Stow your own ‘space blanket’ and stay alive
October 10, 2006
In light of Mountain Rescue Aspen’s recent overnight search for a mother and three children off the Lost Man Loop near Independence Pass, and the impending onset of winter, questions about preparedness are uppermost in minds of those living in the high country.
This article is not intended to be a comprehensive “How To” manual for surviving a cold, wet night lost in the woods. Rather, it looks at one specific aspect of that situation – how to stay warm and, to some extent, dry, so long as you’re not stuck in a deluge or a blizzard.We’ll bypass the obvious suggestions – carry a change of warm clothes and a sturdy poncho when spending any time in the high country – because such advice too often is ignored. The result is that many hikers are ill-prepared for what awaits them.
So, here is one thing that should be a permanent occupant of every fanny pack, knapsack or backpack – a trusty “space blanket,” one of those flimsy sheets of uninsulated foil or Mylar that look ridiculous when taken from the pouch but that could end up saving a life. (The first space blanket was designed in 1964 for the U.S. space program.)They are priced anywhere from $1.99 to $14.99, depending on whether it’s a single-ply sheet, an equally flimsy “sleeping bag,” or a beefier model with backing applied to the reflective sheet. No matter, this likely will be the least expensive bit of equipment in your ditty bag. They’re available on the Internet – try Nextag.com, Amazon.com or wisementrading.com – and at Carl’s Pharmacy or the Miners Building in Aspen, to name only a couple of places.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should report that I had one of these things with me once, a long time ago, on an autumn road trip through southern Utah. I was not impressed. A sudden cold snap turned vicious on me just as I realized I was exhausted, so I was forced to rely on my space blanket for warmth since I had no sleeping bag.Unfortunately, the “blanket” was too small and would not stay wrapped around me as I tossed and turned through the night, and I froze.My advice, should you choose to accept it, would be to invest in a slightly higher-priced “sleeping bag” version, and perhaps have the blanket style on hand for a friend in need. They don’t take up much volume, your friend will be thankful, and you’ll both stand a better chance of living through an experience that otherwise could be deadly.