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A hiking bandana is one of the most universal pieces of gear to have in the backcountry: simple, effective, multi-functional, and versatile. There are at least a few ways to use a hiking bandana for any one situation you might find yourself in when outdoors.
Whenever I’m hiking, camping or road tripping I always have two on me to use in a pinch and they never disappoint. Most importantly, they are a cheap and waste-free item that makes you think outside of the box and get a little creative — a truly invaluable skill to have in the outdoors.
So, to help you get even more gear-savvy, here are 12 great ways to use a bandana outdoors.
1) To cool off in the heat
This pro-tip was one that I was particularly stoked to discover after a stagnant, humid and sunny Northeast backpacking trip (you East Coasters know the kind) that kept me soaked in sweat for the better part of each day. To cool off, simply soak your bandana with some extra water and either tie it around the back of your neck or put it under your hat for instant relief. When you’re done, clip it to your pack and let it dry as you walk.
2) To dry off sweat
A sweat mop or stand-in towel, use your bandana to “spot clean” as needed. This is way easier than digging around and disturbing the delicate balance of your well-packed bag just to grab that microfiber towel. A bandana is a quick and easy way to get the job done in a pinch — no unpacking required.
3) To swat away bugs
Black flies, mosquitoes and obnoxious gnats are a real downer. Whip out your bandana and swat them away. It’s an effective, admittedly short-term, pest control method for when the bug spray has worn off or you don’t have any with you.
4) To protect you from the sun
Fold your bandana in half like a triangle and cover up any exposed areas to protect from sunburn and UV ray damage. This is a pretty important thing to be aware of and luckily, a bandana will do the trick. You can also use a bandana underneath your hat to protect the back of your neck from the sun.
5) To stand out
If you’re hiking through an area where there are hunters and you’re concerned about blending in, use your brightest colored bandana to tie around you, your dog, or both!
6) To use as a waste-free tissue or napkin
In every season I am without fail a sniffling, sneezing hiker and run out of tissue packs all too easily. Plus, it really bugs me to have to use a single-use tissue just to wipe my nose. My old blue bandana is super soft and worn-in from years of frequent use which makes for a great tissue while hiking and a handy napkin during mealtimes. Plus you can clip it on the shoulder bands of your pack so it’s in easy reach the entire time you’re hiking.
7) To keep your hair under control
Have I mentioned that I get sweaty when I’m hiking and backpacking? Well, I do, a lot. Bandanas are a lifesaver on the trail for keeping hair out of my eyes and face and absorbing sweat like a sweatband. And hey, I don’t hate the fact that a bandana in your hair is a cute hiking look, either. Just saying.
8) To use as an emergency feminine product
Ladies, are you ready for this one? If you happen to be surprised by your monthly cycle and don’t have any feminine products on you during an overnighter or a day hike, here’s what you do:
- Grab a handful of moss, grasses or other absorbent natural materials and put it in the middle of your bandana
- Fold your bandana in half, with everything inside, long ways two to three times
- Twist or tie the ends to keep it closed and then use two safety pins (always handy to carry on a trip) to attach to the front and back of your underwear
- Dispose of contents as you would human waste and wash it out the best you can to reuse it
If you’re a little uncomfortable with the above idea you can also simply use the bandana as a panty liner.
9) To use as a pee rag
Use as needed, attach to the back of your pack while hiking and let dry. Rinse when and if you can, and then throw it in the washing machine when you get home.
10) To use for first aid
In the case that you are ever in an emergency situation or have a wound, a bandana can be a useful tool in helping to apply pressure, cover a bandage, use as a splint or tie two together and use as a temporary sling.
11) To hold hot things
Camp kitchens are often at the bare minimum and things like oven mitts don’t always make the cut. For campfire cooking and handling hot things use your bandana. Fold or wrap it several times to make it thick and use like you would an oven mitt to transfer hot items and protect your hands.
12) To keep clean, inside and out
Boots, backpacks, the inside of your tent or camp cup — whatever it is you can easily use your bandana to wipe away dirt, debris and dinner leftovers. Got two? Fold them into a small triangle and tie them around your ankles over the top of your boots to keep rocks and sticks out of your shoes.
Do you use a hiking bandana when outdoors? What are your favorite ways to use it? Leave a comment below!