Every time you go to the grocery store, you’re offered free supplies for your survival stockpile. I’m talking about plastic grocery bags–the ones that are constantly under scrutiny by environmental groups who loathe the fact that they take forever to degrade. Believe it or not, those bags could potentially save your life, or at least help you out in a survival scenario.
Plastic grocery bags aren’t environmentally friendly because they don’t break down, which means they end up sitting in the landfills forever. But since they’re going to be around for so long, we may as well figure out how to use them for something good–like survival.
Next time you go to the grocery store, don’t feel guilty if you forgot your trendy reusable bags. Get the plastic bags, ignore the evil glares, and remember that you are padding your stockpile. They are super light and can be smashed down so they take up very little space.
Here are 21 survival uses for plastic bags:
1. Make Ropes – Tie the bags together to create a strong rope that can be used to pull gear, hold gear down, or hang your clothes to dry. You can braid several bags to make a thicker rope.
2. Insulation – Use the bags for insulation in a room or tent. Stuff the bags with wadded up newspaper or leaves and line the walls. Use some duct tape to secure the stuffed bags to the walls.
3. Keep Your Feet Dry – Bags over your shoes will help keep your feet dry when you’re outside in the rain or snow. Use a little duct tape to hold the bags around your ankles.
4. Make a Sling – If someone breaks an arm and nothing else is available, plastic bags can be tied together to create a crude sling until the person can get proper medical attention.
5. Mark a Trail – If you want to go exploring around your camp and avoid getting lost, or if you want to mark a trail so a friend or family member can follow you, use trash bags. Just tie them to trees, and make sure each one is within sight of the last one.
6. Keep Your Gear Dry – Put your gear inside a bag or two to keep it dry if you are walking in the rain or have to cross a river.
7. Carry Water – Use the bags to carry water from a lake or stream. You will want to double or triple the layers to make sure you get a good seal and make it a strong enough to survive the trip back to your camp.
8. Makeshift Gloves – If you don’t have gloves, you can put your hand inside a bag and use it as a barrier between your skin and whatever icky thing you are touching or picking up.
9. Hold Trash – Plastic grocery bags make great mini trash bags. This will help keep your camp neat and tidy. If you want to conceal your presence, keeping your trash picked up will be very important.
10. Hold Waste – If you don’t have access to a toilet and can’t dig a hole, the bags will work in a pinch. Double bag it to make sure there is no leakage. You could also use the bags for waste from an animal or fish you just cleaned.
11. Make a Pillow – A bag stuffed with leaves or more bags will work as a makeshift pillow. For a larger pillow, tie several stuffed bags together with tape.
12. Make a Sleeping Mat – Create a soft sleeping mat with several plastic bags that have been stuffed with leaves, pine needles, newspaper, or other bags. Put the stuffed bags on the ground to create a barrier between you and the cold ground.
13. Collect Food & Supplies – If you don’t have anything else to use, take a bag with you when you go to forage. You’ll save trips, time, and energy.
14. Protect Your Plants – Use the bags to cover plants in your garden if you suspect a freeze. The bags will act as mini greenhouses. In a post-collapse world, protecting your young plants will be extremely important.
15. Ice Pack – If you or someone else has an injured or sore area and need an ice pack, just fill a plastic big with snow or ice and tie it closed.
16. Boil Water – If you need to boil water but all you have is a plastic bag, dig a hole in the ground, line it with the bag, and fill with water. Meanwhile, put some rocks into a fire. When they’re red hot, put them in the water and pretty soon it will start boiling.
17. Stop Drafts – Plug drafty windows by stuffing the cracks around the windows. You can also stuff them under doors to block the drafts. If you have no electricity and you need to preserve your heat, this will be a big help.
18. Catch Fish – You can use bits of plastic bags as lures, or you could poke a few holes in the bag (to allow some water through) and use it as a fish net.
19. Protect Your Food – Put your food in bags and tie it to tree branches. This will keep pests like ants and bugs from invading and hopefully keep bears and other predators from stealing it.
20. Build a Fence – Use plastic bags to tie fence panels together. The bags are remarkably strong and can keep fence panels or pallets together. You will need to replace the bags after a few months, as they do weaken after a lot of sun exposure.
21. As Barf Bags – Use the bags as emesis bags, more commonly known as barf bags. In a pandemic situation or even in a post-collapse world lacking in sanitation, viruses and illnesses are going to be rampant. Vomit and bodily fluids in general can quickly lead to an outbreak. The bags will help keep things relatively sanitary.
There are probably another 100 uses for these bags, and I plan on updating this article as I think of more ideas. I know it’s unlikely you’ll need plastic bags for most of the things listed above, but you never know. And considering the fact that they’re free, you may as well store them. You can fit hundreds in a single 5-gallon bucket.