23 Surprising Ways A Survival Bandana Can Save Your Life

By Will Brendza | Updated: 02/25/2024

Survival BandanaToday I’ve got something really exciting to share…

A Complete Guide To Using A Survival Bandana In A Pinch

Because a bandana isn’t just a square of cloth for nose-blowing, right?

A bandana can be a tool, just like anything..

IF you’re creative enough…

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Note: Watch the video below OR continue past to read the article…

↓ Survival Bandana: 40 Uses

23 Survival Uses For Your Bandana

1. Signaling For Rescue

Sure, that camouflage pattern bandana looks badass and blends in perfectly from a distance.

But let’s be honest, a bandana isn’t going to make you invisible, but it can do exactly the opposite.

Let’s say you’re out hunting and break your legs while decked out in full camo…

Wouldn’t it be more helpful to reach into your pack and grab a couple of bright neon bandanas and make a flag or hang them around you?

Like with signal mirrors, search and rescue teams across the country recommend using a bright bandana to signal to search aviation crews.

Why? Because they stick out from natural colors.

More than that, if you need to signal to someone else without speaking, brightly colored bandanas can communicate over distances.

↓ 101 Uses of a Bandana – Survival, Medical, Tactical, Humor

2. Establishing Trail Markers

Sick of getting lost when you go bushwhacking in the wilderness?

Lots of hunters, hikers, and other explorers use neon plastic tape to tie to tree branches and mark their way home.

Like Hansel and Gretel, only no one will come around eating the plastic stuck in trees, so you won’t get lost.

Likewise, brightly colored survival bandanas can be torn into ribbons and tied to trees to mark progress.

This will help keep your bearings straight.

Don’t be afraid to tear that bandana into several trail marker ribbons.

It’s a large part of its usefulness, and they are easy to replace.

If your bandana is sentimental, leave it at home and instead invest in a cheap new one to add to your survival gear.

3. Dirty Dish Rag

I love to cook when camping.

I have a nice setup of camp cookware that I take with me everywhere.

But sometimes washing dirty dishes can be a serious pain when I’m out and away from sinks and sponges.

In a pinch, bandanas can be soaped up and used as dish rags to get in there and clean up.

4. Napkin | Handkerchief

I don’t know that this one needs a lot of explanation.

If you sneeze or have allergies, wipe that nose with your bandana and clean yourself up.

If you don’t have proper paper napkins or paper towels lying around, use your bandana.

Either way, make sure you rinse it out when you’re done.

5. Neck Gaiter For Cold Weather

Winter is, without a doubt, my favorite season.

Why? Because it’s ski season, snowshoe season, igloo season, and the season of big warm jackets and crisp silent nights.

But everyone’s face gets cold in that weather.

And even a very thin layer of cloth can make a BIG difference.

So if you’ve got a survival bandana handy and the cold weather is biting at your face, cover up like a bandit and use it as a neck gaiter.

You’ll be surprised at how efficiently this keeps the cold at bay.

6. Makeshift Tourniquet

No one expects to amputate a limb when you leave the house in the morning.

But you can never be entirely sure.

Should the need arise, bandanas can cinch tightly in a pinch.

They’ll do an OK job…

Not as good as an actual rapid application tourniquet.

7. Cordage

As mentioned, don’t be afraid to tear up your bandana to increase its usefulness.

Often, they’re more useful in pieces than wholly intact.

If you need to bind a broken bone to a splint, bind tent poles together, bind something to your pack, a person’s hands, an animal, whatever!

Bandanas can do the job.

The fabric makes for decently strong cordage.

I’d rather have some paracord, but a bandana works if push comes to shove.

8. Washcloth Or Tiny Towel

If I forget something when I pack my backpack, it’s a washcloth and a towel.

I will ALWAYS remember everything else, but never that.

The problem got so bad that I have just resorted to using bandanas.

They are smaller, easier to pack, and much easier to remember to bring (for me, at least).

So you can’t wrap it around your waist to cover yourself after bathing.

But who doesn’t love a little nudity in the wilderness?

You may be naked, but at least you’ll be dry.

Survival Gear Checklist eBook Cover -with fire piston on a rock and campfire in the background

Want a free 54 item survival gear checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

9. Waist Pack | Pouch

You can fashion a small waist pack if you tie the knots correctly.

Like a homemade fanny pack to keep your favorite goodies close.

I’d rather have a tactical molle pouch for survival, but I assume you must improvise.

This works in the wilderness for recreation or survival.

It could even be handy at the next music festival you go to sneak goodies inside (but you didn’t get that idea from me).

10. Pot Holder

Hot stuff burns hands.

That’s science.

So protect your grabbers with a bandana next time you reach for that hot pot in the fire.

I can’t promise it will mitigate ALL the heat, but it’ll help.

11. Pouch For Collecting Wild Edibles 

Now, don’t go out picking berries, mushrooms, and roots without a basic understanding of what you are picking.

Eating whatever you encounter in the wilderness can be extremely dangerous.

But it can also be highly useful if you have the right wild edible knowledge base.

Get the book “From Dirt To Plate” on foraging if interested.

Once you know what you are doing, bandanas can be used as containers to collect such edibles.

And transport them back to your home base or bug-out location.

12. Sunblock

I often tucked one end of my bandana under my hat when traveling.

This served two purposes:

  1. To keep the sun from burning the crap out of my pasty white skin.
  2. Keep sweat contained and prevent it from evaporating from my pasty white skin.

When you’re in intense heat like that, the last thing you want to do is remove your clothes…

You don’t want to let your sweat disappear into the scorching air.

It is better to use cotton garments to keep as much moisture as close to the skin as possible.

So leave your sweaty shirt on and use that bandana to save your sweat!

13. Makeshift Sling

Slings keep injured body parts close to the body and elevated to minimize swelling.

Anyone who has ever needed to use one knows they help SO MUCH when you’ve got an injured arm/shoulder.

Doctors and first responders always carry triangle bandages in their medical kits.

This allows them to create slings on the fly.

But homemade med kits might not have any of those.

Bandanas can be substituted to hold injured limbs aloft – although they are slightly smaller than regular triangle bandages.

14. Sling (X2)

Yeah, you read that right; I put “slings” on here twice.

That’s not a typo!

Why? Because you can make two different slings out of the same single survival bandana.

The first was discussed above; the second was the kind that David used to defeat Goliath.

You know, the kind our ancestors from long ago used to hunt animals and fire projectiles at their enemies.

Look up a simple DIY on how to make a sling, and you’ll be able to see how you can use a bandana to achieve a similar effect.

This can be useful for hunting small animals if you have no other food source.

Or defending yourself when you have no other means.

15. Eyepatch

Losing an eye would suck.

My condolences to anyone out there who’s suffered such a serious inconvenience.

But stuff happens, and if you lose an eye in a survival situation, you probably can’t get to a hospital to bandage yourself up.

It could get infected easily without covering the exposed wound from the elements.

And you want to keep unwanted guests (like ants or spiders) from laying eggs in your eye socket…

16. Pre-water Filter

Do you know how coffee filters work?

Well, bandanas can achieve a similar function to water.

You can significantly reduce debris and unwanted waterborne guests by using a piece of mildly tight-knit fabric (like the cotton of a bandana).

This won’t replace your pump-action water filter or iodine tablets.

But if it is the only method you have available for filtering water, definitely use it.

While it won’t protect you from every waterborne nasty, it will protect you from some.

↓ LifeStraw Review & Field Test (Plus a Prefilter Tip)

17. Hobo Pack

This one’s a Great Depression Era classic.

Find yourself a stick, tie the corners of your bandana together on one end, and voila!

You have yourself a handy little shoulder pack.

Granted, it isn’t great for holding tons of stuff.

But it can take the weight out of your pockets, at the very least…

18. Cleaning Patches For Firearms

Every gun owner knows that keeping a survival firearm clean is imperative if you want to rely on and trust in your firearm.

But you never know when and where you might have to use your gun.

You may need some makeshift cleaning patches to polish up your weapon.

Bandanas can work as a basic substitute for a gun cleaning kit.

Just tear it up into small pieces and gently dab some gun-cleaning oil on them, then get to it!

19. Bullet Patches For Muzzleloader

If, for whatever reason, you’re stranded, and you have a muzzleloader with you, bandanas can also serve as decent bullet patches.

This will help you keep your bullets and gunpowder separate.

20. Toilet Paper

Need I say more?

21. Earmuffs

They won’t be the warmest earmuffs on the market.

But if your ears are exceptionally chilly, wrap your bandana around your head and cinch it tightly.

It’s no replacement for a wool cap or fleece muffs, but it is certainly better than nothing.

A survival bandana may be just enough to save your ears from frostbite.

22. Bind A Stone and Toss A Line Over A Limb

Let’s say you need to throw a line over a tree branch or steel beam.

Tying a cord or line to a stone can be a difficult endeavor.

But if you wrap the stone up in your bandana and tie the line to that, you have a much more efficient tool and a lower chance of failure.

23. Dust Mask

I always think of that scene from “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”…

When Thompson’s out in the desert following dirt bikes around in a buggy, dust so thick in the air that visibility is negligible.

↓ Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas – Desert Race Scene

Breathing in heavy amounts of dust or soot, or smoke can be unimaginably stressful on human lungs.

Especially if you have to inhale that crap for an extended period.

Of course, a gas mask or respirator is almost always the best option in such a circumstance.

But those are rarely available.

Tying a bandana around your face can help filter out a significant amount of air pollution.

And will save your lungs.

Even that thin layer of cotton can go a long way when breathing in dusty air.

Survival Gear Checklist eBook Cover -with fire piston on a rock and campfire in the background

Want a free 54 item survival gear checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Final Thoughts

These aren’t all of the potential uses for a survival bandana

But they are a few of my favorite creative uses.

You can surely think of a few more, and in an emergency, under pressure, who knows what kind of crazy ends you’ll use your bandanas to achieve.

If I hadn’t taken a bandana while traveling, I could have gotten an infection, severe skin damage, or worse – baby flies popping out of my skin.

But because I was prepared, and I understood the versatility of the survival bandana, I was able to save myself from those horrors.

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