Whether you’re spending a day at the park or headed to an outdoor concert, a good picnic blanket is essential to lounging in comfort. After considering 38 picnic blankets and testing seven, we chose the two-person Nemo Victory Blanket as our favorite. It’s more comfortable to sit on than most blankets, thanks to its soft flannel top, ample padding, and waterproof underlining that will keep you dry even on damp grass. An attached flap and elastic bands easily secure the blanket for easier carrying and storage. And if you prefer a bigger blanket, the Nemo also comes in a four-person model.
If spills are a special concern, or you value toughness and durability over comfort, the 61-by-79-inch MIU Color Blanket is the easiest we’ve found to clean. Its polyester fabric feels similar to what you might find on outdoor lawn furniture or a tablecloth. It’s not soft exactly, and it doesn’t feel like a traditional picnic blanket, but it will definitely last.
If you’re looking for a picnic basket, we recommend a couple in our full guide. And if you’re hunting for other items for outdoor cooking and picnicking, head over to our Great Gear for Picnics and Grilling guide.
We didn’t find any great comparative reviews of picnic blankets, so we relied on our own experience and testing to find the best ones. Picnic blankets, in general, should be easy to clean, and they should feel comfortable to lounge and eat on top of. Essentially, we wanted to find blankets soft enough for a baby to lay on, but durable enough to withstand muddy toddler feet and dog paws and the occasional spilled glass of red wine. That meant we focused on blankets with water-resistant flannel or polyester fleece tops and some kind of padding layer to provide a comfortable cushion.
For easier toting and storage, we looked for blankets that came with attached straps or a separate sack to keep the blanket compactly folded or rolled. We prefered blankets that came with elastic or a sack to those with velcro straps, as the latter usually requires more precise rolling.
Most blankets without some kind of barrier will pull moisture up from the ground like a sponge, especially if you’re lying on them for a few hours, so we tested only those blankets with water-resistant or waterproof backing materials. We placed all the blankets on a recently watered lawn in the shade and laid on each one for roughly 10 minutes. We also put a 45-pound plate weight on each blanket and inspected the weighted spot after 20 minutes for dampness. Thankfully for us and the comfort of our afternoon, none of the models tested let any of the moisture of the lawn through their layers of fabric.
Last, we looked for blankets that we felt would be durable. Although there are plenty of $12 picnic blankets on Amazon, they didn’t look like they’d stand up to much wear and tear. Given that, we focused on blankets that cost $30 to $70. This seemed like a reasonable price range for a durable blanket that wouldn’t fall apart after a season of use, while not also becoming a luxury item.
We think the two-person Nemo Victory offers the best combination of comfort, durability, and compactness. The top doesn’t trap dirt like some blankets, and since it comes in two sizes you can choose the one that best suits your picnic needs.
Its flannel top is soft enough to comfortably nap on in the sun and definitely gentle enough for the delicate skin of children or infants. The top isn’t quite as soft as the polyester fleece of our pick from 2013, the Zip-n-go blanket, but still pleasant for lounging. The blanket’s ample padding blocks out most of the sticks and twigs underneath you, and the waterproof polyurethane underlayer keeps moisture from seeping through. And unlike cheaper, less durable options, it will withstand people walking, rolling, and jumping across it from time to time.
The Victory is one of the simplest blankets we folded up, with no need to remember a special pattern or make sure all of the edges are perfectly aligned. It folds neatly into itself (into a 14-by-6-inch roll), and the attached elastic bands are strong but flexible enough to securely hold even the most haphazardly shaped fold job. Compared with blankets that roll up and rely on a separate sack for carrying (which also happen to be perfect for losing), getting the Victory folded is more convenient and takes no time at all.
The Victory’s flannel also wasn’t as prone as synthetic fleece blankets to trapping particles of food, grime, and dirt. The blanket is machine-washable, though we found that the fabric top was resistant enough to easily wipe mud and dirt off with a damp cloth without leaving a mark.
At 50 inches by 86 inches, the two-person Victory isn’t as big as some of the other blankets we looked at, but it’s less bulky while still being large enough for three people and a child (or even four adults in a pinch). For those who really need the extra space, the Victory is available in an expansive 90-by-90-inch four-person model.
If you’re expecting a lot of spills at your picnics, or if you want an outdoor mat that’s extra durable, consider the MIU Color Blanket. Its bottom has a coating of ironed-on PVC vinyl film (not a separate sheet of waterproof material stitched on like most of the other blankets). While MIU says that its blankets are machine-washable, we can’t see the point. Every side of this blanket is built to be wiped down by hand, and its material makes it resistant to stains. The MIU is made out of a polyester fabric that is similar to that of lawn furniture. It doesn’t have the soft, classic picnic blanket feel like that of the Victory Nemo, but it does feel like it will last.
The MIU was nearly as simple to fold up as the Victory, but instead of elastic bands it uses a velcro strip to fully wrap it up. This design means that you have to be fairly precise when you roll up your blanket. But for basic durability and spill and water resistance, the MIU can’t be beat.
The Zip-n-go blanket was our former top pick. Its polyester fleece top is soft and feels great to sit on, but we weren’t fans of it for eating on when compared with the flannel top of the Victory Nemo. Fleece gets sticky and tough even after it’s washed, while flannel is easier to maintain and is just as durable (if not more so). The Zip-n-go is also more expensive than the Victory.
The Out & About Travel Throw was the nicest-looking blanket and the easiest to fold up. It folds into a giant square that’s secured with a zipper, which means it could also be used as an individual sitting pad for concerts and other spectator events. However, this also makes it bulky to carry. Plus, the material for the top was peculiar. It felt like the outer coating of a diaper and was weirdly off-putting.
The Mambe Classic Outdoor Blanket wasn’t as easy to carry as the other blankets we tested, because it doesn’t come with a rollup sleeve or a built-in way to keep it secured when it’s folded. We found it wasn’t constructed well, and walking on the Mambe was oddly treacherous, like walking on a freshly waxed wood floor in cashmere socks. Also, the fleece felt cheap.
The L.L.Bean Waterproof Blanket is soft and machine-washable, but isn’t as easy to roll or fold as our picks, and it doesn’t have integrated straps for carrying. Instead, it uses a stuff sack, which can easily be misplaced.
The Picnic Time Blanket Tote is comfortable and easy to carry thanks to its integrated strap. However it isn’t machine-washable, and its fleece top sheds all over dark clothing, which requires significant sticky-rolling after it’s used.
Like the Mambe, the REI Outdoor Blanket doesn’t come with a rollup sleeve or fold into a tote for easy carrying, and it was way too small compared with the other blankets we looked at.
We also considered the Pendleton Roll-Up Blanket because it’s of great quality and comes with a lifetime warranty (albeit a vaguely worded one). But at twice the cost of the other blankets we looked at, it’s too expensive.
Originally published: April 20, 2016
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