Travel | September 1, 2022 12:19 pm

This Blanket Feels Like a Sleeping Bag and Takes Up Less Space Than a Nerf Football

You should be traveling in comfort with this cozy travel blanket

Gravel's Layover Travel Blanket with "Stuff We Swear By" superimposed on top.
Also an ideal companion for road trips, movie theaters and the drive-in.
Gravel Travel

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This is Stuff We Swear By, a series in which our editors expound on an item they use (and love) on a daily (or near-daily) basis.

Item: Gravel Layover Travel Blanket

When you think of restorative sleep, the plastic-wrapped plane blanket is probably the last thing that comes to mind. In fact, this sad little shred of fabric is as far from comfort as the gross “chicken parm” they microwave in the galley is from nutrition. While the monstrously static-inducing blanket is a feeble gesture toward the idea of napping, it fails to fulfill its main purpose: keeping you warm. The Layover travel blanket from Gravel, on the other hand, offers the coziest sleeping experience I’ve had while flying. It’s compact enough to pack down to the size of a nerf football, and you can carry it on road trips, cross-continental flights or a picnic.

How I use it:

Anyone who’s traveled by air knows that in-flight naps are a dual struggle to a) fall asleep and b) stay asleep. I’ve found that the main challenge to getting restful shut-eye is regulating temperature. It’s freezing once you reach cruising altitude, and unless you’re willing to dress in cumbersome layers, you’re going to either be uncomfortably cold in the air or sweaty on the tarmac.

My mom always flies with a down coat (even in summer) because the plane blanket — at best — only keeps your lower half warm. There’s no way to keep the flimsy thing snug around you unless you manage to wedge the corners behind your body and stay stock still. And if you’re wearing sandals (or if you’re one of those people who thinks it’s socially acceptable to take your shoes off), your feet will freeze. I discovered the solution to all of these woes in the form of the Gravel travel blanket that’s half Snuggie, half sleeping bag.

Why I swear by it:

On a recent flight to Amsterdam, as soon as I felt a chill, I slid the compact 6′.6″ x 3′.6″ blanket from its case, took off my shoes, and stepped into the insulated foot pouch. My socks never touched the filthy plane carpet — and it gets warmer.

The nylon fabric (made from recycled water bottles) keeps you warm in temperatures as low as 50 degrees. I personally dislike the synthetic fleece of the airline-provided blanket because it always feels like a bacteria and crumb magnet. Whatever the fabric lacks in fuzziness is made up for by the voluminous size that allows you to cocoon yourself snugly and prevents your bare thighs from touching the gross airplane seat. It has that swishy material that reminds me of a sleeping bag. The coating is waterproof and anti-static but it won’t slide off because it’s wearable, snapping behind your neck like a giant bib. It’s only 12.43 ounces so there’s no pulling or uncomfortable weight on your neck.

Once your feet are situated in the foot pouch and the blanket is snapped on you can place your hands in the kangaroo pocket. This feature might seem like a nice-to-have rather than a must-have, but if you’ve slept sitting up, you’ll know that your hands flop out of your lap the moment you fall asleep. I used to wear a hoodie with a front pocket on flights for this precise reason. The kangaroo pocket on this travel blanket is fleece-lined and it has a zippered compartment that I used to keep my AirPod case and boarding pass at hand. Cocooned in this blanket, I slept for three hours straight on the first leg of an international flight, and an additional two hours on the second leg, which is a personal record.

I was inspired to introduce this blanket to the world beyond air travel and discovered it was also an ideal companion for road trips, movie theaters and the drive-in. When I was watching Mamma Mia sitting on the top of my car, it started to get cold around “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” I pulled out the blanket, sprayed it with mosquito repellant (it’s machine washable), and snapped it on. I was toasty by “Slipping Through My Fingers”, but instead of folding the blanket back into its carrying case (which can be stored inside of the blanket for safe keeping), I inverted the kangaroo pocket and stuffed the material inside to enter pillow mode. The fleece lining of the pocket became the pillowcase and I enjoyed “Take a Chance on Me” with my head supported by, what was a minute ago, a sprawling blanket.

At $129 for a travel blanket, it has to perform some pretty spectacular tricks — and after a summer’s worth of outdoor movies and several trans-Atlantic flights, I consider it as necessary for travel as noise-canceling headphones. Sure, you can survive without them, but once you’ve been initiated into a superior state of comfort, it’s almost impossible to go back.