If you like sitting outside, this is the blanket for you.

By Liz Steelman
Matador

I am most grateful for one of life’s most simple pleasures: being outside during the summertime. Personally, my favorite summer activity is sitting outside and reading. I like to be at the park or on a beach the most, but I’m not picky—I’ll even take a parklet or porch if there’s sun! November through April is spent counting down the days until the first day I can walk to the park, paperback in hand, and sit—well, lie—in the sun for hours reading (with copious amounts of SPF, of course). And there is nothing better than reading next to a friend, family member, or even the occasional beau.

In order to support this simple lifestyle, I’ve only had to make one concession—carry the paperback I’m currently devouring and a blanket at all times. You never know when the weather is going to be simply wonderful, or when you’re going to come across the most perfect park while running errands. Sometimes you just need to be prepared to plop down and read right then and there, as if your life depended on it. 

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I’m not sure if you’ve tried to carry a picnic blanket around all summer, but it’s quite a bother. They’re bulky and you always have to carry a large-ish bag in order bring it along with you. Last summer, I upgraded to carrying around a cute Turkish towel. It was lighter than your standard picnic blanket, but got dirty quicker than an unsupervised toddler and could only fit one person—a serious problem when reading with the occasional beau.

Thankfully, when doing research for our weekly column 6 Clever Items to Simplify Your Life, I came across the Matador pocket blanket ($30; amazon.com.) And was it ever a clever item that simplified my life.

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Made from rip-proof, waterproof nylon, it’s the perfect lightweight blanket to carry at all times. It weighs less than four ounces—and I’d say the majority of the weight comes from the four attached metal stakes, allowing it to ground and stay taut both in grass and sand. It’s thin, yes, but it doesn’t mean that you feel every rock and twig under you. It’s great for the beach, as it doesn’t have any grooves or fibers to hold onto sand, and it’s super easy to clean of other environmental gunk—just wipe anything away that looks dirty when it’s open (with a wet paper towel, if it doesn’t move when flicked). It’s big enough to fit four people sitting or two people leisurely lying, too. It even comes with its own attached carrying case, but unlike trying to shove a sleeping bag back into the carrying case it came with, or even trying to refold a paper map, this one is remarkably simple to fold back into itself—there is a pattern stitched onto the blanket itself!

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I’ve pulled out my wonder blanket (as I like to call it) in front of four friends this summer, and all have immediately pulled out their phones and ordered one from Amazon—I kid you not! There is something just so remarkable about that little pocket blanket that makes my favorite part of summer just that much more enjoyable.

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