Last Updated on 20/10/2022
In this article, we answer the question, can you use a wool blanket as a sleeping pad? We share how much warmth and comfort a wool blanket will add when camping and some tips on improving them.
Image Credits: NativeSurvival
Can You Use a Wool Blanket as a Sleeping Pad?
You can use a wool blanket as a sleeping pad when camping, but there are some stipulations to ensure you stay warm and comfortable. First, try and create an additional waterproof barrier underneath the blanket to stay dry using a tarp or ground sheet if not inside a tent. Fold the blanket up as many times as possible and use multiple blankets to create more insulation on cold nights.
Wool blankets wick moisture, so if it is in direct contact with the damp ground, moisture can transfer directly to you and your sleeping bag. So you need some kind of water-resistant barrier underneath the blanket like a bivvy bag, tarp, ground sheet, or plastic cover. Wool does still keep you warm when wet but you won’t be very comfortable.
You will need multiple blankets folded over to create a mattress deep enough to match the comfort of a sleeping pad. Consider whether it is worth carrying multiple wool blankets vs a sleeping pad – foam pads are cheap, relatively lightweight, warm, comfortable, and durable. Using a wool blanket sounds like a good idea and it can be if you are just camping in your backyard but for camping trips, but often sleeping pads make the most sense.
Will Using A Wool Blanket Keep You As Warm As A Sleeping Pad?
Wool is one of the best natural insulators in the world and a wool blanket on its own can be enough to keep you warm in summer. However, in the colder months of spring and autumn, you may need two or three wool blankets all layered up to create enough thermal resistance to stay warm. In winter, if you don’t have an insulated pad, we recommend using a thermal blanket along with three or four wool blankets on top as well as a warm sleeping bag.
What is the R-Value of A Wool Blanket?
Without using an expensive thermal resistance testing machine like the one at Thermarest headquarters it is impossible for us to know the R-value of a wool blanket. But, just from having tested dozens of different sleeping pads over the last 20 years, my professional opinion would be that a standard military wool blanket as a single layer would be close to 0.25.
But when you double a blanket up twice so there are now four layers, you would probably have an R-value of around 1 – 1.5. Then if you add a second blanket I would estimate you would have an r-value rating of around 2 – 3. This is ideal for the warmer months of the year as well as some of the cooler months provided you also use a ground sheet of some kind.
Are Wool Blankets Comfortable To Sleep On When Camping?
Wool blankets are very comfortable to sleep on if you double them up to have multiple layers. For example, if the ground is rocky or uneven, you will need about three blankets folded in half to feel comfy. A single-layer wool blanket will not be very comfortable or provide much padding.
Unlike foam camping mats and inflatable sleeping pads, wool blankets do not disguise lumps and bumps very well. This is because they are only a couple of millimeters thin and made from woven fibers as opposed to closed-cell foam mats, which are much denser.
3 Ways To Make A Wool Blanket Sleeping Pad
If you want to use a wool blanket as a sleeping pad for camping, then there are a couple of things you can do to make your bed a little comfier, warmer, and more protective.
Fold It Over and Double Up
The first and most obvious thing you can do with large wool blankets is to fold them over as many times as possible without going smaller than the dimensions of your sleeping bag. The other thing you can do is to use more than one blanket to double them up for both more comfort and more warmth.
Add A Layer of Cardboard
You can make what some people call a hobo sleeping pad which is a piece or two of corrugated cardboard wrapped up in a wool blanket. The cardboard acts as a stabilizing platform that drastically improves comfort, as well as an extra block of insulation for the wool to trap warm air in. You would be surprised at how effectively this improves a wool blanket as a sleeping pad.
Once you have folded your wool blanket over, doubled it up, and added a layer of cardboard, you need to ensure that it won’t absorb any water from the ground or get wet at night. The best way to do this is to use a waterproof cover like a bivvy bag, poncho, groundsheet, or rainfly to wrap it up in. An even better alternative is a mylar blanket which will prevent water from passing through and add a good amount of insulation.
Wool Blankets Vs. Sleeping Pads
In almost all scenarios, a sleeping pad will perform better than a wool blanket, and here are the different ways we find that to be true:
Wool blankets trap heat in between the fibers, which gives them decent thermal resistance when lofted but when you sleep on them, they compress down, making them less effective. This is one of the reasons why you need multiple layers of blankets to achieve the same thing a mat would. Insulated sleeping pads can incorporate down feathers, synthetic fill, and reflective thermal liners designed to work down much colder than a blanket can safely be used.
A single layer of the wool blanket will compress to almost nothing when you lay on it, but if you fold it in half once or twice, it begins to add up. Sleeping pads can go as thin as 1/8″ and deeper than 12 inches without adding much extra pack size and weight. You can get ultra-thin sleeping pad liners like the Gossamer Thinlight pad, but you can get the same thing for half the price by searching for EVA 1/8″ Foam Pad on amazon or somewhere.
A pile of wool blankets is pretty dense, but one on its own is not so much. Closed-cell foam pads like those made from EVA are incredibly dense and durable. Air beds are hollow, so you can hardly call them dense but you can control their firmness with air pressure which is similar.
The denser a sleeping pad is, the better it will be able to deal with sharp stones, twigs, and thorns that may be hiding on the ground. As a quick and inaccurate way to test the density of a sleeping pad, just give it a squeeze with your finger and thumb. The more resistance it has to your pinch test, the higher the density is.
Wool blankets come in lots of shapes and sizes but the ones that are big enough to fold up and still fit a standard sleeping bag are quite heavy (between 800 – 3000 grams). Compare this with almost any sleeping pad which weighs between 400 – 1000 grams and it is clear which one is the lightest.
If you are carrying your camping equipment in a backpack then saving weight makes a big difference when hiking long distances. Warmth to weight ratio is something I always pay attention to when I am concerned with either.
Sleeping pads will always be comfier than wool blankets unless you have at least 3 of them all doubled over. If you are a side sleeper you typically need a deeper sleeping pad or more blankets than if you sleep on your back. To ensure whatever you are sleeping on is comfortable, pay attention to the thickness and warmth. It doesn’t hurt to start on a nice piece of flat ground first.
A cheap foam sleeping pad can cost as little as $5 at your local Costco or Walmart but a wool blanket big enough to sleep on will cost over $25 brand new. It is always worth checking local thrift stores if you are on a budget as you can often find them for as little as $2. Ultralightweight insulated sleeping pads can cost over $200 and are more of a long-term investment.
Wool blankets, although they work when wet, are not very pleasant to sleep on and will soak your sleeping bag in seconds. Unless you wrap a waterproof covering around it you are going to suffer through the night. Sleeping pads are waterproof and raise you up off the ground, making them the far wiser choice.
Synthetic Blankets Vs. Wool Blankets for Sleeping Pads
So what did we learn? We learned that you could use a wool blanket as a sleeping pad, although you need to ask yourself, why would you want to? Sleeping pads are much better for sleeping on in every way, and so that is what I will continue to use.
We hope this article answered the question of can you use a wool blanket as a sleeping pad? Let us know what your experiences are sleeping on a blanket.