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How to Use a Bandana to Save the Day

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: August 24, 2021
How to Use a Bandana to Save the Day

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Who would have thought that something as ubiquitous as the common bandana would have so many uses?  I know that I have used these colorful squares of cloth for many purposes over the years, not the least of which was keeping my hair in place and wiping the sweat off my brow in hot weather.

If you have not put a lot of thought into the usefulness of a bandana, think again.  As far as I am concerned, you should have one available as part of your every day carry kit and more than a few in your bug out bag and your stash of survival supplies.


So what are my favorite uses?  Let me start with these.

My Top Six Favorite Uses for a Bandana

1.  Head scarf.  Whether it is a bad hair day or a good hair day, a bandana will protect your scalp and your hair from the sun and look fashionable at the same time.  This applies to men as well as women – just ask any biker.

2. Handkerchief.  A bandana makes a colorful and useful handkerchief that can be reused over and over again – after being washed, of course.

3.  Dust mask.  Tie a bandana over your face bandito-style to keep sand, dust and dirt out of your mouth and nose.

4.  Emergency TP.  You are out in the woods on a hike and have to go do your business.  Believe me, a bandana works a lot better that a clump of leaves.

5.  Signaling Device.  If you are in trouble and want to get someone’s attention, wave your bandana.  Red is the preferred color but any color will do.

6.  Dress you Dog.  Okay, I admit that this one is frivolous but Tucker the Dog looks so darn cute in his red bandana and besides, with him carrying the bandana, it is always available for my use, too.

Tucker Apr 2012

37  Uses of a Bandana In A Crisis

Clearly, I do not have an exclusive on bandanas.  Earlier this year, my friend Joe Marshall posted an article with 37 uses for a bandana in a crisis.  Here are his thoughts on the matter.

A bandana sits right at the top of my list of often overlooked survival gear. It is another one of those items that has hundreds of improvised uses but only if you have the right mindset for it..

Bandana’s weigh a fraction of an ounce, they are dirt cheap, and are also a must have in your survival gear.

I’ve come up with my own ideas (and pulled some from a few different sources online) that showcase just how useful this piece of cotton can be.

Here is just a short list of possible uses for a bandana:

1. Signal (Brightly colored works best)
2. Neck Gaiter for cold weather
3. Tourniquet
4. Pot Holder
5. Collecting Wild Edibles
6. Sun protection for your neck
7. Sling (First-aid)
8. Sling (Weapon)
9. Friend/foe identification ( Gangs use them all the time to identify each other)
10. Cordage (cut into strips or used as is)
11. Washcloth/Towel
12. Sweatband
13. Waist pack/pouch
14. Hobo Pack
15. Padding a hotspot to keep from blistering
16. Cleaning Patches for Firearm
17. Gun Wipe Cloth (with oil)
18. Protection from foul odors ( add a few drops of essential oil)
19. Toilet Paper
20. Trail Marker
21. Dish Rag
22. Napkin
23. Eye patch
24. Water Filter (takes out large contaminants)
25. Clean Glasses and other lens
26. Ear Muffs
27. Bind a stone and toss a line over a limb
28. Dust Mask or smoke mask depending on the situation
29. Wet and wear in hot weather to keep you cool
30. Sneezing
31. Pot Holder
32. Improvised Bandage
33. Noise Reducer (wrap your gear to keep it from rattling in your pack)
34. Improvised Eye Patch
35. Cloth Diaper for a child
36. As a net to catch minnows and other bait
37. Camp markers (tear into four pieces and mark trees surrounding your camp site)

It is always a good idea to carry a bandana with you, they take up no weight and have a lot of uses (provided you are creative enough to figure them out).

About ‘Above Average’ Joe:  I am just an average guy with a passion for learning. I am excited to share the things I learn with you but I am most interested in learning from you. Thank you, Gaye, for inviting me to share the Survival Life with your readers!

The Final Word

Bandanas are fun, useful and dirt cheap.  Heck for ten dollars you can usually purchase a dozen or so and be set for a long long time.  In my own case, the bandana brings out the inner cowgirl in me and well, is just plain fun.  Couple that with its many uses for survival and ordinary daily life and you have a winner in my book.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Pinterest.

In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin: There are many basic supplies in a survival kit that are inexpensive. Below you will find a list of some of these items. Most are less than $20 and many are less than $10. Take a look – do you have these items set aside for an emergency?

12 Color Pack Bandana – Assorted Colors:  This is the #1 seller in the bandana category.  Heck, I think that beats Wal-Mart and flea market pricing.  I just ordered some!  Update:  I love these bandanas.  They were definitely worth the price.

SE Whistle  5-in-1, Compass, Lanyard, & Compass:  The description says it all.  Also, check your prices.  Sometimes this one is less money:  SE 5 in 1 Survival Whistle.

Rothco Type III Commercial Paracord: You can get 100 feet of Paracord for very affordably. This is a real bargain but be aware that price can vary substantially depending on the color.  Also, I wrote a very popular article – 44 Really Cool Uses of Paracord for Survival – be sure to check it out.

Cyalume SnapLight Chemical Light Sticks: Read all about light sticks at Lighting Your Way With Chemical Lighting.

Blocklite Ultra Bright 9V LED Flashlight: One of my readers (James) claims that these work great. So I bought one and it works great!  There is a similar flashlight called the Pak-Lite (which is more expensive) but it does not have a high-low switch like this one.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. Be sure to test one out in advance so that you have the confidence to trust the blanket in an emergency.

Emergency Shelter Tent: The Emergency Tent is a lightweight and compact emergency shelter. It is wind and waterproof and easy to set up and is roomy enough for two people.

Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets make questionable water bacteriologically suitable to drink. Easy to use and the water is ready to drink in 30 minutes. One 50 tablet bottle treats 25 quarts of water.



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10 Responses to “How to Use a Bandana to Save the Day”

  1. An alternate to the bandana and the shemagh is the Hobo Hanky. It’s big like the shemagh but is modeled on the traditional kerchiefs carried by cowboys and hobos, hence the name. Plus, it makes a great hobo bindle.

  2. Great reminder! With recent health changes for my Mom and my Sweetie I plan to reorganize car bags and go bags in 2014 to fit new circumstances. Sometimes we forget life changes the definition of “prepared” and it is always an ongoing project. Going with the flow…Mary

  3. Check out the Ultimate Bandana, plans very kindly provided by the Alpha Rubicon website. Pretty nifty little project anyone with even basic sewing skills can do.


  4. All great ideas;
    I don’t know how much cloth diapers are now, but they used to be inexpensive, when my girls were having babies. They used disposable diapers but I got them all a good supply for burp pads, etc. They may be more expensive then bandanas…but it’s another option maybe? There are the thin diaper and the padded, thicker ones. How about walmart shop towels?


  5. Bandanas are great. In addition a regular towel torn in half the long way was a staple of mine as I trudged around deserts and jungles. I wear it around my usually red neck and stuffed the ends inside my shirt. It takes up so much more sweat, is readily available yet out of the way as I work/walk along. It does most of the things on your list too—often better. More versatile than a wash cloth for washing/bathing out of a brain bucket.

  6. I always have bandannas , they are handy , I also picked up the German army triangular flectarn bandanna , this thing is big , I use it as a headwrap .

  7. There are just a few things in my life that I am sure of, and one being, to be seen a fur piece away, as in ‘Signaling Device’, white is by far the best color. The reverse of this is that if you don’t want to be seen, do NOT wear white.
    Another use of a bandana is to wipe your nose…
    As all truckers and airplane pilots say, keep the greasy side down”.

    • John, that doesn’t work when there’s snow on the ground! I’m not sure there is a “best” signaling color for all conditions, but since there’s snow on the ground for a significant period of the year where I live I would consider white one of the better camo colors rather than a good signaling color. Blaze orange is a good signaling color for most conditions for most of the year, but it doesn’t stand out that well during foliage season. I have a selection of bandana’s in a variety of colors (they are pretty cheap!) so if I was concerned about signaling (rather than fashion) I’d pick out the one that stood out the best in current conditions. Turquoise stands out surprisingly good in a variety of conditions and is also fairly fashionable, it’s one of my favorites for everyday carry. I’ve carried a bandana for years, you never know when it might come in handy!

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