How to use a space blanket when you really need one…
Anytime you are out in the wilderness having a space blanket can be a life saver. But having a space blanket doesn’t help if you don’t know how to use it.
First and foremost, make sure that your space blanket is in good shape. A cheap space blanket that has been in the bottom of your backpack for years may be stuck together and will fall apart when you try to unfold it. There are many good space blankets on the market. Adventure Medical Kits makes an outstanding mylar blanket (SOL Survivor Blanket – 2 Person) that is reusable and holds up to abuse.
Second, don’t be afraid to pull the blanket out. Waiting until you are half frozen and soaking wet may be too late to do any real good.
Most common applications of space blankets are sleeping bivvy, shelter or over clothes body wrap. But the most important use I have found is a special technique for when it is raining or sleeting and you are soaking wet. If you can’t find good shelter and have to keep moving, you need a way to keep warm and avoid hypothermia. Putting it over wet clothes has limited effectiveness.*
*It is important to remember that wet clothing will suck heat away from the body (evaporation) and wind will also steal body heat (convection).
In this situation you need a way to maximize your body heat while you keep moving. So what is the best way to maximize a space blanket?
Make a layer between your body and your wet clothing!
To do this, first cut a piece off the horizontal end of the blanket, about the width of your torso. For most people this will be about 24 to 28 inches. An exact measurement is not necessary. The idea is to make a poncho that will go against your skin, under your clothing. There will still be plenty of blanket leftover for other uses.
1. Cut about 2 ½ feet off the end of the blanket
2. Cut a vertical slit in the middle, big enough to go over your head
Step 1: Take off your jacket and shirt and put the slit over your head like a poncho with the silver side against your skin. By putting it against your skin, body heat will be reflected back to your body and moisture will be kept off your skin. Then put your wet clothing over the “poncho” space blanket. Now you have made a heat trapping layer under your wet clothes.
Step 2: For additional protection, take the rest of the space blanket and place it over
your head and secure a hood with a Barkie (www.BarkingFrogs.me) or other piece of fabric around your head. If you have a second Barkie or bandana, place around your neck for added
head and neck warmth (head and neck is where most of body heat is lost). The rest of the blanket will drape over your upper body.
Step 3: Secure the blanket around your waist by tying the ends together. This is an excellent way to provide water proofing and keep you warm.
At the end of the day, you can take the poncho off and it is still large enough to use as a shelter, a blanket or a sleeping bivvy. The proper use of a space blanket can make the difference between succumbing to hyperthermia or having a great adventure. Be smart about your equipment and make it home safely.
Barking Frogs Ambassador