We’ve discussed several highly important items which are important components of survival kits. Now let’s look at something which might at first glance seem to not be of much interest. That is, the classic bandana. Right, that square of cloth which has been around forever.
What? A bandana? How can that compare with a knife or compass or lighter? What use would that be in a survival situation?
Let us see. Sweating or covered in muck? Wipe it off. Fold it into a sweatband or ‘do rag’. Sunburn a risk? Cover the side of your head and back of the neck, and tie it under your chin. This might be of some use in the cold or wind as well. Dust or other particulate annoyance in the air? Tie it around your nose and mouth. Again, this might be of some use in cold or wind.
Impressed yet? Perhaps not. Consider, if you find water with ‘stuff’ in it, you can filter it through a folded bandana. This by no means makes it drinkable, but it does make your actual purification methodology more effective without having to deal with particulates. Or if there is dew, you can mop it up with the bandana and squeeze it out into a container. In the heat, you can wet it and swirl it in the air to cool it by evaporation then use it to cool portions of your body. If it is mostly a bright color (red, yellow, orange, hot pink), it can be used as a flag or contrast panel for signalling. If you need smaller pieces of cloth for any reason (perhaps even as toilet paper), you can cut it into strips or other shapes. Or use it as a ‘bag’ to carry a number of small objects. Cooking in the wild? Fold it to serve as a pot holder.
In case of injury, a bandana can be invaluable. Use it as a pad to apply pressure to a severely bleeding wound, as a sling or to tie splints to a broken limb, or as a supportive wrap for a sprained wrist/knee/ankle. In a severe case, you can fold it into a strip and make a tourniquet. This is not to say that a bandana is the best choice in any particular situation, but it is far superior to a better choice which you don’t have with you at the time. Its best feature is its versatility.
Bandanas come in several fabrics, most common cotton, polyester and cotton/poly blends. I prefer cotton. You may find some in silk. Silk is a fine fabric, but it’s too pricy for me to try, so I can’t comment on its suitability for survival. There is also a wide variety of sizes. I would say that the smallest to consider is ‘regular’ at 22″ by 22″. But a bigger one would have more versatility. A better size is ‘trainman’ or XL at 27″ by 27″. The biggest is XXL or ‘giant’ which at 35″ by 35″ might have the most uses, but may not fit in smaller kits, not to mention being fairly expensive and hard to find. Usually there are some on eBay.
Or see http://www.bandanas.net for a wide selection, low prices and reasonable shipping costs.
If I have room, I like to have at least one of each of these sizes; if not, I try to have at least the 27″ size.
A compromise between size opened and packed size is a ‘half bandana’ which is a ‘triangular bandage’ shape. I like the ‘Head for Survival Cravat’, which is 39″ on the two short edges, but has a very useful length (52″) on the diagonal. But since it is only ‘half’ of a bandana, it packs reasonably small. Not only is it good for most every bandana use, but it is printed with useful survival instructions. A cheap alternative might be an actual triangular bandage in muslin.