> TEOTWAWKI Blog: 3 options for adding cotton to your kits



3 options for adding cotton to your kits

Plain ol' 100% cotton cloth is a remarkably versatile thing to have around, so much so that it ranks as one of Dave Canterbury's 10 Cs of survivability. It has endless uses - from covering to absorbing to cleaning to creating char cloth - and takes up little weight in a pack.

The classic bandana is probably the most common, though I've moved away from it in my kits. The readily available bandanas are dirt cheap, but they're also made of the thinnest, crappiest cotton possible, and I find them a bit on the small side to be really handy.

Shemaghs - the Middle Eastern fashion accessory adopted en masse by troops serving in the region - have taken over the hole in my heart (and kits) once filled by the ol' bandana. Larger and made from better materials, they are superior in pretty much every way. Good shemaghs are a nicer, softer cotton that feels cozy against the skin - important if you're using it as a scarf/hat/pillow/baby blanket (not all at the same time). The larger size means they're more functional, especially in roles like a makeshift towel, sling for an injured limb or so on.

Also, there are a great many cool shemagh designs out there than bandanas. Cool designs are very important. I buy my shemaghs off the interwebs or at gun shows, though that is where I buy most things. If you don't do some portion of your shopping at gun shows, you really need to re-evaluate your life.

The third option, and one oft overlooked, is just throwing a rolled up cotton t-shirt in your kit. In a pinch, it can do pretty much everything a bandana or shemagh can do, and it can also act as...wait for it...a t-shirt! Having a clean shirt can prove pretty handy in the course of real life, and most of us have a few oldies kicking around. Yes, nothing special and decidedly un-tactical, but sometimes practical wins. Ranger roll that sucker up with a pair of socks and you're in business.

Any of you survivalist brothers and sisters have a preference for how to pack your cotton? Tips for the masses? Don't pack any?


  1. The BranMay 06, 2014

    I'm a Shemagh guy too, though I haven't tried to make char cloth with it yet. One thing a bandana has over a Shemagh though is that the weave is tighter and so works better when pre- filtering water. Other than that, I go with the Shemagh when I hit the woods. I also keep one in my EDC pack and have used it as a pillow, blanket and makeshift bag when stranded in airports around the world.

  2. AnonymousMay 06, 2014

    I've only recently started carrying a bandanna in my kit and wonder why I didn't try it earlier. It helps a lot - carrying / cushioning projectile point finds, neck shade, etc. I sewed up the 'Ultimate Bandana' sewing a pair of pockets into it - the knife pocket is useful for many items - here is a link to its construction. Its pretty cool.


    Haven't tried the shemagh yet - I like the theory, but the dense thorns in our area would likely snag it quiickly. That needs testing tough.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. PineslayerMay 06, 2014

    I agree that the newer bandana's are crap and are usually made abroad. I collect up older ones from the thrift stores at 25 cents to a buck apiece. I have every possible color, good for signalling too. The shemagh's are a great layering tool also. I don't think I can give up my bandana yet, but an extra T-shirt can't hurt. Your gun shows must be a lot different than the ones here in CO. I find them to be expensive, good for fondling new items though.

  4. AnonymousMay 06, 2014

    I'm a shemagh guy as well, looking to get a new one, and I'm trying to start to buy only american made gear, what is your opinion on the Tactical Tailor shemagh?

    1. I haven't handled Tactical Tailor's shemagh, but have lots of their gear and have been 100% satisfied with all of it. They have having a 30% sale right now, if I'm not mistaken, which is a killer deal.

    2. AnonymousMay 07, 2014

      Thanks. The shemagh is made for them by G and K enterprises so that made me hesistant, but I suppose if Tactical Tailor is willing to put their name on it, it should be good to do, and at $10 it's actually cheaper than most other shemaghs.

  5. Have a shemagh I picked up someplace and wore in the sandbox. Good forbreakingnthe wind and dust as well as a light insulating layer.

    I do not mind cotton clothes innsome applications. As a base layer outside of cold enviornments I oftennwearncotton or ancotton Polly blend. Do avoid it in socks though Cu's a moist t shirt is notna.huge deal while socks are.

  6. With how small a bandana is, why not take both. If you have an EDC bag or a BOB with a shemagh in it, and then keep a bandana in your pocket, you have both with practically no space lost in your bag.

  7. AnonymousMay 06, 2014

    Like Chewylouie, a bandanna is part of my EDC. I have found them to be super useful. One nifty trick is to wet then down and put them around your neck. It really helps cool you down on a 100 F day. Of course, there is sometimes only so much cooling that will happen on a really hot day, but it does make you a little more comfortable!

    I really want to like the shemagh, but I find it's size as much a hindrance as a boon. I also feel like it stands out more and cockleburs in all their incarnations seem to grab on and tear up my shemagh more easily. So I do carry a shemagh when there is no snow on the ground, but it tends to stay in my pack. I usually get more use out of a pair of bandannas. I do like sleeping in a shemagh in mosquito country, though I recently got an actual mosquito net, so I"m going to try that out.

    Thanks for posting about this! Little things like these can make such a huge difference.


  8. Day TripperMay 07, 2014

    I love my shemagh, however, in Redneck'ville where I live, it can be much more of a hindrance than a typical bandana. People here have yet to let go of the "shemagh = terrorist" train of thought. I keep a regular plain jane type of bandana in my EDC because of this and use the shemagh more at home with yard work, or while bushcrafting/camping.

  9. riverriderMay 08, 2014

    army issue bandage triangular o.d. green, also known as pressure dressing in the old days.. tiny, waterproof package. big and multiple usage. 2 bucks a piece. i keep one in my pocket, several in my bags.