The sleeping bag has long been considered one of the most important pieces of gear in the outdoorsman’s collection. Over the years, designs have advanced alongside new technologies that have improved warmth, weight, pack size, and style. Through it all, however, the basics have remained pretty much the same. Then the camping blanket arrived.
Outdoor enthusiasts across the world began trading in the zippered confinement of a traditional bag for the increased comfort and versatility of a good camping blanket. The best camping blankets are made from the same top of the line materials as traditional bags but offer a more free-form usability. Camping blankets have become especially popular for summertime camping, as well as anyone who has experienced cramped legs after a day in the mountains.
The increasing popularity of camping blankets has produced a small flood of new products and manufacturers, and sorting through all the noise can be an intimidating task. So we’re taking a look into exactly what makes a killer blanket and then sharing what we believe to be the 8 best camping blankets of 2018.
What Makes a Great Camping Blanket?
Choosing a ‘Go-To’ Camp Blanket
Because there are so many camp blankets on the market today, it is important to make sure you know what you’re getting into (or getting under, in this case). Selecting a ‘go-to’ camp blanket is all about considering the conditions you will be using it in and choosing one that is most ideal for those conditions. Remember: it’s not always necessary to have to buy the most expensive product to get the best performance. Similarly, a product that performs great in one set of circumstance might perform poorly in another.
With that said, it’s time to take a look at what I have found to be the 8 best camping blankets of 2018, in no particular order:
SnugPak Jungle Blanket
The SnugPak Jungle Blanket offers the best of the camping blanket world with a lightweight construction of materials that are simultaneously toasty and breathable. At 6’1’’, I have always had trouble finding a sleeping bag that was long enough but not so long that I had a big pocket of cold air around my feet. The Jungle Blanket is big enough that I can have full coverage from head to toe, but heavy enough that it prevents those pockets of cold air that were keeping me up at night.
It’s constructed of three 100% polyester layers, but not nearly as bulky as I imagined compared to some of the other synthetic options on the market. In fact, it compresses smaller than you would expect for a full synthetic, making it the perfect option for hammocking. My only complaint is that the stitching on the included stuff sack is a little weak; I will probably have to replace that well before anything goes wrong with the blanket itself.
Mambe Extreme Weather Outdoor Blanket
Mambe has a reputation for making some of the warmest stadium blankets on the market, and the extreme weather series is no departure. One side is pretty classic Polartec microfleece, which is pretty much the most comfortable material on the planet, and the other side is constructed of 100% waterproof nylon. So unlike many of the ‘water-resistant’ options that are out there, this blanket can actually stand up to some serious weather.
At 3.9 pounds, this blanket isn’t the ideal candidate for backpakers and long distance travelers, but it is the perfect option for football games or just the back of the car. It includes a stuff sack that offers very little in terms of compression, making it only slightly smaller than it would be folded. Pro tip: be sure to get the Large, as the Medium seems a bit undersized.
Oceas Outdoor Waterproof Blanket
The Oceas Outdoor blanket features a 100% waterproof lining which can make it less breathable for solo camping, but as far as outdoor activities is concerned, this blanket pretty much has it all covered. First off, it’s big. This blanket would have no problem hosting a family of five or six for a full picnic, or completely envelop of group of two or three around the campfire. What I noticed with the Oceas blanket is that it feels remarkably durable for a blanket of its size. Anyone headed to the beach wouldn’t have to worry about sand and rock damage.
With all the quality, size, & comfort, it might be no surprise that the Oceas blanket isn’t the best at folding down or stuffing back into its carrying case, making it a good candidate for 3rd party carrying straps like these Sea to Summit accessory straps.
Horizon Hound Down Camping Blanket
If you are looking for a lightweight blanket that doesn’t compromise on comfort, the Horizon Hound Down Camping Blanket is one of the best values on the market. The whole thing is only 1.1 pounds, making it lighter than a lot of sleeping bags. The exterior shell is sleek comfortable polyester, making this one of the most comfortable blankets for both overnighters and movie nights on the couch. A comfort rating of 40F means that this blanket would perform well in the summer, but would start to get too breezy even in the fall.
It shrinks down to about the size of a Nalgene bottle when all is said and done, meaning that you’ll have a heck of a lot more room in your pack, and is my absolute favorite feature on the Horizon Hound.
EKTOS 100% Wool Blanket
Hunters, survivalists, and bush crafters alike will tell you that there is no material wool when you’re looking at durability and warmth-to weight ratio. As a natural material, wool is a great insulator. The EKTOS 100% Wool Blanket is hands down the most durable blanket of its kind. In fact it’s hard to imagine the edges ever fraying, which makes me think that this is one of those rare pieces of gear that you might have in your collection for the rest of your life.
Wool blankets have the unique property of being able to retain their warmth even when wet. This is one reason they were used so extensively in the military, and why they continue to be an essential part of any outdoor enthusiast’s toolkit.
At 5.5 pounds, the blanket is too heavy for long distance hiking, but would make the perfect basecamp blanket. At this level of durability you could probably make a shelter out of it. As happens with some organic fabrics, this wool blanket does shed, but not significantly enough to really notice.
Mambe Large Essential Camping Blanket
The Mambe Large Essential offers the same lush microfiber interior as the Extreme Outdoor Weather model, but lacks the thicker nylon exterior, making it slightly thinner, but it’s still a pretty bulky blanket with plenty of heat retention. There’s nothing like rubbing up against that microfiber against the cold of an autumn football game, but the comfort does come at a price, as these types of blankets tend to be more expensive than competing models and brands.
Like the Mambe Extreme Outdoor Weather model, the Large Essential is too bulky to strap down for a multi-day backpacking trip, but provides the perfect option for anyone in need of a reliable, all-purpose blanket to keep in the back of the adventure-mobile.
Lightspeed Outdoors Sundown Camp Blanket
Lightspeed Outdoors has done it again with their new Sundown camp blanket, offering a product that is a versatile as it is stylish. It’s super soft; something that will no doubt remind you of your favorite sleeping bag, but it’s safe to say that this one has got a few tricks up its sleeve. It’s one of the few blankets out there that feature integrated corner hand (& feet) pockets, giving you that extra warmth when you need it. It also makes it easy to keep this blanket held tightly around you, or store that pesky stuff-sack before it blows off in the wind.
At 2 pounds, it isn’t the lightest blanket on the market, but it makes up for it in sheer comfort. The synthetic down-alternative fill is surprisingly compactable compared to similar brands making it a viable option for extended trips and airline travel. It’s currently only available in blue, but Lightspeed Outdoors has announced plans to bring more colors to the market in Spring of 2020.
Down Under Outdoor Camping Blanket (Premium Large)
If you are seeing a lot of Down Under Outdoors camping blankets out at the park, it’s probably because they have designed a blanket that is equal parts comfortable and affordable. The quilted fleece inlay is plush and comfortable enough to make this a great napping blanket, inside or out. Synthetic nylon construction makes it far more affordable than other new camp blankets on the market but less water resistant as well. That means this blanket is a great option for starry night campfires or good book curl-ups, but not the best option for extreme or unpredictable weather conditions.
Choosing a good camping blanket can be a piece of cake when you are looking at the right information. By selecting based on fabrics, construction, and intended use, the option becomes clear. How heavy is it? How much warmth will it retain in the outdoors? Is it wind / waterproof? Will it fit in my pack? How does it feel? These are just a few of the questions that can lead you to the right decision.
Whether you’re looking at a two week trek through the Wind River Range or a night in with a good book, the new camping blankets in 2018 were the best that the industry has produced yet.
Camping blankets are not so much a new product as much as they are an evolution of a classic one. For this reason it is possible to examine the same elements that are important when selecting a sleeping bag, and wouldn’t you know it, we’ve got those listed right here:
Construction Material & Insulation
Camping blankets come in a wide range of both natural and synthetic materials, each with unique properties that determine everything from overall weight to compression size and insulation rating. Generally speaking, camping blankets (& sleeping bags for that matter) are classified into two broad categories: down and synthetic. Down filled sleeping bags take advantage of real goose or duck feathers for a remarkably light and compact insulation, but can’t handle getting wet without losing their warmth. Synthetic fills on the other hand are far more affordable, but have not yet caught up to down in terms of sheer efficiency.
Many camping blankets have the added benefit of an exterior layer constructed of thinly woven nylon or coated polyester & Mylar, which is what gives the blankets their resiliency as well as weather resistant properties. The activity you have in mind will dictate whether you need water resistant or waterproof layers, and could make the difference between a sweet or soggy picnic.
A comfort rating is the first thing most people look for when shopping for a sleeping bag, because it effectively estimates about what outside temperature the materials will be able to keep you warm in. Not all camping blankets are advertised with their comfort ratings, so be sure to check the specifications before you buy. It’s also important to note that because of the way camping blankets are naturally more exposed to outside air, it is possible to over-estimate the effectiveness of the material based on comfort ratings alone.
Size & Weight
When on the trail for more than just a day hike, it becomes important to shave all the weight that you can, which is why weight and compressibility are important factors in deciding on a new camping blanket. For instance, a top of the line down-fill blanket will stuff down smaller than its synthetic counterpart and not weigh as much, but might not offer the same temperature rating of a heavier fill. Many ultralight and long distance hikers compensate for the reduced warmth of lighter bags by sleeping with more clothes on.
The best thing about camping blankets: we’re no longer bound inside the rigid shape of a narrow tube. While it’s undoubtedly easier to move around beneath a blanket than it is inside a sleeping bag, it can also lead to abrupt leaks where all the hot air gets out. That’s why you need to make sure that you’re getting a camp blanket that is large enough to cover you on all sides, not to mention enough extra at the bottom to make yourself a cozy ‘footbox’ that will keep your toes warm through the night.
Comfort & Style
It’s not just, “Red or blue?” anymore.
Because the camping blanket is ultimately a stylistic evolution of the sleeping bag, then it is no surprise that they come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. This has made it possible for many camping blankets to make the move from a shelf in the garage to a corner of a living room sofa. It works the other way too, with personalized blankets bringing accents of style and hominess to the great outdoors.
Comfort is all about the inner lining, the ‘inside’ of the blanket. Microfleece is a popular choice for stadium blankets and beach blankets because of its soft density, but tends to be heavier than the more standard nylon or polyester exteriors. Microfleece blankets are also more expensive than other synthetics.
The exterior layer, while not necessarily in contact with you skin, can also play a role in comfort. For instance, many weatherproof camp blankets have been designed with a 100% waterproof barrier on the bottom of the blanket. This makes them particularly well suited for picnics and ground cover, but would lack the breathability required of a blanket used for for overnight camping and hammocking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Just like sleeping bags, camping blankets are incredibly diverse in terms of which fabrics and what kinds of construction are available. Down blankets feature natural fill composed of goose or duck feathers and offer unmatched packability and insulation for the overall weight, making it a favorite for many backpackers and long distance travelers.
Synthetic fill blankets can be just as warm as down blankets, but are generally heavier and bulkier. They also tend to me less expensive. Outer layers are almost exclusively synthetic, utilizing materials like nylon, mylar, polyester to create a sturdy and resilient casing for the filling.
Thinly woven nylon is often used to create both windproof and waterproof barriers, and sometimes chemical treatments are applied to the fabrics themselves to increase the effectiveness of these barriers.
While sleeping bags were designed to encapsulate a person fully, usually sacrificing space for heat, camping blankets simply ditched the zipper. They’re usually square or rectangular in shape, making it possible to wrap them around you in dozens of different ways, just like you do with the covers at home. In general camping blankets are less constricting than sleeping bags and for that reason have become popular for outdoor enthusiasts of all different types.
The answer is … sometimes. All camping blankets are made from different combinations of materials, so the blanket you choose will have its own instructions on how to properly clean it. While most varieties of camping blanket will do fine in the wash, many varieties will not do well in the dryer. If you are planning on washing your camping blanket, make sure it has ample time to air dry before your next adventure, and check the product specifics before you buy.
The camping blankets that are most breathable will be the ones that, unfortunately, are not waterproof. That’s because the same technologies that are utilized in camping blankets to keep the moisture out will also keep the moisture in. Camping blankets are however unique in that you are not as encapsulated as you are with a sleeping bag, meaning you have more control of how much outside air is getting in (Or, if you’re like me, a one leg in, one leg out kind of guy).
100% synthetic blankets can usually handle a low power drying cycle, but it is usually better to let them air dry. This is because many blankets, especially those that are advertised to be weather resistant or weatherproof, often have certain chemicals applied to the material to assist in the waterproofing. Washing and drying cycles can lessen the effectiveness of these treatments significantly, as well as slowly alter the density of the blanket’s fill.
Some camping blankets, especially those that are coming straight from the factory, may have certain residues on the outer layers that are the result of special chemical treatments that are designed to increase the weatherproofing or fire resistant qualities of the material. While harmless to humans, these treatments might have a lingering smell that you don’t want to take with you to bed. In most cases, a few laps through a low-agitation, cold water washing cycle will eliminate the issue, or even better, a day or two hanging in the fresh breeze.