First, the technical stuff, which may be boring to some, but it may also give you some additional ideas for its use if you know what the properties of aluminum foil really are.
Aluminum foil replaced “tin foil” around 1910. Prior this to this time tin was commonly used and used similar to how aluminum foil is used today. Tin of course left some food tasting “tinny” and it rusted over time, as well as being hard to work with. It could not be wrapped or shaped around objects as easily, and it certainly did not have the properties of today’s aluminum foil. In Europe today, aluminum foil is still commonly referred to as tin foil.
All foil is not made equally, so when choosing foil for a survival kit or for your emergency supplies for the home, make sure it is foil that is at least or as close to 1mil (.001) as possible. Why 1mil, well because foil 1mil or thicker is permeable to water, gases and oxygen. In other words it would act just like a Mylar bag as far as not allowing contaminates to flow through the skin. Foil less than 1mil can have microscopic pinholes in it that over time would allow the transfer of oxygen, gases, and moisture.
Typically aluminum foil labeled “Heavy Duty” is between .0008 and .001 (1 mil) thick.
1 Mil is 1 Thousandth of an inch.
1 Mil numerically is .001
Okay Shiny Side or Matte Side, Does It Make a Difference
There is a shiny side and a matte side when it comes to household foil. The difference is slight however, and for general use around the home, and for cooking, the difference is not likely to be noticed. On the other hand, in a survival situation any advantage is a plus, so when foil is used as heat reflectors use the shiny side to gain the slight benefit. (alufoil, n.d.).
1.) Because foil reflects heat it can be used as you would a Mylar emergency blanket. It can be used in an emergency to prevent the rapid cooling of the body. Because heat conducts to cold, a human body is constantly conducting its warmth to the colder air surrounding it. Foil can be used as a reflector to prevent the conduction of heat, in other words, it will reflect body heat back to the body, so get your tin hats ready.
2.) Tape sheets of foil on the inside of your shelter to reflect heat back, the heat given off by your body and heat from a fire. Tape sheets of foil to a piece of canvas or to cloth and position it (by hanging or other means), so it reflects the heat of your fire into your shelter or onto your body. You can even wrap foil around larger rocks and place near the fire to reflect the heat in whatever direction needed.
3.) Shape heavy duty foil into a vessel for boiling water for purification. Foil will stand up to the heat and can be used multiple times for food preparation and for water boiling.
4.) Use foil to reflect UV-sunlight to disinfect drinking water. Fill a clear water bottle with contaminated water and place on a sheet of foil in direct sunlight. Slightly bend the foil up so it reflects more directly onto the bottle. This method works best if the water is filtered first, because debris can block the rays. If filtering is not possible then you would allow the debris to settle. Allow at least six hours for the sunlight to do its job. Once done if you did not filter the water first then pour the water off carefully, so that the sediment remains in the bottom of the bottle.
5.) Foil will provide a barrier against gases, water, and oxygen so in other words, foods wrapped in foil will not give off odors, which can help to keep four legged predators from snooping around your camp.
6.) Because it reflects light, foil can be used as a signaling device. Cut a square of foil, and either hold the square, or tape it to a flat solid object so it can be held and positioned easier.
7.) Heat small stones in your fire and then roll onto the shiny side of the foil. Pick up the foil with the rocks and carry into your shelter. Make sure the rocks are sized properly so you can carry them on the foil, without them tearing through. Bend the sides to direct the heat in whatever direction needed.
8.) If the ground is wet or damp lay sheets of foil down in which to to build your fire upon.
9.) If stranded in a vehicle tape foil, shiny side to the sun, to the windshield to reflect sunlight. The reverse would be true if trying to retain heat inside of a vehicle in the winter time.
10.) Foil conducts electricity so thin strands can be used to create fire by shorting across the negative and positive posts of a battery. If the foil is shaped into thin enough wire it can be used with batteries that power your electronic devices. To help it along you can wrap some dry tinder around the foil before you short it to create enough heat to ignite the tinder. Use cotton, jute or any dry organic cordage, dried grass, or small strips of cotton clothing would work as well.
Obviously the above is not the only uses for aluminum foil in a survival situation, but now that you have some idea of its properties, you can come up with even more uses with a little imagination.
alufoil. (n.d.). Retrieved 2015, from http://www.alufoil.org/properties.html