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Our Favorite Cute (Yet Practical!) Picnic Blankets for a Summer of Outdoor Eating

A new generation of blankets fuses fashion with function

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A selection of picnic blankets superimposed over a forest backdrop. Photo illustration. Lille Allen/Eater

As warm weather lovers ease into another season of outdoor dining, picnics are everywhere on social media; we’re not even through June yet, and #summerpicnic has already surpassed more than 17.3 million views on TikTok. Although picnics became a necessity (and burgeoning industry) during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the appeal of gathering outdoors over a few sandwiches is hardly new.

What has changed is the culture around the humble picnic: thanks to inflation’s impact on both personal budgets and menu prices, along with subliminal social conditioning by certain aesthetics popular on TikTok (see: coastal cowgirl, cottagecore) the picnic in 2023 sits at the intersection of fashion and practicality. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the picnic blanket itself has come to be seen as a symbol of and passport to spontaneity and ease.

Looking for a way to avoid a sad desk lunch? Picnic blanket in the park. Need a cost-effective way to celebrate your kid’s fourth birthday? Picnic blanket(s) in the backyard. Want a second date option that’s as easy to set up as it is to pack up if things go horribly awry? Picnic blanket. The picnic blanket is an open-ended invitation, and being spotted carrying one over your shoulder signals what carrying a yoga mat did in the aughts: an attempt to center oneself through a ground covering.

And while any stained duvet or couch throw will do the job in theory, a new generation of picnic blankets focuses on actual utility in addition to aesthetics, with construction that prioritizes waterproofing, wipe-it-off cleaning, pet-proofing and toss-over-your-shoulder transportability. The picnic blanket of summer 2023 is a study in form-meets-function accessorizing; no matter your picnic destination or personal style, there’s a new-aged blanket to meet your needs. Here are a few of our favorites.

Like so many new picnic blankets, the Internet-beloved puffy picnic blanket from Baggu ($70) was designed by someone who understands that trying to lug around a wadded-up old quilt is less than practical. Baggu’s blanket is easy to roll up, has a carrying handle, and is as soft as an actual quilt, to boot. With hyper-vivid patterns that are reminiscent of Windows 95 screensavers — think clouds, grass, waves — Baggu’s blanket gets meta (look, you’re sitting on a grass picnic blanket, in the grass!) in the best possible way.

Transportability is also one of the big selling points of my personal picnic blanket, a waterproof Pendleton version ($57) that I’ve lugged everywhere from creek beds to grassy patches in parking lots. It folds into a zippered tote so cleanly that even my preschooler can do it, and has a cabin-inspired look that gives even the tamest of picnics gathering-’round-a-campfire sensibility.

For those who skew more classically refined in their picnic blanket aesthetic, a striped and monogrammed version from Mark and Graham ($129) still rolls up for easy toting with leather straps and a handle. It’s also waterproof, which is another common-sense hallmark of modern picnic blanket construction.

To wit, the waterproof, PEVA-backed picnic blanket from Scuddles ($26.99) means you’ll never have a soggy, sand-crusted beach picnic again (and it also comes in a wide range of sizes), while the NEMO Victory picnic blanket ($149.95) has waterproof backing in addition to a cuddly flannel top and grommeted corners for staking it down on windy days. (It also has a secret “stash pocket” for storing keys, phones and other personal items out of sight. Convenient!) And if you value the back-to-the-land energy of old kantha quilts but want to picnic without risk of permanent wine-spill stains, then the waterproof patchwork picnic blanket from Natural Life ($59) offers the best of both worlds.

If you’re concerned about your picnic blanket’s impact on the environment, then Rumpl’s recycled camp blankets ($125) are the water- odor-, and stain-resistant version you need thanks to their ability to repel dirt, spilled drinks and — yes — pet hair. A tree is planted for each Trek Light blanket ($165) purchased, with each fringe-trimmed, Southwest-inspired piece ethically handwoven by Indigenous artists in Mexico using upcycled and recycled materials. (Bonus: there’s an optional leather carrier.) Looking to support National Parks with your picnic blanket purchase? The Parks Project recycled camp blankets are an eco-conscious choice made from recycled polyester that give back to conservation efforts at national parks. And really, who could resist prints like these groovy frogs trippily two-stepping with mushrooms?

Sarah Baird is a Kentucky-based journalist and author whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, GQ, Saveur, the Believer and beyond. A 2019 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, she writes frequently about cultural issues impacting rural America.