Jun 09, 2023

The 7 Best Outdoor Blankets of 2023

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Durability and comfort are paramount, but—as a bonus—many have some waterproofing.

As much as we love to spend a day laying in the sun, we can do without damp ground, itchy grass, and bugs in our hair. Spreading out an outdoor blanket—something that's durable to withstand gravel and burrs, as well as not soaking up any dew—makes picnics and days at a campsite more pleasant just by adding a layer of comfort between you and the ground.

You can easily throw these outdoor blankets into a backpack or strap them onto a hip pack if you’re biking. And if you’re going to be schlepping one of these to a campsite or park along with all your other gear and food, that portability helps. While great for day trips, an outdoor blanket isn't a substitute for a good sleeping bag and should be considered more of a camp accessory than a core part of your gear rotation.

We researched outdoor blankets and tested a few to see how comfortable and portable they are. We also wanted to gauge how easily they shake off dirt and sand. After our evaluations and vetting, here are the best.

While an outdoor blanket may seem like a straightforward purchase, there are factors to consider. All of our picks are machine-washable and waterproof or at least treated with DWR (durable water-repellant) on one side. Many of these blankets have polyester fills, since it better repels water than down and retains its insulating power when wet.

You want something that is portable and easy to pack down, though "portable" can run the gamut between fitting in a bike pack for a ride to the park to being the size of a small tent and best left for car rides to the beach. Though most blankets come with carrying cases, some are easier to pack down than others—most require folding over and rolling as you would a sleeping bag.

Some have strategically placed snaps, allowing you to wear the blanket as a cloak on cold nights (the best overall Nomadix can even snap into a sleeping bag). Though if you’re planning to use one solely on warm summer days, don't discount one of these blankets—ones with snaps aren't consistently more expensive than those without. Some also have stake loops at the corners so you can secure them to the ground and not worry about the wind blowing over your picnic spread.

We focused on blankets big enough for just you and your gear or meal, though they can fit two people comfortably if you don't need room for anything else. Many outdoor blankets are of this single size for the sake of portability.

We considered the uses people will have for outdoor blankets and formed a checklist of what makes a good one: easy packability, ample cushioning, and waterproofing or resistance. We browsed options on the market and called in three of the most promising to test—Nomadix's Puffer, Yeti's Lowland, and Therm-a-rest's Juno. These cover a range of prices and different levels of cushioning. We took them out to Central Park on a nice afternoon and set up on a sunny patch of dirt and grass and gauged how comfortable they were after a half hour of sitting. We also checked to make sure these blankets weren't a big hassle to get back down into their stuff sacks or carrying cases when it was time to head back to the office.

Results varied; they all easily shook off dirt and sand and repelled water, though some (our best overall) were easier to pack away than others (our most compact pick). But after testing these, we had a better understanding of what we want in an outdoor blanket and were better able to judge other options from afar using this context and customer reviews. Most are big enough for one to two people, but we included an oversized pick for families and large groups of people.

Nomadix threaded the needle with the Puffer, including just enough of everything without going overboard, achieving versatility. It provides enough cushioning to sit comfortably on the hard ground while still remaining compact and easy to stow. Strategically placed snaps let you bundle up and wear it as a cloak or fold it over and use it as a minimalist sleeping bag. It comes with a water-repellant stuff sack that folds down and buckles shut—this seals out any water or dirt better than the drawcord closure you typically find on stuff sacks.

Some blankets you can never get "just right" the way they came packaged in order to neatly pack them but that isn't a problem with this blanket; it was easy to roll and fit back in the bag. The fill was comfortable to sit on and didn't flatten down, leaving us to feel every rock and twig underneath. Nomadix has more designs on their website, including this flower print we tested.

The fleece and insulation of this large blanket make it ideal for chilly nights camping. The nylon side is lined with two coats of polyurethane for insurance against water getting in, and the soft side is a low-pile fleece that easily sheds sand and dirt. Bonus: The blanket is large enough to wrap around two people.

Customers say this Down Under Outdoors blanket is easy to fold down but is a snug fit in its carrying bag.

The Juno is on the smaller side, making it the most portable and perfect for just one person to use, wear, or sit on. It packs down into a built-in stuff pocket. When packed down, it's smaller than my 36-ounce water bottle and has the dimensions of a camp pillow. I can easily stuff it into a backpack or bag, and this is the blanket I bring if I’m biking to the park. It's filled with a compressible synthetic that provided more warmth than others I tried.

With the portability comes just one major drawback: The cushioning isn't the best. The compressible insulation uses hollow pockets that work great to wrap around you when you're cold. But if you’re sitting on it, it does indeed compress—you can tell pretty quick you’re sitting on the ground. It's also tricky stuffing it back into the pocket, which took me a couple of tries at first.

This blanket is a standout for its convenience. It's an easy solution when you don't want to be sitting on grass or sand—a step above throwing just an ordinary blanket or towel on the ground.

As with almost all of the brand's products, Yeti made the Lowlands burly (and expensive, admittedly). The blanket is padded and insulated, with a top layer of soft rayon-polyester blend and a waterproof bottom layer. The soft top won't absorb moisture and easily shakes off dirt, leaves, and sand, while the interior's padded insulation provides great cushioning. This was the plushest outdoor blanket we tried by a long shot.

The Lowlands folds into the included zip carrying case, and the case has handles on both the top and side for easier toting. The blanket was easy to fold down, and I didn't have to wrestle with it to squeeze it into the bag. Despite its comfort, the Lowlands is cumbersome and not a blanket that you can easily throw in a backpack and bike to the park.

These blankets are all portable, but the Deluxe from Eddie Bauer takes it a step further with integrated backpack straps and a separate carrying case. You have multiple options to comfortably tote this to campsites or beaches. When it's packed, it has a briefcase-like silhouette so you can easily slot it between carseats or gear in a stuffed trunk. The polyester fabric sheds water, sand, and other debris with just a couple of shakes. This blanket is slightly larger than others here and could accommodate two people.

Customers report it has a decent amount of cushioning and is great for beaches and picnics—the plush fill doesn't compress when you’re sitting on it for long periods of time. They do mention it's a bit tricky to fold back into its carrying case as it needs to be folded, not rolled, into the proportions of the square carrying case. But the quality and durability make it a solid value.

The Original is a lightweight blanket with good insulation that works for any time of year thanks to the synthetic fill that keeps you warm but also breathes well enough on milder days. Corner loops let you stake it down on windy nights, and snaps allow you to wear it around your shoulders hands-free. It trades the standard square quilt pattern for wavy baffles, giving it an interesting look without impacting its warmth.

This blanket is difficult to roll and pack back into its stuff sack but is compact and easy to travel with or clip onto your backpack. Rumpl is known for its quality and durability, and some customers online report having their Puffy blanket for almost ten years.

This blanket has a cozy fleece on one side instead of the usual synthetic, and a coated nylon on the other to ensure no water seeps through when you’re sitting on wet ground. Its low-pile fleece makes sand and dirt easy to brush off, though you may need an extra couple of shakes for pet hair. The coasted nylon side feels very much like the face fabric of a jacket, and it should do just as good of a job sheltering you from the wind if you drape this blanket around your shoulders.

Online reviewers report the waterproofing on this blanket is top-notch and that it lives up to L.L. Bean's "easy to clean" promise. They also mention it's easy to roll and pack into the bag without much hassle.

Danny Perez is a Commerce Editor for Popular Mechanics with a focus on men's style, gear, and home goods. Recently, he was coordinator of partnership content at another product journalism outlet. Prior to that, he was a buyer for an independent men's shop in Houston, Texas, where he learned all about what makes great products great. He enjoys thrifting for 90s Broadway tees and vintage pajama sets. His spare time is occupied by watching movies and running to impress strangers on Strava.

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