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It’s easy to bundle up in a scarf and jacket when the temperature drops. And packing a sleeping bag when you go camping is a no-brainer. But what if you end up stranded while on a day hike or have to flee unexpected danger after SHTF? Enter the emergency blanket. This thin piece of Mylar film doesn’t look like much more than a reflective sheet of flexible plastic, but it can retain life-saving heat if you’re caught outdoors without shelter. Plus, it has a myriad of other improvised functions.
The amazing emergency blanket, also known as a space blanket, was developed by NASA back in 1964 and has since become a mainstay in many emergency and first-aid kits — and for good reason. Emergency blankets take up little room, are very lightweight, and can keep you warm by efficiently preventing heat loss. Stash one in your backpack or vehicle’s glove compartment and wrap yourself in it if you ever need a way to stay warm in a jiffy. Its powerful heat-retention properties are why marathon runners are draped in them after running their 26.2 miles and the reason its Mylar material was used to line the spacesuits that went to the moon.
How to Properly Use an Emergency Blanket: To be fully effective, an emergency blanket should be placed with the shiny side facing your body or any surface you want to keep toasty. This shiny side reflects about 90 percent of your body heat, while the dull side, which is not as efficient, only reflects about 65 percent of radiated heat.
Aside from making you feel like a toasty Pop Tart when wrapped in them, what else are they practical for? Let’s examine 10 alternative uses for the blanket from space.
An emergency blanket makes a great insulator from the cold. Use it to help fortify your sleeping bag, if you’re fortunate to have one, or cut a blanket up and stuff it into your shoes and gloves to help keep your tootsies warm.
Emergency blankets usually come in a silver or gold chrome-like finish. Their mirrored reflective surface is great to bounce light off of to signal for help. When strung up on a tall object such as a tree, wind may cause it to move, creating a fluttering light reflection that may improve your chances of being detected.
Because it’s a large sheet of non-porous material, a space blanket is great for catching and collecting water. If it rains, you can dig a hole in the ground and line it like a mini-swimming pool to collect water. Make sure its edges are raised to avoid any dirty runoff. Or if you want to keep your water off the ground, you can tie up four corners onto a tree and use a rock to weigh down the middle. Water will collect at the bottom of this makeshift funnel.
Another alternative is to create a funnel or slide that can divert rainwater into a container. If you’re contending with snow, you can shape the blanket into a cone and place snow into it. Then align your “snow cone” to catch sunlight so that the light generates heat to melt the snow.
In conjunction with some paracord, duct tape, or even strips of itself (see Use #10), you can make a “lean-to” shelter by tying up two corners of the blanket up on trees and the other two corners lower to the ground to create a shelter from rain or the sun.
Mylar has a melting temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit so it is relatively safe in close proximity to open fire. Use a blanket to reflect heat from a campfire back into your aforementioned emergency-blanket shelter.
You can use an emergency blanket to fashion a makeshift sling to help better immobilize a broken or sprained arm or use it as a tourniquet in an extreme emergency. Use strips of it to tie sticks to a leg or arm create a splint for injured limbs. It can also act as an impromptu compression bandage if needed as well.
Since the sheet is completely waterproof, anything you sufficiently wrap or shield from falling water should be able to stay dry. Use it to help keep the contents of your backpack dry by placing everything on the blanket then wrapping it prior to placing it in the pack. Keep yourself and your stuff dry by using a blanket as a tent footprint or groundsheet.
Fish like shiny things, so strips of a blanket used as lures should better attract them than just a hook. Also, an emergency blanket makes for a clean and large enough surface on which to clean fish or field dress game. Keep the dirt off your meat!
Fashion a blanket into a bowl shape and face it into the sun. Place very thinly sliced meat into it and allow nature to take its course. This works best when there is a blazing sun in the sky. Or if you opt to cook by flame, use pieces of a blanket to wrap up food for cooking near the fire. Not on the fire mind you, but place your wrapped food near the fire and it should get hot enough to cook what’s inside.
Strips of blanket can be braided together to help form improvised cordage. Large braided pieces can even serve as makeshift rope in some circumstances. Though, probably not safe enough to climb with, emergency cordage is good for helping you build a shelter or secure your gear.