Call it a simple fashion accessory or a life-saving piece of equipment, but the humble bandana is a priceless survival tool. This basic cotton square serves a multitude of purposes, whether you are living on a homestead, bugging out, or just being prepared.
In this article, we’ll give you the top 50 survival uses for bandanas and how to use them. We’ll also give you a couple of suggestions for helpful bandanas to add to your collection. Bandanas are thin, lightweight, easy to clean, and easy to carry, making them just right for a wide variety of uses.
Bandanas are typically made of at least a 20×20-inch square of lightweight cotton. You’ll often find them in red and black with a paisley design, although bandanas are available in just about any color or design you can imagine. This lightweight piece of cloth is versatile and essential to life on the homestead or for survival purposes.
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Medical Uses for Bandanas
A bandana can be a lifesaver in an emergency or at least make you feel a lot better! They can be used in a variety of emergencies.
- Bandage. A clean bandana can be used as a bandage for cuts, scrapes, and burns.
- Sling. You can tie a large bandana into a sling to stabilize an injured arm or shoulder. You can see a video on how to tie it here.
- Tourniquet. Severe injuries may require the use of a tourniquet. Of course, you’ll want to know when the right time is to use one, but you can see a video on how to use your bandana as a tourniquet, here.
- Poultice. Poultices can be made to soothe pain and irritation. You can wet down your fabric (with clean water, of course), add any herbs or medicine you deem necessary, and apply it to your wound.
- Ice Pack. You can pour some ice instead of a bandana and tie it up to make a little bag if you need an ice pack. Hold your ice bag on the wound for relief.
- To Protect a Blister. If you have blisters from hiking or walking, you can fold a bandana – or a piece of one- over the top of the blister to act as a cushion to ease the pain.
Hygiene Uses for Bandanas
- Tissue. If you don’t have access to tissues, your bandana can become a reusable one! Keep your kerchief handy for runny noses, but wash it in between uses.
- Washcloth. Whether you need a washcloth in your homestead shower or you are out hiking in the woods, fold up your bandana to a comfortable size and dip it in water to clean your face (and the rest of you!).
- Toilet Paper. If your bandana is on its last legs and you are in great need, you can use it in place of toilet paper. Don’t flush it, and don’t reuse it!
- Feminine Care. It may be hard to come by feminine care products in an emergency. However, you can fold a bandana to the appropriate size and use it to absorb blood. You could reuse it if you wash it properly.
- Diaper. If you’ve run out of diapers, you can use your bandana as a cloth diaper. Just fold it into a triangle and lay your baby with the longest part at her waist, with the point down between her legs. Fold the end up and the sides in. Pin with safety pins.
- Towel. Towel off with a clean bandana after a shower, a cool dip in the lake, or when you’ve been working hard and sweating.
Hunting, Camping, or Hiking Uses for Bandanas
Because bananas are small and lightweight, they are easy to take with you when camping, hiking, hunting, or even bugging out. You can wear one, strap one to your pack, or stuff them in your pockets for easy access.
- Bug Swatter. Bugs might drive you nuts when you’re outside, but you can swat them away with your humble bandana.
- Sun Protection. Cover the back of your neck, arms, or head to protect your skin from sunburn.
- To Keep Cool. Dip your bandana in cool water and tie it around your neck to help you stay cool when the weather is extra hot.
- Facial Protection. Tie your bandana around your face like a mask to protect yourself from cold, wind, smoke, and dust.
- Signal. A brightly colored bandana can be seen from quite a distance. Orange is an ideal color for signaling. Wave it in bursts of 3 for the most visibility, or hang it from a tree or bush.
- Hobo Bag. You can carry miscellaneous items if you tie them up in the bandana like a little bag. Just pull the corners together and knot them. You can slide a stick through the knots to create a handle if you like.
- Pre-filter for Water. You need to have a good filtration system for water to make it safe, but you can use your bandana to pre-filter to remove sediment. Use it like you would a coffee filter to strain out dirt and muck.
- Trail Marking. Rip your bandana into strips to mark your trail, so you don’t get lost. Tie the strips to trees and branches along your way where they are easy to spot.
- Fire Tinder. Most bandanas are made from cotton, which burns easily. If you are desperate for some tinder, rip or cut off a piece of your bandana and light it to get your fire started.
- Keep Your Neck Warm. If you are out and about and it is cold outside, you can wrap your bandana around your neck to keep it warm. Or wear it on your head under your hat for some extra insulation.
- Improvise a Strap if Your Pack Breaks. If the strap on your pack breaks, you can improvise a new one by tying it up with your bandana.
- Keep Bugs Out of Your Pants. Use your bandana as a gaitor by tying your pants tight to your ankles or tying them around the top of your boots to keep out dirt and bugs.
- Use as a Seat. Keep your pants clean by sitting on your bandana instead of on the ground.
- Tablecloth or Placemat. Keep your eating surface clean and sanitary by laying out your (clean) bandana like a tablecloth. Then, you can eat off the clean bandana, keeping your food sanitary.
- Fishnet. Forgot your fishnet? No worries, just tie your bandana to a stick in the shape of a net.
- Windsock. Tie two ends of your kerchief to a tree branch to see which way the wind is blowing. It’ll blow just like a flag or windsock if it’s lightweight.
- Food Cover. Keep your food safe from flies and bugs by laying your bandana over the top.
- For Visibility from Hunters. Wear a brightly colored orange bandana to help hunters be more aware of your presence. Hide it away in your pocket or bag if you don’t want to be noticed.
Fashion and Clothing Uses for Bandanas
There are plenty of fashion and clothing uses for your bandanas, too.
- Hairband or Headband. Keep unruly locks under control by tying your bandana around your head. Fold it or roll it into a long band to make it easy to tie.
- Hat. Create a makeshift hat from your bandana to protect your head from heat, wind, or rain. Fold it in half to make a triangle, then wrap it around your head and tie the loose ends in the back.
- Belt. If your belt breaks, you might be able to use your bandana to keep your pants up. Fold or roll it into a belt, wrap it around your waist and tie it if it’s long enough. If it is too short, you can loop it through just the front two belt loops and pull it tight enough to hold up your pants, then knot it.
- Clothing Patch. Have you ripped your pants? You can use your bandana to cover the hole. Sew it on or just tuck it inside to hide the hole.
- Apron. If you need a quick and easy apron, just tuck it into the waistband of your pants to protect your clothes.
- As a Shirt. You can make a cute top out of a bandana, too. Check out this video for a number of ways you can tie a bandana or two into a summer top.
Around the House and Homestead Uses for Bandanas
- Oven Mitt. Wrap your bandana around your hand or fold it up to use it as an oven mitt or hot pad to protect your hands from a hot pan.
- Napkin. Need to wipe your face and don’t have a napkin nearby? Use your bandana.
- Cleaning Rag. Use an old worn out bandana for cleaning around the house.
- Coffee Filter or Tea Strainer. If you don’t have a coffee filter, you can make a reusable one from a clean bandana. Cut it to size and use it to line your coffee pot.
- Sweatband. Tie one around your head, neck, or wrists to absorb sweat when you’re working hard in the sun.
- Knee Pad. Tie a bandana around each knee for extra cushion or protection from the ground when you are weeding or working in the yard.
- Strap. Use a bandana as a makeshift strap to tie things to your pack or anywhere you need a little extra support.
- Dog Collar. If your dog has lost its collar, you can tie a bandana into one. Just make sure it isn’t too tight.
- Bib. Tuck one into your baby’s onesie (or your own shirt!) to work as a makeshift bib.
Bandanas Can Be Used For Protection
Unfortunately, there may be times when you need to use your bandanas for protection in dangerous situations or to keep yourself safe from dangerous people.
- Gun Care. Small strips of the bandana can be used to clean your firearms.
- To Hide Your Identity. If you don’t want to be recognized, wear a bandana around your face and wear a pair of sunglasses, and a hat to hide your identity.
- Blindfold. Tie a bandana around someone’s eyes to use as a blindfold.
- Sling for Throwing Rocks. Take a small branch with a Y shape and tie your bandana into a sling. Load it with stones to fling as a makeshift slingshot.
- Handcuffs. You can tie a person’s wrists with a long bandana to make a form of handcuffs.
Specialized Bandanas for Survival
Bandanas are great by themselves, but you’ll be in even better shape if you can get a bandana printed with survival skills. Check out these interesting survival bandanas to help you get out of difficult situations.
Maps – These bandanas give topographical information on various national parks. However, you can find custom printed bandanas and have any map you’d like printed on them.
First Aid Bandanas – These bandanas are printed with directions on administering first aid in different types of medical emergencies.
Star Charts Bandanas -These bandanas are printed with star charts for navigating at night.
Knot Tying Bandanas – This type of bandana shows you how to tie all different kinds of knots that you might need on the homestead or when bugging out.
How to Make Your Own Bandana
If you’re handy, you can make your own bandanas in any size or shape to suit your needs. Check here for directions.
With so many different ways to use a simple bandana, you’ll probably want to stock on to have a few on hand. Keep them in the kitchen, your dresser drawer, your first aid kit, and your toolbox for easy access when you need one.
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Make sure the bandana you buy is made of cotton. The ones I saw at Walmart were polyester 🙁
This was such a good read. Thank you.