40 Ways to Use Basic Clothing in a Survival Situation

By Lisa Metheny published on in Camping & Survival

What you can do with the basic garments you wear most often, such as pants (jeans), shirt, underwear, shoes, belt and socks or glasses are many.

Wearing additional clothing, such as a coat, gloves or hat, is an added bonus; for now, we will stick with the most common and basic daily clothing items.

Pair of light blue jeans with a focus on the belt, which can be used in many ways to survive in an emergency.

You can use everyday apparel for a variety of purposes in a survival situation.

Shirt

  • Use it to help filter water. Almost every type of woven fabric, from everyday cotton T-shirt material to polyester dress shirts, is woven to allow water to flow through the fabric. One exception may be a heavy, canvas-type material treated with a water-repellent coating.
  • Tear off a swatch of fabric and unravel or shred it to make kindling for a fire.
  • Use long-sleeve shirts to protect you from sunburn or biting insects.
  • Tear it into strips for bandages.
  • Wear it to cover your head.
  • Tear off the long sleeves to use as a tourniquet.
  • Use it as a knapsack to carry items you find.
  • Wave light-colored shirts as a signal or distress flag.
  • Use it as a bowl to hold food, such as berries, you find.
  • Roll it up and use it as a pillow.
  • Cut it into thin strips and braid them together to make cordage.
  • Make it into a shelter.

Long Pants or Jeans

  • Take off long pants and tie each leg at the ankle and tie the waist opening. Seal cuffs with a belt, twine or cordage from tree bark and fill the legs with as much air as you can to make a personal flotation device. While that may not be a perfect flotation device, in a dire situation, it works for a short time with some closely woven fabrics, such as denim.
  • Most pants, especially jeans, have metal rivets. You can use those rivets as a striker to start a fire.
  • Cut out a heavy-duty zipper from jeans or pants to create a small, makeshift saw blade.

Shoes or Boots

  • Throw it like a weapon.
  • Put rubber-like soles on a fire to produce black smoke to signal for help.
Pair of white tennis shoes with white shoelaces

Shoelace or tourniquet? You decide.

Shoelaces

  • Tie both of them together for a fishing line.
  • Use them to set a snare trap.
  • Use to bundle sticks for fire.
  • Use to start a fire.
  • Turn them into a tourniquet or to hold in place a bandage made from your shirt.

Underwear

  • Remove the elastic from the waistband to make a slingshot.
  • Use the wire from an underwire bra as a dagger or hook.
  • Make a signal flag.

Belt

  • Use to bundle and carry firewood.
  • Use as a tourniquet.
  • Use as a whip.
  • Remove the buckle and sharpen the prong on a rock to make a sharp point.
  • Use to secure sticks to stabilize an injured leg or arm.

Socks

  • Protect your hands from heat or cold.
  • Carry food, such as berries.
  • Wrap around your head as a headband.
  • Make it into fire starter.
  • Unravel a long piece of thread and use it as a fishing line.
  • Make them into bandages.

Glasses

  • Start a fire using a lens as a magnifying glass.
  • Use mirrored sunglasses as a signaling device.
  • Assuming they are made of real glass, pop out a lens and sharpen the edge on a rock to make a knife.
  • Shape metal frames into a sharp point for a makeshift fishing spear.

Did you know there were so many ways to use everyday clothing to keep you alive? Which is your favorite idea? Do you have another one? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

SLRule

Lisa Metheny is a published award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, speaker and outdoor skills instructor. Lisa holds several instructor certifications and conducts a number of women-focused outdoor seminars on topics such as archery and hunting throughout the year. She regularly teaches hunters education and archery classes and has become an advocate for promoting traditional outdoor recreation to families across the United States. Lisa is also an avid and accomplished hunter with many big game species to her credit. She is a member of POMA and former Board of Directors member as well as a member of the NRA, RMEF, MDF and DU.

View all articles by Lisa Metheny

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Comments (9)

  • faultroy

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    This has got to be one of the most bizarre articles on survival that I have ever seen.

    It is fine as a form of entertainment, but if this was supposed to be useful for “survival,” I don’t see it.

    Let’s get one thing straight: In a survival situation, your clothing is the first line of defense against you having at the very least a VERY uncomfortable situation and at worst being dead.

    So, it pays to think of your clothing not as something that should be “McGivered,” but rather to merely do what it is supposed to do–which coincidentally is to protect you from the elements.

    The FIRST thing that someone should do in a survival scenario is not to allow themselves to get into a survival scenario. This can be easily done by taking a few precautions.

    1) Don’t go into any unfamiliar area without a map and a compass. You don’t need a fancy compass, just something that tells you North South, East and West. You don’t need to purchase all manner of geological survey maps, merely the investment of a State Gazateer is more than sufficient.

    Remember when you were told as a child to always have clean underwear? Well, it works the same way when going into the bush–always bring a jacket with a hood along.

    Then, you’ll want to add a couple of emergency matches like the excellent REI Survival matches. You don’t need hundreds. 5 matches will be me than sufficient. Keep them in that jacket you should always be lugging around –even in July.

    Next you will want to bring a small knife of your choosing making sure it is both sharp, and you know how to sharpen a knife to the point where it will easily cut through a piece of typing paper. Along with the knife, bring along some cordage. Most survivalists like Paracord. (50 feet is more than sufficient, and keep it in one of the pockets of that jacket you are always lugging around).

    And lastly stuff a mylar blanket which costs about $2.00 per sheet, and now you have the makings of a real survival kit that will insure that you are never put in an actual survival situation because you are prepared.

    Notice something interesting? It’s really not a lot of stuff. It’s also not hard to carry.

    And lastly it is very simple to remember.

    And, if you always take the mindset that you ALWAYS want to know where you are at, you will never get lost, and the odds are very good you will never be in a survival situation.

    And most important of all, you won’t have to worry about all the wacky things you can do with clothes–LOL!!!

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    May be brass plated aluminum these days. Everybody looking to cheap out. Titanium is steel and I believe it is non magnetic. If wrong will never hear end of this for retired aircraft engineer. In the movies, every bullet sparks when they fire one. Steel jacketed bullets are banned in ca. & nev. on public lands because of fire hazard. Copper jacketed lead bullets dont spark either when they strike or deflect off of a metallic surface

    Reply

  • Hank Alvarez

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    The flammability of your clothing is another consideration. I remember a couple of occasions where I was warned to stay away from synthetic fibers because in a fire they don’t necessarily burn they just melt on to your skin.

    Reply

  • J3

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    Just checked my jeans and all the rivets are non-magnetic If I remember my physics/chemistry right that means they’re non-sparking

    Reply

  • Hank Alvarez

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    Careful Martin, somebody’s liable to try that. all others were good ideas and it just goes to show that necessity is the mother of invention.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    (Joke). Take out your pacemaker and use it to start a fire .

    Reply

  • OLD&GRUMPY

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    Plastic bags or nylon fabric can be slow heated and shaped into tools or blades. Remember the para cord blog? Heat the end of your para cord shoelaces to form a sharp point. The corner of a credit card can be ground box cutter sharp. Take a larger chunk of fabric and water proof it by turning it into “oil cloth” by scraping COLD fat or lard into it. Don’t try this in bear country! —Note to blog master. I wish we could edit posts so there are not so many . Makes it look like I have no life. Oh well.

    Reply

  • OLD&GRUMPY

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    I use old baby socks to protect front sights or keep dirt bugs twigs out of the bore. You have a gun in your hand. They won’t laugh at your Sponge Bob socks.(or is it Barbie?)

    Reply

  • OLD&GRUMPY

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    In scouts we had to do the flotation trick with our pants. Jump in, strip them off,tie off the cuff, flip the open end over your head then use them as a life vest. It works .It might kill you but it works.DO NOT try this drill without a certified life guard at the pool!!!
    Another secondary use for under garb ties in with the “small garden” blog today.I saw one small plot that used a old sports bra to support squash high up a fence.Not a joke.

    Reply

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