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How does a heating blanket work and what is it used for

Some time ago on a hiking route one of our companions got a small cut. He quickly took out his first aid kit and started to treat the wound, while he told me how complete it was and all the things he was carrying. Indeed it was, but he was missing something very important and that you can not miss in your kit, the thermal blanket. His answer was quick, why? I'm already wearing warm clothes. Obviously my friend did not know how a thermal blanket works and what it is for.

How does a heating blanket work and what is it used for
Image by Steven Weirather at Pixabay

The isothermal blanket, as it is also known, is one of those items that must always accompany us in our mountain and hiking activities. There are several uses that can be made with this article of low weight and low price, but today we will focus on the most common.

What is a thermal blanket?

Beyond the material of which it is composed, usually aluminized plastic, it is a very thin blanket that quickly catches our attention because it has a silver side, similar to silver foil, and a gold side. This emergency or survival blanket, as it is also known, serves to protect us from both cold and heat, helping us to regulate our temperature during an excursion in nature.

How does a heating blanket work and what is it used for

How to use the thermal blanket?

We are going to try to explain how to use the emergency thermal blanket depending on the case, that is to say, if it is cold or hypothermia or heat stroke. Although the main thing is to avoid reaching extreme situations in which we will surely need many more things than a simple survival blanket, which will help us to prevent these situations.

But first we have to understand how a thermal blanket works. As we already know we have two sides of different colors. These colors or materials behave differently, the golden side does not reflect light or heat, absorbing it, while the silver side does, reflecting it. A behavior that will give us the guideline to follow depending on the result we are looking for.

How does a heating blanket work and what is it used for

The thermal blanket for heat shocks

It is important to be attentive to the previous signs that people have before having a heat stroke, since the isothermal blanket helps us to prevent and mitigate its effects but it is not the solution to situations of this type. Keep in mind that extreme tiredness without apparent justification may be one of the first signs.

In these cases we seek to lower the temperature of the person so we must follow a series of steps.

How does a heating blanket work and what is it used for

The first thing we have to do is to place the person in the shade. Or if there is no shade, we can use the thermal blanket as a canopy.

Whether we use it as a canopy or wrap the person with it, the thermal blanket should be placed with the silver side facing outwards and the golden side facing the patient. As we have already said, the silver part reflects the light and also the heat, thus allowing to lower the temperature of the affected person.

If we wrap the person with it, it is important to leave enough space for the air to circulate between the blanket and his body, and thus lower the body temperature more easily. We must place the person with his back to the sun, making sure that the little breeze that runs hits his face.

How does a heating blanket work and what is it used for
Photo by Ricardo Esquivel at Pexels

Thermal blanket for hypothermia

By mistake we usually associate hypothermia to mountaineers who face extreme cold situations in their expeditions to big mountains, but it can surprise us more easily than it seems in a simple and easy excursion or hiking route.

As with heat stroke, the thermal blanket is not the final solution, it is a magnificent tool for prevention and mitigation of symptoms. Therefore, we must also be attentive to the first symptoms in order to act.

How does a heating blanket work and what is it used for
Image by Simon at Pixabay

Initially, as with heat, we must try to isolate the person as much as possible, in this case from the cold. We should wrap him with the necessary clothing to help us stop the drop in body temperature. As you can imagine, we must prevent the person from sitting directly on the floor, because if he/she does so, he/she will continue to lose temperature through the part of the body that is in contact with the floor.

In this case we will have to place the thermal blanket with the silver part inwards, as it reflects the body heat and provided that it is well adjusted, without openings through which the heat escapes, it will allow us to take advantage of the little heat of the body to increase the temperature of the person. On the other hand, the golden part will be able to capture the sunlight and transmit the heat that it can generate.

How does a heating blanket work and what is it used for
Image by Free-Photos at Pixabay

A vitally important part for the thermal blanket to be really effective in preventing hypothermia and mitigating its early effects is that it must fit tightly, with no gaps through which air can enter and heat can escape. Of course, the face of the affected person must be open to the air so that he/she can breathe.

Do not hesitate to use stones or even snow to secure the blanket, always with the precaution of not touching the affected person to avoid losing heat due to this contact. Remember that there are areas of the body that are more prone to heat loss, such as the feet or hands.

How does a heating blanket work and what is it used for
Image by Orna Wachman at Pixabay


We have seen extreme situations, but thermal blankets can help us to avoid them. In case of an accident in the mountains or when hiking, they will also help us to protect the injured person from losing temperature or getting too hot.

Do not forget to check your thermal blanket periodically, if you see that it has lost color or has any damage on it do not hesitate to replace it, the manufacturer will usually include in the package the expiration data and maintenance tips.

The thermal blanket is not an awning that we can use for camping or as a mat for the floor, for those uses you have other products.

Here is a link to Amazon where you can see and buy different models of thermal blankets.

See thermal blankets here.


Go to How to make water drinkable and purify water

Go to What to do in case of a hiking or mountain accident

Go to Tips to improve your hiking and mountain photographs


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