In art history class there was one painting subject that always caught my attention. I wish I could say it was an important historical event or a religious scene. I work at a food website though, so of course it was a picnic. From Manet to Monet, everyone was painting outdoor lunch tableaus. But I was always preoccupied by one question: Where were all the picnic blankets? Most guests in Impressionist picnic depictions seemed content to risk wet grass, dirty grapes (because in art picnics, there's always an absurd amount of grapes), tarnished summer whites, and sore seats.
This summer that does not have to be you. Whether you prefer a natural fiber blanket or you'd like a cushy, waterproof barrier instead, we've found the best picnic blankets available so that you can get out and rival any painterly pastoral scene with your leisurely alfresco summer lunch.
Blankets for the great outdoors, I found out, come in almost as many shapes, sizes, and patterns as those for inside the home do. There are blankets that come in collapsible totes, blankets that come with handsome leather handles, blankets that have zippered pockets for stashing keys and phones. Of course, blanket preferences are varied, but I identified some constant variables in my search. I wanted to find the best picnic blankets that are simple to care for, easy to carry, well made, and comfy to sit on. That way, all the focus can go to the spiked ginger-lemonade soda cocktails and the potato salads. Oh, and buying enough grapes.
The Best Picnic Blanket If You Have Kids: Basil Bangs Love Rug
This cheery picnic blanket by Australian brand Basil Bangs boasts one water-resistant side made out of a soft canvas, and one heavier-duty polyester side that's completely waterproof. There's a little bit of cushion, which makes this blanket especially great for toddling little ones. The circular shape also made it easy to seat a large number of people comfortably without relegating anyone to a weird corner where you're half on the blanket half on the itchy grass.
It's six feet in diameter, but the whole thing folds up into a tidy satchel, with shoulder straps and a small pocket in the back for stashing a phone or keys while you're on the go. I tested the straps walking around the office and found their generous width and soft fabric to be much more comfortable than some of the others; this is especially key as carrying picnic gear coincides with sunburnt shoulder season. When put to the test, the Love Rug resisted splashed milk, and wiped clean with a warm, soapy towel easily. When you're not picnicking, it easily doubles as a living room play mat or nap spot for small children.
Best Picnic Blanket For Chilly Climates: Pendleton Roll-Up Blanket
If you live somewhere with weather that requires a sweater even during prime melon salad season, look to Pendleton. The Portland, Oregon based brand has been milling pure virgin wool since 1863, and it shows in their roll-up picnic blankets.
Considering its plush coziness, the blanket I tested was surprisingly lightweight, making it easy to tote it along by the handle to a park or trailhead. The handsome tartan patterns come in melanges of greys, blues, or reds—all choices that would look just as good on the front porch or deck year round. The one thing I didn't love about the blanket was its care instructions: It's dry clean only. However, when I accidentally spilled a little tea on it, it came off with a damp cloth without leaving a mark. Plus, the dyed wool of the topside is pretty forgiving of darker spills while the black nylon backing wipes clean easily. Still, if you have kids (or expect the red wine to be flowing particularly freely at your picnic), this might not be the right blanket for you.
The Best Multi-Use Picnic or Beach Blanket: Fuera Adventure Blanket
Unlike the other blankets I tested, this handwoven blanket from fair-trade focused retailer Citizenry does not have any kind of handle, strap, or tie to aid in easy toting. That's the only drawback though: at $75 at the time of writing, I was happy to find a stylish blanket that would be just as at home on the foot of a bed or a sofa as it would be in the park. At nearly six feet by six feet, I was surprised by how lightweight it was tucked into a picnic tote, but I did decide that the lack of hefty cushioning makes it an appropriate park or beach blanket rather than something suited for rocky or rugged terrain. One of the best parts of this blanket: It's made of machine washable cotton so you don't have to worry too much about spills or grass stains.
$75.00, The Citizenry
The Best Budget-Friendly Blanket: Scuddles Picnic Blanket
The Scuddles blanket has three layers: a soft, woven acrylic textile on top, an internal foam layer, and a PEVA waterproof backing on the bottom. It folds up into a contained to-go velcro tote that also has pockets for any sort of picnic miscellanea you might need to throw in. It is one of the top reviewed picnic blankets on Amazon. Scuddles blankets come in sizes that can accommodate anywhere from two people to a whole family, but the most expensive options are only around $31.
The Best Water-Resistant Outdoor Blanket for Compact and Lightweight Travel: Matador Pocket Blanket
The Matador blanket is a great waterproof picnic blanket for sitting emergencies. It's inexpensive, foldable, and lightweight, making it easy to slip into a bag, purse, or even a back pocket. Let's be honest: It won't provide you with any cushion, but it does include built-in metal stakes, so you can tack it into the ground and never worry about it flying away on windy days.
The Cutest Affordable Blanket: Picnic Time Outdoor Zip-Up Picnic Blanket Tote
A list of picnic blankets wouldn't be complete without an entry in red and white gingham, the quintessential picnic blanket pattern. This Picnic Time blanket folds up and slides into a slim tote bag that's easy to sling over your shoulder; it doesn't even look like an outdoor picnic blanket. And once the fun's over, you can throw it in the washing machine, zip it up, and hand it on a doorknob or coat rack until next time.
How I Tested:
I carried the blankets around by their various straps and handles, or if that wasn't an option I just rolled them up and stuffed under my arms or into a tote to test their bulkiness and weight. Then I rolled them out on an uneven surface and sat down with a few friends to see how well we could fit and what the cushioning was like.
Is it durable?
I wanted to find a picnic blanket with enough durability to withstand regular use on grass or sand. While the super plasticky blankets are of course the most durable at first, I also wanted something that would wear well over time, and be useful in other situations. That could mean it's cozy enough to be used as a camping blanket, chic enough to drape over an ottoman or the end of a bed, or cushioned enough for babies to play on at home.
Is it easy to carry?
Most of the picnic blankets I tested had carrying straps of some sort. While this wasn't a must, it was definitely a plus—especially if those carrying straps could go over a shoulder, leaving hands free for carrying picnic baskets .
Is it machine washable?
Picnic blankets are going to endure more messes and harsh conditions than the average towel or blanket: You're going to tote them to the park or the beach, where they'll sit on top of sand or dirt. You'll eat packed lunches on them, often with children. For this reason, I did not want a blanket that was difficult to clean or showed messes easily. Fabrics that wiped clean or could be thrown into the washer were the best options.
Is it well cushioned?
I wanted to feel like I could lounge on my picnic blanket for a whole leisurely afternoon without getting stiff. A little bit of weight to the weave also means warmth, which is nice if the day gets blustery and you want to drape the blanket over your shoulders instead of sitting on it.
Is it good looking?
We're not testing something that's for pure function here, like whisks. A picnic is a leisure activity, done purely for pleasure. As such, I am not interested in a blanket that's an eyesore even if it fulfills every other category. Style was an important consideration.
Other Products I Tested
The California Picnic Blankets have attractive leather carriers, a waterproof backing, and fun, summery stripes. While I was impressed by the size-to-cost ratio of the both of the ones I tested (the extra large was 87" by 67" and only $36) I found the fabric of both to be thin and scratchy. The blankets also didn't lay flat well due to the puckering of the waterproof bottom layers, and one of the two leather carriers I tested had a finicky, sticky belt like closure.
The most beautiful blanket out of the bunch was the Jenni Kayne Linen Picnic Blanket. Crafted from a soft tan washed linen with a vegetable-tanned leather strap closure, it was easily the most elegant of the bunch. However, while a blanket that could double as a throw (like the winning Fuera Adventure Blanket) was a plus, I couldn't imagine putting this one on the ground. The tan linen is so light it would easily pick up dirt, and the care instructions said dry-clean only. At a cool $225, it was hard to imagine feeling good about a day spent on too-wet grass or a slightly muddy spot. I don't want to be worrying about the preciousness of my seat during leisure time. That said, if you're based in CA (like the designer Jenni Kayne is) or somewhere else coastal, this would be a great blanket for the beach.
The Oniva Picnic Time Vista Outdoor Blanket was the most affordable of the bunch at $24 at the time of writing and it folded up neatly into a handy shoulder tote. However, the synthetic fabric and red check was too reminiscent of the plasticky kid tablecloths of my elementary school days. At 59 by 51 inches, it also wasn't as roomy as some of my favorites.
Unlike the kitchen equipment we usually review, picnic blanket preferences are highly subjective. That being said, quality fabric, thoughtful design, and easy carrying and care are important to every intrepid picnicker out there. If you're bringing kids along, go with the Basil Bangs Love Rug, which doubles as a play mat and has a bit more cushion. If you want something to use as a throw as well, the handsome Fuera Adventure Blanket is perfect for you. And if you're after an easy-to-carry, waterproof, grown up blanket, there's nothing quite like a classic. Pendleton Roll-Up Blanket.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious