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Published Sep. 23, 2021

Emergencies are short-term urgent situations that often can be resolved. If they can’t, they may become life-threatening survival scenarios — and often it’s something simple that can make the difference between the two. An emergency blanket is the perfect example.

The term “blanket” is usually associated with comfort, and pairing it with the word “emergency” can seem like a contradiction. But think of the effects on the body from being cold, wet, and exposed to the wind. An emergency blanket is the protective barrier we can wrap ourselves in to ward off the elements and prevent hypothermia and even death.

How warm does an emergency blanket keep you? That varies greatly on the blanket and the conditions, because emergency blankets are designed to reflect heat, not provide it. But do they actually work? Yes, when used properly, an emergency blanket is capable of saving your life, if you have one with you as part of your survival gear.

With so many emergency blanket types available, it can be difficult to discern which is best. As director of training for FieldCraft Survival I’ve tested all manner of emergency blankets, and I’ve assembled a handful of the best options for you to consider.

Best Survival Blanket: S.O.L. Heavy Duty Emergency Blanket

Key Features 

  • Weight: 7.9 ounces
  • Dimensions: 60”x96”’
  • Heat Reflectivity: 90 percent

Why It Made the Cut

If you can only carry one blanket, this is the one. S.O.L. (Survive Outdoors Longer) has been in the emergency preparedness game for a while, and they have a proven reputation for good reason. This blanket is the heavy duty version of their proven heat sheet and holds up to abuse. I’ve used these repeatedly as ground cloths and the material resists tearing. This blanket can double as a water collection basin, emergency signaling device, and vapor barrier for your debris hut. Given the price, packability, durability, and intended function, this is my top pick.

Pros and Cons

Pros

• Durable

• Relatively inexpensive

• Reflective, can be used for signalling

Cons

• Lacks grommets

Product Description

This best survival blanket weighs in at only 7.9 ounces, and it provides 40 square feet of coverage with its 5 foot by 8 foot size. It can easily pack down into a cargo pants pocket and it is relatively strong and resistant to ripping. We believe this one is tough enough to be reused over and over and it will last for many backcountry trips.

If you can buy only one emergency blanket, this is the one to get. It has the perfect blend of packability, durability, affordability, and reflective properties. 

Best Emergency Blanket for Hiking: Grabber Original Space Blanket

Key Features 

  • Weight: 3 oz.
  • Dimensions: 56” x 84”
  • Heat Reflectivity: 80 percent


Why It Made the Cut

For many, this is the emergency blanket that started it all. These “Space Blankets” utilize the same technology NASA uses and they have been carried by outdoorsmen for many years. Watch any marathon and you’ll see those who finish frequently wrapped in these. Also, in a pinch, a strip of this blanket can actually be used as emergency snow goggles. This blanket is the best emergency blanket for hiking and should be included in everyone’s medical kit because it can be used to prevent hypothermia from extreme blood loss.

Pros and Cons

Pros

• Inexpensive

• Compact

• Lightweight

Cons

• Easily torn

Product Description

Weighing in at only 3 ounces, this blanket will never be left home for being too heavy. It has been tested to reflect 80 percent of body heat, and adds an effective layer to any emergency shelter. It’s available in reflective silver or high visibility orange.

I’ve been using these Grabber blankets for years and there is a reason why they are still relevant. Designed for single use, you can pack this one away easily in a compact package until it is needed. This blanket is the BIC lighter of emergency blankets. Buy a few and throw them in your kits. You’ll forget you have them until you need them. 

Best Emergency Wool Blanket: Rothco European Surplus Style Wool Blanket

Key Features 

  • Weight: 4.35 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 62” x80”
  • Materials: 90 percent wool, 10 percent blended fibers

Why It Made the Cut

Emergencies are not all created the same and sometimes you need a tool to address an urgency that other tools can’t fix. A simple wool blanket has that incredible versatility. Wool is not what most people think of when they think of an emergency blanket, but wool has some excellent qualities. This 90 percent wool blanket can be used for warmth, of course, and it’ll keep you warm even when it’s wet. It resists burns when campfire embers land on it, and it can be used to suffocate a small fire. It can be used as a ground pad in dry areas. You can wrap objects in it for protection, and even fashion a pack from it with rope or webbing. It’s durable and will last for a very long time.

Pros and Cons

Pros 

• Warm

• Extremely durable

• Fire-resistant

Cons 

• Heavier than other emergency blankets

Product Description

This Rothco blanket is a reproduction of the Italian Army surplus blanket. It is fire retardant and has excellent draping characteristics making it the best emergency wool blanket. It’s great to have on hand in case you need another layer of warmth on a cold night. There are some very expensive wool blankets on the market, but this one is affordable and well made. This blanket can be used in conjunction with other space blankets here to provide additional insulation and protections to an emergency bivouac shelter.

Best Durable Emergency Blanket: Arcturus Heavy Duty Survival Blanket

Key Features 

  • Weight: 19.5 oz. with carry bag
  • Dimensions: 60”x82”
  • Heat Reflectivity: 90 percent

Why It Made the Cut

This emergency blanket is more like a happy marriage of a traditional tarp and a mylar emergency blanket. It comes equipped with grommets that can be used to tie this blanket up into an A-frame or a lean-to shelter. This blanket is durable enough to use as a ground cover and it can also be used to wrap and protect your gear carried on the roof of our car. The Arcturus is a true multi-function blanket, and it’s built to last.

Pros and Cons

Pros 

• Tough

• Waterproof

• Grommets come standard

• Multipurpose


Cons 

• Bulky

• Slightly small if used as a tarp

Product Description

This blanket sandwiches a strong waterproof outer layer with a thin aluminum reflective layer on the inside. It’s capable of reflecting upwards of 90 percent body heat. This blanket comes with its own carry bag, weighs just a single pound, and measures a full 5 feet by 7 feet when opened.

This blanket is incredibly tough and durable making it the best durable emergency blanket. It doesn’t pack down like some of the smaller blankets in the lineup, but it makes up for compression with strength. It is the most reusable of all the reflective blankets in this lineup and can be used for years.

Best Emergency Blanket for Warmth: S.O.L. Emergency Bivvy

Key Features 

  • Weight: 3.8 oz.
  • Dimensions: 84”x36”
  • Heat Reflectivity: 90 percent

Why It Made the Cut

While not a true blanket per se, this emergency bivvy (referring to a bivouac shelter) is the easiest product to use for preventing your body heat from escaping making it the best emergency blanket for warmth. Traditional rectangular blankets have to be draped over the body to reflect body heat. The corners need to be tucked under the body or heat will escape and cold air will enter. This bivvy is essentially an emergency sleeping bag, so there is no concern over it opening up in the middle of the night. If needed, it can be cut open to a rectangular shape.

Pros and Cons

Pros 

• Traps body heat
• Little chance for heat loss or cold intrusion


Cons 

• Difficult to repack to the same size as originally packaged

Product Description

The S.O.L. Emergency Bivvy with rescue whistle and tinder cord is the lightest bivvy on the market coming in at only 3.8 ounces. When packed down, it is smaller than a can of Coke. It is waterproof, windproof, reflects 90 percent of your body heat, and because it is shaped like a bag, it will easily stay on you throughout the night. The cordage used in the stuff sack can be used as tinder, adding to your ability to stay warm through the night. If you need this bivvy in a rescue situation, you can use the provided whistle to signal for help.

We like to think of an emergency where we or the person we are aiding will have the ability to hold a flat blanket in place around them. If that person is weak or unconscious, the blanket may slip off. This bag is sure to stay put when someone is inside.

Final Thoughts

Emergency blankets are excellent products to have on hand for emergencies, but what is even more beneficial are safe practices that mitigate the need for them. Much like how wearing your seatbelt is not an excuse to drive recklessly, carrying an emergency blanket doesn’t give you the freedom to travel carelessly. These blankets are inexpensive insurance in case you find yourself in an emergency situation, and they are absolutely worthwhile considering as an addition to your preparedness.

Methodology

When it comes to evaluating emergency blankets, nothing tops actually using them for a night or more outdoors. As a survival instructor and content provider for Fieldcraft Survival, I regularly spend nights out with nothing more than my clothing and an emergency blanket. For all of these emergency blankets, about 45 degrees with summer clothing is my threshold for warmth when used with a decent amount of evergreen bedding underneath. I evaluated these blankets on: 

  • Weight (Are they lightweight and easy to carry?)
  • Durability (Can the blanket withstand use without ripping?)
  • Size (Does it fold up small enough to put in a small kit?) (Does it fold out large enough to cover an adult?)

By the end of the nights testing outside, I evaluated the blankets on warmth, durability, and size. The weight and packed size is important because if an emergency blanket is too big, you won’t carry it. Durability is important because a blanket with a rip will leak precious warmth you need to survive. All of these blankets passed in terms of my willingness to use them again for continued training. 

Things to Consider Before Buying an Emergency Blanket

While I am provided blankets by my company to use, the average shopper may have some questions before buying them. I would suggest considering the following:

  • What will the blanket be used for? Sleeping, shelter, signalling, all of the above?
  • Weight. Is the blanket lightweight enough so that you won’t leave it behind?
  • How much body heat does the blanket reflect? Will that serve your purposes, or will you need a source of true warmth?  

The emergency blanket you choose will depend mainly on how you’ll carry it. A blanket for your medical or survival kit will be different then one you’d choose to keep in your car. Another consideration is where you live or where you’ll be venturing outdoors. A blanket that could be used in Alaska has different considerations than one for Arizona.

FAQs

Important questions — and answers — when researching the best emergency blanket for you.

Q: How warm does a Mylar blanket keep you?

A Mylar blanket, like the Grabber, reflects 80 percent of your body heat. How warm it keeps you depends on the clothes you’re wearing, wind, and if you are able to create a ground insulation such as pine boughs. 

Q: Do emergency blankets actually work?

Emergency blankets work, but you still must use them with the fundamentals of survival and in conjunction with some type of shelter to survive the elements. 

Q: What are emergency blankets made of?

Most emergency blankets are made of Mylar, which is a lightweight material that does an excellent job of reflecting body heat. 

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