Emergency blankets don’t seem all that impressive when you first look at one. They’re thin and seem pretty fragile when you first pick one up so I wasn’t all that surprised when I started seeing people ask questions about them.
Emergency blankets are typically made from a stretched reflective polyester sheet making them waterproof. The plastic doesn’t allow water to pass through making them good for a wide variety of uses where you need to protect yourself from the elements.
Emergency blankets are made from a stretched polyester material. You’ve probably heard of Mylar, which is DuPont’s brand name for this type of material, but the exact material name doesn’t really matter.
The stretched polyester is waterproof, so the emergency blanket itself is going to be waterproof.
Being waterproof makes emergency blankets useful for quite a lot of different tasks. People obviously use them to wrap themselves in order to help their bodies regulate their temperature, but they can also be used for tons of other things.
Other ways to put the waterproof nature of emergency blankets to use:
- Makeshift shelter
- Keep your pack dry by wrapping it or keep the contents dry by using it as a liner
- Collect water
- Line your boots to keep your feet dry
Many people seem to want to know if an emergency blanket is worth it. The simple answer is yes, but you need to have realistic expectations when you’re using one.
If you plan to go camping during the winter with just an emergency blanket as your shelter or think you’re going to use it as a sleeping bag, then you’re going to be disappointed!
They’re called emergency blankets for a reason, they’re for emergencies. That’s where they really shine.
For a couple of dollars, you can have a sheet of plastic that will keep you dry, can reflect your body heat back at you and even be used as a shelter. On top of that, they’re usually about the size of a deck of cards. So why wouldn’t you have one (or several) around?
Blankets don’t create heat, they trap body heat inside. This is the same with an emergency blanket. The reflective material is able to reflect some of your body heat back toward you.
They also keep the wind off of you which reduces the amount of heat that you lose through convection and the evaporation of your sweat.
In a cold environment, you should try to maximize the benefits of the emergency blanket by using it as an outside layer on top of a regular blanket or on the outside of your clothes. This puts a trapped layer of air between your skin and the emergency blanket so your body heat stays inside.
Wrap the blanket around your body on all sides, tucking it under you to secure it in place. If you can get your body off of the ground, then it’ll be much more effective.
In a hot environment, you’re going to want to use the emergency blanket as a way to create shade. Put the reflective side out and suspend the blanket above you to keep the sun off of you. Don’t put the blanket in contact with your body or the heat will just transfer directly to you.
One thing that you need to do when you’re using an emergency blanket is have realistic expectations. A thin piece of plastic isn’t going to be very comfortable in pretty much any environment, even though they’re probably warmer than you’d expect them to be.
Emergency blankets aren’t meant to be warm or comfortable. They’re designed to keep you alive in the event of an emergency. As long as you understand that I don’t think you’re going to be upset with what you get.
Some people go so far as to say that emergency blankets offer people a false sense of security. Again, you need to understand what you’re dealing with!
Emergency blankets are mostly made to be disposable. There are some that are designed to be reused, but they’re usually more of a small reflective tarp than an emergency blanket.
Just because they’re disposable, doesn’t mean that you can’t reuse them. A lot of homeless people will use an emergency blanket for an entire season. It really depends on how you plan to use the blanket.
If you’re just wrapping yourself in the blanket at night to stay warm, then you can probably use it over and over. If you’re tying it up to a tree to use it as a shelter from the blowing rain, then it may not even last through that storm.
The best way to make sure that your emergency blanket is going to be useable over and over again is to try to keep it protected from sharp objects like sticks and rocks. When you’re done using it, make sure it’s dry and fold it neatly. Then, put it back into the bag it came in or store it in a small ziplock bag.
I just took one of my emergency blankets out while I was writing this and tried to get it back in the package it came in. I was able to do it, but it took a little bit of work to get it in there!
How long do mylar blankets last? Mylar blankets are normally designed to be disposable but they can last for much longer than one use. Many homeless people keep them for an entire season. The exact length of time that they will last depends on how they’re used.
Do emergency blankets expire? Emergency blankets can go bad after a while. You should check them every year or two because the silver reflective coating has a tendency to degrade over time. If the blanket still has its reflective coating intact then it should be good for another year.