Its cost are nearly nothing, weighs as much, and is probably the least sexiest piece of gear in your back, but mark my words, the simple bandana is timeless and forever useful. I put one in my back pocket on a hike a few years back and now I never go in the outdoors without at least one. Easy to acquire and always cheap, there isn’t a reason NOT to carry one.

I love good, ole fashioned cotton paisley bandanas, like the ones you might see cowboys in films use. They’re sturdy and strong, but keep in mind, they don’t dry fast. I buy mine wherever I can get them, and keep a few on hand for emergencies. Can’t figure out where to buy? Try Amazon or REI. Remember, there’s no need to spend too much, just don’t buy this one.

Here are just a few of the ways you can put your new bandana to good use (after which reading you will go out and buy one).

1. Sweat rag – Wipe the sweat from your brow, and other undisclosed areas during a day of hard work.

2. Sun shade – Sun on your neck? Tie a bandana around it. Trying to take a nap and you’re being blinded? Tie a blindfold over your face.

3. Camp cloth – I love to cook in the backcountry, and while I have a dedicated rag for cleaning utensils and wiping hands, sometimes you make a mess. Having another comes in handy.

4. Towel for drying cold, wet feet – Crossing frigid rivers and streams may be necessary some days, and having quick access to a cloth can come in handy.

5. Makeshift bandage – Maybe you cut yourself and are bleeding all over the place. Tie a bandana around it for quick pressure and coverage. Just make sure its clean. Only use a last resort to fresh bandage. Also, don’t be so clumsy next time.

6. Cold cloth – Summers outdoors mean hot, hot, heat, and sometimes you want to take that cold river with you. Soak up some water and tie it around your neck for a few hours of refreshment.

7. Napkin – Same as the camp towel, but maybe not. Get that messy sandwich off your hands, pronto.

8. Stuff carry – Some of your gear tore open and now you have itsy, bitsy pieces floating all over your pack. Tidy them up by tying a bandana around them using the four corners.

9. Hand protector – Hard work is ahead and you forgot gloves. Tie the bandana around your hands for a quick and dirty way to protect your hands from getting torn to pieces.

10. Gear tie – Sometimes I have things I plain don’t want to carry anymore. Where’s there’s a gear tie on your pack, there’s a way to tie gear.

11. (Bonus Round!) Lens wipe – I’d rather brush my teeth with sand, but hey, sometimes what you have is what you have. By jove, just make sure its a clean cloth and not the same one you wiped your feet with.

So there you have it, not at all a comprehensive list, and I’m sure there are WAY more uses for bandanas. Got any weird ones? I’d love to hear.

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