Survival Bags

Survival Bags

A survival bag is what you need if you have to sit and wait to be rescued, or are forced by circumstances to stay out overnight

Survival Bags 
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  • Survival Bags thumbnail 
  • Survival Bags thumbnail 
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  • Blizzard survival bag - mountain safety thumbnail 
  • Blizzard survival bag (active range) - next to can of coke thumbnail 

Survival Bags

If you're caught out on the hill and need to wait until help arrives, you'll need to seek shelter from the elements. And let's be clear, having called our Mountain Rescue is one thing, but they can take quite some time to arrive. This is where a survival bag will add to your mountain safety and could save your life. Once you stop walking your body will generate less heat, and when it's cold and/or wet you are unlikely to be able to generate the same amount of heat that you are losing to the external environment. Losing heat over a prolonged period of time, e.g. whilst you await rescue, means that your body temperature could fall, leading to hypothermia.

A survival bag will slow the onset of hypothermia and is an essential piece of individual kit for all trips to the hills, i.e. everyone should have one. The purpose is simple; in an emergency situation they keep you separated from the wind and rain until help arrives. Without a survival bag you will be exposed to the elements and hypothermia could develop quickly, but with any type of survival bag your changes of staving off hypothermia are increased.

Carry One Each

If the group is encountered with an emergency situation whereby everyone needs to wait for help to arrive, you'll need to get into a survival bag to preserve heat. If you have a storm shelter, get in that too. Everyone in the group should have a survival bag in case they are ever separated from the rest of the group, meaning that they can take shelter and wait for help to arrive.  In a storm shelter, being inside a further bag will preserve more heat. It is for these reasons that everyone should have their own bag, although it seems overkill on the face of it.

Types of Survival Bags

Survival bags come in a number of shapes and sizes and anything is better than nothing, but do read on and understand that no all survival bags are the same. 

Thick poly bag

Usually orange and costing only a few quid, these bags will shelter you from the wind and rain, but have no insulation or thermal properties. Ideal for summer use. Some of these bags are heavier than Blizzard Survival Bags (below), and this for their weight you could do better.

Having one of these bags is better than nothing, but you'll be in for a very uncomfortable wait.

The bag opposite is brand new and without packaging weighs in at 320g, which is 40g more than a Blizzard Survival Bag (Active Range) - see below.

Foil type blankets

These blankets work by reflecting body heat back to your body.  However, used by themselves they don’t keep you out of the wind or keep you dry, so any reflected heat can quickly be lost to the external environment.

Using one inside a storm shelter or in combination with a poly survival bag will be more effective. 

Foil bags

Being waterproof and wind proof means that you will be protected from the elements, and heat should be reflected back to your body. There are no thermal properties per se, so the colder you get the less effective the bags become.

These bags are lightweight, definitely better than nothing, and cost about £10. Your money could be better spent tho.

Blizzard survival bag - mountain safety

Blizzard Survival Bags

At the top end of the survival bag spectrum is the Blizzard Bag. Blizzard Bags come vacuum packed and are mainly intended for use in emergencies. They are made from Reflexcell material which reflects heat back to your body, and traps warm air inside the bag wall. They are closed at the bottom and have a draw cord. 

There are two versions of the bag: the Blizzard Bag (Original), weighing in at 385g and measuring 21 x 11 x 4cm when vacuum packed (approx size of an old VHS cassette), made from 3 layer Reflexcell material and providing a tog rating of 8. The newer version are called Blizzard Bags (Active Range), and are lighter at 280g, smaller at 11 x 11 x 5 cm, made from 2 layer Reflexcell material, have a tog rating of 6 and are endorsed by Glenmore Lodge instructors. Both types of bag are equivalents of 3 season sleeping bags. 

Blizzard Bags are a massive step up from poly bags and foil products and should be carried year round when venturing into mountainous areas the Lake District, Snowdonia, the mountains of Scotland or any other upland areas of the UK, especially in the winter months.

Spending an enforced night out, or many hours wait for rescue, will be made much more comfortable in one of these, owing to their thermal properties, meaning that your chances of survival are much increased. 

When compared to the traditional thick poly bag type survival bags, Blizzard Survival Bags (Active Range) weight less, will keep you a whole lot warmer and cost only about £20 more. Can you put a price on your chances of survival?

View Blizzard Survival Bags in the MountainSafety Shop

Item shown is a Blizzard Survival Bag (Active Range)

Storm Shelters

Combine any of the above survival bags with a storm shelter, and your wait for rescue or enforced overnighter will be more comfortable and you're even more likely to survive. Read more about storm shelters.


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