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Trash Bag Survival: 19 Emergency Uses For Ordinary Garbage Bags

survival uses for trash bags

Image source: Freedom Prepper

When factoring how funds in the preparedness budget will be spent, any item that has multiple uses quickly becomes a great cost saver. Trash bags are one of the best bangs for the buck and have dozens of emergency preparedness possibilities.

The thin yet durable plastic bags take up very little space — another plus.

Here are 19 survival uses for trash bags. Heavy duty bags work best.

1. Poncho. Simply cut or carefully tear a hole for the head and even the arms, and one poncho is coming right up.

2. As a pressure bandage or a triangle bandage. The bags can also simply be used to cover a traditional bandage to help protect the wound from exposure to dirt or the bandage from exposure to the rain. Another use: Tie a splint with a trash bag, double the bag or tape two together to make a sturdier splint.

3. Catch basin for water. Tie the bag to something mildly sturdy in an area exposed to the sky, or line a bucket or similar item with the bag, and capture enough water to keep yourself hydrated.

4. Covers for shoes. Open a trash bag, step inside and tie or secure with duct tape and keep rain and snow at bay. Storing several trash bags for emergency booties takes up very little space and adds virtually no weight to the pack.

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5. Waste shortage. During either a short- or long-term disaster, trash bags can be used safely to store waste when commodes are not working. The bags work equally well for sharps and bloody cloth or bandages used to treat wounds.

6. Fly screen. Make one for the front of your shelter with a trash bag – or two. Cut the trash bag into a sheet type form and then cut slits within a few inches of the top of the bag and you have a protective screen to keep the bugs away.

7. Ground cover. If you are using a tarp, or another trash bag for a shelter, placing another plastic bag onto the ground will prevent dampness from impacting your clothing. The trash bag also offers another layer between you and bugs which will come out of the ground seeking food during the evening and early morning hours.

8. Thermal underwear. Tape or tie a piece of the bag around your legs, arms and stomach beneath your clothing to prevent body heat from escaping.

trash bags survival

Image source: Field and Stream

9. Emergency life jacket. Note: This is not US Coast Guard approved. Tie the ends of the trash bag together and blow air into it to inflate, then secure the open ends together as well. Tape or tie it into a life jacket shape and use it to help keep you, your pets, or your get home bag afloat.

10. Pillow. Give your head a somewhat soft place to rest during an overnight hike home by inflating a trash bag.

11. Emergency water container. The bags will hold a decent amount of weight, but will need to be carried carefully so the plastic does not tear and the water spill out onto the ground.

12. Blanket. To stay extra warm, slip into a trash bag like you would a potato sack for a race before getting into the sleeping bag as well.

13. Sun shade. Trash bags can be hooked onto branches, or taped into place, to make the shade. After taking the hiking break, carefully fold the trash bag into a small square so it can be used again during the next break period.

14. To patch leaks in food and water containers. The plastic bags also can be used to cover worn spots or tears in bug-out or get-home bags.

15. To signal for help. Tie or secure a white trash bag to a rock in a visible spot to let others know where you are. It is always a good idea to carry a permanent marker and spray paint to write messages.

16. Plates. Find the smoothest and flattest rock in the near vicinity and place a piece of the trash bag onto the rock for a clean eating surface.

17. As trail markers. Simply tie them to a tree.

18. Makeshift stretcher. If an injured person, pet or heavy gear needs to be moved, use several trash bags as the basis, combining them with other strong items.

19. A shower. Fill a trash bag up with water, sit it in the sun for a while and then hang it from a sturdy branch to use for a shower. Heated water is also useful for cleaning wounds.

What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. three more uses if you are bugging-in…

    1. During the recent Ice storm I layered the bottom of the tubs before filling them with water to prevent the water from leaking slowly down the drain.

    2. You never know when you may need them to cover windows. This not only provides privacy in an emergency, but even in the winter black garbage bags will insulate and soak up any sunlight to heat a room.

    3. Line inside your 5 gallon buckets or Faraday Cages for an added layer of protection.

  2. Most garbage bags are lined with chemicals to help prevent smell and mold, etc. Be careful of which bags you use if you want them for food or water.

  3. When your potty training a child. I put trash bags over my sofa – used them like a pillow case 😉 Then put a blanket over that so I could just wash the blanket & change the trash bag.

  4. In addition to #2, also for ‘sucking chest wounds’

  5. Bobby Christian

    Be very careful when using plastic as “thermal underwear” in very cold weather. If it causes you to start sweating and your clothes become wet, you could freeze to death. It is very important when you are outside in very cold weather that you stay dry. If you start sweating take off the plastic quickly if you keep sweating after that, take of a layer of clothes. Stay dry, stay alive.

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