The best emergency blankets, bags and shelters 2024: lightweight lifesaving gear

Collage of eight of the best emergency blankets on white background
(Image credit: Future)

You always hope you’ll never need to use an emergency blanket, bag or shelter. But whenever you head into the hills and mountains, it’s always worth carrying some lightweight emergency kit, just in case. Here we look at the best space blankets (as they’re also known), emergency bags and emergency shelters to take on the trails.

The best emergency blankets and survival bags should do just what they say on the label. They are meant for use in an emergency, such as if you – or someone with you – experiences a fall and suffers an injury, and you need the victim to stay warm and dry while help comes. These products are normally lightweight and provide a thin layer of waterproof and windproof cover, and a degree of thermal insulation. Some are also brightly colored to assist rescuers in finding you, and several have potentially life-saving information printed on them. (It’s also worth checking out our best first aid kits buying guide.)

Many of the best emergency blankets and survival bags are so small and lightweight you hardly know you are carrying them. It’s the sort of safety item you can always have in your running, hiking, biking or skiing backpack, and only use if an emergency arises.

In our opinion, the Lifesystems Heatshield Thermal Bivi Bag is the best piece of lightweight emergency kit we tested for this guide, but we have also covered a range of different lightweight, easy-to-pack emergency items, from space blankets to bags and shelters, analyzing the pros and cons of each.

Best survival bags

Lifesystems Heatshield Thermal Bivi Bag in use

(Image credit: Fiona Russell)

1. Lifesystems Heatshield Thermal Bivi Bag

A large reusable bag that offers almost immediate and long-lasting warmth

Specifications

Weight (without bag): 107g / 3.75oz
Size: 90cm x 210cm / 35.5in x 82.5in
Materials: Metalized low-density polyethylene
Colors: Orange / silver

Reasons to buy

+
Taped seams
+
Hill safety info printed on exterior
+
Includes drawstring stuff sack

Reasons to avoid

-
Condensation builds up on the inside
-
Not currently available in the US

This reusable thermal bag is hard to fault. It ticks all the right boxes in terms of quality, durability and warmth. You can get inside the bag and pull it up around your shoulders and neck, which keeps the weather out. The bag is long enough even for taller people, too. 

It generates heat from the body almost immediately, and remains warm as long as you stay inside. The material feels durable and it doesn’t make too much of a rustling noise. The orange outer is also radar reflective to make it easier for assistance to reach you. 

The bag can be used as a general shelter, lunch-break warmer and also an emergency bivi bag should you get into trouble in the hills. It’s reusable, although you might want to wait until you get home to roll it up neatly, so it fits back into the very useful stuff bag (trying to do this on a windy mountain is frustrating). 

On test there was slight build-up of condensation after a while, but this can be eased by opening up the bag for a bit. Although a little pricier than other similar products, it’s well worth the money.

Highlander Emergency Survival Bag

(Image credit: Fiona Russell)

2. Highlander Emergency Survival Bag

A large, versatile, wind- and waterproof bag that has multiple uses

Specifications

Weight: 220g / 7.75oz
Size: 180cm x 90cm / 71in x 35in
Materials: Plastic
Colors: Orange

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap at $11.95/£4.99
+
Windproof and waterproof
+
Harnesses your body warmth

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively heavy at 220g
-
Noisy rustling plastic

It is surprising how hot it gets once you are inside this simple plastic bag. Within minutes, your body generates heat and, because the bag is made of plastic and it’s windproof, the warmth stays inside. 

On the test we found the bag was large enough to pull up to our shoulders, although this might not be the case for very tall people. The exterior of the bag is printed with a wealth of information about hill safety, such as how to signal for help, tips on conserving water and the best way to protect yourself in an emergency situation. 

The negatives of this emergency bag are the noisy rustling of the plastic. After a while, we also noticed a slight buildup of moisture inside the bag caused by body heat and condensation. 

The bag is cheap to buy and can also be used to construct a temporary waterfproof shelter to guard against the wind and rain when hiking. The only issue would be the noise if it was windy, which might stop you getting to sleep. As with all such models, the bag folds up larger after use, compared to when it arrives factory packed.

The best emergency blankets

SOL Emergency Blanket

(Image credit: Fiona Russell)

3. SOL Emergency Survival Blanket

A versatile single-sheet blanket with a high warmth rating

Specifications

Weight (without box): 70g / 2.5oz
Size: 142cm x 213cm / 56in x 84in
Materials: Vacuum-metalized polyethylene
Colors: Orange / silver

Reasons to buy

+
Can be used as a shelter
+
Waterproof and windproof
+
Reflects 90% of heat

Reasons to avoid

-
Single-sheet blanket
-
Not as snug as a bag

The SOL Emergency Survival Blanket is simple and lightweight. It’s the sort of item you could pop into your backpack and completely forget about until you need it, if you ever do. 

The foil feels durable and it is thicker than some other single-sheet blankets. Because it’s orange on one side, it can be easily seen by an emergency search parties. When wrapped around the body, the blanket does provide a good level of warmth, but the problem is that – even when wrapped tightly to the body – there are flappy gaps, especially in the wind. It is impossible to get a fully snug and warm feeling because of the air still circulating where the blanket doesn’t reach, which is why it’s better if you lie down and wrap the blanket along your full length. 

The material is not as noisy as others on test, which means you could use it as an extra warming layer for camping or, potentially as a shelter, without being irritated by the sound of rustling. When folded up again, the blanket returns to a size about 50% to 100% larger than when pre-packed.

Highlander Thermo Survival Blanket on white background

(Image credit: Highlander)

4. Highlander Thermo Survival Blanket

A padded, reflective survival blanket to help retain body heat

Specifications

Weight: 165g / 6oz
Size: 195cm x 140cm / 77in x 55in
Materials: Foil coating, EVA foam padding
Colors: Silver / white

Reasons to buy

+
Larger than most at 195cm x 140cm
+
Comfortable padding
+
Elastic carry strap

Reasons to avoid

-
Not fully waterproof
-
Single-sheet blanket

The most obvious factor with this survival blanket is the size of it. Although relatively lightweight, it’s bulky and takes up a lot of space in a hiking pack. However, I imagine it’s very useful for emergency services, who can spread the load of emergency and safety kit among the crews. 

It’s a warming blanket, and comfortable to have wrapped around the body. It’s not very flexible – plus it’s very light and floaty – so it’s hard to gain full coverage without the wind and rain getting to the body underneath. We’re not sure it’s waterproof; it might be water-resistant at best. 

The product scores three stars because it did a fairly good job of keeping us warm and it’s lightweight, but rather than taking it on the trails when hiking or biking, we’d reserve this for kayaking trips, where there is more space spare in the boat.

The best budget emergency blankets

Forclaz Single-Use Survival Blanket on white background

(Image credit: Forclaz)

5. Forclaz Single-Use Survival Blanket

A no-frills, single-use foil blanket that’s handy for tight budgets

Specifications

Weight: 60g / 2oz
Size: 16cm x 210cm / 63in x 83in
Materials: 92% polyester, 4% resin, 4% aluminum
Colors: Silver / Gold

Reasons to buy

+
Very cheap at $2/£2.99
+
Extra light at just 60g
+
One side for warming, one for cooling

Reasons to avoid

-
Single-sheet blanket
-
Single-use
-
Noisy plastic

This no-frills blanket is sold in a clear plastic bag and doesn’t over promise – as clearly stated it is a single-use emergency blanket. The gold side is meant to capture heat so you will stay warm in the cold, while the silver side is to reflect the heat and keep you cool.

In all honesty, we didn’t notice any real difference when using either side on test, but we were on a peak in Scotland – perhaps the heat-reflecting properties of the silver side might be more apparent (and welcome) if you’re stuck out in a desert. 

This is a single-sheet blanket so when you wrap it around your body there are inevitably gaps where the cold air gets in. If you are lying down and need warmth, make sure you tuck in all the edges to stop cold air getting to your body. The foil rustles noisily and the material is thinner and potentially less durable than other products on test. But it’s a cheap blanket and if you are on a budget it could be the best £2.99 you’ve spent for the life-saving potential. 

Lomo space blanket on white background

(Image credit: Lomo)

6. Lomo Space Blanket

A basic, cheap, single-use foil blanket

Specifications

Weight: 50g / 1.75oz
Size: 140cm x 210cm / 55in x 83in
Materials: Metalized polyester film
Colors: Silver

Reasons to buy

+
The cheapest blanket at £1
+
Weighs just 50g
+
Some wind and rain protection

Reasons to avoid

-
Single-sheet blanket
-
Single-use
-
Foil is noisy
-
Not available in the US

The Lomo space blanket is the cheapest on test and it really is a simple, single sheet. The emergency foil blanket will retain radiated body heat while providing some rudimentary protection from wind and rain. 

Because it’s a sheet and not a bag, you can expect areas of the body to still be affected by wind and water, although if you were lying down and you tucked in the blanket around you it does provide good protection and warmth. Ideally, take two – they cost very little and weigh almost nothing.

The foil rustles noisily and the material is thinner and less durable than other products on test. The blanket comes in a throw-away plastic bag and it folds up larger after use than when it first arrives factory packed, but then it is only intended for one use.

Best emergency shelters

Lomo Emergency Storm Shelter on rock

(Image credit: Lomo)

7. Lomo Emergency Storm Shelter

A larger, heavier two-person bothy bag shelter

Specifications

RRP: £19.99 (UK) / Currently unavailable in the US
Weight: 396g / 14oz
Size: 130cm x 96cm x 45cm / 51in x 38in x 18in
Materials: 190T PU-coated polyester, 3000mm hydrostatic head
Colors: Orange

Reasons to buy

+
Large at 130cm x 96cm x 45cm
+
Includes drawstring stuff sack
+
Reflective panels
+
Viewing port

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier than others 
-
Condensation accumulates
-
Not available in the US

This product would fit into our guide to the best bivy sacks as well as this buying guide. It is heavier than the other blankets and bags above, and is made of a nylon material rather than the foil and plastic of other products. However, the fabric makes it durable. 

It is also a versatile item because you can just as easily use it when resting or having a bite to eat during an everyday hike, as well as when required for an emergency. To get inside, one or two and possibly three people pull the shelter over their heads and then sit down. Make sure you have something to sit on, otherwise you’ll get cold underneath. 

Heat is quickly generated with all the bodies inside and a windproof fabric keeping the elements out. Air vents help to prevent condensation although it can get a bit damp after a while because of everyone’s breath and body sweat vapor. A useful viewing port allows you a limited view outside, and two reflective panels help emergency crews if they’re trying to find you. 

This is a larger and heavier style of shelter and more expensive than others on test but still a good option if you’re looking for a more versatile shelter.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Best emergency kit comparison chart
Emergency kitPriceWeight (without bag)SizeMaterials
Lifesystems Heatshield Thermal Bivi Bag$25 (US on import) / £13.99 (UK) 107g / 3.75oz90cm x 210cm / 35.5in x 82.5inMetalized low-density polyethylene
Highlander Emergency Survival Bag$11.95 / £4.99220g / 7.75oz80cm x 90cm / 71in x 35inPlastic
SOL Emergency Survival Blanket$5.29 (US) / £6.95 (UK)70g / 2.5oz142cm x 213cm / 56in x 84inVacuum-metalized polyethylene
Highlander Thermo Survival Blanket$22.95 (US) / £16.49 (UK)165g / 6oz195cm x 140cm / 77in x 55in (in use) / 38cm x 15cm / 15in x 6in (rolled)Foil coating, EVA foam padding
Forclaz Single-Use Survival Blanket$2 (US) / £2.99 (UK)60g / 2oz16cm x 210cm / 63in x 83in92% polyester, 4% resin, 4% aluminum
Lomo Space Blanket£0.99 / Currently unavailable in the US50g / 1.75oz140cm x 210cm / 55in x 83inMetalized polyester film
Lomo Emergency Storm Shelter£19.99 (UK) / Currently unavailable in the US396g / 14oz130cm x 96cm x 45cm / 51in x 38in x 18in (in use) / 23cm x 10cm / 9in x 4in (packed)190T PU-coated polyester, 3000mm hydrostatic head

How we tested the best emergency blankets, survival bags and shelters

Our tester lives in Scotland and spends a lot of time running and walking trails, hills and peaks. She always carries one of these products with her. All of the emergency blankets, bags and shelters above have been tested on wild and windy hills and mountains. The tester personally measured the size of the products and weighed them on digital scales. Note that we could find no information about how planet-friendly these products are.

For more details, see how Advnture tests products.

Tips for choosing an emergency blanket, bag or shelter

Low size and weight are the key factors for an emergency item that you will most likely want to carry with you on full- or multi-day backpacking and bikepacking trips, or long trail runs. Small and light options are not always the most warming, though.

SOL Emergency Blanket packaging

This is how small the SOL Emergency Blanket is packed up when you buy it (Image credit: Fiona Russell)

Size vs warmth

You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

Assess the size and weight-to-warmth ratio. It might be that a slightly larger and heavier survival bag will prove to be a great deal more useful in an emergency.

Emergency blanket vs survival bag

Single-sheets are the cheapest and generally the lightest products, but a bag will more easily provide the greatest protection from the outside elements and keep the warmth inside.

A single-sheet blanket works best if you wrap it around you and tuck it in while lying flat, although this shape is not so good for when you are sitting up because coverage is limited. The bag-style emergency products, however, can be used when lying flat or sitting up.

SOL Emergency Blanket

The SOL Emergency Blanket is fine if you’re lying down and can tuck in under yourself (Image credit: SOL)

Shelter

It is possible to use emergency blankets and bags as general shelters and as an extra layer when sleeping outdoors, but it’s worth noting that few of these products return to their original neat shape and size once opened.

Moisture

Condensation can be an issue when you warm up inside a foil or plastic bag. Look for seams or air vents, or simply remember to let some air in and out of the top every so often. Condensation will leave you damp and cold after a while.

SOL Emergency blanket

Keeping snug under a SOL Emergency blanket – but make sure condensation doesn’t build up (Image credit: SOL)

Repeat use

Consider – can you reuse the bag or shelter? It’s useful if you can use the emergency shelter or bag for times when you rest or stop for food during a particularly inclement outing.

Packability

Can you repack the product after use? A stuff sack makes the job of repacking a reusable product much easier and the result will be a more compact package. 

Lifesystems Heatshield Thermal Bivi Bag

The packed up Lifesystems Heatshield Thermal Bivi Bag (Image credit: Fiona Russell)

Durability

The thinner foil blankets are unlikely to stand the test of being used several times because they will tear or shred. Look for products that are made of more robust materials.

Noise

Consider how crinkly the shelter, blanket or bag is. This might seem like a small thing if you are simply taking the product in case of an emergency, but you might be stuck inside or under the product for a while. A non-stop rustling in wind could easily become irritating.

Emergency shleter

Can you justify the extra bulk an emergency shelter? (Image credit: Ed Smith)

Cost

Most emergency blankets and survival bags are very cheap, and they’re all well worth their price tag if you do need them in an emergency. 

Colors

Consider whether the product is brightly colored or has reflective details – both very useful for searchers attempting to find you in an emergency situation, especially in darkness or poor weather.

What to do with your old emergency gear

Sadly emergency blankets, bags and shelters are difficult to recycle, because they're often made of a combination of different materials that aren't easy to process, and most outdoor gear reuse/recycling programs can't accept them.

If there's a hole in your emergency shelter, you could repair it at home rather than replacing the whole thing. Our guide to tent repairs will help you get started. 

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.