The 10 Best Beach Blankets
What Separates a Beach Blanket from an Indoor Blanket?
Simply put, the blanket provides a comfortable surface for you to place yourself and your accessories on.
During the 1980s, manufacturers began including plastic stakes with their beach blankets.
A beach blanket functions in the same way that any bedspread would. Simply put, the blanket provides a comfortable surface for you to place yourself and your accessories on.
The term "beach blanket" is broad, of course, as a lot of these blankets are generally used for picnics, parties, or outdoor concerts. Certain blankets are even designed to double as a poncho, or a makeshift table cloth (see the Raqpak Beach & Picnic Blanket above).
What separates a beach blanket from an indoor blanket is the thickness and the durability. Certain beach blankets come with padding, or a fleece lining, or a nylon layer across the bottom to keep any moisture from seeping through.
Beach blankets tend to place some cushion between you and the ground, and they're also designed for extreme weather conditions, which is why a lot of blankets are manufactured by using materials like polyester, as opposed to cotton, or other linens.
The only true engineering involved with owning a beach blanket involves how to keep it from blowing away. For decades beachgoers responded to coastline gusts by placing some type of item (e.g., a cooler, a purse, or a pair of sandals) across all four corners of their spread.
During the 1980s, manufacturers began including plastic stakes with their beach blankets. Plastic stakes proved too obtrusive, however, and they were soon replaced by weighted pockets. Weighted pockets are sewn into the corners of a blanket. They are designed to hold 3-4 pounds worth of sand. Once the pockets are full, the blanket sits in one place. At the end of the day, you simply dump out all the sand.
What Do I Need to Know About a Beach Blanket Before I Buy?
The most important thing to know before you buy is what you plan on using the blanket for.
If you're a shore person, you probably want a wide blanket made of cotton. You'll also want the blanket to be water-resistant (or waterproof), and, if possible, you'll want the blanket to come with either stakes or open pockets, for weighting down loose corners.
If you're a shore person, you probably want a wide blanket made of cotton.
If, on the other hand, you'd like a blanket for outdoor concerts and picnics, your best bet might be a polyester blanket that won't let grass stains settle in. Certain blankets are even designed with a nylon bottom. Nylon is water-resistant so you can place it on wet grass.
As a precaution, you'll want to take into account what type of climate you live in. The barometer could determine whether you need a blanket that you can wear like a poncho (assuming you get stuck outside in stormy weather), or one that's designed with fleece-like material, so you can wrap it around you on a 55-degree night.
Assuming you've found a blanket that's got all the right stuff, the final priority becomes taking a look at the dimensions. If you're purchasing a blanket for one or two people, you'll want a surface that covers at least 5-6 square feet. If you're purchasing a blanket for the entire family, you'll want a surface that covers at least 7-8 square feet.
A Brief History of the Beach Blanket in America
Despite the fact that beach blankets have been used for centuries worldwide, most people consider them to be an American phenomenon.
Why is that? Well, it is due in large part to the west coast surfing craze of the 1960s - a craze that reached its peak around the time an internationally-successful motion picture entitled Beach Blanket Bingo hit the theaters.
The culture was changing, and so too were the ways in which we referred to household items.
There were a ton of surfing movies during that decade, like Surf Craze, Barefoot Adventure, and The Endless Summer, but Beach Blanket Bingo featured Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in what would go on to become their final leading role as a couple (that is until the nostalgic Back to the Beach in 1987). Add Paul Lynde, Don Rickles, and Buster Keaton for comic effect, and you've got yourself a surfing movie for the ages.
All of which brings us back to the beach blanket, which had originally been referred to as a picnic blanket. The culture was changing, and so too were the ways in which we referred to household items. A "beach blanket" became more marketable, as people rarely went on picnics, but spent at least one week of every summer vacationing at the shore.
Over the past five decades beach blankets have been designed to last longer. They're made with more resistant fabrics, and a lot of blankets come with weighted pockets to hold the corners down (For more on this see "How do Beach Blankets Work?" above.)
Despite these bold leaps forward, the modern beach blanket remains a fairly traditional product. Its function hasn't changed, and it has remained a staple of the coastline scene ever since Americans first started vacationing at the shore during the early 1900s.