How Do You Choose the Right Camping Blanket for Backpacking?

As someone who’s pitched more tents than I can count and spent more nights under the open sky than in my own bed, I’ve got to say, picking the right camping blanket is way more important than it sounds.

It’s not just another item on your packing list; it’s your barrier against the chilly night air and your cozy companion by the campfire.

I’ve dragged my trusty blankets from the misty mountains to damp, forested valleys, and through it all, I’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.

Here are my top list of things to consider:


Camping Blanket Materials

The fabric of a camping blanket dictates its warmth, weight, durability, and comfort. Common materials include:

Fleece: Known for its softness and warmth, fleece is a popular choice. It’s light, dries quickly, and is comfortable against the skin, making it ideal for mild weather.

Down: Recognized for its excellent insulation, down is the filling of choice for those who need maximum warmth with minimal weight. However, it’s less effective when wet, unless you opt for a water-resistant down.

Synthetic: Synthetic fillers are often favored for their ability to retain heat even when damp and their quick-drying properties. They’re generally more affordable than down and easier to clean.

Wool: Natural, fire-resistant, and incredibly warm, wool blankets are heavier but excel in providing warmth even when damp.

Weight and Packability

For backpackers, every ounce matters. A blanket’s weight and how small it packs are crucial factors. Lightweight and compact blankets are preferred, but they should not compromise on warmth and comfort.

Advanced materials like thin down or high-tech synthetics can offer the best balance between low weight and high performance.

Ultralight Down: Down is prized for its exceptional insulative qualities and its ability to compress down to a small size. Ultralight down blankets can weigh as little as 1 to 2 pounds and still provide substantial warmth. Technologies like hydrophobic treatments improve down’s resistance to water, making it more versatile across varying conditions.

High-Tech Synthetics: Synthetic insulation, such as PrimaLoft or Thinsulate, is engineered to mimic the qualities of down but retains heat even when wet. This makes it a reliable choice for damp environments. Synthetic blankets are often slightly heavier than down but are generally more durable and resistant to moisture.

Packability: A blanket’s ability to be compressed into a compact form is just as important as its weight. Many camping blankets designed for backpacking come with their own compression sack, enabling them to be packed down into the size of a football. This feature makes them easy to attach to the outside of a backpack or tuck into nooks within the pack, preserving space for other essentials.


The primary purpose of a camping blanket is to keep you warm. Consider the environment where you’ll be using the blanket.

If you’re heading to high altitudes or cold regions, look for blankets with higher insulation properties, such as those filled with down or a thick synthetic. For warmer climates, a lighter fleece or a thin wool blanket might suffice.

Choosing Insulation Based on Climate:

High Altitudes and Cold Regions: In colder environments, such as mountainous areas or northern latitudes, a higher level of insulation is necessary. Down blankets, with their high loft and excellent thermal efficiency, are ideal in these settings. For those concerned about environmental impacts or allergies, advanced synthetics provide comparable warmth and are often designed to perform well in frigid conditions.

Moderate Climates: For areas where temperatures do not drop as severely, a medium-weight synthetic or a thicker fleece might be perfect. These materials provide sufficient warmth for cool nights without the bulk or overheating that might come with more heavily insulated blankets.

Warm Climates: In warmer regions, the focus shifts more towards comfort rather than intense warmth. Light fleece or thin wool blankets offer a breathable layer that keeps the evening chill at bay without causing overheating. Their moisture-wicking properties also help in humid conditions.


Size matters when it comes to comfort. A blanket that’s too small can leave parts of your body exposed to the cold, while a too-large blanket can be cumbersome to carry. Consider a blanket that’s large enough to cover you completely yet fits snugly in your backpack.

Solo Backpacker: For an individual, a blanket measuring around 50 inches by 70 inches generally offers ample coverage for most adults. This size is large enough to cover you from shoulder to beyond your feet, ensuring no part is left vulnerable to the cold. It’s also compact enough to fold down and fit into the bottom of your backpack.

Couple or Sharing: If you are backpacking with a partner and prefer to share a blanket for added warmth, you might consider a larger size, such as 70 inches by 80 inches. This size provides enough space for two people to comfortably cover themselves without having to fight for blanket space during the night.

Extra Coverage: For those who prefer extra coverage or are taller, a blanket measuring 58 inches by 84 inches could be ideal. This size ensures that even when you move around at night, you remain covered. It’s also useful for taller individuals who need that extra length to avoid cold feet.

Minimalist Backpacker: If weight and space are your primary concerns and you are traveling in milder conditions, you might opt for a more compact size like 48 inches by 60 inches. This smaller blanket is sufficient to cover the core body area and provide essential warmth, while being extremely light and easy to pack.

Durability and Ease of Care

Backpacking gear tends to undergo a lot of wear and tear. A good camping blanket should withstand various conditions—whether it’s being dragged over rough ground or getting snagged on branches. Materials like reinforced polyester and tightly-woven nylon are durable choices.

Ease of care is vital. Opt for blankets that are machine washable and dry quickly, to save hassle on extended trips. Here are some more tips for camping care:

Tip Explanation
Regular Cleaning Regularly clean your blanket to remove dirt, sweat, and oils that can degrade the material. Most synthetic and down blankets are machine washable in cold water on a gentle cycle.
Proper Drying Air dry your blanket when possible. If you use a dryer, use a low heat setting. High heat can damage synthetic fibers and down fillings.
Storage Store your blanket uncompressed in a dry, cool place. Compressing your blanket for long periods can damage its filling and reduce its insulating properties.
Repairs Small tears or holes can be repaired with sewing patches or special tape designed for fabric repair. This prevents further damage and extends the blanket’s life.
Avoid Harsh Chemicals Use mild detergents without bleach or fabric softeners, which can break down the fibers over time and reduce the insulation efficiency of your blanket.
Spot Cleaning For minor stains or soiled spots, use a soft brush and a mild soap solution to clean the area without washing the entire blanket, preserving its integrity.