Are Wool Blankets Good For Bushcraft? Yes, wool blankets are a great addition to any bushcraft kit. They are lightweight, durable and can be used in a variety of ways.
I want to write about the benefits of wool blankets as an alternative for sleeping bags when camping or bushcrafting because they have many advantages over traditional synthetic materials like polyester fleece blankets or synthetic sleeping bags. Wool is nature’s insulator. It will help keep you cool when it is hot and warm when the weather turns cold.
Fleece blankets and synthetic sleeping bags are also more likely to be damaged in the event of an accident, such as if you get caught on barbed wire or fall into water with your gear still strapped onto yourself. Wool is much less prone to damage than these other materials because its natural fibers will not tear as easily when they get snagged.
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Benefits of Wool Blankets for Bushcrafters
1) Fire Resistance
Wool is also a natural fire retardant which means it will not catch on fire if you happen to fall asleep too close to the fire.
Fleece blankets and synthetic sleeping bags are made of man-made materials that can be dangerous in the event a hot coal jumps from the fire and they start burning. Wool isn’t fireproof, but because it’s naturally flame resistant, it gives you much more time to remove the ember before it starts a fire.
Wool blankets are really durable and can last for years.
Fleece blankets and synthetic sleeping bags are not as durable. Sleeping bags are often made of thin polyester or nylon that can easily rip if you catch it on something.
With bushcraft you may be staying in primitive shelters where your sleeping gear may come into contact with rocks, hard ground and sharp pointy sticks.
3) Natural Resistance To Bacteria and Fungus
Wool is naturally resistant to bacteria and fungus. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care for your wool and properly clean it, but it does allow you some peace of mind helping ensure your blanket will be resistant to these things in the field.
This is especially helpful if you’re camping in a wet environment, or your blanket gets dirty from sleeping in a natural shelter on the ground.
Fleece and synthetic sleeping bags are not naturally resistant to bacteria. They also can be harder to clean as you have to be particularly concerned with the loft in the sleeping bag and careful to not mat fleece down.
4) Wool Has Some Natural Water Repellent Tendencies
Wool naturally has some oils on it and will repel water for a time before soaking through. Usually with a light misty rain the wool won’t even feel wet on the inside. Wool will also retain a large portion of it’s insulative properties even when damp.
5) Cost Effective
You often can find surplus wool blankets, which are fairly inexpensive. Sleeping bags can cost into the multiple hundreds of dollars while a nice surplus wool blanket can be found for under $80.
Later in the article we will give you some tips to find the best wool blanket for the money.
Some Negative Aspects of Wool Blankets To Consider
While wool blankets have a lot of positive attributes, wool blankets are not perfect and do have some negative features.
1) Wool blankets can be expensive. For example, if you are purchasing brand new alpaca wool, you could spend a couple hundred dollars if you want a high loft, dense alpaca wool blanket.
Slow To Dry
2) Wool can be hard to dry. While wool can provide some insulating properties while wet, it is best to keep them as dry as possible. Once a wool blanket does soak through it is hard to dry.
If you want to dry your wool blanket you should do the following; hang it outside in the sun and let it dry. If you live in a humid climate, this will not work well for drying your wool blanket. Instead, use an electric or gas clothes dryer on air dry or very low heat to help speed up that process. You have to take caution with placing your wool blanket in a clothes dryer because it could shrink.
If you want to avoid shrinking your wool blanket you could use a clothesline outside or in the garage where it will be sheltered from the elements but can still hang dry. The only downside to this is it may take a little longer to fully dry.
3) Some people can be allergic to wool, so it is important to know if you have any allergies before using a wool blanket.
If your skin reacts badly when exposed, the first thing that should be done for relief of symptoms such as itching and redness would probably involve removing yourself from contact with whatever caused this reaction.
The loose fibers that come off the wool is what usually makes someone itch, so you may want to change your clothes and/or take a shower.
If you are still experiencing symptoms, it is important to see a doctor. There may be other causes for the reaction that need medical attention.
Wool Blanket Versus A Sleeping Bag
If you have been a more traditional modern camper and only have experience using a sleeping bag, it could be a slight adjustment to use a wool blanket properly that you need to know about.
Sleeping bags generally have a zipper and are easy to keep sealed up so you do not have spots where air leaks in making you cold. With wool blankets, you can fold the blanket (if large enough) so you create a sleeping bag-like structure and use something called blanket pins to keep it sealed up.
Sleeping bags for the most part are going to be lighter, so if weight is of concern, you may want to use a sleeping bag as it has a better weight to warmth ratio.
Different Types of Wool Blankets and What Is Best For Bushcraft?
The best wool blanket for bushcraft depends on if you want to buy a new wool blanket or use a military surplus one.
If you are buying a new wool blanket, buying one with high-quality fabric, such as 100% merino wool may be ideal. The benefits of using merino wool is they will be less itchy (or possibly not itchy at all). Merino wool isn’t always as durable as traditional wool but may be worth the tradeoff if traditional wool makes you itchy.
Another option if you are buying a new wool blanket may be alpaca wool. Alpaca wool has less lanolin in it which makes it itch less than traditional lambs wool blankets. Alpaca wool blankets can be expensive so if you are on a budget then you may want to investigate the third type of wool blanket below.
A military surplus wool blanket is another great option. Military blankets are made of a blend that may be more durable than traditional merino or alpaca (usually they are not 100% wool), but they will also not have the same weight to warmth ratio as other types. If you are looking for a military surplus wool blanket you can investigate various military surplus sites for deals on them and often you can get two or three for what a merino wool or alpaca wool blanket would cost. One well respected wool blanket is the Italian army officer wool blanket.
In conclusion, I hope the above illustrates why wool blankets are great for bushcraft and something you should at least experiment with to see if it meets your needs.