Emergency reflective blankets are survival items everyone should carry. You can use one for a wide variety of purposes from keeping you warm around a fire to actually cooking food with either reflected heat from a fire or directly from the sun. Emergency blankets come in a variety of sizes from mini versions that fit in a survival kit to larger, tarp-like designs that go well in your vehicle’s “go-bag.” With so many different options out there, how do you tell a flimsy, one-time use design from one that will provide you service for years? Here are a few things to consider the next time you go shopping for an emergency blanket.

Buy Windproof, Waterproof, and Weatherproof

These waterproof mylar blankets weigh just two ounces but unfold to a 5×7 foot sheet to offer full-body protection. Don’t Die In The Woods

The first thing you’re bound to discover when shopping for emergency blankets is that not all models are rated the same. While most will reflect 90 percent of your body heat back toward you to keep you warm, not all emergency blankets are waterproof. If you’re just looking to throw a tiny emergency blanket in your glovebox for unforeseen roadside problems, waterproofness may not be a factor. If you’re on a day hike, however, and forgot your poncho or suddenly need to spend a night in the wilderness, you’ll want to make sure the blanket you choose is certified waterproof.

Thick vs. Thin

This 60×82-inch reusable blanket is extra thick making it perfect to use as a shelter, blanket, or tarp. Arcturus

The thickness of your emergency blanket is something to consider carefully. Thicker designs will definitely make a better emergency shelter, but you can cut thinner sheets into strips should you need to fashion a rope, make a sling for a dislocated shoulder, or tie off a splint. Thick blankets are a better choice if you want to put a barrier up on one side of a fire to block the wind and reflect heat back at you in a survival situation, but thinner sheets may be easier to cut reflective strips from to make fishing lures or even cook a piece of meat next to the fire (never on the fire) should the need arise. Fortunately, emergency blankets are relatively inexpensive so you can get both types. Keep a thick version in the “go-bag” of your vehicle but carry a thin version in your daypack.

Size, Color, and Other Considerations

This Mylar blanket weighs almost nothing and is waterproof and weatherproof to stand up to any foul-weather conditions. Primacare

You’ll find that sizes do vary. Consider 5×7 feet a good measurement to shoot for, and gold (as opposed to silver) is more visible to search parties. Grommets at the four corners are great for securing shelters. One last tip: if you need to dry your clothes in a hurry, unfurl your emergency blanket is a sunny area and spread your clothes out on top of it or throw your blanket over a paracord wash line (reflective side out) and drape your clothes over the top. You’ll be amazed how fast they dry.