When it comes to first aid, there are two main types of bandages.
The first are roller bandages, which are typically used for holding a dressing in place.
The second is a triangular bandage. While triangle bandages are most often used for making slings, they are very versatile – as you can see by these many uses for a triangular bandage.
What is a Triangular Bandage?
A triangular bandage is made from a strong type of cloth which has been cut into a right-angle triangle. The triangle can be folded down into a “cravat.”
You know how Boy Scouts wear neckerchiefs?
This is because they can be used as a triangle bandage. The same goes for bandannas, though a triangle bandage is usually a lot larger than a standard bandanna.
The standard size of triangle bandages is 40x40x56 inches (102x102x142 cm). However, you can sometimes find them in other sizes too. When folded down, the triangle bandage is quite small – usually just around 5 inches.
When buying or making triangle bandages, it is mostly important that the bandage is a right-angle triangle. Otherwise, it won’t work as well for many first aid functions.
Making Your Own Triangular Bandage
Triangular bandages are very cheap, so it doesn’t always make sense to make your own. If you want to though, here’s how to do it.
- Choose your fabric: Any sturdy fabric can be used for a triangle bandage, such as an old bedsheet. However, it is generally best to choose a sturdy fabric which has a slight amount of stretch to it. The stretch is important for uses where you need a cravat instead of a triangle.
- Cut the fabric into a square of 40x40 inches
- Cut the square in half. You now have two triangle bandages measuring 40x40x56 inches.
- Sterilize the bandage: You can do this by boiling the bandages for several minutes, or by soaking them in disinfectant. Don’t skip this step – especially in case you need it for treating a bleeding wound.
- Iron and Fold: Ironing makes it easier to fold.
- Store in a Sterile Bag: Then put it in with your first aid supplies.
*In a pinch, you can use a t-shirt or any other fabric for a triangular bandage!
Medical Uses for a Triangular Bandage
1. Sling (Arm or Elevated)
This is the most common use for a triangular bandage. Note that there are different types of slings depending on the injury. The video below explains when to use an arm sling and when to use an elevated sling.
2. Head Injury
Typically, a roller bandage is used to treat head injuries. However, a triangular bandage is great for treating burns to the head as it can be left loose around the top of the head.
3. Sprained Ankle
I always have an Ace bandage in my first aid kit when going out into the wilderness.
In a pinch though, you can use a triangle bandage to treat a sprain. First, you’ll need to fold it into a cravat.
A standard triangular bandage isn’t long enough to be wrapped like an Ace bandage would, so use this wrapping technique instead.
Be warned that treating bleeding injuries does not require a tourniquet in most cases!
Tying a tourniquet when not necessary could cut off blood supply to the area completely, resulting in limb death and amputation. However, if you really can’t stop the bleeding and a tourniquet is necessary, a triangular bandage works great.
5. Bleeding Wounds
This is why you want to make sure your triangle bandage is sterile. It can be folded into a square shape and used to apply pressure over a wound (just like you’d use a trauma pad).
If you don’t know how to treat a serious bleeding wound, watch this video.
6. Splint for Broken Legs
When a leg is broken or fractured, you need to immobilize it to prevent further injury.
There are a few ways of tying a splint. One method is to tie two branches to each side of the injured leg.
Another method is to roll up a blanket and put it between the legs, then tie the legs together around the blanket.
However, for field injuries, the method shown below is probably best. You wrap the injured leg with a sleeping pad or blanket. Then you tie the splint. The padding immobilizes the leg without cutting off circulation.
7. Eye Injuries
With eye injuries, it is important that you bandage both eyes. The reason for this is to stop your eyes from moving: if one eye moves, the injured eye will move also.
The video below uses a roller bandage to hold a plastic cup over the eye. This is the ideal way to treat an eye injury. In a pinch, you could use a use a triangular bandage (folded as a cravat) over both eyes.
8. Fractured Jaw
If SHTF and a fight breaks out, you could find yourself treating a fractured jaw. A triangular bandage is ideal for immobilizing the jaw. Start under the chin and bring the bandage up over the head. The sides of the bandage will meet above one ear and then be tied around the forehead.
9. Shoulder Injuries
When using a triangular bandage for the shoulder, it is important that you keep it fairly loose. You don’t want to cut off circulation under the armpit.
A good trick is to put some padding (like a folded t-shirt) under the armpit before bandaging. This will allow you to tie the triangular bandage tighter without cutting off circulation.
10. Hip Wrap
The triangular bandage is great for hip injuries. It should be placed to cover as wide of a space as possible.
11. Minor Hand Burns
You wouldn’t want to use this bandaging technique with serious burns. The burn skin would get stuck to the bandage, making it very painful to remove.
Learn how to treat serious burns here.
For minor hand burns though, a wet triangle bandage can work very well. The wetness keeps the bandage from sticking to the wound (apply burn salve if you have it!).
The bandage is kept loose so it doesn’t stick to the hand, but still protects the burn from getting dirty.
Non-Medical Uses for a Triangle Bandage
The uses for a triangular bandage aren’t limited to first aid. You can also utilize it in survival situations.
Here are just some of the other triangle bandage uses I can think of.
13. Face Mask: Moisten the triangle bandage and then put it over your mouth. It isn’t as effective as an N95 mask, but will still help protect you from airborne chemicals and toxic exposure.
14. Fire Starter: Some triangle bandages are made from synthetic materials which don’t burn well. But the bandages from cotton are great as emergency tinder.
15. Tying: Out of paracord? You can cut the triangle bandage into strips to tie things.
What uses for a triangular bandage can you think of?
Diane Vukovic spent her childhood roaming the woods of upstate NY, making brush shelters, backpacking and orienteering.
Now she is the proud mother of two adventurous girls whom she takes wild camping and teaches survival skills and self-defense. Learn more about Diane here.