The humble garbage bag doesn’t often get the recognition that it’s due, probably because of its association with trash and other “worthless” items. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll see that this plastic pariah has loads of emergency uses. Here are ten of the most important reasons to add a few large trash bags to your survival kit.
1. Shelter roofing: The typical survival shelter has a roof that leaks like a sieve, but place a cut-open trash bag on the roof and you’ll achieve far greater waterproofing. Just make sure you bury it under a little vegetation to keep the wind from blowing it away.
2. Rain catch: Lay the bag in a hole in the ground–or a similar low spot–to catch rain water.
3. Ground cloth: Under a tent or other survival shelter, a cut-open trash bag can keep the dampness of the ground from seeping into your bedding.
4. Signal Flag: If you have an orange trash bag, or another colorful option, tie it to a pole and stand it up in an open area to create a signal flag. Tie the bag to the pole in two spots, and it will act like a windsock.
5. Rain Jacket/Windbreaker: While a trash bag isn’t much of a shelter on its own, it can serve as a poncho-like covering if you poke a head-sized hole in the bottom and pull it down over your torso.
6. Trail Markers: Cut off small strips of a bag and tie them to brush or branches at eye level. This can create a trail to help you navigate through thick vegetation or in low-light conditions.
7. Cordage: For simple, lightweight tying jobs around camp, trash bags can be cut into strips and tightly twisted into cord. This is not load-bearing rope, but it works for light-duty tasks.
8. Wound Care: Put some snow or ice inside the bag to create a cold compress. Add some duct tape and you can seal off wound dressings to keep them cleaner and drier.
9. Solar Still: Use a clear plastic trash bag as the “greenhouse” plastic for a solar still to collect and process drinking water.
10. Water carrier: Place your bag inside a box, backpack or basket to make a water carrier. Make sure the plastic is several layers thick and not in contact with sharp points. Fix any holes with duct tape.
Tell us in the comments what survival chores you’ve accomplished with a trash bag.