Any experienced and responsible outdoor enthusiast must never leave the house with a good first aid kit. Your first aid supplies must include basic items for survival, which include an emergency blanket. An emergency blanket, also known as a space blanket, is one of the lesser-known survival items. Make sure you know the proper way to use it so you can make the most of its function; otherwise, it’s just extra weight in your backpack.
What is an Emergency Blanket?
When you venture out into the wilderness, you must prepare for uncertain conditions. The weather is one of those unpredictable factors that you must prepare for. An emergency blanket is a lightweight blanket that might appear to most people as a flimsy sheet of aluminum foil. But don’t let the appearance fool you because this survival tool is one of the must-haves in the arsenal of medics, athletes, and outdoor enthusiasts.
It is made from a heat-reflective plastic sheet known as Mylar. The technology behind the manufacture of this product is based on the same technology used in the space program during the 1960s. This type of material is developed with the technology that allows heat to be deflected. By deflecting heat, the spacecraft and the equipment and personnel contained in it are safe from the heat.
This technology is known as vacuum metallization. Before its application in the space program and the manufacture of emergency blankets, it was used in the production of novelty items and mirrors.
The technology involves the application of a metal coating to a non-metal surface. In the case of emergency blankets, aluminum is applied to plastic. The aluminum coating defects the heat and invisible rays from the sun to prevent the absorption of heat.
How Do Emergency Blankets Work?
Knowing the technology behind the space program, you might be curious how it applies to emergency blankets when you’re exposed to freezing temperatures. NASA engineers utilized the same technology but used it in reverse. For example, instead of deflecting heat, they reversed the application of the materials such that they can retain heat.
When you are stranded in the wilderness with below-freezing temperatures, your goal is to retain as much of your body heat as possible. Putting an emergency blanket over your body can achieve that. It locks in any body heat that you have left and keeps it from escaping. This process will help regulate or stabilize your body temperature for your survival under extreme conditions.
To do this, you must wrap the foil side of the blanket towards your body instead of away. The aluminum surface will bounce the heat back to your body so you can maintain your natural body heat.
Emergency blankets can also be useful in a reverse situation – if you are stranded in the wilderness under extreme heat conditions. You may use the emergency blanket to cover your body and deflect heat. Make sure that the foil side is facing the heat source instead of towards you.
Is it Effective?
Emergency blankets have been a staple in first aid kits for professional medics and rescuers. But is it as effective as it claims?
NASA claims that emergency blankets are effective at retaining up to 90% of the body heat. On top of that, these blankets are waterproof and windproof. These qualities enable the blanket to work effectively for its intended purpose, which is either to retain body heat or to deflect heat.
The double-sided design of an emergency blanket performs two functions at once. It works by preventing the loss of body heat and escaping outside and then redirecting that heat back into the body. In a life-or-death situation, this can be a turning point for survival.
However, there are limitations to its use. You should still seek emergency medical attention because it will only do a good job of keeping you warm for a certain period. If you have prolonged exposure to the elements, you are still at risk of losing too much body heat. You also need to check the size of the blanket that you buy. They come in various sizes and you have to make sure that you get one that is adequately sized to wrap your entire body.
During emergencies, you can roll the blanket and crawl inside it to sleep. However, it won’t be comfortable as there is no padding or insulation. It is recommended that you also pack a sleeping bag or other substitutes for emergency cases.
An emergency blanket has a short shelf life. It also degrades pretty quickly. Make sure to get a new one every once in a while as the one that has been in your emergency kit for years might no longer be reliable.
How to Use During Emergency Situations
There are plenty of uses for an emergency blanket during a survival situation.
1. Use it with other survival tools.
There are limitations to the features and functionalities of an emergency blanket. However, it is most effective when used with other survival tools and first aid gear. Use it with a sleeping bag at night to keep you warm and maintain body heat even under extremely cold conditions. The sleeping bag will also protect your emergency blanket from damage, allowing both items to do their job.
2. Use it to build an emergency shelter.
Aside from wrapping your body with an emergency blanket, it can also be repurposed as a canopy or windbreaker for your shelter.
3. Use it as a fire starter
You can use the aluminum side of the emergency blanket to direct heat towards a piece of tinder. Since this blanket is waterproof, you can also use it to protect your fire-starting kit supplies such as firewood.
4. Use it as a rain gear
Use the emergency blanket to protect you from the elements, such as rain. When you are out in the wilderness, wearing protective gear with water-repellent properties can help you stay dry and warm. Make sure you buy an emergency blanket that is big enough to cover your body from the rain.