Stadium Blanket Reviews – Since Freezing Isn’t Fun….
After this past lacrosse season, I’m asking Santa for a nice warm stadium blanket for Christmas. Coach run the kids around enough to keep them warm, but was mighty cold in the parents section last night.
When it comes to staying warm, you’ve got to have the right game plan. The goal of Blanket Coverage is to tackle this topic from every possible angle, starting with science and moving into art.
If you’re trying to stay warm, you’ve come to the right place!
Start With Science: How Blankets Really Work
Let’s face it, the human body isn’t exactly designed to retain heat. In fact, scientists say we were pretty much designed to do the opposite. We’re the best long range endurance runners on the planet – our bodies are great for dumping heat as we literally run our prey into the ground. Things like hairless skin, sweating, and breathing from our mouths while running were huge advantages when we were chasing furry animals around the savanna. We stayed cool while they got worn out from heat exhaustion.
However, once we moved into colder climates, those furry little animals gained the upper hand. Fortunately, we’re smart. Science to the rescue. We invented stadium blankets (and other things)…
Our enemy is basic physics. An unprotected human loses heat in four ways:
- Conduction – This is the heat lost through direct contact with another object. For example, if you sit on a chair and it’s cold, you will get colder and it will get warmer.
- Convection – The process of losing heat through the movement of air or water molecules along your skin; the faster it moves, the faster you lose heat. For example, think about fans or wind chill.
- Radiation – Loss of heat via infrared radiation; hot objects transfer heat to cold ones.
- Evaporation – Losing heat via conversion of water to gas (sweat evaporating).
Blankets and clothing slow this process down, by providing barriers that interfere with these four mechanisms of heat loss. For greatest effect, you often need a team approach in terms of design.
Blocking convection and moisture retention play a major role. Normal air currents will cool the skin. This increases if there’s an actual breeze, unless you have a dense outer layer like a wind breaker or thick wool blanket. Just putting a layer between the skin and the breeze can really help heat retention. A thick blanket or sweater close to the skin also helps retain heat lost due to evaporation. They do this by trapping water molecules close to the body before you lose the heat to the outside environment.
A good blanket will reflect back heat lost due to radiation. While this will occur with any blanket, this effect is particularly important to emergency blankets (aka space blankets). These consist of a simple sheet of reflective material such as Mylar. While these blankets don’t have any insulating properties (just a thin sheet of plastic), they are actually quite effective by reflecting infra red heat loss and providing some shelter from the wind. Their advantage is their light weight.
Blocking conduction via insulation is also important, especially if you intend to stay outside for a while. If you seal the other paths, your body heat does a slow creeps out through the layers via conduction. This is where a dense, insulated stadium blanket can help keep you warm through the entire game.
The best way to stay warm is to use layers. Each layer attempts to control the amount of heat lost to the following layer, keeping the wearer as warm. The outer layer should block any wind or breeze, reducing the potential for large scale heat loss through convection. The inner layers should control loss from conduction and evaporation while reflecting back as much heat as possible.
Layering To Beat The Cold
The best offense is a good defense. Before we dive into the mechanics of selecting the best blanket, it may be instructive to look at how hikers and backpackers advise layering their clothing to stay warm. The basic concept is:
- Base layer, for wicking (preserve moisture) – the intent of this layer is to move your sweat (water) away from the skin to keep you warm and dry.
- Insulating layer – usually a fleece, down jacket, or wool. Intended to keep you warm.
- Outer layer – Protective layer intended to block wind, rain, and other conditions.
The simple urban version of this is a shirt, layered with a sweater (insulation) and a topped off with a water resistant wind breaker (keeps you dry and stops the wind). I’d advise doing this for game day.
Playing To Win – Selecting the Best Stadium Blanket
So now that we’ve talked about the science behind picking a good stadium blanket, lets look at how we can put this into practice. From a consumer perspective, your choices come down to:
- Decorative stuff. Let’s face it, this is your opportunity to show off your team’s colors!
- Desired degree of protection from the elements – do you want a casual blanket or do you need to seriously layer up for an arctic blast?
- Other uses – do you intend to use the blanket for picnics? Seat cushion? Portable tent?
- Allergies – Wool and down can be toasty warm, but other options exist if you’re allergic
- Wash-ability – If you expect to have to regularly wash the blanket, this is a consideration
In any event, we took a look at a couple of the top selling blankets and compared their performance.