Thermal emergency and rescue space poncho and space blanket

Reviews

"So far I seen nothing better than this"

First impressions :

Packaged:

Weighed on kitchen scales: 101g in packaging. (The gold space blanket was 69g).

Packed volume: marginally more than the standard thermal space blankets on the market but would still fit in a wind-shirt pocket with ease.

Description to be corrected as explained.

Opened up:

Immediately felt more robust than the themal space blankets I’ve used in the past. I didn’t have to tease the layers apart as they had some spring in them from the folding. Opened out into a large rectangular shape with hood. 

Getting in was pretty easy. The layers had to be shaken apart slightly to make them open out but I didn’t feel that it was going to tear on my so I wriggling in wasn’t a problem. The neck was just wide enough to go over my head without difficulty and the collar rose high up my face. The Hood folded over leaving just a narrow gap across my eyes, but was somewhat flappy at the sides. The arm holes were somewhat larger than they needed to be for my purposes but at the same time the shoulders were sufficiently wide to give a surprising amount of coverage, sticking out beyond my arms.

 Function:

Once I was in the themal space poncho, I started to warm up fast. Admittedly I was in a warm living room in summer! But was surprised how hot I became and was red in the face and looking forward to taking off at least the hood within a couple of minutes. The instant effect came from reflected radiant heat in my opinion, but this alone doesn’t account for the warming. Most of the perceived warmth came from the fact that it stopped local air movement and acted as a vapour barrier. I could feel the humid heat you experience from non-breathable or VB clothing. I noticed that there was a lot of empty space around my body as the poncho is cut wide for access & to accommodate different body shapes. I popped a day-sack over the top and used the chest and waist straps to secure the poncho closer to my body. It immediately felt very protective and I would expect to stay reasonably dry inside in wet weather. Water could enter via the wide arm openings and in gaps around the face… but again a big improvement on the thermal space blanket which requires at least one hand to hold it around your body.  The hood did stay nicely in place but there was no wind to speak of. I stood in front of a household fan at full speed and it flapped a bit but did not come off. I think it had adhered to my skin that was becoming quite sticky underneath. In cold outdoor conditions, however, I would expect to need additional means of keeping the hood secure as it had no draw cord or elasticity.

Movement was no problem; both hands were free and the diameter of the opening around the legs was ample for a full stride. In my case, at 5’10” and long in the body, the poncho came down around my thighs but not as far as my knees. Less so when cinched in around me by the rucksack straps.

I started to imagine what position I’d want to be in if in real strife. Most likely would be seated, huddled up into a ball as much as possible, leaning on a rucksack against a rock or similar. At this point I discovered the usefulness of all that extra space around the body. I was able to sit, pull in my knees and pull the poncho down around me over my legs and all the way to the floor. I could then get my arms in through the holes to hold my knees inside the poncho. This did leave two large openings where the arms had been… but I felt pretty well protected in all other regards.

Durability:

One of the key problems with space blankets is their ability to disintegrate with age and in windy weather. I can’t tell what age would do to this laminate but it’s certainly tougher than the basic reacue space blanket that is widely available. In those blankets, tears propagate right across the material with minimal force. There was a small tear in the poncho under the arm holes after I’d put it on & taken it off several times. I could see that it would be fairly easy to tear but applying a little force the tear didn’t run as it does in flimsier materials. I wouldn’t call the space poncho robust but it does seem to have a lot more inherent strength than any space blanket I’ve used. Moreover, the seams are bonded with a decent width of contact and show no signs of failing. I suspect the poncho would start to tear beneath the arms long before these seams gave way.

Suggestions:

The poncho worked best either worn under a pack with the straps used to secure the excess material or seated in a huddled position. I would expect it to fend off the worst of rain but wind would be able to get in through the arm holes & probably blow the hood off. If I was packing this rescue poncho as an emergency item (which I intend to) I’d take along a length of duct tape to make repairs and reduce the size of the arm holes (or seal completely if necessary). The poncho packaging could include a few patches of self-adhesive tape ready to do this.

The collar was surprisingly good, remaining high up my face even when the hood was thrown back over my head. However, the hood also needs additional means of fastening. Tape would do it; as would adding a hat over the top if you had one. Even a loop of elastic would help. Ideally the hood should have a pre-threaded draw cord or tape… as I have seen in the standard poly ponchos given as promotional items on fairground rides and boat trips. If this was to be included, then spare tape or string to tie as a belt would render the poncho much more usable in the event that the user didn’t have a pack to wear over the top.

Conclusion:

I have often been scathing about the problems of the emergency space blanket; its limitations and bold claims that could leave a person unprepared if they thought a flimsy sheet of plastic would be enough to keep them warm in a survival or rescue situation. I was willing to be scathing about the space poncho too as I had in mind something like the Mexican poncho design (sheet with a hole in the middle) with some kind of hood.

However, despite the lack of realism of testing something like this in comfortable home conditions, I can see that the thermal rescue space poncho is a huge improvement on the classic emergency space blanket design for a very small penalty of cost & weight. Compared with a standard space blanket I can confidently say that it would keep you drier in wet weather; more protected from the wind; warmer through acting as a partial vapour barrier; safer through leaving both hands free and have a better chance of protecting the head & neck. The collar is surprisingly good for something this simple and given the blood flow and hence heat loss in the neck, that is reassuring too.

I suspect it would still be prone to being torn in bad weather or after long storage… but less so than the standard space blanket as the material is noticeably thicker and more robust.

The real test is whether I’d give it pack-space. The simple answer is yes. I can see myself stuffing one in my wind-shirt pocket when running in Canadian winter. I can see myself packing one in a summer day-sack or waist-pack when I’m not expecting bad weather and want to go light. I can see myself making sure my wife has one in her coat pocket as she doesn’t generally carry a rucksack when we’re out together and it’d be a good backup for her if she got separated from me.

There are some limitations and potential design improvements, but it’s really rather good and I’m glad I’ve had the chance to test one. At the price range that this is intended to be launched, it’s not competing with higher value products like those from Blizzard but rather gunning for the entry level market where the thermal space blanket holds an unfair grip. And if anyone wanted to know what I’d recommend at that weight & price point then so far I’ve seen nothing better than this.

 


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