather camping blanket can save your life. A warmth-creating wicking blanket will draw off the perspiration on your skin and help you dry off.
- Wind – High winds can dry out your skin’s moisture or cause hypothermia. Having the correct camping blanket that stops wind from penetrating can help you survive with less water. It can also save you from freezing to death. Waterproof materials will also stop the wind from penetrating.
- Rain – If you get stuck in the rain, I hope you have access to a waterproof camp blanket. Even in hot weather you can die from hypothermia if you get wet. Our bodies don’t do well when we have prolonged contact with water. You have 2 options here: one is to stay dry with a waterproof camp blanket or getting dry with a wicking camp blanket. Some camp blankets use multiple materials so that you can have a waterproof shell over a wicking bottom.
Where are you going and how long will you be camping? I know that when I have been hiking or on hunting trips, packing gear is very important. Miles into your hike you wonder if you really need to take that heavy item. Next time, you will want to choose a lighter option. Weight is an important factor and you don’t want to carry more than you have to. When choosing the right camping blanket or sleeping bag, you should take weight into consideration. Smaller pocket-styled camping blankets may be the best option as far as weight and space, but you also have to take all the other options we talked about into consideration.
Choosing the Right Size
An important but often overlooked option for camp blankets are size. Camping can be really uncomfortable if you have your feet poking out of the bottom. Is the camping blanket too large and will it just get in the way or be heavier than needed? Check for the proper size which should be displayed on the packaging or description.
Some people do have allergies to some materials. Acrylic, polyester, nylon and even wool can cause skin reactions if there is any lanolin oil left on the wool. The symptoms can be anything from reddening of the skin to a runny nose. You shouldn’t find out that you have an allergy to your camping blanket when you need it. You can purchase hypoallergenic fleece camping blankets if you are sensitive to other materials.
Testing Your Blanket
The best way to find out if you made the right choice is to test. Get your camp blanket home and check for length. Lay down and roll around a bit to get the feel for it. If you don’t think it feels right, take it back and get another. Spending a night outside is totally worth making sure you made the right choice!
The Best Camping and Outdoor Blankets
Whether you are picnicking in a local park or camping in the Smoky Mountains, a good outdoor blanket can help keep you cozy and comfortable. Outdoor blankets come in a wide variety of shapes and styles, and they are designed to excel in many different scenarios.
Outdoor Blanket Styles
Outdoor blankets come in three basic styles, which are designed for different types of outdoor applications. Although any blanket is better than no blanket, you’ll be much happier with your purchase if you select the style best suited for your needs.
A puffy blanket is essentially a rectangular sleeping bag that has been unzipped and laid flat. They typically lack the full-length zipper that comes standard on most sleeping bags, but many have snaps or Velcro closures that allow you to use it like a sleeping bag. Puffy blankets provide great warmth and comfort, but they often take up a considerable amount of space. Many models have enlarged draft collars, which can help prevent the warm air underneath the blanket from escaping into the chilly night air.
Outdoor throw blankets are pretty similar to those designed to be used on your bed or couch at home, and they serve similar purposes. However, they are usually made from much better materials for outdoor use, which makes them more durable. Some outdoor throw blankets are even waterproof on one side. Most good outdoor throw blankets can be rolled or folded up to conserve space and make them easier to transport – some even include carrying handles.
Folding blankets are often the preferred choice for people who spend time in the great outdoors. They are generally made of extremely durable materials, and many are waterproof on one or both sides. While they will keep you a little warmer, they function best for providing you with a clean, dry place to sit. Most of these blankets can be folded into a very compact size, which makes them ideal for space-restricted backpackers. You can also throw one in your trunk or glove box for impromptu outings.
Features You’ll Find in High-Quality Outdoor Blankets
There is a big difference between a really good blanket and one that isn’t worth the trouble to bring. While you needn’t spend top dollar to obtain an acceptable blanket, you must choose a blanket that possess the features that characterize high-quality products. Some of the most important features to look for are listed below:
Waterproof Materials and Finish
You should always look for blankets that have waterproof finishes if you intend to use your blanket outside your tent. Not only will absorbed water make the blanket less comfortable, it will also increase the weight of the blanket when you have to pack it back up and carry it home.
Quality Insulation Materials
There are a variety of different insulation materials used in the construction of parkas, sleeping bags and blankets, and each material has its own devotees. It isn’t important whether you prefer a given synthetic fill material or good-old fashion down; it is important that you avoid low-quality fills that are often used in the construction of economy models blankets and bags.
While it doesn’t matter what color your blanket is, there’s no reason you have to use a gaudy blanket – plenty of stylish models are available to suit your tastes. If you truly do not care what color the blanket is, always give thought to selecting a light-colored option, as it will be easier to see things on it (like your flashlight) in the dark.
Considerations for Buyers
When setting out to purchase a new outdoor or camping blanket, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you anticipate using the blanket? Different blankets excel in different circumstances, and you’ll need to match your intended use with the best type of blanket. If you need maximum warmth around the campfire, you’ll want to select a puffy blanket. On the other hand, if you want to use the blanket primarily as a clean, dry surface, a folding model will work better.
- Do you want a blanket for a specific purpose or do you want one that can do it all? Throw blankets offer a moderate amount of warmth in a relatively compact package. If you get one made from a waterproof material, you can also sit on it when the ground is cold and damp.
- Where would you use this blanket? If you intend to use your blanket at the beach, you’ll need one that can stand up to the abrasive sand and occasional wayward wave. On the other hand, you’ll definitely want the most water-proof model you can find if you are heading into a tropical rainforest.
- How much space do you have for storing the blanket? If you don’t have a lot of storage space or there isn’t a lot of extra room in your backpack, you’ll definitely want to opt for a folding blanket. These provide the greatest space savings, and you can often carry two or three of these in the same amount of space you’d need for a throw blanket.
Important Blanket Applications and Uses
Obviously, you can drape a blanket over yourself at night to stay warm – that’s the basic point of a blanket. But there are also a number of other things you can do with a blanket to make your time at the park or on the trail more fun.
Staying Warm While Hanging Out in Camp
Many campers spend lots of time and money assembling great cold-weather gear to help them hike through snowfall or sleep through the long, cold night. But it is also important to consider your warmth while you are simply hanging out in camp. You don’t want to wear your parka and boots while snuggling with loved ones around the fire or roasting marshmallows, and a good camping blanket is often the perfect solution.
Staying Clean and Dry During Picnics
There’s always going to be a little dirt involved with outdoor eating, but it’s wise to keep your eating area as clean as possible. A good camping blanket can help you to spread out your food, plates and utensils, and eat in a relatively dirt-free setting. If you like, get a folding blanket and just store it in your picnic basket so it is always ready for use.
Staying Warm While Lounging in a Hammock
If you like to sleep in a hammock, you probably already know how difficult it can be to use a sleeping bag while hanging out in one. A camping blanket – particularly a puffy-style blanket – can be a great solution for this problem. Many camping blankets even have snaps on the bottom, which allow you to create a “foot box” that keeps your toes warm through the night.
Staying Warm on Really Cold Nights
Camp for long enough and you’ll end up shivering through a night in which your sleeping bag wasn’t quite warm enough. A camping blanket can be a lifesaver on these nights, as it will help keep you much warmer than your sleeping bag alone will. Any blanket will help in this regard, but a puffy blanket is probably the best option if you have the room to carry it.
Improving the Comfort of Your Tent
Blankets don’t have to be used to cover things – they can also help make the area inside your tent more comfortable. Just roll or ball up the blanket and use it as a pillow or stuff it under your knees (this can be heavenly after a long day spent hiking). You can also use a blanket to help fill in divots in the ground under your sleeping pad or cover the odd tree root sticking up under your tent.
Making a Sun or Wind Screen
With a little ingenuity, you can use most camping blankets to block the sun or wind. This can be amazingly helpful when cooking or trying to start your camp fire, and it can even make your campsite a bit warmer. In the summertime, a light-weight, foldable blanket can block the sun during the heat of the day and give you a little shade wherever you need it.
Staying Clean While Packing and Organizing Your Gear
It can be challenging to keep all of your gear organized and clean while packing and unpacking your backpack, but a camping blanket can make it much easier to do so. Additionally, by placing your stuff on a blanket when organizing your gear, you’re less likely to forget something and leave it behind. Be sure to keep your blanket in an easily accessed portion of your pack, so you can grab it first and then put your stuff on it.
Try bringing along an outdoor blanket on your next journey or adventure. You’ll enjoy much better comfort on the trip, and you’ll be glad you made the purchase. Just be sure to consider the ways in which you’ll likely use the blanket and make the best choice for your circumstances.