Best Blanket Material: Cotton or Synthetic?
Cotton is the most popular choice among consumers because it’s cheap and easy to work with. However, synthetic materials are becoming increasingly popular due to their durability and breathability properties. There are many different types of synthetics available, but there are two main categories: polyester and acrylic (rubber) based fabrics. Polyester fabrics have been around longer than acrylics, so they’re usually considered more durable. They’re generally used for clothing, such as shirts and pants. While synthetic fabrics are less expensive than cotton, they tend to be heavier and bulkier.
Acrylics are lighter weight and cheaper than polyesters, but they aren’t quite as strong as natural fibers like wool or linen. Acryl fabrics are typically used for bedding and pillows. Because acrylics don’t breathe well, they tend to be more prone to odor issues.
The type of fabric you choose will depend on your personal preferences and what kind of sleeping arrangements you prefer. For example, if you want a warm blanket that won’t get too hot while still being comfortable, then cotton might be the right option for you. On the other hand, if you want a blanket that is light and easy to carry while backpacking, then a synthetic material might be better.
Best Blankets For Summer: Down Or Fleece?
Down is an excellent choice for summer or even spring. It’s made from the soft fluffy undercoat of ducks or geese, which keeps them warm and dry. It’s surprisingly lightweight and can be compressed into a small, packable size.
It’s generally used as an insulating layer because it traps a lot of air within its fabric.
Down is a great choice for summer campers because it’s very breathable. When you sleep your body gets hot, which in turn causes you to sweat. Down works by trapping air between its fibers and holding that heat close to your body.
Since it’s so breathable, the trapped air can also absorb your sweat, which helps to keep you dry. As your sweat evaporates, the temperature next to your body is lowered, which keeps you cool.
Unfortunately, down does have its disadvantages. If it gets wet, it loses ALL of its insulating properties and becomes practically useless. It also doesn’t do very well when there’s a lot of moisture in the air.
If you live in a humid climate, or are planning on backpacking through a rainforest, you’re going to have issues with down keeping you warm enough.
Another popular choice for summer is fleece. Fleece is lightweight and very breathable. It traps a minimal amount of air next to your body, which helps to keep you cool.
Since it’s synthetic, it also does a better job of keeping you warm when it’s damp out.
Unlike down, fleece doesn’t compress as well, so it takes up more room in your pack. Also, fleece isn’t as soft as down, so some people might not find it as comfortable.
When picking out a fleece blanket, you’ll probably notice that they’re labeled by what temperature they can keep you warm at. This is called the “fleece blanket rating”. The problem is, it’s virtually impossible to test every single blanket at every different temperature.
Manufacturers will typically rate their blankets for a low temperature that they know the blanket won’t suffer from heat loss. This means that you might still get cold if you’re sleeping in an area that’s outside the blanket’s rating.
Some manufacturers also use a measurement system called “Fill Power” to rate how much insulation a blanket has. The higher the number, the better it will retain heat.
The good thing is that fleece blankets don’t suffer from the same issues as down; They don’t get wet. Even if you’re sweating all over the place, your fleece blanket isn’t going to absorb any of that moisture and lose its ability to insulate you. It also doesn’t suffer from the same heat retention issues that down does when it’s humid outside.
Best Blankets For Spring & Fall: Down Or Synthetic?
When the temperature starts to drop, you’re going to need to switch from your summer blanket out to a warmer one. You have two main options here: go with a thicker blanket, or get a thinner one and add an extra blanket on top of it.
If you want to keep things simple, a single thick down blanket is a good choice for the colder months. The thickness will keep you nice and warm, and the down will protect you from losing heat through convection.
You shouldn’t have to worry about your blanket getting damp too much if you’re camping in milder climates. The only thing that might cause an issue is if your campsite isn’t well ventilated and you start to sweat at night. If that’s the case, you might wake up with a slightly damp blanket.
As long as you make sure to change your clothes and hang your blanket up every morning so it can dry, it shouldn’t be an issue.
The main disadvantage to a thick down blanket is that they’re less portable. If you’re backpacking, you might not be able to fit it in your pack if you have too much stuff with you.
A slightly more portable alternative is a thinner down blanket paired with a synthetic one. You can use the down blanket for most of the year, and only bring out the synthetic one when the temperature starts to drop.
The benefit here is that you’ve got two layers to keep you warm, but the downsides are similar. You’ll still need to change out your clothes and hang up the blanket to dry if it gets damp.
A Word Of Caution About Your Sleeping Bag
No matter what type of blanket you bring with you, make sure it fits in your sleeping bag. You don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you can’t zip up your sleeping bag because you’re too big, or you’re struggling to fit the blanket in there.
This is especially important if you’re going on a backpacking trip and need to carry everything with you. Your sleeping bag and blanket combo is going to be one of the heaviest things in your pack, so make sure they fit well together.
Sources & references used in this article:
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The hair of the dog: The identification of a Coast Salish dog-hair blanket from Yale, British Columbia by R Schulting – Canadian Journal of Archaeology/Journal Canadien d’ …, 1994 – JSTOR
Comparison of three different methods to prevent heat loss in healthy dogs undergoing 90 minutes of general anesthesia by SC Clark-Price, O Dossin, KR Jones, AN Otto… – Veterinary anaesthesia …, 2013 – Elsevier