Something as simple as trash bags have numerous uses to help you make it through a survival situation.
Sometimes it is the most unlikely of items that seem to have the most uses when your put into a survival situation. Trash bags are a shining example of this and something a lot of backpackers already carry as a cheap rain cover for their gear.
Let me start by saying that the best trash bags to carry are the 3 MIL heavy duty contractor bags. They are available in a variety of sizes from 30 to 55 gallons. You should also try to find them in bright yellow or orange, but for most of the uses on this list, regular household trash bags will work just fine.
Here are 12 ways to use them if you ever find yourself in a survival situation and happen to have one on hand.
This is probably the most common use of a trash bag outdoors. Simply cut a half circle near the center of the bag on the sealed side big enough for your head to go through and you have instant rain protection.
2) Water Collector
There are two effective ways to collect water with a trash bag. The first is by simply driving four sticks in a square. Open the trash bag up and place it in the center of the sticks before draping the edges around the sticks to hold it up for rain water to collect inside it.
The second way is to take two Y-shaped sticks and drive them into the ground about the width of the trash bag. Lay another stick between the two like the start of a shelter. Drape about half the trash bag over the center stick and form it into a V shape to allow rain to run down the trash bag and into your water bottle.
Trash bags can be used to drape over a lean to to help waterproof it or turned into shelters all on their own much like a tarp.
You can make cordage from thin strips cut from trash bags. It won’t be the strongest stuff in the world, but will do nicely for light tasks around your camp. I highly recommend learning the “Reverse Wrap” for making cordage if you are going to try this.
5) Sleeping Bag
If the bag you decide to bring is large enough you can slide your whole body inside. If not, most trash bags will at least cover your lower half and help retain some of your body heat.
6) Sleeping Pad
One of the fastest ways to lose precious body heat is to sleep directly on the ground, especially if it is wet. Take your trash bag and fill it with soft debris such as leaves to give yourself a cushioned and insulated way to sleep directly off the dirt.
If you took my advice and purchase a brightly colored trash bag you can use it if a plane or helicopter flies over to help them see you.
You can also cut the bag into flags to attach to sticks to set near your camp in case you are away when help flies over. Remember the universal sign for help is three, so always go for signals in that amount.
8) Solar Still
To make a solar still, your trash bag will have to be clear. Dig a hole at least a two feet wide and a foot deep, but bigger is better. Place a container in the center of the hole and then stretch your trash bag over it while placing rocks and dirt around the edges to hold it in place. Place a round, smooth rock in the center of the bag to allow it to bend in towards the cup.
The hole will heat up from the sun and allow condensation from the air to build up on the bag before running down and dripping in the cup. This will not yield vast amounts of water, but is better than none at all. Adding some green vegetation inside can help produce water faster.
9) Makeshift Life Jacket
If you need to cross a deep body of water or a way to float downstream you can turn a trash bag into a makeshift life jacket. Blow the bag up roughly halfway with air and tightly tie it shut. Twist the middle to create two buoyancy chambers to place on either side of your body to help keep you afloat.
10) Foraging or Water Carrier
Use it for what it was meant for. Use the trash bag to help carry water or wild edible you have collected when on the move.
11) First Aid
Cut strips of the trash bag up to make slings, help tie together a splint, or to cover wounds.
12) Trail Markers
If you decide to move instead of waiting for help to arrive, cut strips to mark off the route you take for your rescuers to follow.
These are just a few of the uses on how a trash bag can help get you out of a tight spot. Remember in a survival situation you are only limited by what you can create with what you have on hand, so learn to be creative and think outside of the box.