Emergency Shelters

Saved by a Space Blanket

You probably carry one of these already (right?). Now, make the most of it with these seven life-saving techniques.

Heat Reflector

Quick heat: Sit a comfortable distance from your fire, and pull the blanket (shiny side facing the flame) up above your head to create a pocket. All-night comfort: Line the ceiling of your emergency A-frame shelter or tie up in lean-to fashion (peak height 3 to 4 feet) next to any heat source to reflect radiating warmth (including your body heat) back toward you. –Benjamin Pressley, Ravenquest Survival School


Just like the heat reflector, but with the shiny side facing out. Bonus: reflected light creates a rescue signal for overhead aircraft. –Tony Nester, Ancient Pathways Survival School

Heat Sack

Burrito yourself or a hypothermic buddy in the blanket with the reflective edge facing in. First, wrap in warm layers and sleeping bags, then use the emergency blanket as the outermost layer to block wind and trap body heat. –Benjamin Pressley

Passive Signaling

Cut the space blanket into short strips and tie them onto tree branches, bushes, or weeds. The strips can catch sunlight and alert rescuers to your position. –Tim MacWelch, Advanced Survival Training School

Harvest Rain

Dig a hole, line it with the blanket, and wait for rain. No ability to dig? Tie it taut by all four corners and put a rock at its center to create a low point where water can collect. –Tim MacWelch

Melt Snow

Lay the blanket on the snow, then press a small concavity 2 feet wide and a foot deep in the center of the blanket. Sprinkle small amounts of snow around the rim. Heat from the sun will hit the snow directly and by reflection, melting it into drinking water. –Tom Brown Jr., Tracker School

Preserve Food

Build a simple backcountry meat smoker. Start by making a 5-foot-tall tripod out of inch-thick sticks. Construct a triangular platform halfway up by lashing a stick between each tripod leg—your meat will hang from these. Cover with your survival blanket, leaving an opening at the bottom to tend your fire. Build a smoky fire with hardwoods, and regulate the airflow to keep wood smouldering (not burning). Meat smoked overnight lasts a week. –Kellie Nightlinger, Wild Woman Outdoors