It was 18 years ago when my girlfriend bought the blanket, a thin ply of synthetic fleece made by Polartec and branded as a Patagonia product. It was sold at REI and made for camping or everyday use where wrap-around warmth was required.
The girlfriend is now my wife, and the blanket is still going strong. Through almost two decades of use, on trips, at home, with dogs, with kids, and always kicking around, the Polartec fabric that comprises this blanket just will not quit.
Invented more than 30 years ago, Polartec synthetic fleece is widely used in the performance-apparel world. The Massachusetts-based brand has a process that takes knit polyester yarns and “raises piled fibers for precise shearing into sheets of soft fabric,” according to the official company explanation.
The result is a fuzzy, breathable, durable, and amazingly warm fabric that is used in everything from base layers to jackets. Bedding, blankets, and other household items are commonly made of the material, too.
Our long-loved Patagonia blanket, specifically made of the Polartec Classic fabric, is soft on both sides. It’s a thin but cozy and slightly stretchy covering. It doesn’t stink even after a weeklong trip, and a deep-blue dye combined with a pattern print hides stains and dirt.
The blanket measures around 5.5 × 4 feet. It rolls up to the size of a bath towel. We use it in tents or around campfires on trips. After all the abuse there is still no pilling of the fabric, no tears, and the edges are in almost perfect shape.
At home it gets put in the laundry cycle with our clothes where it is machine-washed, dried, and then folded and thrown back on our couch where the blanket lives. It looks as good as new every time.
I once visited Polartec’s factory in Massachusetts to see how its fabric is made. Floors were committed to pumping out materials with huge machines, and I snapped photos to document the operation for a story. But the area where the company’s original polar fleece is made was cordoned off, no pictures allowed.
The top-secret process works. In the outdoors world there are imitators, but Polartec dominates the synthetic-fleece game even decades after it was invented.
Patagonia discontinued the blanket we own, but the company still sells a smaller version for kids called the Micro D. It costs $15.
There are throws, coverings, bedding, and blankets out there made of the fabric, including from L.L.Bean, Berkshire Blanket, Cabela’s, and more.
Grab a Polartec blanket if you can. It’ll keep you warm, year after year.