Camping with an Electric Blanket
For some reason, we have started getting more letters requesting recommendations about using an electric blanket when tent camping. Some people want to simply plug in to a normal 120V outlet at a campground, some want to carry along a battery and use an inverter to generate AC power for their heating blanket or mattress pad. Electric blankets are not tested for cold outdoor use but here are some tips and precautions for those who would like to do this.
Connecting to Shore Power (normal 120VAC outlet)
IF you use a campsite electrical outlet (120VAC) you can use any brand of heated blanket or heated mattress pad. The warmest brand of heated blankets on the USA market is the Sunbeam brand, at least in its first year. Most of their blankets will also fit your requirement of being cheap (try Wal-Mart.com or Amazon.com). Sunbeam blankets, due to their technology, will then lose heat each year (actually a tiny fraction every time it is used) for its life. Probably you will only use this blanket a few times per year so this heat loss over time would not affect you so much.
Using an Inverter to Power an Electric Blanket
All electric blankets and mattress pads will work well with a Full Wave Inverter. Due to their cost however, most people use Modified Sine Wave inverters. So you need to check what kind of inverter you have. The only brand of heated blanket or mattress pad sold in the United States that will work with an MSW inverter is the low voltage SoftHeat one.
Keeping Warm while Camping
Almost all electric blankets designed for the US market are designed for other blankets, spreads, comforters, etc. to be placed over them during use, if you would wish to do that. Check your User Manual first to assure yours will allow this. In camping, what you put UNDER you would be quite important also to your warmth. Be sure to pad your undersides well.
Heated pads are warmer than heated blankets due to all the heat being retained by the non-heated blanket or comforter or whatever is on top. However don’t use any heated mattress pad on your air pad. #1) It might burn through the plastic; and #2) It won’t heat you well with an air mattress anyway because there will not be any “mass” under it to direct the heat upwards to your bodies. The heat will simply go into the air within the air mattress instead of being forced to your bodies as with a regular mattress. (We have not tested heated bedding with ground pads such as Thermarest, etc. so cannot speak to how they will react to heat.)
Do not use an electric blanket inside a sleeping bag. It could easily become bunched up and overheat – possibly catching fire.