What Are the Many Uses of Foil Survival Blankets?

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Foil survival blankets, commonly called space blankets because they were developed by NASA, have become nearly ubiquitous as a camping tool. Whether you’re at home or at a campground, though, the blankets have several uses that can make your life a little easier, ranging from keeping warm and signaling rescue crews to cleaning pans and keeping children occupied. Whatever you use them for, replace the blankets every six months. Outside magazine warns that after that time, the seams of the blanket will deteriorate. The blankets also shred rather easily.

Survival and Shelter

  • Space blankets obviously keep you warm, so wrap yourself up in one if you’re cold, whether you’re on a camping trip or at home when you’re trying to save on heating costs. Line your sleeping bag or bed with the blanket for extra warmth, or fold the blanket over and tape up one short side and part of the long, open side to form a child’s sleeping bag. If you can secure the corners of the blanket to trees, it serves as a rain or sun shelter. As space blankets are highly reflective, check that sunlight isn’t reflecting off the blanket onto brush if you’re using it during the day, as this may pose a fire risk.

Signaling and Messages

  • The shiny surface of a space blanket is suitable for signaling, especially if you can make the blanket move. Seattle Backpackers Magazine recommends stringing the blanket up so that wind can make it sway back and forth. Other communication uses include folding the blanket so that it creates some sort of message -- secure the blanket with rocks so that the wind doesn’t pick it up and blow it away -- or actually writing something on the blanket if you have a marker.

Comfort and Practical Tasks

  • Space blankets serve as pouches and bags if you tie up the corners. Catch water in them by hanging them up during a rainstorm or by tying the blanket up to form a bag in which you can scoop up water. The blanket can be twisted into a rope or belt, or used as a sling; tie up food and hang it from a tree to keep it away from bears when camping. Seattle Backpackers Magazine suggests tying the blanket to sticks to form a cup -- you’d hold this near your campfire to boil water -- but do not place the blanket on or very close to the fire because it will melt. The same warning applies to wrapping up food in a packet; you can warm the food near the fire, but don’t place it in the fire as you would with cooking foil. When you’re done eating, the blanket can serve as a scrubbing pad.

Creativity and Imagination

  • If you still have those markers handy, play games. Fill one side of the blanket with drawings or tic-tac-toe-style games for children. Use the other side to draw pictures and generally scribble. Seattle Backpackers Magazine suggests tying the blanket up and pretending it’s a TV screen. It may also be possible to use the blanket as a pseudo-antenna for a real TV or radio.

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  • Photo Credit Prill Mediendesign & Fotografie/iStock/Getty Images
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