A blanket should always be a part of your essential camping gear, and there’s no debate that wool blankets are perfect for outdoors.
I had this Pendleton camping blanket for two years, and I have to say, there was no situation when it wasn’t useful. You’ll be so happy to have one when those weather predictions for a warm night don’t come true.
The price I paid was a bit too much for some, but I wanted a high-quality material that will last me for a long time. In case the Pendleton blanket is out of stock, these are some other viable alternatives:
- EKTOS 100% wool blanket
- Arcturus 80% Heavy Military Wool Blanket
- Woolly Mammoth camping blanket
- Ever Ready fire retardant covers
- Orion Outpost blankets
In this article, I will go into details about each one of this blankets and find out if they are worthy of a camping trip.
My favorite wool blanket for my camping trips
I knew I wanted to buy a good blanket, and with over 150 years of experience in working with wool, Pendleton delivers unique quality. And most of this quality comes from the pure virgin wool that they are using. It was vital for me that this product is heavy duty, so it can endure whatever the weather or my camping activities will throw at it.
First I was a bit skeptical about my purchase, as I found out that Dry Cleaning was the only method that Pendleton advised using. Luckily, this is widely available nowadays and shouldn’t be too difficult to find a cleaning shop that provides it.
I went for the Queen size, which is about 90 x 90 inches, more than enough to fit my needs. And even though I expected it to be heavy and bulky, it couldn’t be more comfortable. You can’t go wrong with one of these.
I know, for some of you, paying a couple of hundred of dollars (Queen size) for just a blanket will sound like crazy. But for me is an investment that will last me for many camping trips.
There is something about it that I don’t like, and for that price, it doesn’t make sense. It’s only 86% wool; the rest is cotton. Pendleton does have some 100% options available, but the prices are too much even for a crazy person like me.
EKTOS 100% wool blanket – cheap but impressive quality
At about a quarter of the price of a Pendleton camp blanket, EKTOS really wants to dominate the market with this product. It’s true, there no vast experience behind them and no big name, and all this translates into a much lower selling price.
There’s a lot of attention to the finishing with this one. All the edges and corners are overlocked, designed to prevent pilling.
The drawback is that you can only find them in one size: 66 x 90 inches. This can be inconvenient for some of you.
The blanket provides exceptional warmth, and for those that don’t have access to a dry-cleaning, there’s some good news: it’s machine washable.
It is fire retardant, so you can fall asleep by your campfire, but if I were you, I would keep a distance, as fire retardant does not mean it’s not going to catch fire, it’s only going to delay this.
There’s no reason not to use this with your sleeping bag in case the temperatures drop drastically.
Arcturus 80% Heavy Military Wool Blanket
One of the warmest camping blanket that you can find. And the best part? It’s very cheap..so cheap that you might be tempted to buy an extra one in case of an emergency.
The wool content is around 80 percent, and the rest, are synthetic materials like nylon and polyester. Not exactly the most natural choice, but this is reflected in the price as well.
I found out that manufacturers tend to stick with some standard sizes when it comes to camping blankets, and the Arcturus is no different; it’s 66 x 90 inches but because of the synthetic composition, is nearly 2 lbs lighter than EKTOS.
When it comes to fire resistance, there’s a small print that says the material was treated with “special chemicals” to make it fire retardant. I tried to find out what those chemicals are, but there’s no information about them. I am still waiting for an answer from Arcturus about this.
There is one problem with this blanket, and I am sure the chemicals used in treatments are to blame: the smell. People who got this said they couldn’t get rid of that chemical odor even though they washed it several times.
Therefore, I would only buy one of this and store it as an emergency blanket. But if the smell is not a massive problem for you, then you can consider using it for sleeping.
Woolly Mammoth – blankets for the outdoor lifestyle
Woolly Mammoth Woolen Company is another big name in this industry. The use of good quality Merino wool can be seen in many of their products, and the camp blankets aren’t missing this property.
You can’t go wrong with this choice, and I like the idea of adding some acrylic material to enhance that durability. Price wise, even though they are a big brand, this blanket retails for around half the price of the ones listed previosly, and they seem to find the perfect balance with this, as people buy them like crazy.
Any backpacker that takes his hobby serious should pack at least one of these.
When it comes to finishing and materials used, Wolly Mammoth tried to make this blanket denser by combining inter-fiber felting and fiber consolidation. Now, I know these words sound high-tech, but it’s not really that much of a deal. But being denser means it will offer more protection against the winds, perhaps making it the number one choice for sleeping without shelter.
Be careful though, don’t fall asleep near a campfire with this over you. Wolly Mammoth don’t use chemicals to treat their products, and this blanket is not fire retardant.
Will it smell? Well, the answer is yes. But unlike the Arcturus, its smells are more natural, caused by the natural waxes and oils used in processing.
Ever Ready First Aid fire retardant covers
Surprisingly or not, this is the best seller on Amazon for military and camping covers. I’m sure that the small price it’s to blame for this.
Not much can be said about them because the manufacturer does not provide enough information. I know it’s made from 80% wool but there no information about the rest of the synthetic materials used. Although, the petroleum smell may very well indicate that the other 20% is PET. Now this will affect the fire resistance profoundly, even though the manufacturer says it’s fire retardant.
The thickness of the blanket is what’s worrying me; I am not sure how much warmth it can provide because it looks quite thin.
Orion Outpost blankets
No significant difference sets this one apart. But I am surprised to see that they are running a charity campaign. For every five sheets they sell, one is donated to local charities. I really hope this information is not just a selling point and they do keep their promises.
Material wise, no big deal; 80% wool and some unknown synthetic fabrics. I really hate when they don’t say what that is. I understand that polyester is never good advertising, but seriously, people have a right to know before they buy.
It’s being sold as moisture absorbent blanket, and the only way you would put that in the title is because you want people to buy it for summer use. I guess that’s another feature that we didn’t encounter in other products.
Wool vs. Synthetic fabric – the best choice for camping
But why wool blankets when there are so many cheap synthetic alternatives? To answer this question, I had to check what the army was using. And I found out that even though technology evolved and human-made fabrics appear every day, the military stick with wool. The reasons why this fabric is so popular are listed below:
- It’s a breathable material – When people sleep inside a tent in cold weather, they usually cover themselves with all they can get their hand on. Although initially, they get warm and cozy, their body will begin to sweat, and if the material does not allow “breathing”, things will take a turn to the worse.
- Wool is not a toxic material – If you are using a 100 percent virgin wool blanket, there’s no need to worry about skin irritation or other problems that synthetic materials can cause to a sensible person.
- Bacterias don’t like wool – That’s another reason why these blankets are so widely used. Many times it’s impossible to keep your campsite as clean as your house is, and having bacteria-free mediums is a must.
- Durability – The life expectancy of a wool blanket is about ten years. Hot and cold weather doesn’t have much impact on their strength.
- It’s stain resistant – Not that the soldiers will care about this but you might if you decide to buy a 200 dollars cover.
- It maintains insulation properties even when it’s wet – Beneficial when dealing with bad condensation problems inside a tent, or excessive sweating.
The difference between wool and fleece blankets
There’s a difference between them, but people often consider them to be the same. The term fleece blanket (polar fleece) should be used when referring to those covers which are made from the synthetic material called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Yes, it’s the same stuff that plastic bottles are made of. But why the confusion? Because sometimes, the word fleece can be used to refer to the unprocessed wool (the raw wool that’s not been turned into fibers or yarn).
Fleece can often be mistaken with wool if you are not too familiar with those materials. Always keep in mind that the man-made fabric is much lighter than natural wool.
The effects of laundering on camping wool blankets
If the material used to make the sheet was not processed correctly, washing it many times can have a dramatic impact on both it’s dimensions and it’s thickness.
The manufacturers should make the material shrink-resistant, but this involves additional costs, and, for many cheap camping blankets out there, this is not a feature. This characteristic is not always included in the products description, making it difficult to spot a wash-resistant sheet.
Other human-made fabrics similar to wool are designated to have a better resistance to repetitive laundering, Acrilan and Olron beeing some of them.
Insulation properties of a wool blanket
Wool insulates by trapping warm air coming from your body in tiny pockets in the fabric; thus, the ticker the coverage is the better it will protect. In windy conditions, the properties drop significantly, as the cold air can easily reach you.
Sheep wool blankets maintain their R-value (the materials ability to resist heat transfer) even when they are wet, at the same time preventing the growth of mold. We all know how much moisture can be inside a camping tent.
The insulation properties aren’t lost as time goes by, and the reason behind this is the fact that wool is resistant to compression, meaning it will not change it’s thickness if heavy weights are compressing it (The human body for example).
Q: Is a wool camping blanket fire resistant?
A: Naturally, sheep wool is a fire retardant material, but during the manufacturing process, this ability might be lost if poor treatments were applied. In addition to this, blankets that don’t contain 100% wool ( 80% wool and 20% cotton), or the so-called fleece blankets are NOT fire resistant.
Care and maintenance
It’s not difficult to maintain a wool blanket so it can last forever. There are some rules when it comes to taking care of them, and they should always be followed; otherwise, you risk destroying the cover.
- Always use a low temperature when washing them – Manufacturers usually recommend a temperature of 30°C (86°F), but I always wash mine in cold water. This way, I make sure I reduce the shrinking risk to a minimum. “Violent” machine washing can damage the fiber, so, if your washing machine has a “hand-wash” mode, I suggest you use it. Also, don’t go too crazy on those RPMs. Dry cleaning is proven to work even better.
- Check the storage area for moths – Wool contains a lot of nitrogen, and many insects are attracted to them. If your storage area gets infested with moths, in about 2-3 days, your blanket will be full of holes, ruining it completely.
- Watch out for pilling – It is not much you can do about this, as it’s a natural wearing off process.
Tips for sleeping with a wool blanket
Although it’s a nice addition to provide warmth, you should know that camping with a wool blanket alone won’t keep you warm enough, especially in freezing conditions.
Here are some things you shouldn’t do if you don’t want to freeze:
- Don’t use a wool blanket as a sleeping pad – they are not designed to reflect cold air back to the ground, even worse, that cold air can get trapped by the cover.
- If camping with a hammock, don’t rely on it for wind protection.