For a lot of people, preparing for disaster means stockpiling lots of supplies and gear. While this is undoubtedly important, true survivalists know that you can’t always rely on stockpiles to keep you alive. Gear gets stolen, supplies get destroyed by the elements, or some other unknown factors comes into play.
Thus, the best way to survive is to make use of what you have.
I’ve talked about this before in posts about
Those of us who are able to think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions will be able to adapt to the circumstances and survive.
If SHTF, there is likely going to be a lot of random clothes strewn all over the places. There are lots of survival uses for clothes.
Don’t just look at these specific uses though. Let these examples show you just how much you can do with everyday objects and get your survival creativity going.
1. Tie a Splint
If a bone gets broken, the first thing you need to do is immobilize it. The same goes for any limb which was bitten by a snake. Grab a sturdy stick and use shreds of clothing to tie the splint in place.
2. Bra Dust Mask
A dust mask is one of the most important yet most-forgotten Bug Out Bag items.
Just look at how many people are still dying from respiratory illnesses long after 9/11 and you’ll understand why!
Hopefully you’ve packed a face mask in your emergency supplies. If you do find yourself in chaos without one, then a bra will provide some protection. The great thing is that almost all women wear bras, and the bra has one mask for them plus an extra for a male friend.
3. Make Leaf Curd
Did you know that you can actually eat a lot of leaves? The trick is to break them down first and extract the proteins.
In a wilderness survival situation, that would involve using a big rock to bang on the leaves. Then you’d mix them with water and filter them through a fine mesh cloth. A t-shirt or a sock will suffice!
You can learn how to make leaf curd here.
4. Sock Gaiters
The first time I went orienteering (which is one of the best fun ways to learn survival skills), I was surprised how many people were wearing gaiters.
For those who don’t know, gaiters look like soccer shin guards – just not as heavy.
After running through the woods, I found out why they were all wearing gaiters. I had to spend 2 hours pulling thorns out of my legs! I’m just lucky that I didn’t go through any patches of poison ivy or nettles.
You can easily make your own gaiters using old socks.
Just gut the toes off the socks so you can pull them over your entire shins. Then fold some newspaper or cardboard into the socks to protect your shins from cuts.
5. Pre-Filter Water
One of the most important survival skills to know is how to purify water. The last thing you want is to die from diarrhea-related dehydration because you got Giardia or some other terrible parasite or bacteria.
The good news is that you can easily purify water by boiling it for 1 minute*. The bad news is that boiling won’t remove any of the dirt, algae, or other gunk which is often in backcountry water.
The solution? Just pour the water through your shirt or bandana to pre-filter it.
*Boiling won’t purify all threats in water. Read this guide on which water treatment method to choose.
Your clothes are great for first aid situations when you need to tie a tourniquet. Just be warned that there are actually very few situations when you should tie a tourniquet.
Snake bites? NO.
Venous bleeding. Also NO.
Arterial bleeding which can’t be controlled by direct pressure? YES.
Amputated limbs? YES.
There is a lot of controversy about using tourniquets for severe bleeding because prolonged use can lead to nerve damage, blood clots, and tissue death.
If you aren’t sure about how or when to use a tourniquet, read this guide to Improvising a Tourniquet.
7. Sharpen a Knife with a Leather Belt
A knife is the ultimate survival tool, but a dull knife isn’t almost useless and could actually be dangerous to use.
In a survival situation, you can sharpen a knife with alternative methods – such as a piece of glass or rock. Don’t expect to get a smooth, razor-sharp edge with those methods though! That is where your leather belt comes in.
Leather belts can be used for stropping, a process which removes the microscopic burs on the edge of a knife or blade.
Learn more survival uses for a belt here.
Every good survival kit should contain cordage. You might even want to carry some extra cordage on you with your Everyday Carry – such as by making paracord projects like keychains and bracelets.
If you do find yourself without any cordage though, tearing your clothes into strips should work for basic needs like lashings for a short-term shelter.
It sure beats making cordage out of plant fibers anyway!
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9. Self Defense
Ever watch a prison drama movie? Then you’ve surely seen one of those soap beating scenes.
It might not beat a firearm or a knife, but a hard object swung in a sock is a lot better for self-defense than nothing.
10. Filter Coffee
Just because the End of the World has come, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy coffee. Actually, you’ll probably enjoy the small luxury even more.
But how are you going to make coffee?
One solution is to put your coffee grounds into a (clean) sock or piece of clothing and pour boiling water through it.
When it comes to first aid, I am more worried than the average prepper (at least the ones in my circle). My home first aid kit is well-stocked and I’ve got a miniaturized first aid kit for my Bug Out Bag too.
Of course these kits contain clean, sterile bandages.
Other than for stopping bleeding, you should never use your clothes to dress an open wound. They are dirty and will result in infection!
However, if you don’t have sterile dressings, you can boil strips of clothing and use them as bandages.
Remember to change the dressings regularly, boiling them each time.
12. Make Medicinal Oils
I highly recommend that you get a medicinal plant book for your area and start reading. Knowing which plants are healing could go a long way towards your survival!
You should also consider planting a medicinal survival garden.
Once you have medicinal plants though, you have to extract the compounds from them. That usually involves soaking them in an oil or alcohol and then squeezing them through a fine mesh cloth.
That’s where your clothes come in – just use the clothing to strain your medicinal oils.
Mother Earth Living has a good guide on how to make medicinal oils here.
What other survival uses for clothes can you think of?