Why a Handkerchief Should Be In Your Survival Kit

November 17, 2011

Survival Kits

Boy Scouting in the 20th CenturySir Baden-Powell founded the original Boy Scouts in England following his defense of the town of Mafeking in the Second Boer War in South Africa. The original uniform for the Boy Scouts included a Handkerchief folded in half and worn conveniently around the neck. His decision to include this accessory was not merely one of fashion. The handkerchief offers someone in the wild many varied uses.

Uses in First Aid

A handkerchief can be of great value when it comes to wilderness first aid. Few items are so flexible as a handkerchief. It can be used to put a sling around an injured arm, split a sprained ankle, and bandage an exposed wound. Handkerchiefs can be used to clean a cut with soap and water or cool someone who is suffering from heat exhaustion. Yes, when it comes to applying emergency aid to a victim in the wild, handkerchiefs come in handy.

Uses with Food and Water

Handkerchiefs offer a number of uses around the impromptu kitchen when effecting survival. You can place a handkerchief over the mouth of a container to strain muddy water from a pond or puddle. The water must still be purified but at least the handkerchief will prevent some of the larger items from making it into your drinking water.

As you purify your drinking water, the handkerchief can be used as a potholder to prevent you from burning yourself when removing a container from the fire. You can place handkerchiefs over your food to protect it from flies while tending to other survival activities. And you can use a handkerchief to aid in washing and cleaning your cooking utensils.

When water is in short supply, you can tie a handkerchief around your leg as you walk through a field of high grass and use it to collect water from the morning dew. Periodically take the handkerchief off, hold it above your head, and squeeze the refreshing liquid into your mouth.

Uses in Survival

By attaching a brightly colored handkerchief to the end of a long stick, a makeshift signal flag can be created to help alert distant rescuers of your presence.

In hotter climates, a handkerchief can be soaked in water and worn around the neck or over the head to help cool your blood and thus lower your overall body temperature. In cold weather, a handkerchief can offer additional insulation under your hat to help keep body heat from escaping through your head.

Handkerchiefs are lightweight, easily carried, and incredibly useful. Boy Scout uniforms are still adorned with the standard neckerchief for many of the same reasons listed here. Shouldn’t one or more be in your survival kit?

What other uses have you found for handkerchiefs?

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14 Comments on “Why a Handkerchief Should Be In Your Survival Kit”

  1. millenniumfly Says:

    Why not a bandana instead?


  2. Joe Says:

    Ahh, good question, millenniumfly. In my mind at least the two terms are pretty interchangeable. Though I guess technically there may be some difference in the two.

    I typically carry a bandana with me when camping or working around the homestead. I also have one in the get home kit I carry with me most everywhere.




  3. Todd Says:

    I am a Scout Leader and a prepper. I really enjoyed all the Scouting references and have been looking for ways to teach the boys more survival skills. This is a great one to teach them, using a part of their uniform. Thanks so much!


    • Joe Says:

      Thanks Todd. As you may have guess, I’m a Scout Leader as well.

      Feel free to share thing things you’ve learned along the way – either in comments or with a guest post.




  4. David Grasty Says:

    I use mine for coffee filters, and, I use the camoflauge ones for camouflaging stuff (myself included). A Bandana can also be cut into strips for cordage, tourniquet, etc.


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  8. Jon Carlson Says:

    Thank and you!



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