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The Outdoor Blanket: A Picnic Blanket that Fits in Your Pocket

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When you think of the term “picnic blanket” it’s easy to envision a romanticized scene where you and your significant other are laying out on a thick, comfy blanket made of cotton or wool.

On one corner of the blanket, an assortment of carefully prepared foods and lavish kitchenware surrounds an antique wicker picnic basket. After clinking glasses with your date, you set your long stem wine glass, brimming with a smoky Cabernet, down on the blanket and pick up your guitar….

It probably looks something like this:

Sure.That can happen. But let’s get real here.

It’s more likely that a light breeze will cover everything in sand, a glass of wine will be spilled, and an escaping morsel of food will get smashed by an elbow or knee.

Things get even worse if that picnic blanket is at an outdoor concert or music festival and it starts to rain.

I’m not trying to be a downer here – this is all part of the fun of picnicking and having fun in the outdoors. But I am trying to make the point that that blanket in the photo above will not look, weigh, or maybe even smell the same after just a few outings.

And we won’t even get into all the sand and dirt you will inadvertently drag into your car.

Thankfully, the outdoor industry has been listening and came up with an ingenious (and stupidly simple) piece of must-have gear – the outdoor pocket blanket.

An outdoor blanket is a lightweight, picnic or beach blanket that sheds sand easily and provides a good barrier against wet ground. To stay put in wind, most have corner pockets hold weighted items, and some have loops in the corner for ground stakes. Outdoor blankets usually include a stuff sack and are small enough to fit into a pocket or purse.  

A Versatile Piece of Outdoor Gear for Active People

It’s rare when there is a piece of outdoor gear that is inexpensive, yet great for absolutely anyone who is active outside. Whether you are a hardcore thru hiker, an expedition sea kayaker, a long distance bike tourist, an indie music fan who goes to outdoor concerts, or just an active family headed to the park for the day, a modern pocket blanket is something that you will appreciate having and will most definitely use.

A Picnic Blanket that Fits in Your Pocket

We are all out about adventure picnicking here at Tribal Feast. Anytime is a good time to head outside to have an al fresco breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but we also like to travel light so we can get to more remote places. Having a waterproof, dirtproof barrier that we can spread ourselves and our gear out on that also fits into the palm of our hand is a game changer.

Sure a pocket blanket is not as cushy and soft as that thick, smelly cotton blanket, but it also doesn’t weigh several pounds and take up all the space in your pack. It also has quite a few other benefits and features which we’ll get into below.

A Sand-Resistant Beach Blanket

If you like to go into the water when you are at the beach, the concept of a beach towel is actually pretty ridiculous. Think about it. When you come back to your towel from your swim, you pick it up, shake the sand off, use it to dry off, then lay that wet towel back down in the sand – much of which will invariably end up in your car.

But what if you had a sandproof, waterproof barrier to put down beneath your towel? And what if that barrier only weighed a few ounces? No brainer, right?

After you dry off from your swim and lay your towel back down on the pocket blanket, it will dry off in a fraction of the time since the pocket blanket doesn’t hold in the moisture like sand.

Most pocket blankets also come with corner ground stakes or pockets designed to hold sand or other weight to help keep them in place in the wind. We’ll talk more about this below, but put this at the top of your “important feature” list if you are shopping for a pocket beach blanket.

A pocket blanket won’t eradicate all the beach sand from you, your towel, or your car, but it certainly will help alleviate the problem and will make your day at the beach so much more pleasing and comfortable.

An Outdoor Concert and Music Festival Blanket

If you go to a lot of outdoor concerts and music festivals, you are also probably very familiar with the following scientific formula:

(music + people + dirt) x rain = lots of mud

And you probably have an accurate idea of just how much a wet, muddy blanket can weigh.

Multi day music festivals like Woodstock, Coachella, and Glastonberry are known for their mud and filth. Even if you avoid the mud wrestling pits and swamp-like foot paths, having a ground sheet to maintain a tiny island of clean can add a lot of positivity to the experience.

And if you still do want to bring along a more comfortable cloth festival blanket, a pocket outdoor blanket can help keep both it and you clean and dry. If it rains, you simply roll the cloth blanket up into the waterproof outdoor blanket. When the rain stops, you still have a dry blanket to lay on!

A Camping Gear Blanket and Ground Cloth

If you have ever had to set up camp after a hard rain, you know how hard it is to keep your gear dry as you unpack it to set up your tent. Laying out a pocket blanket provides you with a space to lay out and sort through your gear on dry ground.

If you don’t have a ground sheet for your free standing tent, buying a pocket blanket that is just slightly smaller is a great solution. A lot of pocket blankets have corner loops for ground stakes so they can be staked out independently of your tent.

A Handy Mini Tarp

If you have a pocket blanket with corner loops and stakes, you can also easily convert it into small tarp to protect you from rain or offer shade. The only additional things you will need are an appropriate length of paracord for a ridgeline and a few trees or posts to tie off to. You can also use tarp poles or trekking poles if you have them.

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An Emergency Poncho

While pocket blankets usually can’t provide much warmth, they can be used as an emergency makeshift poncho. If they have corner pockets, simply stick a hand in each pocket on one end of the blanket and pull it over your head.

Not the best poncho by any means, but it is way better than a wet newspaper and it will keep you dry on your way to the car.

Common Features of Outdoor Pocket Blankets

Considering how relatively new pocket blankets are, there are still scores of different ones to choose from. They all have their individual flaws and merits, but they also share some common qualities and features.

Material and Construction

Most all pocket blankets are made out of ripstop polyester nylon or Silnylon and the quality is usually commensurate with price.

What’s important to know is that ripstop refers to nylon that has stronger threads imbedded and Silnylon means the nylon has been coated in silicone. There is such a thing as ripstop Silnylon and many of these blankets are made of it, but don’t do a good job explaining this. Or they come up with their own name for the material they use which only confuses things more.

To make things simpler, we recommend not focusing too much on materials, but rather price and expected use.

Basically, if you are looking for a serious piece of gear that will survive many seasons, plan on spending more money (in the $30 to $50 range)  for a top brand like Matador with a proven history and several generations of design.

If you are looking for a pocket blanket for outdoor concerts or a multi-day music festivals, honestly it is probably better to go cheaper and focus more on size and features.

Sure, it would be awesome if the pocket blanket you purchase lasts many years, and it very well may, but the amount of abuse it may be exposed to may also be too much even for the top- of-the-line blankets. And there is also the possibility of your blanket getting lost or stolen. That just doesn’t happen much on outdoor adventures.

Stitching and the detail to the finishing work are something worth considering, but this too is fairly commensurate with price. Because a blanket has much less stress on it than a tent, the stitching quality isn’t as critical, so as mentioned above, if you are looking for a serious piece of outdoor gear, plan on spending some extra money.

If you just need a ground barrier for concerts and the occasional trip to the beach, save your money and buy for features knowing that you may only get a few seasons out of the blanket. Disposable gear is rarely something we support or encourage, but we also need to get real about what it is we are talking about here – a barrier for water, dirt, grime and filth. This is one piece of gear that you may want to replace every season or two regardless of how well it is made.

Corner Stake Loops

This is probably the most important and useful feature you can look for in a pocket blanket. Not only does it allow you to stake down your blanket in wind, but it also makes using your pocket blanket as a tarp much, much easier.

Corner loops can be made out of either cord or webbing, and honestly there isn’t much difference in functionality between them. What is more important is the quality of the stitching used to attach the stake loops.

If you already have a pocket blanket and it doesn’t have stake loops, they can be easy to add by sewing on small loops of webbing, but an even easier solution is to just add some corner grommets. Regardless of which route you go here, make sure you don’t  close up any corner weight pockets if your blanket has them.

Corner weight pockets

I wish I was more excited about this feature, but in reality corner weight pockets aren’t nearly as effective as staking off a tent with ground stakes. Many of the corner pockets on the market are pretty shallow and useless unless you get good at filling them, so rather than go into any detail on differences, let’s cover how to go about adding whatever you intend to use for weight – stones, dirt, sand – to your blanket.

We should note before starting out that weighted pockets can be either on the top or the bottom of a blanket. We prefer the bottom because it keeps that dirt, sand, or whatever it is you are using for weight from spilling out onto the surface of the blanket. Regardless of whether the weight pockets are on the top or bottom of the blanket, the following method works great. If it is extremely windy however, having two people can make this a whole lot easier.

Step 1: With the blanket folded or wadded up so that it is not being blown by the wind, find one corner pocket and fill with weight. Put this corner under your knee or have a friend hold it.

Step 2: Locate the next nearest corner. This will be the one that shares the same end lengthwise of the blanket. Fill this with weight.

Step 3: Holding each of the two weighted corners (either by yourself or with a friend) turn so that your back is facing the wind and the blanket is stretched out in the breeze as flatly as possible. Now slowly lower the two corners to the ground making sure the fabric between them is taught.

Step 4: Sitting on the blanket, move to the unweighted end, straightening and flattening the blanket as you go. Once you reach the two remaining corners, simply add weight. If the corners are on the underside of the blanket, simply flip them up.

Step 5: Once all four corners have been weighted, you can turn the blanket to a more desirable orientation. Just take care not to let the wind get beneath the edges and keep the blanket as flat and stretched out as possible in the process.

Stuff Sack

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I wish all pocket blankets had the stuff sack sewn to the blanket like the Matador so that it wouldn’t get easily lost or blow away in the wind. But then again, those “budget” pocket blankets would all cost considerably more. Not losing a stuff sack, however, can be easily remedied with either care or a needle and a little thread.

Another great solution to not losing your stuff sack and other small items is by buying a blanket with an incorporated storage pocket. The only one we have found with that feature so far is from YourEver (see below), but this is a great feature! Once the blanket is pulled from the stuff sack, you simply find the zippered pocket and stick it in there. You can also add other weighted items to help keep it in place while you get the corners weighted or staked.

As far as features found on the actual stuff sacks themselves, having a spring cord lock on the drawstring is really awesome, but this can be easily added to a stuff sack that doesn’t have one. Other than that, they are simply just a little storage pouch.

Ground Stakes

If the pocket blanket has corner loops there is a good chance it comes with ground stakes. Even if it doesn’t, understanding what makes certain tent stake styles better for certain types of ground can keep you from making an error in choosing or replacing the stakes for your pocket blanket.

Thin wire stakes are awesome for places with grass or the average forest floor and offer the lightest solution – especially when they are made of titanium. We found these inexpensive titanium shepherd’s hook stakes on Amazon that are a great deal. Wire stakes are easy to insert into the ground and pull cleanly from the soil without holding a lot of dirt. Where they fail completely is soft ground like sand and mud. There you need something with more surface area.

Standard tent stakes usually have flutes or ridges that not only add strength, but also surface area to hold better in loose soil conditions. Most of the plastic stakes the come with pocket blankets are of this design, and they work well enough. But if you wanted to replace them, you could opt for an aftermarket high performance tent stake like the MSR Groundhog or one of a similar design.

One thing to pay attention to when upgrading the stakes for a pocket blanket is making sure the new ones fit in the stuff sack. Most of the cheaper plastic ones that come with pocket blankets are around 6” and most of the common higher performance tent stakes are around 7”.Measure the stuff sack you will be using first before purchasing new stakes if this is a concern.

One blanket on the market, the Matador, comes with stakes that are incorporated into the blanket – meaning they cannot be removed.  This is great if you are in a place where the tiny stakes are enough. But in more severe situations like the windy beach, the ability to choose bigger sand stakes is definitely a plus.

Lastly, keep in mind that you can use both corner weights and stakes together if conditions are particularly windy. Fill the weighted corners first, get the blanket where you want it, then stake off the corners.

Outdoor Pocket Blankets Size Comparison

Below are some of our favorite outdoor pocket blankets currently on the market for concerts and general outdoor use. Most all are comparable in their basic functionality, but can vary quite a bit on size. See the next section for more on their standout features and price.

Brand Length Width Total Sq In Material
Holrbos 82” 56” 4,592″ RipStop 1200T Nylon Polyester
PokiPine 79” 55” 4,345″ 210T Ripstop Polyester
YourEver 63”  50” 3,150″ Silnylon
Matador 63” 44”  2,772″ HyperLyte Nylon

Standout Features

Holrbos 

The Good: Large size. Includes a Carabiner Bottle Opener, Ground Stake Kit.

The Bad: Only comes in dark colors.

The Price: Check the current price on Amazon

PokiPine 

The Good: Inexpensive. Large size. Includes a carabiner and ground stake kit

The Bad: Not top quality, but decent enough.

The Price: Check the current price on Amazon

YourEver 

Special Note: This pocket blanket is our pick for the best choice for outdoor concerts and music festivals. Read our in depth review of the YourEver pocket blanket here!

The Good: Inexpensive. Fabric does not appear to be ripstop. Includes a cool integrated “secret” zippered storage pocket. Also includes a carabiner and ground stake kit

The Bad: Not the cleanest stitching. Not top quality, but decent enough.

The Price: Check the current price on Amazon

Matador

The Good: Great quality! Includes integrated pouch, built in stakes, and a sewn on pattern to help refolding back into the pouch.

The Bad: Pricey and smaller size than competition.

The Price: Check the current price on Amazon

Final Thoughts

The whole concept of an outdoor waterproof pocket picnic blanket that fits in your pocket is so sublimely simple, yet it is still a surprisingly new concept. It really shows that there is always room for cool innovative new outdoor products and ways to improve on our experience and comfort while we are out on adventures.

Whether you are a hardcore outdoor enthusiast looking for a cool and useful piece of gear to add to your kit or just a weekend warrior concert goer trying to keep your butt dry, a pocket blanket is one of those “must have” items that you will actually use.

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