One of the most versatile tools you can tuck away in your pack for a rainy day is a space blanket. It would be foolish not to have one! They are inexpensive, have loads of uses, and take up virtually zero space.
But how do you use a space blanket?
Wrap yourself up in the blanket with the shiny side facing outwards. Tuck it in around your feet and sides to trap as much body heat as possible. Cover your head with a hood, hat, or scarf. Other uses include water transport, rescue signal, or shelter.
If you want to learn more about space blankets the continue reading below.
What Are Space Blankets?
Space blankets are most commonly used to trap your body heat lost through evaporating water, convection, and thermal radiation. Space blankets are also called emergency, weather, mylar, and thermal blankets.
Space blankets are constructed of a thin, extra-strength plastic called polyethylene terephthalate. The plastic is coated in a layer of aluminum smaller than the width of a human hair! The finished product is a shiny, metallic-looking sheet that reflects the majority of heat it is exposed to.
These multi-use blankets are not exclusive to survivalist or wilderness explorers but also commonly used by:
- Marathon runners
- Rescue teams
How Does a Space Blanket Work?
To understand how a space blanket works, knowing how we lose body heat is essential. This occurs through conduction, radiation, and convection.
Conduction is the way heat transfers. An example of conduction is when someone sits on the couch for an extended period. When they get up, and you steal their seat, it is still warm. By laying on a space blanket, you can prevent heat loss from sleeping on the cold ground.
Heat loss that occurs through infrared is known as radiation. Think of radiation as the transfer of heat without physical contact. The running theory is that 65% of your body heat is lost through this method. An excellent example of radiation is when the sun comes out and heats the earth during the day.
Lastly, you lose body heat through convection. This occurs through wind or water touching your skin, such as a fan or swimming pool. These can be incredible on a hot day but deadly on a frigid and cold one.
In short, a space blanket will keep the wind off your skin, keep you dry, and reflects your body heat towards you. Pound for pound, they are among the best items you can have in your pack in a survival situation.
When Should I Use a Space Blanket?
Space blankets are incredibly versatile. It is a must-have item for anyone that spends a lot of time in the wilderness or keeps a first aid kit stocked and ready. We detail some of the situations and reasons why space blankets can be so handy in the list below.
- Keeping you warm. Space blankets prevent body heat loss through convection, water evaporation, and radiation. If you are laying in a sleeping bag, place the space blanket between the bag and the ground. This is the most common use of a space blanket and an apparent time to use one.
- Transporting and storing water. Because space blankets are waterproof, you can use them to scoop water out of a creek, river, or lake and carried back to your camp. You can also tie them up to a tree to store your water for more extended periods or catch rainwater.
- Growing food. Space blankets can be a great asset when growing food as they reflect the sunlight and encourage growth. This becomes even more effective in the winter when temperatures are low.
- Build a shelter. If you have pins and duct tape, you should construct a short-term tent to keep you warm and dry. While it won’t be an efficient option for long-term survival, space blankets can hold their own for a short-term shelter.
- Flotation Device. You never know when a river needs to be crossed, or you find yourself in a situation that involves staying afloat. By tying the ends of your space blanket together, filling it up with air, and sealing it off, you can use it as a handy flotation device.
- Signal rescuers. Space blankets are reflective by nature. You can fold them up into different shapes or fly them from high branches like a flag to get the attention of potential rescuers! That is one of the primary purposes they are manufactured.
Are Space Blankets Comfortable?
The truth is, space blankets are not that comfortable. Especially when you are using them for an extended time, initially, it may be a massive relief as your body begins to warm up from the blanket. But if you are sleeping in one, there is a good chance you will wake up feeling damp and uncomfortable. As we have discussed, it prevents water from evaporating, remember?
How Long Does a Space Blanket Last?
The aluminum in the blanket will begin to deteriorate as it delaminates from the mylar sheet. This occurs through UV exposure, moisture, or oxidation. Luckily, space blankets are not expensive and are an affordable item to replace! Typically, it would be best if you did not keep a space blanket longer than one or two years.
Are Space Blankets Reusable?
If you are in a survival situation, you will need to put your space blanket to the test. Use it as a sleeping pad or blanket at night and water storage, rescue signal during the day. These multiple uses would not be possible if this durable blanket were single-use only. Space blankets are reusable, and most encourage you to do so.
Do I Need a Space Blanket?
If you have picked up anything from this article thus far, you already know the answer to this question. They are cheap, easy to use, extremely lightweight, and proven to work. They also have a variety of uses that can help you survive when things go wrong. You should absolutely keep a few space blankets stuffed away in your pack. You never know when you are going to need it!
Which Space Blanket Should I Get?
When you begin your search for a space blanket, you will quickly notice that they come in all shapes and sizes. Before purchasing one, try to determine how and where you will be using it.
There are blankets for cold weather, bivy sacks, warm weather, and even rain ponchos! Knowing where you are going, and the way you intend to use it will likely determine which one is right for you!
The most important thing is to add one to your kit sooner than later. It is better to have and not need than to need and not have!