An emergency blanket is supposed to be your go-to survival tool when you need more warmth while camping out. But there seem to be conflicting views about its efficiency.
To help you decide if an emergency blanket is worth purchasing for your first wilderness adventure, we did our digging and checked experienced campers and the like about their take on it. Here’s what they have to say about emergency blankets.
An emergency or space blanket is a great survival tool, but it has its limitations. While it can warm your body up for long periods, it still can leak out heat which means you cannot use it as a replacement over a sleeping bag. The emergency blanket is very handy as long as you use it for the right purpose.
Now that you understand what an emergency blanket is for, let’s dig in a little deeper about what it can do, its limitations, and how you can maximize its use.
Why Are Emergency Blankets only for “Emergency Use”?
To get an honest and unbiased opinion about this, we checked what some of the folks at Reddit think about the emergency blankets.
It turns out, all 56 of them agree that emergency blankets are only good for one-time or as-needed usage, and they can never replace proper gear.
That’s because most of these blankets are made of inferior materials, and thus, they tore too easily. But regardless of make, all emergency blankets will wake you up in a sweaty mess if you use them as your sleeping equipment.
It is simply due to the nature of how an emergency blanket works. The blanket traps your body heat and reflects it towards you. It radiates more heat until your body needs to regulate your temperature by sweating.
Nevertheless, though it cannot be classified as proper camping gear, it can still help you as long as you use it wisely.
When An emergency space blanket won’t work
Emergency blankets have many great talents in terms of helping you survive the outdoors – but like any other tool or equipment, it also has its limits. You have to understand these limitations so you can set the right expectations about your packed emergency blankets.
Heating Your Body with an Emergency Blanket Takes Time
Though they can warm your body up, emergency blankets can’t generate heat on their own. Their efficiency is tied up to how quickly your body can produce heat.
Its main goal is to reflect heat. So, you’ll have to wait a little while until your body creates sufficient warmth to gradually increase your temperature.
You Will Still Lose Some of Your Body Heat
An emergency blanket does not have insulation. Therefore, some of the heat will eventually escape and lessen the temperature inside the blanket.
Aside from that, the tiny holes here and there, after you wrap the blanket around you will surely dissipate heat.
So, when using it as a first aid to arrest hypothermia, you will still need to add another layer of insulation to ensure that heat loss is prevented.
They Can’t Work If You’re Too Wet
As reiterated, they work to radiate the heat coming out of your body. When you’re wet, your body tries to vaporize the water all over it.
So instead of giving off heat, you produce cool air. Consequently, the emergency blanket circulates this cold air. And you feel colder than you were before.
This is an important fact when trying to use the emergency blanket after you’re soaked into an icy cold lake or basin of water.
They Can’t Dry You Off
By design, emergency blankets trap heat, not let them escape. If you’re planning to use the emergency blanket after a dip in the lake, please don’t.
Chances are, you’ll only end up drenched in your sweat which will make you feel icky. You’re better off drying your body while bathing in the sun.
Most Personal or Mylar Blankets are Fragile
They tear easily. That’s the reality of most personal or mylar emergency blankets out there. One roll on the ground with branches or slightly sharp rocks can rip them up.
Of course, some will not break off that easily. But even those are only good for a night of use.
To get the most out of these fragile emergency kits, be wise and buy at least five or ten of them depending on how long you will be out in the woods.
How to Properly Use an Emergency Blanket
A basic of Camping 101 is to pack light and pack with a purpose. An emergency blanket is a great camping kit, but if you don’t know how to use it, you’ll end up having one more useless item in your backpack.
The key is knowing when and how to use the emergency blanket to maximize its purpose. Here are some of them.
When your body loses heat too fast, snatch your emergency blanket and wrap it around your body. Make sure that the shiny part of it faces you so it can reflect your body’s heat at you.
You can also use the emergency blanket as a first aid kit to keep your camping mate’s body warm if they suffer from hypothermia. To minimize heat loss, cover your or your mate’s head with a hat or scarf.
A bit of a reminder when using the emergency blanket as first aid for hypothermia, make sure that your friend’s body is relatively dry.
The emergency blanket only reflects heat from the body and does not generate it. The body cannot create sufficient heat if it’s drenched with water.
When this happens, get them out of their wet clothes first. Then quickly wipe their body down and cover it with the emergency blanket.
As a Support Warmer
If the weather gets too chilly while you’re outdoors, you can use the emergency blanket to add warmth to your sleeping bag or tent.
Wrap your body with the blanket, then slide it into your sleeping bag. If this seems too hard, just lay it on the tent floor, keeping the shiny face in contact with the back of your sleeping bag.
Protection from the Elements
One of the many uses of an emergency blanket is as protection against the elements.
Prop it vertically to use it as a windbreaker. You can fasten it to a post or tree bark so you’ll be temporarily safe from light to moderate rain or snow.
If you can’t hike and it rained, use the emergency blanket as a rain poncho. It has water repellant properties to prevent you from getting soaked.
Cool off your Body
Just as the emergency blanket can reflect and trap heat to warm your body, it can also retract it away from you to cool you off.
Keep the reflective side away from you. The emergency blanket will fend off the rays of the sun to keep your body at room temperature.
The reflective surface of the emergency blanket can be a good distress signal. You can cut it into strips and form the word SOS on the beach or mountain clearing. Some emergency blankets even have the SOS carved on them.
Another utility of the emergency blanket is as your DIY magnifying glass for starting your campfire.
To do this, find a concave or bowl-shaped object in your gear. Line the shiny part of the emergency blanket on the hollow side of your makeshift magnifying lens.
After securing the emergency blanket to the curved object, you can now use it to refract light and create fire.
As Bait for Fishing
An unexpected utility of the emergency blanket is for use as bait. Several fish varieties, whether in fresh or saltwater, are attracted to light.
Thus, the glimmer that the emergency blanket makes underwater is enticing to them. Cut the emergency blanket into strips, then weigh it down with a stone or any heavier object you can find.
Truly, an emergency blanket is of great help when you need it most. For more survival hacks using the emergency blanket, take time to watch this video.
However useful emergency blankets are, you should find one that’s made of good quality to take advantage of its benefits.
What Brand of Emergency Blanket Should I Buy?
Though most emergency blankets in the market are in the “don’t bother buying” pile, there are some that got the approval of campers, hikers, marathoners, and the like.
- AMK Heatsheets
- Grabber Space All Weather blanket
- SOL Emergency Poncho
Among these three, the Grabber Space All Weather Blanket got 18 nods out of 30. They seem to be impressed with the durability and versatility of Grabber’s space blanket.
Grabber’s All-Weather space blanket can last from three to five years. It will hold up quite well when used as a makeshift tarp, kneeling pad, ground cloth, or as an underlayer for your tent.
They can almost cover the floor of a two-man tent, but the downside is they are heavy. On average, a Grabber All Weather space blanket weighs 13 oz. That’s six-fold the weight of a personal emergency blanket.
Now, if you’re only looking for a blanket for personal use, the AMK Heatsheets may be your best bet. They are not as tough as Grabber’s, but it’s fairly strong, and you can put it inside your pocket.
These emergency blanket brands were tested and proven to serve their purpose, but you still have to set expectations about what they can and cannot do for you.
Emergency blankets do work to keep you warm. However, there are limits as to what it can do for you out there in the wild. It is proven to be a great survival tool, but it cannot be exchanged for heavy-duty outdoor gear.
So, when you’re out shopping for an emergency blanket for your next big adventure, be sure you understand how and when to use them.
Emergency blankets can save your life, but they can also endanger it.