We don’t use sleeping bags in our VW for a couple reasons—chiefly because they would be a pain in the ass. Our pop top is a Riviera style, which is not exactly spacious. Each night we crawl like John McClane into our sleeping quarters. Needing to negotiate a turn into a sleeping bag and a set of zippers is simply too much. Besides, this is our home. We are living in the van, not camping. So, blankets.
After several iterations and combinations of blankets we have found the winning duo of covers that allow temperature control, versatility, and packability. It’s not easy on the pocketbook, but it is worth it.
First, let me say that we tried to go the more economical routes of unzipped sleeping bags and fleece blankets. Both take up too much space in our bus and fall short of what we need in diverse climates. So we settled on:
A base layer sheet: Yes, this is our bed and like every other human, we like the feel of a crisp sheet against our skin. Besides, we usually stink and this is the easiest thing to launder regularly.
Pendleton wool blanket (bought on discount at REI for $140): I swore I would never spend money like this on a blanket, but damn this is the best thing to cover up with in any temperature. Wool has that quality about it—even if it gets wet, it retains its ability to hold in heat. Cotton is rotten, folks. This blanket is warm and breathable and it gets softer with use. This isn’t the scratchy cheap wool of your childhood; this is rich and heavy and surprisingly compact for a blanket of this size. And someday, when this countrywide excursion is in the rearview mirror, we’ll have a really fabulous blanket on our couch or bed that will remind us of our home on wheels.
Voited blanket (about $50 with shipping): This is what we started out with thinking it would be enough to last us through the colder months. It was good, but not enough for temperatures below 40 F. Made of some sort of super lofty synthetic fill, it packs down into a small space and even has a compartment where you can stuff it into itself to make a pillow.
Layering these blankets so the sheet is on the bottom and the Voited is on top with the wool in the middle is a combination that really cooks. It holds in heat, yet still feels breathable. On warmer nights we can ditch the wool blanket or the Voited depending on how we feel.