How a Garbage Bag Can Save Your Life in the Field

Wound Irrigation

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One of the biggest problems associated with cleaning wounds in the field is a lack of water pressure.  Sometimes you really need to give a deep wound a good squirt in order to clean it properly and prevent infection.  A garbage bag can do just that.  All you need to do is partially-fill the bag with water, poke a small hole in the bottom corner and force the water out.  You can control the flow rate and pressure and ensure that wounds are thoroughly cleaned before disinfecting and dressing them.

Ice Pack

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Put a little bit of ice, snow or cold water into the corner of a garbage bag and give it a twist.  This will isolate the cold material from the rest of the bag.  You can then use part of the bag as insulation while applying the cold part to the affected area. 

Flotation Device

If you are in a water emergency and don’t have a life jacket handy, you can use a garbage bag instead.  Scoop some air into the bag, tie it off, and you now have something that can assist you with staying afloat.  Just be careful not to over-fill or put too much pressure on the bag in order to preserve the integrity of the seams and prevent leakage.  You can also fill the bag with air and tie off a couple of ends if the seams do get compromised.   You can also double-bag and fill with air for an added layer of protection as well.

Sleeping Bag and Mattress

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You can fill garbage bags with soft forest debris and use them for mattresses or pillows.  You can make a sleeping bag or blanket out of garbage bags as well.  One option is to tear open the bottom of one bag and partially insert it into another one.  You now have around five feet of plastic that can keep you warm overnight by trapping heat.  Poke a couple of holes in the sides in order to allow for ventilation.

Waterproof Shoes

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Keeping feet warm and dry is essential during a survival situation.  If all else fails, you can wrap garbage bags around your footwear and tie them off at your ankles.  This will go a long way with keeping moisture out while also keeping your feet nice and warm.


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Fill a garbage bag with water, tie it off with a rope and hoist it around a tree or other tall object that is above your head.  Poke a few holes into the bottom of the bag, and you have a perfectly good shower.  You can also use a bag under your feet to collect and channel the water into a container or another bag to conserve it for future use as well.  Grey water is worth its weight in gold during a survival situation, and using a couple of garbage bags can help you to stretch resources to the max.

First Aid

Garbage bags can be the perfect option when you want to cover a wound, apply a tourniquet or create a makeshift sling.  The only drawback to using a garbage bag for a bandage is that it prevents the movement of air around the wound.  You can poke a few small holes around the bag as you wrap it to offset this problem.  Aside from this, a garbage bag can actually be better than bandages when it comes to keeping wounds clean and dry. 

These are just a few examples of a million-and-one uses for garbage bags in the field.  Give some thought to other ways they can benefit you during a survival situation, and share some of your ideas with others.  One thing is for certain: You definitely want to pack a few in your bug out bag or survival kit. 

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