Often overlooked as a fashion accessory, the humble bandana can be used for a truly massive variety of uses. I have read articles that listed up to 130 different uses, but...I’m not going to list that many. Consider this a curated list. I’ll try and keep it to a reasonable amount.
1 – A Mask
Whether its to hide your face or to protect it from harsh cold and wind, a bandana easily carries out this function. Soak it in water to help protect from smoke. Cut thin slits and wrap around your eyes to protect from snow-blindness. You could also rob old-timey stagecoaches if you wanted, I mean I don’t condone it, but you could.
2 – Cooling Assistance
Soak in water to cool your head or drape at the back of your neck to shield from the sun. Even fanning yourself with one can help cool down a little. Even when sitting to rest, draping it over your head is enough to grant a small amount of shade to cool down a little.
3 – Filter
A bandana could be used as a first step filter before boiling water, its not going to get everything out but at least it will get the dirt and twigs. Alternately you could use it to strain out tea leaves or pine needles or coffee ground, depending on your choice of warm drink.
4 – Food Collection
Net for minnows, crayfish and other small river creatures. Gather berries, apples, pears, really whatever edible fruit (that you have safely identified right?) you find. You could also use a bandana to create a snare to catch small animals.
5 – Food Storage
Maybe after your warm drink you are full and the other half of your sandwich is better without the local insect population on it, so wrap it up. Also polish an apple, strain and wash berries in a stream, even just gathering your forage in the first place. Soak slightly with water to keep pancakes and French toast moist for reheating.
6 – Emergency Cordage
Backpack lost a strap? Use a bandana. Tie a couple together for a belt. Shoelaces if you are out of paracord. Tie into a pouch or make a trendy little hobo sack on a stick. There are a great many uses in this category, definitely look this one up.
7 – Fire
Aside from obviously cutting your bandana into pieces, which is likely the last use of your bandana, there are other really neat ways to use bandanas for fire making. You can soak it in oil or Vaseline to use as a torch, candle or fire starter. Protecting your hand if you are using a bow drill. You could make char cloth with it (check link below) or even make a button lamp (another link below).
8 – Navigation
You can easily determine wind direction with a bandana. But you could also tear pieces to mark a trail or use as a signal device to others in your group or rescuers if you are in danger. If you are lost, just as a note here, remember the key to survival is STOP:
S – Sit (stay where you are and calm down)
T – Think (make a list of what you have)
O – Observe (weather, time, surroundings, dangers, etc.)
P – Plan (use all the info above to make a plan)
9 – Weapon
With practice you could use it as a sling to throw rocks at threats or for hunting. It takes A LOT of practice though...A LOT.
10 – First Aid
This category deserves a list of its own:
Wrap around a splint to secure it
Wrap a sprained ankle or wrist
Use as an ice or snowpack if you have ice or snow
Clean Bandage for wounds
Wrap for head wounds
Apply pressure to wounds
Use as a tourniquet. Note: this typically requires special training, or an actual tourniquet
Hopefully this list was helpful in some way, it was certainly interesting to research. And remember, taking a Wilderness First Aid course can help grant some experience in all of these skills. Only repeated use and proper training will ever let you master them, but they could save your life out there, so be prepared.
As always, here are some link to see where I got my info from and so you can learn a little more about all the things I’ve talked about.