There are a few different types of survival blankets on the market, with varying degrees of life sustainability, cost, and applications. In this article we will provide enough information that you will be able to make an informed decision about purchasing emergency blankets.
Aluminized Mylar (retail $.90 each)
Mylar Emergency Blankets are the least expensive of all emergency blankets, and available at almost every Wal-Mart and outdoor related stores, they are also typically included in almost every lower priced first-aid kits, or so called pre-built “survival kits”.
You can probably gather that I am not a fan of pre-built survival kits, for several good reasons; first they typically include the least expense, least quality items available to keep prices lower and maximize profits. Second, you should build your survival kit yourself so that you are familiar with every item in it and know how to use each item, it should also be tailored to your environment and circumstances.
Mylar Blankets (sometimes called Space Blankets), are typically only a few millimeters thick, they are not warm to the touch, and not comfortable to the touch. But, let’s not write these off completely, there are uses for them. The positive qualities are that they are very compact allowing them to be carried easily and stowed in the smallest places, they reflect a large amount of body heat, and are very light weight. My best suggestion is to use these as heat reflectors, line a wall behind you or ceiling above you to reflect heat back to you. They can also be used to sleep on top of to keep you off wet ground, however you should place some type of insulation on top or underneath them as well, or cold ground will suck the heat right out of you even through the Mylar blanket.
Our Recommendation: Dump these as any “real” emergency blankets and instead re-purpose them as heat reflective sources.
Bivvy or Bivouac (retail $14)
Bivvy sacks are made of a tougher material and usually reflective Mylar lined on the inside, they are shaped like a sleeping bag. These can be used two ways; first you can slip it over a sleeping bag which will give you the advantages of increasing the sleeping bags warming factor by 10% and waterproofing, secondly you can use it simply as a survival emergency sack by getting inside it, this is especially proven helpful for example if a person has gotten wet and the risk of hypothermia is great the person can get out of the wet clothes and get into the Bivvy, this will allow the body to warm much faster than if it were having to warm wet clothes as well.
Bivvy’s are typically light weight, and collapse to about the size of a large soup can, and weighs about 6.5 ounces.
Bivvy sacks have two tiers of fabric:
- Bottom Tier – Durable nylon coated with urethane for waterproofing, typically this is the same material that is used for tent floors.
- Top Tier – RipStop nylon treated with a waterproof, breathable laminate like GoreTex®.
When wet, Gore-Tex fabric sometimes produces a clammy feeling when it touches your skin, but it’s just that—a sensation, not a soak-through.
Our Recommendation: Bivvy sacks are great to have in rainy or cold weather to add both waterproofing and a little extra warm to your sleeping bag. They are also well suited for emergency situations to help prevent hypothermia. We carry one in our packs at all times.
All Weather Blanket (retail $14)
All Weather Blankets are made from tarp material with a reflective interior, similar to the others above it reflects natural body heat to keep you warm, and durable enough to be used as an improved shelter. It weighs about 12oz. and folds up to the size of an average sized book, unfolded it is 5’x7′ in size. There are many uses other than a blanket such as; rain cover, tent ground cover, reflective wall, improved shelter, hammock cover, etc.
Our Recommendation: The All Weather Blanket is a great alternative survival blanket, it weighs more than a Mylar blanket but there is you just can’t compare the durability. I recommend the Orange/Silver because it can also be used as a signaling device.
The best quality of wool is either Merino or Alpaca. Wool’s unique properties, including providing great insulation even when wet, have long made it a material of choice for the outdoors. Wool fibers consist of an inner core made of protein, which is covered by overlapping scales. The protein core will absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without becoming damp or clammy. The scales are hard, reducing wear on the fibers, and repel liquid water. The fibers are strong and elastic, and are usually wavy, or crimped. Wool also contains lanolin, a natural water-repellant grease. Wool on the sheep, or its fleece, protects the animal from the wet and cold by first turning away rain and water. The crimp of the wool produces insulating air spaces within the fleece, which reduce the flow of heat. The air near the skin is kept dry, and so a better insulator, by the core protein absorbing moisture from this trapped air, and passing it towards the outside of the fleece. The elasticity and strength of the fibers allow movement of the fleece without losing the air spaces or breaking the fibers. The scales besides repelling liquid water, help keep the fleece clean, since their outer ends all point in the direction away from the skin, and so with the movement of the fleece tend to push any dirt away from the skin. Wool is fire-resistant, and will not support a flame, an important property in outdoor blankets and clothing. It does not melt when heated, a significant factor in reducing the severity of burns from fires. It has a low tendency to collect static electricity, reducing stray electrostatic shocks and attraction of dust and lint.
Merino is actually an ancient breed of sheep, most sheep live in lowlands however Merino sheep live in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, where most other sheep would freeze to death. The Merino sheep’s fleece is built for extreme weather, breathes exceptionally well in the summer and is great at insulating against the old in the winter.
Alpaca are native to the high Andes Mountains of South America. Domesticated for centuries by the Inca of Peru, their precious fleece was worn only by royalty. Alpaca produce over twenty natural shades of a fiber that is soft like cashmere and stronger than wool. This unique hollow core fiber is extremely light yet retains the ability to warm its wearer against even the harshest winter chills. Imagine a fiber that is incredibly soft on the skin and luscious to touch. The fiber is extremely strong, yet lightweight. It contains no lanolin and is hypoallergenic. Finally, this miracle fiber would come in a wide range of natural colors but also accept dyes to provide the option of natural or dyed garments.