Wool blanket, or a sleeping bag? Campers and bushcrafters have been arguing the merits of each for what seems like forever. Our guide will help you decide which one will keep you warm when sleeping or spending time in the great outdoors.
Before modern sleeping bags, people used wool blankets to stay warm when sleeping outdoors. These blankets are made from woolen yarn, typically shorn from sheep. The yarn is woven in a blanket after being washed, dried, processed, carded and spun.
While sheep’s wool is the most familiar and common type, wool can also be made from the fur of llamas, alpacas, goats, camels and rabbits.
Wool blankets offer many advantages to sleeping bags, but they also have some drawbacks that need to be considered.
One of the greatest advantages of wool blankets, especially when camping outdoors, is that it will keep you warm even when wet. Wool has natural moisture wicking properties, which helps you stay dry if you’re caught in a middle-of-the-night rain storm. Whatever water the blanket does absorb evaporates quickly.
Essentially, wool blankets absorb moisture and wick it away, leaving you dry and comfortable.
Because wool blankets stay dry, there’s less concern of mold or mildew growth, which can be an issue with sleeping bags. These natural antibacterial properties mean that wool doesn’t need to be washed frequently. In many cases, a simple air-out, shake and spot cleaning is all you need to keep the blanket fresh and clean.
Wool is naturally fire-resistant, so it’s an excellent choice for use near a campfire. It’s more difficult for wool to catch fire, and if it does, it chars and burns out rather than spreading flames or melting. Sleeping bags, particularly those made with synthetic materials, will almost certainly catch fire, and either melt or spread the flames.
Finally, wool is an excellent heat and moisture regulator, which allows for a better night of sleep. Many people find that they enjoy better quality sleep when they use a wool blanket.
While wool does offer many advantages, it does have some disadvantages that need to be considered.
For starters, wool blankets tend to be much heavier than their sleeping bag counterparts.
Also, many campers find that wool blankets cannot compete with cold-temperature sleeping bags when it comes to warmth and temperature regulation.
Modern sleeping bags date back to the late 1800s, so they’re still a relatively new invention. But they offer many advantages compared to their wool blanket counterparts. With that said, sleeping bags do have some drawbacks that need to be considered.
Sleeping bags can be made with a wide variety of materials, which makes them available in a wide range of prices. Basic bags have shells made of polyester, taffeta or nylon, whereas luxury bags typically have shells made of durable polyester or ripstop nylon.
Both synthetic and down sleeping bags are available, and both have advantages. Down (typically made of goose or duck feathers) is a natural warmth insulator, much like wool. Synthetic fill, on the other hand, is more durable and offers better overall value.
Sleeping bags rated for cold temperatures will keep you warm night after night without a fire. Mummy-style bags help regulate temperature and offer excellent insulation.
In many cases, sleeping bags are much lighter and more compact than wool blankets, and they offer more warmth per pound.
Sleeping bags also come with temperature ratings, so you can choose a bag that’s appropriate for the climate you’re camping in.
They’re also very versatile and can accommodate virtually any sleeping style. For warmer nights, bags can be left unzipped on one side to allow for better airflow and to even sleep with the hands or feet outside of the bag. For cold nights, blankets can be zipped all the way up to the neck. Mummy sleeping bags leave just enough space for your face to poke through, allowing the entire body to stay warm.
You will also find that there are sleeping bags designed for single-person use or even two- and three-person use.
One of the main disadvantages of a sleeping bag is that it has no (or little) moisture wicking properties. Both synthetic and down bags can only hold a small percentage of their weight in moisture, so it’s important to stay dry.
Otherwise, you’re in a for a very uncomfortable or potentially dangerous night of sleep.
ReviewsArcturus Military Wool Blanket - Arcturus offers a military wool blanket that’s machine-washable (a rare feature) and heavy-duty (4.8lbs.). Available in military green, this blanket is 80% wool and 20% synthetic hypoallergenic fibers. Although this blanket isn’t made entirely from wool, the 20% synthetic fibers are what allow it to be machine-washable (hang dry only).
This loom-woven blanket is hemmed on all sides using contrasting stitches for added durability and aesthetic appeal. Choose from olive green, navy blue and military gray colors.
The large size – 64″ x 88” – offers plenty of room for one or two people to stay warm. Plus, this blanket is not treated with any additional flame-retardant chemicals.
The woolen fibers make this blanket warm even when wet, and it offers all of the benefits that wool blankets offer, such as natural antibacterial properties and heat regulation.
Although this blanket can be washed in a washing machine on delicate, it cannot be dried in the dryer. Tumble drying will damage or completely ruin the blanket.
With proper care, this is a woolen blanket that will keep you warm for years to come.
Hemmed on all sides to prevent fraying
Compact when folded for easy carrying
ConsTumble drying will ruin the blanket
The Merino Camp blanket is both large and heavy-duty, at 66” x 90” and a weight of 4 lbs. When folded, it’s compact and easy to take with you camping, hiking or backpacking.
To prevent fraying and improve durability, this blanket has a milled finish double-stitched hemming all around. To create the milled finish the blanket is created through inter-fiber felting and fabric consolidation, which creates a denser blanket.
Despite the inter-fiber felting and fabric consolidation, this blanket is still thinner than you would expect. With that said, it offers the warmth it advertises, and is well-made. The blend of materials (80% wool; 20% synthetic) allows for easy care and added durability.
Plus, this blanket is not treated with chemicals or flame retardants, so there’s no worry of chemical smells.
ProsMade with virgin merino wool
Large size and heavy weight
Compact size when folded
Milled finish for extra durability
Double-stitched hemming to prevent fraying
ConsMaybe thinner than expected
This sleeping bag offers multiple layers for comfort and warmth:
- 75D polyester taffeta shell
- 75D taffeta liner
- ThermaPro insulation
- Comfort-tuck zipper system
For warm nights, the Comfort Tuck feature allows you to easily pull one or both feet out. For cold nights, keep it zipped tight to stay warm.
This mummy-style synthetic sleeping bag has a thermal-comfort hood, and a footbox that matches the natural shape of your feet. For added convenience and durability, the zipper draft tube has an anti-snag design.
Featuring an offset quilt construction, this sleeping bag also has a media-integrated storage pocket for you to store your phone and earbuds.
Kelty Tuck’s Mummy sleeping bag isn’t ideal for temperatures below 22F, and the design of the bag may be too narrow for people with larger frames. Aside from these minor issues, this sleeping bag is a great option for outdoor campers.
ProsOffers warmth retention and excellent compressibility for easy packing
Comfort Tuck feature allows you to pull one or both feet out on warm nights
ThermaPro insulation is warm and comfortable
Comes with its own stuff sack
Has a built-in media storage pocket for your phone and earbuds
ConsNot ideal for subzero temperatures
Too narrow for people with larger frames
The breathable cotton filling offers ventilation, and the flannel liner is soft and comfortable. This bag is especially spacious, accommodating adults up to 6’5” and 190 lbs. The half-circle hood has adjustable drawstring, so you can keep your head warm and off the ground.
The S-shape quilted design prevents the filling from moving around, preventing cold spots and increasing the lifespan of the bag. It can also be unzipped to be used as a queen-sized blanket. For those warmer nights, you can unzipper the bottom of the bag to allow one or both feet to sit outside.
Norsens include a compression sack for easy packing and carrying.
Of course, everyone is different, and some people may naturally have a harder time staying warmer than others.
Otherwise, this bag is well-made, warm and durable.
ProsDesigned for cold-weather camping (temperature rating of 32F-68F)
4.6 lbs. of hollow cotton for warmth and ventilation
Spacious and long
Half-circle hood for extra warmth
Can be unzipped and used as a quilt
ConsNot quite as warm as advertised
Some people may find that this bag doesn’t keep them warm in temperatures lower than 40F.