The ubiquitous plastic tarp. This is the All Weather Emergency Blanket made by MPI Outdoors. Weighs 12 ounces, costs $12 bucks and measures 80 inches by 60 inches when unfolded and laid out. Every outdoorsman ought to have at least a couple of these. One in your pack and one for the truck.
A tarp like this is like duct tape, bailing wire, 550 cord and zip ties. They can be used for a million things and I would not be caught on a SAR mission or bivy hunt without one. Period. However, I make a cheap and easy modification to my blanket that makes it even better, more useful and potentially lifesaving.
If you have ever tried to use one of these to keep warm or to properly package a patient you know that it can be done but it isn’t easy. The key is in closing it up and sealing in the body heat that it is designed to reflect back to the person inside. The problem is that it won’t stay closed or sealed up without tucking it in under the body, using tape to keep the ends together or wrapping bungy cord around it. All of which are problematic especially if you are by yourself.
My solution is pretty simple. Get some 1 inch Velcro strips (buy bulk rolls of fuzzy and sticky) and get your wife (that is sexist I know) or sister-in-law in my case to sew it on the inside of the blanket in the shape of a big “L” so that the blanket closes like a sleeping bag. This doesn’t add much weight but turns the blanket into a pretty good bivy bag or vapor barrier that has many other uses.
I have been doing this for maybe a dozen years and passed the tip on to MPI but they never did anything with it. Recently, at the Summer Outdoor Retailer Show, I shared the idea with one of the product development reps from Adventure Medical Kits. They seem to be interested in good, innovative new products, they already make a similar “blanket” and could easily make my mod en masse. That would be good for all of us.
I have one suggestion for Adventure Medical though, 80 inches seems to be plenty long but 60 inches in my experience isn’t wide enough. 64, 66 or even 70 inches would be much better especially for Ski Patrollers and other wilderness First Responders. As for color, the redish orange is great for signaling but a sage green would be a nice addition for certain applications (military slash hunters).
For you users, here is another suggestion. Before you head out, cut some lengths of 550 cord to go in the corner grommets of these blankets and keep them in your pack. It makes setting up the tarp as a lean to, wind break or rain slash shade cover much easier and faster. 12 footers work pretty well for me.
Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.
We can be educated and persuaded but not bought, bullied or bs’d. Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can’t or won’t turn back.