Mountain rescuers will tell you that most of the people they wind up searching for are hikers who went into the backcountry unprepared. They didn’t bring enough water, warm clothes or rain gear. Chances are they didn’t bring an emergency blanket either.
Which means they had no way to protect themselves from the elements while they awaited rescue. But emergency blankets aren’t just for hikers, campers and hunters. They can also save your life if you get stranded in your car. And they can save the lives of your family members when a natural disaster hits. Below are the 10 best emergency blankets of 2020.
1. S.O.L. Heat Reflective Emergency Blanket
The S.O.L. Heat Reflective Emergency Blanket is not your standard mylar sheet. It’s fashioned from vacuum-metalized polyethylene and retains up to 90% of body heat. It’s light as a feather but feels much more substantial than a mylar sheet, especially when the wind is howling and you’re exposed.
It’s 56” x 84” when open, has a durable outer shell, provides outstanding rain protection and stuffs down to almost nothing. It doesn’t have one of those handsome cloth stuff sacks like some other emergency blankets. But it doesn’t need it. This is bottom line, SHTF emergency gear that won’t let you down in even the gnarliest conditions. And that’s what we want from an emergency blanket.
2. Go Time Gear Emergency Life Bivy
The Go Time Gear Life Bivy has been a pretty hot item of late for a lot of pretty good reasons. It’s both windproof and waterproof, has heat-sealed seams to keep warmth in and water out, is 26um (microns) thick, and has a tear-resistant coating. The reflective lining traps up to 90% of body heat, it’s available in either earth green or emergency orange, and there’s even an emergency whistle attached to the draw cord of the stuff sack for good measure.
It’s a truly reusable emergency blanket that weighs just 4.1 ounces and can be slung from the outside of your pack. It’s naturally resistant to bacteria, so it won’t take on a foul odor after a couple of uses, and it’s surprisingly affordable.
3. Arcturus Heavy Duty Survival Blanket
The Arcturus Heavy Duty Survival Blanket aspires to be more than just another emergency blanket. It wants to be your one indispensable piece of campsite kit, and it very nearly succeeds. It’s light enough to bring along for those hard-to-predict SHTF moments. But it’s also heavy enough to act as a viable emergency shelter, or a ground cloth that won’t get chewed up by twigs and tree roots, or a windblock so you can eat your dinner in peace.
It opens up to a very generous 5” x 7”, and the corners have reinforced grommets to enable your bushcraft impulses. If you’re the type of outdoorsman that takes the notion of being prepared seriously, you should have at least one of these.
4. Swiss Safe Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (4-Pack)
Swiss Safe Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets weigh only 2 ounces each and have myriad uses. If the weather turns in a hurry and you find yourself exposed to the elements, they’ll fulfill their primary purpose of keeping you warm until you’re able to move, or help arrives. But you don’t have to be in a life or death situation to put them to use.
They’re completely waterproof and make an excellent ground cloth. You can also use them to cover equipment when it’s raining. Or you can use them to block the sun on scorching hot days hiking the Grand Canyon. They retain up to 90% of body heat and open up to 52” x 82”. They’re also one of the few emergency blankets that offer a money back guarantee.
5. Mezonn Emergency Blanket
The Mezonn Emergency Blanket rides the line between traditional sleeping bag and traditional mylar emergency blanket. This hybrid weighs only 4 ounces, yet it’s fully waterproof, highly wind-resistant, tough and warm, and has heat-sealed seams that keep out drafts and enhance heat retention. And speaking of heat retention; with the bag pulled up around your head you’ll retain up to 90% of your precious body heat on even the coldest night.
Where most mylar sheets are one and done affairs, you’ll be able to reuse the Mezonn Emergency Blanket over and over again. They’re a great addition to the home emergency preparedness kit. And they’ll make cold days in the duck blind a lot easier to take.
6. Anmeilu Emergency Mylar Thermal Blanket
Anmeilu Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets weigh less than 2 ounces a piece and can be slipped into any pocket of your backpack before you hit the trail. You can also put a couple in the car in case you ever get stranded, and you should always have some in the home emergency preparedness kit.
There’s nothing fancy or groundbreaking about these Anmeilu Thermal Blankets. They’re simple mylar sheets like you see marathon runners wearing after a race. But they’re enough to make a substantive difference when the mercury drops and you’re a long way from shelter. They come in a pack of 6 so you can distribute them as you see fit.
7. Snugpak Jungle Blanket
The Snugpak Jungle Blanket is a different kind of an emergency blanket. It’s not as compact or lightweight as a sheet of mylar, but if you get stuck in your car on a cold winter’s night, you’ll be very glad you have one of these in the back. Likewise, if you’re in pursuit of a wounded buck and you need to cop some rest, you’ll be glad you have the Jungle Blanket in your rucksack.
The blanket is 76” x 64” when opened, water-resistant and uses high loft fiber insulation that retains most of your body heat. Finally, the lining features an antimicrobial and antibacterial treatment that keeps odors at bay. You might find yourself using this as a primary blanket during spring and fall camping trips.
8. Primacare HB-10 Mylar Thermal Blanket (Pack of 10)
The Primacare HB-10 Mylar Thermal Blanket is what most people think of when they think ‘emergency blanket’. It’s 52” wide and 84” long and made of a sheet of ultra-lightweight, reflective mylar. How lightweight? Each one weighs less than 2 ounces. They are classic one-and-done emergency blankets, but they’ll be there for you in a pinch, and can make the difference between life and death.
They block the wind, are completely waterproof, and retain up to 90% of your body heat when you close them around you. Primacare Mylar Thermal Blankets come in a 10-pack, so you’ll have a couple for the car, a couple for the house and plenty for your next outdoor adventure.
9. Don’t Die in the Woods Emergency Blanket
The name pretty much says it all with this emergency blanket. The Don’t Die in the Woods Emergency Blanket is completely waterproof, features dual-sided mylar and reflects up to 90% of body heat back toward you. You get 4 large (7’ x 5’) emergency blankets for one low price, and each packs down into its own palm-sized stuff sack.
That makes it easy to use them over and over. They are ideal for bringing along on your camping or hunting trip because of their compact size and incredible light weight. You can also stash a couple in the kitchen cabinet or in the glove compartment of the car in case of emergency.
10. SE Survivor Series Emergency Sleeping Bag
Like several others on our list the SE Survivor Series emergency blanket also acts as an emergency sleeping bag. That’s important because even people beset by life and death situations have to sleep at some point. The blanket/bag weighs only 5.8 ounces and comes with a durable stuff sack so you can use it over and over if need be. It’s 3’ x 7’ when opened and is bright orange.
That way, even if you’re sleeping, the rescue team can see you from the air. The bag retains an amazing 95% of body heat and is fashioned from tear resistant PE aluminum. If you need to bug out of your home in a hurry this is a good thing to have with you. It’s also a good idea to keep one in the car. Just in case.
Why do I Need an Emergency Blanket?
Lots of people like the idea of heading off into the backcountry for a few days. Many of them, however, are woefully unprepared for what awaits. In the blink of an eye an idyllic day of trekking can turn into a fight for survival, especially in the mountains (1). Those who are prepared tend to be the ones who walk out. The unprepared tend to be the subject of sad stories on the evening news.
Something as simple as a mylar emergency blanket can prevent a bad day from turning into a full-blown tragedy. But it’s not just hikers and mountaineers who should have an emergency blanket on hand. Hunters often spend hours waiting in the cold for their quarry to appear (2). If the temperature drops and they are unprepared they can be in real trouble. And let’s not forget homeowners and their families displaced by acts of nature like hurricanes, blizzards, floods and earthquakes. Nature doesn’t care if you’re ready or not. That part is up to you.
Finally, we often think that our cars provide us with all the protection we need when the weather gets rough. But it doesn’t take much to turn a nice warm car into an ice cold nightmare (3). If the snow moves in and the road becomes impassible, you will need to stay warm until help arrives. If you can’t, you may wind up dying of hypothermia when the temperature inside the car plummets. But, if you have a good emergency blanket in the glove compartment, you greatly increase your chances for survival.
What Should I Look for in an Emergency Blanket?
Waterproofing and windproofing – People are often compelled to break out the emergency blanket when conditions are at their worst. There may be a cold, driving rain or heavy snow, or a biting wind blowing down the mountain right into your face. The blanket won’t be much good then if it isn’t both waterproof and windproof. These are arguably the most important characteristics of an emergency blanket. Because if it isn’t windproof it won’t retain heat. And if it isn’t waterproof you could get soaked and die of hypothermia (4).
Materials – Mylar is the most common material for emergency blankets. It’s durable, able to reflect heat, is windproof and waterproof, and incredibly light. It’s not the only material, however. Some emergency blankets are made of ultra-thin layers of aluminum. These are almost as shiny as mylar, but tend to be a bit more durable. Other emergency blankets are made of more traditional blanket materials, and may even include a layer of insulation. Because they’re heavier, emergency blankets like these are more suited for the trunk of the car.
Weight – If you are hiking into the backcountry or up a mountain weight is everything. So while it’s important to take along some emergency blankets, they must be as light as possible. Mylar emergency blankets certainly fit the bill in that regard. Some people, however, want the benefits of a more deluxe emergency blanket. As such, they’re willing to carry a few more ounces to enjoy those benefits, should the need arise. As a general rule though, thicker, heavier emergency blankets are made for cars and or music festivals, not backpacking.
Color and reflectiveness – The emergency blanket plays many important roles, and one of them is to alert rescuers to your location. Most of them do this by employing intense, primary colors. These stand out from nature’s more muted palette and enable search and rescue teams to find you easier, should they need to. That said, a shiny mylar blanket can also alert rescuers to your presence by acting as a mirror to reflect sunlight.
Reusability – This is not absolutely necessary when it comes to ultra-thin mylar emergency blankets. And frankly, not a lot of people are going to want to reuse a dirty, crinkled up mylar sheet. But anything heavier and more expensive than a sheet of mylar should be reusable. Many of the emergency blankets on our list come with stuff sacks so you don’t have to toss them after using them in a tight spot.
Price – Prices on emergency blankets vary widely from the ultra-cheap to the relatively expensive. In that regard they’re no different than any other product line. But whereas you are likely to see an enormous difference in safety between a cheap car and an expensive one, both cheap and expensive emergency blankets can save your life. The cheap ones just aren’t as easy to reuse, they’re not as attractive, and they can’t be put into service as regular 3-season blankets the way some high-end emergency blankets can.
What are the Benefits of an Emergency Blanket?
Emergency blankets help hikers and hunters stay warm when the temperature drops – This is the most obvious reason to have an emergency blanket or two on hand. If you plan on heading out into the backcountry you can never really be sure if the weather will cooperate. With hypothermia an ever-present threat, there is simply no excuse for not being prepared (5).
Emergency blankets can be used as a shelter – Sometimes you need to wrap yourself in the emergency blanket to retain warmth. Other times it’s more important to erect some type of shelter to keep the snow, rain and wind off of you. An emergency blanket can become that life-saving shelter. Keep in mind too, that sometimes you need both a shelter and a way to stay warm. So it’s always a good idea to have more than 1 emergency blanket with you.
Emergency blankets can protect your supplies from the rain – Sometimes people get fooled by nice weather when they park at the trailhead. As a result, they decide to leave the rain gear behind. Later in the day they find themselves scrambling to keep themselves and their precious supplies dry in a pouring rain. The best emergency blankets are waterproof and can be pressed into service if need be to keep your clothes, sleeping bag and food dry and usable.
Emergency blankets help protect the family during natural disasters – Tornadoes are an unfortunate fact of life in much of the United States. They often strike without notice, and it’s usually some time before help can reach affected areas. During that time people in a weakened condition wearing wet clothes can be left exposed to the elements. Having emergency blankets on hand in case of a tornado or other disaster is crucial. Because hypothermia is not a winter-only phenomenon (6).
Emergency blankets protect you if your car breaks down – As we mentioned above it’s not all that uncommon for a winter drive to turn into a winter nightmare. Snow can pile up much faster than you think, and before you know it you’re stuck, unable to continue on or return the way you came. Because cars quickly lose most of their heat to the environment, having emergency blankets and a cold weather survival kit in the car can be the difference between surviving and freezing to death (7).
Emergency blankets block the windPeople who are injured or lost in the woods stand a better chance of survival if they have some way to block the wind. Wind strips us of our natural insulating layer of heat and speeds the process of hypothermia (8). Being able to create a wind block to shelter behind can make an enormous difference and greatly increase the odds you will emerge from your ordeal shaken, but alive.
An emergency blanket can help you collect drinking water – Let’s say you’re in the woods and it’s raining, but you’re out of drinking water and there are no nearby streams. You can use an emergency blanket to catch rainwater by elevating the corners and letting the rainwater accumulate in the middle. Once you have enough, just pour it into your water bottle and you’re good to go.
An emergency blanket can alert rescuers to your presence – Most emergency blankets come in high key colors. That’s to make them more visible to potential rescuers. Even if you are wrapped in the blanket and huddled on the ground you will be visible. And, if you are not using the emergency blanket for warmth, it can still aid in your rescue. You can lay it out on the ground in an open area, or attach it to the end of a branch and wave it to alert rescuers to your location. Plain mylar emergency blankets will also attract attention because they reflect sunlight.
The Bottom Line
Emergency blankets are must-have gear for campers, hikers, hunters, car owners and homeowners. They can prevent a nasty turn in the weather from becoming a tragedy when you’re on the trail or on the road. And they can help you survive if disaster strikes your home.
Emergency blankets are lightweight, affordable, easy to use and come in all sorts of styles and configurations. Some are little more than sheets of mylar. Others are ultra-light emergency sleeping bags. And still others are tough, insulated blankets with integrated grommets that allow you to hang them or stake them down in whatever way the situation requires.
There’s simply no excuse for not being prepared when, for a few bucks, you can pick up some simple emergency blankets and stow them in your pack, in your car or in your kitchen cabinets. Some day, you may be very glad you did.