Bandanas, shemaghs, keffiyeh, whatever you want to call a strong, light strip of cloth it has plenty of helpful uses when you’re trying to survive. Unlike many tools that have a few specific uses, the flexibility of a bandana makes it very valuable in a wide variety of situations. Additionally, unlike other survival gear that has a decidedly military look to it, a bandana can pass as perfectly normal almost anywhere. Let’s take a look at some of the common survival uses for a bandana so you can get the best possible utility out of it.
- Head covering. The most common and obvious use for a bandana, using it as a head covering also counts as a convenient way to carry it without taking up room in a pack or in your hands. Plus it protects your face from sunburns!
- Portable “Air Conditioning”. Dip a bandana into some water, wring it out, and then wrap it loosely around your head or neck. The evaporation will keep you cooler without wasting a lot of water.
- Handkerchief. Although you might tend to think of “handkerchiefs” as being for fancy dinners or the like, in reality a bandana can also be helpful when you need to get some gunk off of your hands or to blot away sweat from your forehead. Just remember that it could get pretty grubby quickly if you use it for cleanup frequently, so have spares available.
- Makeshift Pouch. Whether you’re trying to carry some berries or hide some small valuable, a bandana can be quickly folded into a pouch that can carry quite a bit if you have high-quality fabric.
- Temporary “Disguise”. Granted you aren’t really going to fool anyone by covering your face with a bandana, but it could be helpful in keeping far off bystanders from getting good detail on your features. Better that some local gang boss hears that one of their underlings died to “some dude in a bandana” he tried to rob as opposed to getting a perfect description.
- Emergency Tourniquet. Combine a durable bandana with a pen or stick and you have the perfect homemade tourniquet. Aside from using extreme caution in actually applying any tourniquet, just make sure that you really do have a good quality bandana before you start to tighten. If the cloth tears and loosens, it could actually cause greater harm!
- Flag/ Signaling Device. Cloth is a definite sign of human presence regardless of where you are, so having one on hand could be helpful to wave at rescuers or group members in an emergency to get their attention. It could also be tied to a tall pole/tree in order to be more visible to aircraft.
- Bandage. So long as it is somewhat clean a bandana can serve as a decent bandage. This use is usually pretty temporary though, since the thinner cloth of a bandana tends to become saturated with blood pretty quickly.
- Eye Covering. Whether owing to wounds or to preserve night vision, being able to cover one or both eyes is always useful.
- Padding/Pillow. Although it would probably be pretty thin, a little soft cloth is certainly better than laying your head on rock. You could also pad temporary supports like canes/crutches to minimize chafing.
- Cut Into Strips For a Variety of Purposes. Disposable toilet paper, gun cleaning cloths, stuffed in your mouth if you had a sore tooth…the list goes on.
- Reusable Toilet Paper (If Washed!). It might seem gross to use the bandana you wrap around your head for toilet paper, but when you need it you need it! Just clean it thoroughly afterwards and you should be alright.
- Ear Coverings/Earplugs. Not only can you keep your ears warmer by wrapping them, excess cloth could be (gently!) stuffed into your ears to minimize noise damage.
- Holding An Ice/Hot Pack In Place. Not only can a pack be tied securely so that it doesn’t move, but many of those packs strongly recommend keeping a barrier between your skin and the plastic, so having that cloth there can protect you as well.
- Large Item Water Filter. A bandana isn’t going to catch viruses for you, but it will help filter out some of the sand/dirt, sticks, leaves and other larger particles. This can actually extend the life of true water filters sometimes, so having a clean bandana on hand could be doubly useful.
As you can see, the utility of the humble bandana is limited only by your imagination. Let us know if you have any other uses to list in the comments below!