30+ Ways to Use a Bandana for Survival

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So one of the biggest things I stress on my blog is that you should try to carry gear that has multiple uses. One of the most useful pieces of kit you can keep with you pretty much at all times is a bandana. It has so many uses that I thought I’d just make a list for you but several of these could be their own article. For a lot of these, you’ll need a large bandana and not a normal size or tie some together, so keep that in mind.

30+ Survival Uses for a Bandana

  1. Keep the sun off your neck. This is one of the reasons a lot of cowboys wore a bandana around their neck.
  2. Use it as a neck gator. A neck gator is one of the best things to carry because it can make a light jacket as warm as a much heavier one by blocking all the warm air that usually escapes from your collar. You can use a bandana to do the same thing.
  3. Protect your ears or head from burning. You can either put a bandana under your hat to cover your ears or even just use it as a headcover.
  4. Signaling for rescue. Now this one only works if you use a brightly-colored bandana but with the right color, it may make it easier for a rescue plane or chopper to see you.
  5. Cordage. You can use a bandana as a short but very strong piece of cordage for things like fixing a broken strap or belt, or you can cut it into strips and make a longer piece if you really needed to.
  6. Waist pack or pouch. You can make a simple pouch for scavenging tinder or just holding small items by tying it to your belt.
  7. Potholder. You may or may not have a pot or skillet with you but you may need something to grab onto other hot items such as a rock you’re heating to keep you warm at night.
  8. Makeshift tourniquet. This is one that people think of but don’t usually know how use it correctly. Watch this video for a quick primer.
  9. Sling. A very traditional Boy Scout use. The last thing you need if you’ve broken or torn an elbow or a wrist is to have it swinging around. Tying it up can make things much more comfortable and help keep you from making things worse.
  10. Stone sling. Ok, I see this one a lot where you roll up a bandana and toss a stone at Goliath but I think it’s much easier and more accurate to just throw a stone.
  11. Keep sweat off your neck and dirt out of your collar.
  12. Pre-filter. Before you put water into some kind of filter, you should try to get the big chunks out first, and a bandana makes that pretty simple.
  13. Field-expedient toilet paper. Just don’t use this for anything else once you’ve done this.
  14. Hobo bindle. Channel your inner Tom Sawyer by tying a bandana with a loop and hanging it behind you with a stick. You don’t need to tie it to the stick to do this though.
  15. Earmuffs. Tied the right way, a bandana can keep your frosty ears toasty warm.
  16. Tossing a line. One way to get paracord over a high branch is to tie it to a bandana wrapped around a stone. Super simple and much safer than climbing a tree.
  17. Keep yourself cool through evaporation. Soak a bandana in water and either lay it on your head or wrap it around your neck.
  18. Dust mask. Here in the desert, we get haboobs that are so thick you can’t see a foot in front of you. I always keep a spare bandana and swimming goggles on my motorcycle just for this reason.
  19. Towel or washcloth. Makes it much easier to get mud or grime off yourself, and you can also use one to dry off your feet and lower legs after fording a shallow stream in cold weather.
  20. Headband. Keeps sweat from dripping into your eyes. Keeps rain from dripping into your eyes and blinding you.
  21. Lay out small items without losing them in the grass or getting them dirty.
  22. Use as an emergency fire tinder.
  23. Make char cloth. Here’s a video on how to do that.
  24. Extra pouch to tie to molle webbing.
  25. Hide your face. Hey, you might wanna hold up a stagecoach or something.
  26. Backup for bootlace. Wrap it around your boot and tie it tight until you can get another string. Of course, if you’re carrying paracord as you should be, that would be a better idea.
  27. Get a specialty bandana. Some bandanas have useful things printed on them, such as:
    1. Map of the area.
    2. Print of survival knots for reference.
    3. Various survival tidbits of useful knowledge.
    4. First aid information.
    5. Plant identification.
  28. Field-expedient handcuffs. Ya never know when you might need to tie up a bandit – or hobble an animal.
  29. Mark a trail. Tying strips to a trail could help you find your way back to camp or also help rescuers track you down easier.
  30. To help protect against snow blindness. You can usually see well enough through a bandana to get around but it’ll help cut down on the brightness a bit.
  31. Blindfold. You could use it to escort people to your super double secret lair or just to keep the light out of your eyes so you can sleep during the day if you need to.
  32. Collect morning dew. This doesn’t really work very well, and the water usually tastes nasty if you’ve been wearing the bandana, but hey.

So, there you go. 30 plus survival uses for a bandana. There are probably more but that’s what I could come up with.

Any more you can think of?

About Graywolf

Graywolf is a former Counterintelligence Agent and US Army combat veteran. His experience as an agent, soldier and government contractor on assignments around the world gives him a unique perspective on the world and how to deal with it. His website is Graywolf Survival.



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  • I don’t go anywhere practically without my bandana . Folks give me funny looks when I pull one out to blow my nose, but heck, it’s cheaper than multiple boxes of Kleenex ! Plus it comes in handy for many of the uses mentioned here.

    • “The white man blows his nose into a white cloth and keeps it in his pocket like something precious. The Indian blows his nose upon the ground and considers it no more.”

      Old American Indian observation…one any Seminole would likely appreciate.

      I prefer the Indian way myself. Manners be damned. It’s just so practical!

  • Never used a bandana before.

    But I have used a Shemagh as a neck gaiter, ear and nose warmers, face mask for dust.
    No doubt a Shemagh can be used for many of the uses Mr. Graywolf mentions above.

  • All good points, which is why I currently own a half dozen or so…half of them various camo patterns and the other half brightly colored.

    The very best ones are 100% cotton but the poly/cotton blends also have their uses.

    Recycling tip: Make oversized bandannas out of those worn out camo tee shirts! They make great doo-rags. They are long enough to keep the bugs off your neck as well as the sun off your head and neck…plus they look and feel cool as all get out.

  • Two or more bandanas tied together would make a replacement for a worn-out plastic bag AK-47 sling.

    If you don’t have any socks, a bandana filled with sand could work as a blackjack if you don’t want to leave any bruised skin marks.

    As a garrote? In olden days stuffing the return coin return of public telephones at airports, with a small bandana was good for pocket change but then cell phones came along. Inside-out reflective bandanas for raves and rescue planes. Or, a reversible “Blood/Crips” bandana depending what area you wanted to be the ‘grey man’. A tie-dyed bandana to imagine the places you didn’t go to. (Beginning to sound like an article for the many uses of CD discs when the SHTF, ie. Reflecting sunlight into driver’s eyes.)

    Honorable mention for an item of versatility would be the neck gaitor or balaclava as a neckerchief, facemask, cap, headband and more. You never know when there will be an anti- (fill-in) riot in town.

    • 1.) Sand in a bandanna WILL leave bruises.
      2.) Wearing ANY colors in a gang neighborhood is NOT “going gray”.
      3.) Denying someone their rightful change is outright thievery.

      I’m jus’ sayin’…

      • …ahh, Charlie, ‘it must be a real drag waking up and being you.’*

        (*Ain’t your website, and ain’t no law against having a sh**y sense of humor, yet.)

        Anyway, thought there was an agreement not to reply to each others posts, as ‘Mom’ suggested.

        Good luck, thinking in your little box during SHTF.

          • psst, coming from someone who can’t handle the truth*, I’ll take that with a grain of salt.

            The following quote is a very good situational awareness observation from ‘How to Survive a Knife Attack (And 4 Myths That Could Get You Killed)’ by Graywolf, Organic Prepper, December 2, 2019)

            * “I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a good idea to have a gun as an option but it’s not the only solution. What if you’re in a crowd of children and he stabs you? Are you really going to risk killing them because you’ve left yourself no other option?”

            Remember, AK-Charli?

            Now, howzabout you pause talking to the ball, … and, we both do what Mama told us to not reply to each other’s comments.

            Yes or No?

            Response required.

  • General observation.

    Someone who made it through WWII told me that as the war went on certin groups of people went by the wayside.

    The first were the Fifth Column, the ‘Gate Keepers’ who helped the enemy in by informing on their neighblors. They were shot by the occupying army since as the soldiers explained to them, “If your own people couldn’t trust you, why should we?”.

    The next group were the ‘intelligentsia’ who couldn’t adapt to the events occuring around them.

    Some of the people who survived the war had the trait of believing in something. It could have been anything as long they had something to believe in.

    Then, there were people who snapped and started talking to soccer balls.

  • Keeps my nose warm when sleeping in the cold-I can still breathe and my small nose stays toasty warm in or out of the covers!

  • Two bandannas can be tied together to make a bra top for us women (maybe for some of you guys, too. Not judging.)

    A larger size stuffed with dry miss or other absorbent materials as an improvised diaper.

    Corners tied together and used for gathering berries, etc.
    Can also be used to fill a bucket if you’re patient and understand that it will drip so you have to work quickly.

    As a collander for washing greens, etc.

    Improvised coffee filter.

  • I used a bandana to tie my broken arm to a splint.
    A very handy item. I almost always have one hand. Might be in the vehicles or a pocket.

  • Why have cotton when you can have silk? I regularly wear a rolled up ladies Silk headscarf round my neck with the ends tucked into my shirt. As it is 30″ by 30″ it is bigger than any cotton bandannas I have seen.Buy cheaply from a Charity Shop.

  • I have to say that the shemagh with its bigger size is highly useful, and takes up just slightly more room. I have used it as a towel, as a “tablecloth” for a picnic lunch, a “basket” for foraging, and other mundane uses.
    The bandana, or shemagh is one of those multipurpose items that when included in your EDC kit, or your BOB, justifies it’s weight.

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