A North Wales company is launching a new range of emergency blankets and jackets based on those used by the British and US military on the front line in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The kit will be unveiled by Blizzard Survival, from Bethesda, at the All Wales Boat Show that’s being held across two water-linked sites in Conwy and Deganwy this summer.
The life-saving survival products, which fold-up into tiny lightweight packages, use the same material as those on board the RAF’s Sea King helicopters in the UK, Cyprus and the Falklands, and carried by mountain rescue teams to treat hypothermia.
The new Active range, including a blanket and a thigh-length, body warmer jacket, is the latest design from Blizzard Survival, which was set up by engineer and mountaineer Derek Ryden.
His super-lightweight material Reflexcell, which took 15 years to develop, provides unprecedented thermal performance in the most demanding conditions. Tested in Snowdonia and by the US Army Institute of Surgical Research, it is the only blanket used by Army medics as they’re trained in treating hypothermia.
The military range uses three layers of the material, while the new leisure range has two layers to make it more lightweight, explained Jackie Webb, Business Development Manager at Blizzard Survival.
Jackie said: “The All Wales Boat Show will give us a chance to showcase our products to a new market. To be honest, we hope that these products will never be needed by those who buy them.
“They are small and can be easily tucked away in a boat’s first-aid cupboard or carried in a survival kit, and only brought out in an emergency: it’s far better to prevent hypothermia than have to treat it afterwards, especially when somebody has a serious injury as well.”
Jackie added: “We realised that the material was ideal for domestic use, such as on boats and outdoor leisure activities. No matter where you are, you are at risk of hypothermia - even in the Australian outback – if there’s an accident. If you are cold and bleeding, then hypothermia can be life-threatening.
“If there is an emergency on board a boat, it can take time for the rescue services to reach you, even if they are alerted immediately. Preventing hypothermia by wrapping the blanket around an injured person, or putting the emergency jacket on them, can save their life,” she added.
The 2m square blankets are compressed into tiny 12cm-long parcels weighing 250g, thanks to vacuum packing, while the jackets are squeezed down to 11cm and weigh only 230g.
“The jacket is bright orange, so you can easily be seen by rescue services,” explained Jackie.
The All Wales Boat show from July 24-28, will be split between Conwy and Deganwy Quay marinas, with visitors ferried across the River Conwy from one harbour side to the other. There will be a range of craft on show, plus the chance to try out some of the equipment on sale, along with a variety of events and entertainment.
Organised by boating enthusiast Kit Farmer and his wife Davina Carey-Evans, the event aims to help Wales grab a bigger share of the marine industry that generates around £3 billion in the UK every year.
Davina said: “We’re delighted that Blizzard Survival have chosen the All-Wales Boat Show for the launch of their latest product range.
We very excited about the huge potential of the event, especially as it’s the only boat show that uses the water to actually transport people.
“It’s the first ever National Boat Show for Wales and what’s interesting is how far and wide the exhibitors are coming from – from all across the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe.
“We believe the timing is perfect, too, because it’s taking place the same time as the Conwy River Festival.
“Two million adults in the UK enjoy water-based activities and the marine sector generates £66.7 million in Wales alone.
“Wherever you go in Wales, you are never far away from a river, lake or coastline which is why it’s renowned for not only offering every water sport activity possible but also some of the very best facilities to do so, so it is only fitting that we have our own boat show.
“Conwy boasts two marinas and a reputation for outstanding water sport amenities. It is also a major tourist attraction in its own right being a world heritage site with its own medieval castle so is the perfect location for a show of this stature and size.
“And with its easy accessibility whether by car, plane, train or even boat, it will appeal to a wide target audience from not only all of Wales but also the North West, Midlands, Isle of Man and Ireland.”
Blizzard’s Derek Ryden also designed all the machinery at the factory, which now employs around 20 people. His Reflexcell material has a cellular construction to trap warm air, elastication that draws the material to the body, reducing cold spaces and heat loss by convection, and finally, silvered surfaces to block heat loss by radiation. It is also completely waterproof and windproof.
The material has twice the tog value of goose down of the same weight and, unlike the feathers, is not affected by moisture.
The products have just been officially approved by Glenmore Lodge, the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre for outdoor activity courses, and its instructors carry them at all times.
All Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter flights in the UK, Cyprus and the Falklands have replaced conventional sleeping bags with Blizzard Survival Bags to save weight and space – and provide better casualty care. They are also used by disaster relief agencies and major emergency response teams.
The material is also used by oil and gas companies to provide thermal insulation – keeping pipes warm in freezing temperatures or cool in areas with intense sunlight - and ensuring supplies keep flowing.