One of the sheer joys during cold winter months is bundling up in a warm blanket—though not all blankets are created equal. Old Man Winter has a nasty habit of exposing the limits of normal bedding blankets, especially when spending time outdoors. Cold spots, poor wind resistance, and an unfortunate propensity to soak in snow and water limit the usefulness of standard blankets. Anyone who has shivered hours away in the bleachers of a football game or while cold weather camping can testify to this fact.
Cold weather-specific blankets are engineered to stand up to the elements while still being cozy enough for all-around use. By combining high-quality craftsmanship with modern materials, today’s best blankets are light, durable, and of course, warm. A quality blanket that is well-taken care of can last decades, making it an excellent gear investment that is useful throughout the year. Here are five traits to look for in good winter/cold weather blankets.
1. Weatherproof and Warm
Blankets designed for chilly temps must be able to maintain warmth, keep out snow and moisture, and do so without being overly cumbersome. Two-sided blankets are the perfect solution, pairing a waterproof/windproof nylon side with a high-end, insulating, fleece side. Synthetic fleece materials such as Polartec Classic 300 are ideal for the softer side of the blanket. These modern fabrics are excellent at capturing heat while also being hydrophobic (meaning they don’t absorb moisture)—and they are soft. The upshot is you have a blanket that will fend off wind, snow, and rain while staying warm, even if it gets wet. Whether you are sitting on the sidelines on a frigid January day or gathered ‘round a campfire that isn’t putting off enough heat, two-sided blankets will keep you warm. And come summer, the nylon side can keep your blanket from absorbing natural dampness from the ground at a picnic or music venue.
Extra insulation is built into some winter blankets using a sewn-in layer of heat-reflective living (the same material found in silver survival blankets). Combined with a fleece interior and waterproof nylon shell, these are among the very best cold weather blankets on the market.
2. Durable Materials
The best blankets are made with care and use a combination of durable nylon, fleece, and high-quality thread. Cheap imports are easy to find but their shortcomings will quickly unravel before your eyes. American-made blankets tend to offer superior workmanship and design, and they may cost a little more, but the investment is worth it. The best brands back up their claims with strong warranties—making your blanket a lifelong accessory that will provide years of warmth and comfort.
3. Hoods and Pockets for Common Sense Warmth
Given that humans lose a large amount of heat through the head and neck, the traditional square shape of blankets lacks the ergonomic versatility to keep the entire body warm. Blankets that earnestly adapt to the human shape are designed with large hoods, pockets, and sealed seams that won’t allow water or snow in. Warmer than a poncho, these wearable blankets are exceptional at keeping out wind and negating the cold of metal bleachers or stadium seats. They are also the envy of cold night outings, from star-gazing to camping, offering full body warmth in a single piece of gear.
In the past, warm blankets were heavy and cumbersome—and even then, they sometimes had to be layered to provide any substantial comfort. Thankfully, modern materials offer superb insulation while remaining lightweight and easy to compress. A good blanket will fit into a stuff sack or else easily compress to fit into a backpack. A durable blanket will be just at home on the back of a snowmobile as it will be tucked away as an emergency blanket in your vehicle.
5. Year-Round Versatility
Cold weather is a year-round event. Even in the heart of summer, cooler temps can creep in while backpacking, sitting on the beach, or watching fireworks. Cold weather blankets excel in the winter months, but have plenty of uses throughout the year. Anytime you need insulation from the dewy ground, a nylon-sided blanket will do the trick—or, flip the nylon side up to prevent a filthy dog from spreading mud throughout your car. Watching sporting events, camping, or waiting in line for the latest iPhone? You’ll want lightweight warmth that can fit in a backpack. A good blanket will handle all the wear and tear of year-round use while maintaining its insulating and comfortable qualities.
Written by James Dziezynski for Matcha in partnership with Mambe Blankets.