The Warmest Survival Blanket

Warmest Blanket Material For Winter — Fleece vs Wool

The warmest blanket material. Lets look at Fleece vs Wool. What is the warmest blanket for winter?

Maybe you’re using it simply as a blanket for your bed at home. Or a ‘throw blanket’ while snuggling in your recliner or couch on a cold winter evening. Maybe one for camping. Regardless, lets find out what is the warmest blanket…

( jump straight to my answer / opinion )

UPDATED: More information about the two wonderfully warm materials. And it’s that time of the year when we’re starting to think about getting out our winter blankets and throws…

First,
Where the warmth of a blanket comes from:

Warmth does not originate from the blanket. It comes from the heat of your body.

To keep that warmth near your body, the blanket needs to trap the air close. It does this by the air gap spaces between the fabric threads.

A blanket that stays the warmest is directly related to its fabric capacity to hold warm air!

There are two particular blanket fabric materials that do this quite well. Fleece, and Wool. So, which is the warmest fabric?

Warmest Blanket Material – Is it Wool?

It’s widely considered that the best natural fabric to trap and hold warm air is wool.

If you look at wool fabric under magnification, the fibers do not lie flat against each other. They have a natural ‘crimp’ which keeps the wool fabric relentlessly curly or kinky.

This creates countless air gap spaces, even in the most tightly woven wool fabric, which makes it a leader in holding warmth.

Wool remains effective even when wet. Although it does not dry out very fast.

Wool repels water and also wicks away moisture. Water beads up on the surface because the overlapping scales of the fibers create a hard outer layer that liquid water does not penetrate. Water vapor, however, is absorbed into the wool fibers core (wicking away perspiration).

Wool is made from sheep hair and is naturally fire resistant.

However, ordinary wool makes me itchy! So, any wool blanket that resides in our home must be of the following variety…

What is Merino Wool?

Merino wool does not have the itchy feel of some wool. How is that possible?

Merino wool comes from Merino sheep, a unique breed refined in New Zealand and Australia. They have some of the finest and softest wool of any sheep.

So, is Merino Wool the warmest blanket material?

Merino Wool blankets can get pretty expensive. While searching for the best value proposition, here’s some of what I found…

This one is 80% Merino Wool:
WOOLLY MAMMOTH
(view on amzn)

Woolly Mammoth Blanket

The following is a blend with synthetic, however apparently mostly Merino Wool:

Merino – Large Throw (63″ x 51″)
(Great for Outdoor Camping too)
(view on amzn)

Or this Merino Wool Throw…

100% Irish Merino – Celtic Cream Couch Throw Blanket 40”x 66”
(amzn)

Okay, the next one is “$$$$ Cha-Ching”, but like I said, Merino Wool blankets can get pretty expensive… Hint: Fleece is way less expensive.

John Atkinson Heirloom Blanket, Full/Queen, 90″ x 100″
(amzn)

Okay, lets look at fleece…

Is Fleece The Warmest Blanket Material For Winter?

Are fleece blankets warm? Yes, they sure are.

Modern synthetic Fleece comes very close to imitating the natural properties of wool, and is also very effective in trapping warm air. It’s a great alternative to natural wool!

It was originally developed (1979) by Polartec® located in Massachusetts. In 1981, Polartec®, the apparel textile arm of Malden Mills®, invented the modern synthetic fleece and named it PolarFleece®. Today, PolarFleece® is the direct to consumer business owned and operated by Polartec®.

Of interest, the CEO intentionally declined to patent it, which allowed the material to be produced cheaply and widely by many vendors, leading to its quick and wide acceptance.

Fleece provides similar warming characteristics as wool in its warmth retention and also has the capacity to wick away body moisture while holding heat in its many tiny air pockets.

Fleece will keep warm when wet because it retains much of its insulating quality even when wet. A good thing about fleece is it will dry out very quickly (just wring it out).

It is very light weight compared to wool, making it a great choice for various articles of clothing. It comes in various thicknesses: micro, 100, 200, and 300.

My biggest complaint and annoyance about fleece is static electricity! Watch out, fleece readily holds a static electricity charge (ZAP! during the winter), and it will also attract  lint, dust, pet hair.

Also, it’s extra flammable. Be very aware (cautious) that fleece is highly flammable! Don’t stand too close to the fire… It is also susceptible to damage from high temperature washing, drying, or ironing.

Fleece blankets are very popular because they’re warm, and they are much more affordable vs wool. You can find these blankets seemingly everywhere.

SHERPA FLEECE THROW BLANKET
(view on amzn)

Sherpa Fleece throw blanket

Our mini-Dachshund LOVES fleece blankets…

The Warmest

And the winner of fleece vs wool is…

So, which is the warmest blanket material for winter? Wool or Fleece?

While both wool and fleece can be quite warm, a factor that may sway the decision is weight. How many of you think that you’ll feel a little bit warmer underneath the heft of a wool blanket?

A fleece blanket is very light weight (which has its own advantages!) however in my opinion the more snug the blanket is against your body, the warmer you may feel.

So a nice Merino Wool blanket (no itch!) is my own personal choice for the warmest blanket.

Now with that said, we have both wool and fleece blankets and throws around the house for winter. But most of what we have is fleece material, simply due to its industry dominance (cost factor).

>> Queen size Organic Merino Wool Mattress Comforter / Topper

Other Fabrics

If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned other fabric materials for a blanket, well, I just wanted to compare wool and fleece (very similar properties).

‘Down’ makes for a very good insulation too! A nice puffy down comforter sure is nice in the winter! There’s natural and synthetic too (some people may be allergic to certain natural fibers).

There are also blankets made of other manufactured fibers such as nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic yarns which imitate the fuzzy loft of woolen fibers,  and they all compete in the market space.

So what do you think? Got a favorite warmest blanket material for the winter?

[ Read: Best Gloves With Thinsulate For Cold Weather Outdoors ]

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62 Comments

  1. Insulation value for nearly all products including blankets, clothing, building insulation, … is that it is the air in the product that slows the transmission of heat. That is why closed-cell foam insulation can achieve a higher value than rock wool or fiberglass for the same thickness.
    On the question, I choose wool if you are strong enough to withstand the weight. But my favorite is a quilt filled with Eiderdown.

  2. My great grandmother made many quilts in her long lifetime. I still have two. The ones I have are not the beautiful works of art, she was capable of, but very nice. There’s just something about the weight of an old quilt in the cold of winter. I really don’t like the itchy wool blankets. Better than nothing, but I’ll take an (old) quilt any night.

  3. Good piece,
    I generally will go with the fleece, mostly because we are in a wet climate and the lighter weight of the fleece lends itself better to layering it under a soft shell with a high water repellency or water proof rating, typically, fleece jacket under my Sitka rain jacket, depending on temps or lack of rain i can adjust pretty easy, its rarely so cold that i cant shed both during the day unless im real high on the mountain, and even in dead of our winter is rare i would need the cover, that makes the fleece attractive as its lighter to pack. The fleece also doesnt get as wet or heavy as wool if it is damp and im caught out.
    Just my preference, lighter is better.

    1. Tommyboy;
      “But then again, im a dope”
      You’re not anticipating anyone to refute that evaluation are you? HAHAHAH
      Got ya right back my friend….. :-) :-)

      PS; High 40 to mid 80’s, we have many days here that don’t get above 30F. UGHHHH

  4. If the blanket and/or environment is dry- fleece usually feels warmer. However, if the blanket is damp or wet then wool is the one I’d choose!

  5. – Down is popular, but you can freeze pretty quickly if it gets damp at all. It also does not dry quickly. Polartec is nice and warm, and i have a poncho liner filled with it as well as gloves. The trick is it doesn’t stop wind as well as wool does. I’d rather have the fleece as long as I have a windproof layer, but if I’m not certain of the windproof part I’d rather have the wool
    – Papa S.

  6. I cast my vote for wool, hands down, if I had to make a choice. I have used wool my entire life, and although it is a little scratchy, it always keeps me warm. When I go hunting, I am wool from the tip of my nose to the tip of my toes. I definitely liked the merino wool when it came out. When I’m in the woods covered in wool, I’m quiet as a church mouse. When things brush up against you, it makes almost no noise. Very good for sneaking up on things. Also, I have been soaked to the skin wearing wool, and never got cold. A little heavy though. I also like polar fleece since it came out. Have jackets etc. made with it. I also like those little throw blankets you see everywhere in the stores. They are convenient to have around. Wife must have at least 8 or 9 0f them around. (sigh). But, if I had to choose, well, wool gets it.

    1. BigBadCat,

      If you like those little fleece throws found in box stores, you would love the ones I found at Tractor Supply. Easily twice as large and three times heavier. Price reflected that, $20 instead of the $5 usual for the smaller ones, but well worth it. Perfect for that nap in the recliner in chilly weather.

    1. BigBadCat;
      Picture this, 1800 SqFt house, R-56 roof, R-42 walls, R30 floor, 2 Furnaces (1-85K BTU, 1-135K BTU), In floor Circulating Water Heat (198K BTU), Two Wood Stoves, Grid-Down heaters and Backup Generators to run the Heaters….
      Blue does NOT like being cold, after he is a Labrador and sleeps in the Snow when we have it HAHAHAHA
      So yeahhhhhh 72 deg. :-) :-)
      Plus a Wool Blanked of course…..

      1. That must be that heat signature they can see from space – wow, you must sleep with open windows.

        1. hermit us;
          Well when ya build your own home at 40¢ on the dollar ya tend to over build a little :-)
          Nice to have friends in the business when doing things.
          LIKE buying that new Wool Blanket :-) :-)

        2. NRP
          I built my own as well. But, with superior insulation and air infiltration control, I only need a boiler 90k btu for infloor and soft air flow system.. My biggest problem is overheating when I fire up the wood burning stove. 2200 sq ft total for on two story home with attached garage.

        3. hermit us;
          Agreed, like a nice Wool Blanket, sometimes the feet stick out to keep a little cooler.
          Open windows in winter to cool off from an overly warm fire is not uncommon.
          Got me thinking, wonder if the In-Floor still works, has not run in 3 years :-| Blue HATES it, to hot on the floor.
          BTW, forgot about all the added insulation from the 3 foot thick layer of TP rolls lined up on the outside walls HAHAHAHA

        4. That is probably why aliens from space have not invaded earth yet. The aliens see the heat signature and think we have some kind of fusion weapon capable of destroying objects in space or or some kind of high energy dark matter weapon. So, thanks NRP for saving mankind.

        5. INPrepper;
          Not sure about the Aliens, but the local Airport has shut down their Radar Beacons, the just use the TP stack as their pathway… HAHAHAH

  7. Wool is warm and I have a small polar blanket to put on my feet when sleeping. What I understand is the moisture/ sweat humans have will make you cold especially in cotton. Love cotton though. When I winterize the cats I change their pads on the perches and boxes to wool and put the cotton up for winter. If you take a cotton towel and wool blanket outside, let it absorb the temp, then put your hand on it wool is definitely warmer and wicks away moisture. The cotton stays cold to the touch, absorbs and holds the moisture. Bought some old Israeli army blankets for utilitarian purposes. They washed on gentle ok, but there was a lot lint!!! Have merino socks and going to purchase some more. Also in the book Cold Times she suggest putting wool under your sheets should you get into a survival situation. Course some you in the very cold states probably all ready know this!!!

    1. Mrs. USMCBG;
      Please don’t take this wrong, but I had to chuckle a little at “When I winterize the cats”
      I can see winterizing the Car/Truck, Garden, Hoses, House and so fourth maybe even the Tractor, but Winterizing Cats? hummmmm. Thinking new Mittens on the Paws and a small cat coat? :-) :-)
      Sitting here looking at Blue…. maybe a new collar but that’s about it hehehehe

      1. NRP, none taken. We love our kitties like you love Blue and we make sure they are healthy and loved. They are all excellent mousers and earn their keep!!! I like dogs too. Had a red heeler once named, RED!!!

  8. NRP
    I just do not know how you survive in those frigid temperatures. :) Maybe your wraparound dog has saved you many times.

        1. Old Chevy:
          Have had a few St’s in my days. But ole Blue is a big old Black Lab with a heart of gold. 😊

        2. NRP
          Black labs are great, we have a pair, English Labs, basicly black labs but them brits think they are special 🙄 great dogs,

  9. Similar approach, depends on the activity; snowblowing, snowshoeing, cooler weather fishing-fleece with a waterproof shell. Seditary; December black powder, ice fishing without a shack, wool and pack in a vortex shell for wind chill or snow-i have been in minus 12 F December black powder hunting, also below zero on lakes ice fishing with a nasty wind chill. Layers for sure, use a pack basket walking to the stand with most of the heavy layers in it, once cooled down, add layers. Wool is nice for moving in the woods.
    Both are good, depends on what your up to I guess, 72 F is beach weather, 40s and sun still got the summer shorts going…

  10. Some times it as much about what you are sleeping on that determine temperature comfort levels – I have heard that some foam matrasses are terrible for heat and moisture build up. Perhaps that blanket would be better as a layer over the foam mat.

  11. As I read the comments I am curled up in a chair with an mohair aphgan. Can’t do better then that.

    1. Mohair a name from the 1960’s past when the mohair sweaters and stretch pants were vogue!!!

  12. Unfortunately, I cannot wear wool clothing. When I was little, I wore wool socks for a time. The result was my feet horribly cracked and bleeded which made it awfully painful during tae kwon do classes. Years late, I given a sweater. I was itching like crazy. Then discovered it was wool. My wife translated the label since it was in Chinese. As a result of the issue with wool, I use artificial fleece for blankets. Fleece is so nice 😋

  13. If it was 100% my choice, not needing to think about anyone else, it would be Pendleton Wool all the way, i love their Southwestern prints, just something about that stuff that says cozy home!

    1. Tommyboy, also good wool (IMO) cloths are made by Johnson Wool in the Northeast. Seem to last foreever.

  14. I have to vote for wool. I am a weaver and make mohair and wool shawls. They are great when it is cold but just as good when slightly chilly. Once it was in the 90s and I needed something to cover my arms, the wool shawls worked fine. That said I have polar fleece sheets and blankets. They work fine also and are so soft!

  15. I had a bunch of wool long ago and it came in handy when living off grid with no pets in a damp and cold climate. I still use Smartwool brand Merino wool socks for hiking in extreme cold. They are more durable than cotton socks. I machine washed on gentle and hung to dry. I wore liner socks and had a thin cotton layer between the wool and my skin.

    Now that I work in medical community and wash my clothes frequently and things get vomit and urine on them, I wear and use cotton/fleece mix and have and use fleece because it is machine washable and relatively inexpensive. These days, it is almost impossible to not find the cotton polyester mix in fabrics these days.

    I also layer fleece and cotton with an outer shell of Goretex or other type of breathable membrane outer garment. In the coldest conditions, I have Goretex outer pants and an X-large down coat with a fleece watch cap in the pocket. For my dry skin, I have less itching issues wearing fleece these days.

    I purchased fleece gloves from Duluth Trading Post and when hunting or working in ice and snow, I cannot access my pants pockets so I carry my wallet, keys, knife and lighter in a travel vest over my fleece jacket and under my outer shell.

    For putting on tire chains, I have a pair of gloves made of thinner neoprene so I have dexterity to put the chains on without freezing up my hands. I get snow and ice in my new home state though it does not last all winter long.

    1. ( Merino wool socks for hiking in extreme cold. They are more durable than cotton socks.)

      I agree, I walk around with just socks on a lot in the winter. Cotton socks will develop holes within a few times doing this. Merino wool socks don’t get holes in them after doing this all Winter long.

      1. – Chuck Findlay –
        Have to agree on the socks, I wear Smartwool year around. But the visual that goes with the rest of your statement… ROFLOL

        Sorry, couldn’t help myself

        – Papa S

  16. I have a few (3 I think) wool blankets I got from the local fire department (Dad was a fireman for 41-years) they are warm and also itchy.

    Never knew they made Merino wool blankets. Just looked and I see them on Amazon, but would rather buy them locally so I can get a feel for them.

    Does anyone know if local stores sell them?

    Maybe Bed Bath & Beyond?

    1. A little duck ducking should let you know. Try the sites and search for merino blanket. If you like the socks the blanket should be the same. If you live in a area with dept. stores such as Macy’s they may have some.

  17. My winters are cold and snowy. I like natural fibers/wool best b/c I don’t sweat under them while staying warm. For anyone’s interest here’s how I stack the bed all up:
    Down filled mattress pad
    Regular mattress pad over down so quills don’t stick the skin
    Flannel sheets
    Wool blanket
    Down blanket
    Coverlet/spread
    =
    Toasty

    If it’s colder or the electricity for furnace goes out I through on more of same

    If I do get a bit too warm, I stick a foot out.

  18. I might add, the barracks at Ft. Polk were single wall board and batten construction with no insulation or heat and air. You could see the outside through cracks in the walls and floors. Went back there in the 90’s when a grandson was born at the base hos[ital. Those barracks are still standing, though vacated. I think they kept them as a monument to how things were before the all volunteer Army.

    1. And they would burn to the ground in about 5 minutes. Got my fire guard ribbon as did hundreds of thousands of other young men. Ft. Benning Georgia got awfully cold too.

    2. – Dennis –
      The old reception station still stood until about ’93. It’s now been torn down. I think it took 20 minutes to bulldoze the paint and termite droppings that held them together. there are still some on North Fort, I think. All of them are empty as well.

      – Papa S.

      1. Dennis, et. al,
        I’m from Vernon Parish, home of Ft Polk. A lot of my family still lives there. I live in upstate Central NY now. I go home once a year for a visit, and not between July and Sept; if I can help it. The heat and humidity is brutal. Although, the area is experiencing more drought conditions in the summer than it did when I was a kid. I know this thread is about staying warm, so I won’t change the subject. I just wanted to say hello to y’all who have done the army’s hardship post.

        1. Tom,

          Thanks for the comment. We used to say “if God was going to give the world an enema, He would stick it up Ft. Polk”. (no offense to your native stomping grounds). Truthfully though, I wouldn’t trade the experience and memories. Helped to temper other perceived hardship through life.

  19. I have several fleece blankets that I use all of the time. In winter, a wool blanket goes on the bed. I love the feel of the weight. But the hands down best blanket ever is one that I received as a gift a few years ago made from cashmere wool. It has the softest, most luxurious feel, and is lightweight and warm.

  20. We gave out family merino wool socks for Christmas a few years ago. One GD told me that the only warm spot on her body was her feet when she went with her Scout troop on a swamp walk on a cold rainy day. She was wearing her gift socks.

  21. Hey all,
    This is a good topic as there is a little frost on the pumpkin this morning.
    I bought a bunch of surplus wool blankets years ago. Bought the wool skull hats too.
    They are kept in the vehicles and in the hidden caches along the way home.
    It’s better to be warm and a little itchy than the alternative.
    The fleece are for home and the grandkids.
    The wife bought a lot of the smaller fleece blankets when they were on a special sale.
    They make a nice add on gift for a birthday.

    1. BJH, a word of caution on the wool cap. I had a wool navy watch hat (toboggan). My daughter, thinking she was doing me a favor, ran it through the washer and dryer. It shrunk up to a size making it a tight fit on one thumb. We got a good laugh at how ludicrous it looked, learned a lesson, and I lost the warmest head cover I had. Might be common knowledge to others, but it was a shock to us.

  22. Army wool blankets for me, although fleece is very soft.. Maybe my wife will sew them one side fleece and one side wool. For winter camp she sewed sheets with closed cell foam dunnage between them. It felt like I was laying on a pile of those stadium hot seat cushions. A bit much.

    I bought a Remington coat in the early 80’s (looked like the big puffy down coats) but it was filled with quallofil for insulation. I was skinny then, but never cold when I wore that. Michigan weather.

    Now I rely on fat to keep me warm. Works pretty good in the winter and way too good in the summer.

  23. 100% wool is my go to and what DW and i keep. you can sometimes find them at military surplus outlets for not a lot of money, ya just have to shop.
    and NOOOO, do not put anything wool in the washer, you will ruin them. and that stuff is not cheap.
    it will last a lifetime if properly cared for. i have a king sized wool blanket from the old Riveria hotel that was in Vegas. at least 60YO and in like new condition. it’s on our bed now but we take care of it.
    fleece is good but you can’t beat wool. we put the cheap fleece blankets over our windows in the winter and it helps a lot. we have 14 windows and 3 doors on a 1600sqr ft house, great in the summer but it’s hell to heat in the winter. we have 2-3 months of winter here and then overnight it turns into to summer : )

  24. Not much has changed in the years I originally responded to this article.
    I still like wool socks for both warmth and durability and I still like the Smartwool brand. These days, all of my watch caps for my bald head are made of fleece. During the winter, I had several sewing projects going where I recycled some old fleece pants and made some neck wraps and ear covers from the material. Some of the material came from clearance sales at a rural farm supply where things like 3x size fleece pants are so cheap they are almost given away in the Spring. Like Mrs U, my cats are the #1 beneficiary of inexpensive fleece throws and clothing. The following are some maintenance hints I have found for both fleece, down and wool garments in a house full of cats:
    1. Hang up down jackets within a closet if possible because cats my pee on it. Unknown reasons why but they may also pee on wool as well. ( only natural fibers from other animals. Cats do not urinate on fleece or cotton ).
    2. One of the things that got me away from wool was pulling them out in the Fall to find they have been partially eaten by moths. Combine that with my wife’s dislike of the smell of mothballs and fleece has become the inexpensive replacement fiber in both clothing, blankets and throws these days.
    3. Lastly, this last hint is something I noticed when I treated the outside of my leather boots with Mink Oil. Both cats and dogs have a reaction to it. Love it, hate it, chew and rub on it or urinate on it, All cats and dogs react to the natural oils on wool ( lanolin ) or the oils in mink oil. (A mud room is mighty handy for this because it keeps the pets away from your boots.) If you must store your boots in with the cats and dogs, be aware of this and keep an eye on them. Leather boots are expensive to fix or replace.

  25. Correction: Cats may pee on down jackets and down garments are expensive to replace.

  26. Merino wool socks, wool blankets for camping but fleece blankets in the house. Think I have enough fleece blankets for half the town (but I do live in MT where winter lasts forever).

  27. I have no idea what everybody is talking about !
    Shorts and T shirts don’t come in those fabrics.

  28. A hint for those that use wool and find it scratchy. I usually weave with wool and a lot of merino and alpaca which is exceptionally soft, I have to wash it before I sell it. Most wool is wash by hand and I use shampoo and cream rinse. It really lays the fibers down and takes out the itch.

    1. old Lady,
      Thank you, I have never heard the shampoo & conditioner process and have always used Woolite. I do a lot of machine and hand sewing with wool and always pre-wash so I will try this. I am jealous, would love to try weaving.

      1. NWMitten,
        Try weaving you’ll enjoy it. DW tried it years ago, and we both like it. Start small With a scarf on a table loom.( many weavers supplies will rent you one if you take a beginning weaving class). Good skill to learn. Lots of different fibres to try, we like silk and bamboo best, but to each his own. I had a 60″ floor loom in storage that is now going upstairs in the new loft workspace. Hope to start weaving again this Winter.good luck.

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