One of the most versatile tools you can have in a survival scenario is a shemagh or bandana. A shemagh is simply a large bandana, normally about three feet by three feet. You have probably seen special forces soldiers with a shemagh tied around their necks.
Many people keep them on hand because they are great at covering your face and head. However, there are many additional functions for a simple cloth like this. I carry mine with me on every survival challenge I attempt. In this article, we will cover some of the many shemagh uses.
12 Shemagh Uses | How To Use A Bandana For Survival
1. Filter Water
The cloth from a shemagh or bandana can be used as one of your layers in a DIY water filter to remove debris from the water. Then sand and charcoal can remove other impurities to make your water safe to drink.
2. Bandage a Wound
When you are faced with a wound that is bleeding excessively, you must stop the bleeding and protect the wound from infection. A shemagh is large enough that you can tie it over the wound to apply pressure and protect the wound. Then you have enough space to remove the bandage and use a clean section of the shemagh to rebandage the wound.
3. Make a Bear Bag
When you have food, toothpaste, deodorant, or any other items with a scent in your camp, they need to be hung from a tree at night. These smells can draw bears and other animals into your camp.
Wrap these items in your shemagh and tie the top with cordage. Then throw the cord over a high branch and raise the bag to at least 10 feet off the ground. This should keep the bears from getting to your cache.
4. Protect your Head
This may seem obvious, but there are several different ways that a shemagh or bandana can be tied to protect your head. This can keep your neck warm, protect your whole head from sand, snow, or sun, or keep your head cool when dipped in water.
5. Make an Arm Sling
If you hurt your arm, you need to keep it immobilized and supported. A sling is one way to do it. With only one knot you can turn a shemagh into a sling for your arm.
6/ Start a Fire
The fabric of these pieces of cloth can be shredded to expose the individual fibers. If you are able to add a waxy substance like chapstick or petroleum jelly, the fibers will light that much better.
7. Protect your Hands for Self-Defense
If you know you will have to face off against an assailant and you have a second to prepare, you might want to wrap at least your dominant hand. When you get in a physical altercation, your knuckles can get cut badly. This can lead to infection if not cared for properly.
By taking a second to wrap your hands in advance, you can ensure that you do not cut your knuckles and can reduce the chances of breaking your hand.
8. Keep the Sweat Back
When I am working hard or dealing with warm temperatures, I almost always end up with sweat in my eyes. This makes it hard to see and keep working. By rolling a bandana and tying it around my forehead, I can keep the sweat out of my eyes. Even when it is completely saturated, I can just wring it out and put it back on.
9. Use for Toilet Paper
It is probably not the best use of a shemagh, but you can get several sheets of toilet paper out of that large piece of cloth. It may be better than leaves and pine cones.
10. Signal Flag
A shemagh is large enough that it can get the attention of rescue personnel from quite a distance. Just tie it to a long stick and wave it back and forth. This works even better if your shemagh is a bright color.
You can cut your shemagh into strips and weave it into cordage if needed. Just use thin strips so you can get as many feet of cordage as possible.
12. Pot Holder
Often you place containers in your fire to heat up food or water. A shemagh or bandana works perfectly to pull these containers from the fire. You can also use a shemagh or bandana if you are moving hot rocks from your fire into your shelter or sleeping bag. You can even leave a shemagh tied around the hot rocks to keep from getting burned.
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Editor's Note: This was first published on October 14, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.