Why Cotton Pads Should Be in Your Survival Kit

April 18, 2012

Survival Kits

cottonballs in your survival kit

Sometimes the most useful items for survival are not found on the camping aisle of your local big box store. They aren’t even found in dedicated stores like REI or Gander Mountain.

The most useful items are those with multiple purposes for the survivor. It’s those items that can be used in a variety of different ways depending on the need of the moment.

Take cotton pads for instance. I keep several in my Every Day Carry Survival Kit and they’ve come in handy on many occasions.

  • Starting a fire. The fibrous strands found in cotton pads, made from real cotton not a composite nylon blend, can be fluffed and will help to catch a spark from your magnesium fire starter or Ferro rod.  Even better, add a small amount of a propellant such as petroleum jelly or hand sanitizer and you’ve got a great start to a fire.
  • Stopping bleeding. Cotton pads can be applied to a wound to help stop bleeding. Of course, pads that do not have a lot of loose lint strands work better since it’s less likely to get embedded in the clot and restart the bleeding when removed.
  • Cleaning a wound. Cotton pads can be combined with a mild cleansing solution such as soap and water to help cleanse a dirty wound before dressing it.
  • Padding medicine. There’s a reason many bottles of over the counter medicine are stuffed with cotton; makes great padding to keep the tablets from shifting around too much and allowing them to break. I use cotton pads in a small tin in my survival kit that contains ibuprofen. It keeps the tablets from rattling as I walk and protects them from breaking.
  • Making a wick. If, during the course of your survival, you happen to have access to a lamp oil, you can fashion an impromptu wick by rolling and twisting two pieces of cotton together.
  • Protecting a Blister. For a survivor that doesn’t have access to moleskin, some cotton held in place by a band-aid can help to protect an area where a blister is forming. Mobility is crucial for survival so protecting your feet from blisters can literally mean the difference between surviving and succumbing to the ordeal.
Survivors and preppers must be resourceful and thrifty, making do with what they have and finding creative ways to use whatever resources happen to be on hand. Cotton balls and pads are lightweight, easily carried, and offer quite a few uses for the survivor.
What about you? Do you have cotton pads in your survival kit? What other uses have you found for cotton pads or cotton balls in your survival kit?

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9 Comments on “Why Cotton Pads Should Be in Your Survival Kit”

  1. Armed Partisan Says:

    I’ve been carrying cotton balls and laundry lint slathered in Petroleum Jelly for years whenever I go out of doors. I also carry hand sanitizer. It never occurred to me to use hand sanitizer for fire starting. I did use the PJ Cotton balls and some 100mph tape on a blister once. It was surprisingly effective.

    I cut off a wart once and used them to sop up the blood (and man did it bleed). I found that when I pulled the cotton ball off after a time, it would bleed again only if I insisted on pulling it all out. Since Cotton is primarily cellulose, the body adapts to it very well, and a scab formed over it will dissolve the cotton, versus destroying the scab structure and exposing the wound to air again.

    It is probably better to cut away the excess or dirty cotton and apply new cotton as necessary in a survival situation than it would be to keep peeling off the scab by pulling out the cotton that has been captured in the clot. You don’t need to worry about the scab itself, but what’s under it that counts. If it gets swollen, or pussy, or shows other signs of infection, then it would be beneficial to remove as much as possible, if it can be done in a sanitary fashion.


    • Joe Says:

      All good points, Armed Partisan. The downside to using a fibrous material like cotton balls to stop bleeding is that the fibers can get adhered in the scab. When changing the dressing, you have to make sure not to accidentally pull the scab off.

      Thanks for mentioning that!



      • Sherron Says:

        I really like the tip about protecting a blister. Many people do not realize how fast blisters will form on the feet when you are hiking or walking any distance; especially in shoes or hiking boots that are good for the terrain, but not broken in because they are not worn much. The cotton padding will slow down additional tissue damage so you can keep moving if necessary for your survival. Be sure to stop periodically to check the feet of the rest of your family or party for blisters so they can be treated as quickly as possible. This brings to mind that choosing the right foot gear that is comfortable and already “broken in” can help prevent painful blisters from forming.
        The rest of the ideas for uses of cotton balls is superb. Thanks!


        • Joe Says:

          Thanks Sherron. You’re absolutely right about foot gear. Far too many people will buy brand new hiking boots and set out on an overnight hike. They quickly realize their mistake but it’s too late by that time.



  2. Matt Says:

    Thanks for articel, I didn’t even know about pads in survival kits, and after reading your article I recognize that they’re very important part of the kit. Thanks!



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