I can’t imagine that most people would think of a trash bag as a survival “must have”, but if you think about it a trash bag is actually one of the more versatile items in your preparedness arsenal. However, when preparing ingenuity and a willingness to improvise can make even common items uncommonly useful in a pinch. Therefore, let’s take a look at the top 10 survival uses for one of the most common items in your home.
1. Rain Poncho/Snow Insulation
It ain’t sexy, but a trash bag can be the difference between freezing in the rain and staying dry.
Plastic is wonderfully resistant to intrusion from rain or snow, and if you happen to be lacking a bulky coat a single trash bag could be just what you need. Punch out some arm holes for a sleeveless poncho, or add a few more cuts to drape it across your shoulders. If you are trapped in a vehicle or in another situation where you have to walk in snow without moisture resistant footwear, wrap your feet in trash bags to insulate them from the cold and wet. There isn’t much that is more annoying or (in the long term) dangerous than being miserably wet and cold, so keeping a trash bag or two per person on hand would be an excellent idea.
2. Impervious Bandage Covering/Wound Wrap
A plastic trash bag can easily wrap around bandages or just a cleaned wound in order to protect it from mud, dust, and general infection. Any barrier to filth and mud is a blessing during emergencies where infections are extremely serious!
3. Roof Covering/ Window Dressing
It can cover you when you’re walking about, and it can help seal survival dwellings as well. Whether you have a homemade shelter out in the woods or just a hole in your roof tiles, a trash bag can help keep leaks to a minimum. They can also cover windows for insulation or, if dark colored, to maintain a proper blackout.
4. Heat Up Soil to Improve Yields for Your Survival Garden
Black plastic bags can be used to help fledgling summer plants reach their full potential faster.
Many summer plants benefit from black plastic being laid over nearby bare earth in order to warm things up while maturing in the early spring. Furthermore it can reduce your workload by shading open soil and making a barrier between troublesome weeds and the sun they need to thrive. If you needed to expand your garden in a hurry, you could just lay a few bags out on the grass for a week or two to kill grass and make it easy to loosen the soil!
Although plastic bags are hardly the ideal fiber for holding up heavy items, for minor tying jobs a trash bag should work just fine. Not only are trash bags much cheaper for simple jobs, but in a world without department stores they’ll also let you save your precious string and rope for the really difficult jobs.
6. A Layer of Comfort when Sleeping on Open Ground, Plus Other Camp Tasks
No one likes sleeping on morning dew, but a trash bag laid out on the ground where you’ll sleep can add to comfort and at least keep moisture from the grass away from you. You can also use it to setup makeshift showers if you have the time, with a few bags tied to trees for privacy and another filled with water for a “Shower head”.
7. Obvious Artificial Markers
Ranging from flags to trail markers, trash bags are obviously artificial even from a distance since few natural materials have the distinctive sheen of plastic. Use them when wandering to create a trail of breadcrumbs back to the retreat, or as a warning signal in the event of a situation developing.
8. Canteen Liner for Backpacks
Shown worn on the outside of the backpack, when filled with water and placed inside this trash bag could hold lifesaving water inside.
If you lack a true waterproof canteen, a few trash bags stuck inside each other for layering strength could hold water for you, and then be placed inside a backpack or even a purse for protection. If any holes develop, just slap some duct tape on there to stem the tide and you should be good.
9. Temporary Water Catch
Dig a hole in a low lying area ahead of a rainstorm, place a trash bag or two in the hole, and watch as the water fills it up! You will need to filter it of course since it has run over the ground, but otherwise the water should be much better than what you find in a river or pond. If there are any other areas where water routinely collects, setup a cachement system with a few trash bags there as well to help add some more water to your stocks.
10. Toxin or Disease Barrier
Although gloves are definitely a better option when possible, a trash bag can be a last resort for carrying off dead vermin, handling toxic substances or touching the dead. Any barrier is better than nothing, and plastic is definitely a good option for keeping your distance when you have to handle something unpleasant.
Not really a “use” which is why I didn’t include it, but a trash bag is also extremely versatile. One day it could be a poncho, the next a roof covering, and the next a barrier when carrying off a dead rat. Although there are some situations where you wouldn’t want to reuse it (corpse barrier touching water would be a BAD idea), generally speaking there’s no reason to ditch a poncho after one use and plastic is actually fairly durable.
As you can see, a simple trash bag is actually quite useful in a survival situation. I highly recommend you keep a few with you at all times, just in case.