Grabber Outdoor's Space All-Weather Blanket just might be the single greatest piece of survival gear I own. I don't make statements like this often, but this is one piece of gear that's truly a marvel of versatility, toughness and utility. It's a ground tarp, a shelter, windbreaker, sunshade, rain poncho and even a rainwater collector. But its most important quality is its incredible ability to capture and reflect even small amounts of heat. This makes it an awesome cold weather survival tool, as even the heat from the tiniest wood fire or backpacking stove can be used to warm the body, as you'll see in our test below.
- Shelter: Use as a personal shelter by facing silver side outward to reflect light and heat rays
- Medical: Help prevent hypothermia by maintaining body heat
- Protection: Use as a heat reflector on the back wall of a shelter to help trap heat from fire
- Ground Cover: Keep moisture and dampness away from sleeping bag or tent floor
- Flexible to -20°F
- Size 5’x7’
- Weight 12 oz.
- Available in four colors:
I will refer to the Space "Blanket" in the rest of this review as a Space "Tarp" because I think it's a more apt description. The Space Tarp is simply a happy marriage between a conventional tarp and the superinsulating reflective material originally developed by NASA for space exploration in the 1960s. Tarp on one side, space blanket on the other. It's very simple but works exceedingly well. Below is Grabber's technical illustration of the tarp's construction and materials:
At 12 ounces, the Space Tarp is definitely light enough to carry with you at all times. I mentioned in the opening paragraph about it functioning as a rain poncho. Grabber also makes a version of the tarp that has the functions of the standard tarp but also includes a hood and hand pockets as shown below:
The Space Tarp being used as a ground tarp inside a shelter:
Demonstration of the Space Tarp's Effectiveness
To demonstrate the Space Tarp's effectiveness, we performed a fairly simple test. We went out on a 27 degree day with just the tarp, a thermometer and a tiny wood-gas stove and used the thermometer to show how dramatically these tarps collect heat.
For the test, I had Dave sit on a Thermarest pad and wrap the Space Tarp around him. A hiking pole was used as an additional support. I placed the wood-gas stove directly in front of him and lit it.
As soon as the wood-gas stove was burning fully, the temperature inside the tarp cocoon rose quickly into the low 60s:
Rising to 67 Degrees F
As simple as the Space Tarp is, it works remarkably well. Even with just the small fire of a wood-burning backpacking stove, it felt like we were in a 72 degree living room while sitting outside in the middle of winter. It's really that dramatic.
This test was no fluke either. I have been carrying a Space Tarp in my pack for the last 7 years. It has saved me from hypothermia, been used to shield me from summer hailstorms, used as a shelter, ground tarp, you name it.
You might be thinking "well I can always just build a fire when I get cold and it'll do the same thing." Wrong! Try standing in front of a fire in the middle of winter when the winds are howling at 60mph and the windchill factor is -40 degrees. A portion of your front side will be warm but the rest of your body, especially your backside, will be freezing. Yes, natural reflectors can be built, but none will be as effective as this tarp. I know because I've tried!
I think so highly of this tarp that I would take it over almost anything if I could grab only one or two items in an emergency. I can't think of anything for any price, let alone something costing under $20, that has the awesome capabilities of this piece of gear.
Dave says the Space Tarp should be "standard issue for all human beings in cold places." I couldn't agree more.
About the author
The Space Tarp is available from LifeView Outdoors:
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)