Top 10 Uses for Emergency Blankets

Originally developed by NASA in 1964 for the U.S. space program, ‘space blankets’ have since become popular among outdoor and preparedness enthusiasts alike. These days, we’re calling them ‘emergency’ or ‘first aid’ blankets, but they’re the same lightweight product made of heat-reflective thin plastic sheeting created for the Apollo mission over 50 years ago.

Commercially known as mylar, you can call it ‘MPET’ or ‘metallized polyethylene terephthalate’ when chatting with your science buddies.

Not only are they lightweight, but extremely compact. Used properly, these nifty wind and waterproof mainstays can serve as a preventative/counter measure against hypothermia. The airtight foil minimizes heat loss to ones body and reduces convection while the reflective surface inhibits losses (heat/moisture) cause by thermal radiation. For those who are plenty warm but find themselves lost in the woods, the blankets also serve as an improvised distress beacon for searchers. Certainly not reserved exclusively for the woodsy and emergency-ridden consumer, they’re also a common sight at planned community happenings like running and cycling events.

The thing we feel compelled to share with you: Word on the streets from those who’ve actually had to rely on them in austere conditions is that they’re a little oversold in the blanket department. Sure, they deliver, but saving oneself from hypothermia using the blanket could be a little more involved than initially suggested.

Some who’ve pushed them to the limit report that if it’s too cold or if you only have one blanket to protect yourself or if your exposure is prolonged, one would be wise to not find themselves relying solely on the blanket. The lesson here is to simply pack smart when it comes to blankets. If you fancy cold places, then pack accordingly. If you’re more of a fair weather enthusiast (in temperature and intensity) then a lightweight mylar blanket will serve you well. You might be interested to know what else you can do with it:

1 Position one behind a campfire, woodstove or radiator to reflect heat. Try this at home or in the outdoors before you need it to see how well it works. Keep it a safe distance from a flame, but overall no worries about the blanket which has a melting point of 254 º C.

2Use pieces to line boots & gloves to protect fingertips & toes. Ditto for your sleeping bag, outdoor pet abodes or any other of your DIY solar projects that could use a little extra insulation when it’s cold.

3Use reflective properties as a heat shield or sunshade. Yes, we’ve been talking about how they keep the heat in, but by turning their reflective side out, they serve their purpose by reflecting 97 percent radiated heat.

4 Hang from a tree or place on the ground for water collection. This can be done a number of ways, all of them simple. Simplest is to lay one on the ground, but another equally straightforward approach when it’s raining is to tie a blanket to the end of a tree branch by using the corners of the blanket to fasten. The water will travel down the branch and collect in the blanket.

5 Cut into small strips to use as fishing lures. Fish are attracted to shiny objects.

6 Cut a wide strip to use as sling. The material is extremely strong and durable. Though we’ll only suggest you support your arm with it here, others have reported using the same blankets to carry injured persons.

7 Cut a thin strip for a makeshift tourniquet. Just a reminder here — it’s the same thing they taught you in high school health class — tourniquets are considered a last resort for continuous bleeding in a life-threatening circumstance, even for the trained responder.

8 Position behind a candle or lantern for extra light. This is one you can try at home tonight or at your next backyard get together. You’ll be amazed at how much light is created by this simple action.

9 Place on ground to prevent dampness & retain heat. Then you can sit on it, put your stuff on it, set up your tent on it.

10Clothes dryer. A local Eagle Scout advised recently that space blankets work superbly to dry clothes. Tip: turning them frequently (as you would something on a barbecue) was key.

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