Can Cheap Space Blankets Keep You Warm in an Emergency?

Chances are if you have been shopping for camping or survival gear you have come across space blankets. These silver, crinkly, shiny blankets are featured as a standard item in many survival kits, and more than a few preparedness experts will advise you to keep a couple handy no matter what sort of activity or adventure you are embarking on. These things are supposed to help keep you warm no matter the conditions, but do they really work?

Can cheap space blankets keep you warm? Yes, they can, believe it or not. Mylar space blankets will definitely help you retain body heat in most situations, at least significantly more body heat than you would retain without them. There is a trick to getting the most out of them, and only by using them effectively will they give you a good ROI.

If you aren’t familiar with these foil blankets you are in luck. Keep reading and we will share with you proper procedures and also some cautionary tips for maximizing the heat you can retain with these space-age emergency blankets.

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Inexpensive Space Blankets Actually Work

You might find it hard to believe that a blanket looking for the entire world like a glorified piece of aluminum foil and costing only a couple of dollars could actually keep you warm in a meaningful way during a survival situation.

But it is true. Space blankets, as the name suggests, were first designed and employed by NASA as a lightweight and space saving option to send blankets up into space.

Space blankets rely not on insulation, but on reflection to do the job. Infrared heat energy striking a shiny surface bounces off of it, much like a mirror, and clutching the lightweight and paper thin space blanket close to your body reflects heat that your body is losing back onto your body– heat that would otherwise dissipate uselessly into the surrounding air.

Make no mistake, cheap space blankets are still an indispensable part of your survival kit, and have several valuable uses when it comes time to keep warm.

How Do They Work?

As mentioned, space blankets work on the principle of reflection, not insulation, and so that shiny, foil like appearance is essential for functionality.

The foil outer surface of the space blanket is usually married to a thin layer of mylar or other synthetic that is reasonably rigid, but still very thin.

This provides the space blanket some durability, and more importantly allows it to be folded and compacted into an ultra-lightweight, ultra-small package.

Generally, a space blanket will be employed as the name suggests, wrapped tightly around the person using it, or unfolded and spread out into a large, single reflector, perfect for lining the back wall of a shelter or setting up behind you while you sit between it and a campfire.

A space blanket used like this will reflect a ton of heat off of the fire and back onto you, keeping you warm and toasty.

The lightweight and adaptive nature of space blankets is what made them ideal for the task of being sent into space aboard our shuttles, but it also makes them attractive for the everyday, earthbound prepper that was just trying to save some weight and space in their backpack or survival kit.

Space Blankets Have Some Drawbacks

Unfortunately space blankets, like any piece of equipment, do have some shortcomings. First and foremost they are not a replacement for a more comprehensive shelter system such as a tent or a proper sleeping bag.

They’re also what you might call “leaky” when it comes to defeating wind. No matter how tightly you wrap yourself like a burrito, a strong gale will get between you and your blanket and carry all your warm air away. Space blankets also fall short when you are trying to get warm while wearing wet clothes.

If you’re desperately trying to warm up and survive severe inclement weather or bone-chilling ambient temperatures a space blanket, no matter how snugly you wrap yourself, is not going to be good enough to get the job done.

For best results, a space blanket needs to be used in tandem with other shelter and thermoregulation techniques.

You need to get out of wet clothes and into dry ones, into shelter and preferably utilize something to block the wind. If you can create a fire in addition you’ll be heading in the right direction.

Space Blankets Aren’t That Durable

You should handle your space blankets with care, but that is obviously easier said than done when you’re in the middle of a survival situation! Note that the cheaper a space blanket is the less durable it is likely to be, even if it does a fairly decent job of keeping you warm.

Understand that it won’t do a very good job for long when it starts tearing or getting punctured. The cheapest of the cheap space blankets are usually available from cut-rate internet sellers and flea market purveyors of questionable military surplus.

These cheaper-than-cheap foil blankets are definitely not suitable for using as a ground cover and will not fare well when stretched taut to be used as a reflector with a campfire.

You can prevent this unhappy outcome by spending a little bit more on a quality space blanket from a good maker.

These nicer space blankets will typically have a thicker, shinier foil coating mated to a heavy-duty mylar or other synthetic core and might be hemmed or friction welded on the edges for durability.

Some of them even have grommets or shock cords on the corners to help you hang them when using it as a reflector.

One word of advice though, these heavier, nicer space blankets can be a bit of a pickle to fold back into their original, unpacked footprint, but this might be the least of your worries when you need to open up the package and use it in a live event.


You might find it hard to believe but cheap space blankets can absolutely keep you warm in a survival situation.

These incredibly small, compact and lightweight survival tools reflect a considerable amount of heat toward your body, either one wrapped around you as a blanket or stretched flat as a reflector to be used in conjunction with a campfire.

They are so affordable and ubiquitous that no prepper can afford to go without them. Make sure you take care so you do not damage them while they are in use, and you’ll surely be able to depend on them when the chips are down.

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