*Coach Helder may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.
About a month ago, I was received an email from Google. I subscribe to a few email alerts; one of the topics being Survival. I receive these emails daily and I always take the time to skim through them to see if I find anything of value. As I got to the third headline, something immediately caught my attention. It was a story written by a newspaper in New Hampshire. The title was:
The part that obviously stood out was the fact that the survivor utilized a contractor’s trash bag to survive the harsh winter night. The article goes on to state that by adding extra dry clothing, a poncho, and a contractor’s trash bag… The hiker was able to survive the below freezing temperature. He was found the next morning hiking back to civilization.
This obviously got me thinking.
I carry a lot of gear in my go bag. My equipment is quite diversified and can certainly save me in different climates. I have used trash bags in the past for various purposes while out in the field. What I didn’t give much thought to was making a contractor’s trash bag part of my standard gear. Would the space be better taken up by a more worthy piece of equipment?
As I deliberated in my mind, I thought about my current gear list. Even though the trash bag is light, inexpensive and compact, would it serve a purpose that my other gear could not? I began to compile a list of how I utilized the trash bag in the past. I then began to think of other uses, that would be well served by a quality trash bag. The more time that I spent thinking, the more the diversified applications began to flood my mind.
I then compared my list to the checklist of gear that I currently carry in my survival kit. I found that a few of my current items would perform the job better than the trash bag could. But once I was done with all the statistics, I realized that there were a significant number of really viable reasons to carry a contractor’s trash bag in my survival kit.
I want to share with you 10 reasons why I chose to add the contractor’s trash bags to my kit.
So Let’s Get Started…
Shelter/ Outer Garment:
The story about the hiker that survived the freezing night in White Mountain National Forest was convincing. It was enough proof to attest to the trash bags’ ability to protect against the stabbing wind. When a poncho and other dry clothes were added, it became a well insulated shelter.
Keep in mind that this incident happened in very cold temperatures. In weather that is not so extreme, the trash bag has the ability to perform even better. The article does not go into the size of the hiker and how much of his body remained exposed to the elements. Luckily, he was well equipped with good gear and was skilled in the outdoors. Being prepared was a priority for him as it must to be for us, if we hope to bode well in survival situations.
I wasn’t the first person to wear a trash bag as a poncho and I certainly will not be the last. However, the one thing that my experience has taught me is that Not All Trash Bags Are Created Equal…
When I was a Scout leader, we always had a box of contractor bags staged in our trailer. Their main purpose was for trash but they also doubled for other uses that I am sharing with you in this article. Our patrol leaders would also have trash bags as part of their patrol kit. The difference was their bags were standard kitchen trash bags that weren’t comparable to the contractor’s bag’s construction.
When a Scout would forget his poncho – there is always a couple – they would grab a trash bag from their patrol kit. Approximately 30 minutes later, there would be a rain-drenched Scout wrapped up in a white trash bag. Their patrol leader would then send them to one of the adult leaders in order to get one of our bags. It was always an embarrassing episode for the Scout, but I’m sure that they received a life-long lesson in return.
The contractor’s trash bag makes an excellent ground cloth. The trash bag can be opened up, covering the area for 1-2 people. It can be used with a tent as well as with your sleeping bag or roll. The ground cloth can be used to protect your sleeping gear from rocks and sticks. It is also ideal as a moisture barrier to help stop your body heat from drawing up moisture from the ground.
My body temperature seems to run high all the time. At times where I didn’t use a ground cloth, I would wake up with the bottom of my sleeping bag soaked. This would happen even in colder temperatures. I learned early in my Scouting career to carry a ground cloth as part of my sleeping gear.
Backup Carrying Equipment:
At times, even the most high-speed, expensive equipment fails. The failure could arise from a manufacturer’s defect or just nature being unforgiving in certain unexpected situations. When it comes to your backpack, we need to do what we can to keep it serviceable during our mission. After all, it contains all of our lifesaving gear. Without carrying equipment, you would be hard pressed to carry all the gear that it contains; in your pockets or even hands. Having a contractor’s trash bag gives you a quick-fix if your backpack becomes unserviceable. Granted, it won’t be the most efficient way to carry your gear… But it may be your only means to do so.
Rain Fly/ Sun Shade:
The contractor’s trash bag can easily be affixed as a fly to protect against rain. It also doubles for providing shade from the sun. It can be mounted as part of your shelter or just on it’s own with some guy lines. Once again, the trash bag can be cut and opened up, depending on the coverage needed, as well as your situation.
Keep in mind this this application can be used for protecting your gear from the elements. Your sleeping setup can be good to go while your gear is still exposed to the weather. Using your trash bag as a layer of protection can go a long way in keeping your gear safe and dry.
The fact that a contractor’s bag is made of heavy-duty material, it can serve as a water container in a pinch. In a survival situation, you may come across a water source while on the move. You can purify some water and top off your canteens. If more water is needed, you can use the trash bag to gather a couple of gallons that you can bring with you to basecamp.
You can use the water for cooking, drinking and even to do laundry. These contractor bags are not designed for these purposes so do not make this a common practice. The harsh chemicals from these bags can be diluted into your water. When consumed, it can wreak havoc on your nervous system with prolonged exposure. But in an emergency scenario… It can serve you quite well for your water gathering needs.
In a survival situation, you will have enough uncertainties to contend with. The animals, including bears, will be aware of you way before you become aware of them. Your food, deodorant and even toothpaste can be smelled by them from miles away. You want to do whatever you can to be proactive and reduce the chances of unwanted visitors.
A bear bag can go a long way in curtailing animals and other critters from adding to your stress level. You can put all of your consumables and other items that have a sweet smell, in your bear bag. You can then hang that bear bag from a tree, at a distance from your campsite. This will not only protect your goods but it will also go a long way in keeping you a bit safer from the animals.
The contractor’s trash bag is, after all, an airtight bag. It can be filled with air to help you wade across a body of water with your gear. It can also aid you in a scenario where you have to tread water. In the United States Marines, we were taught to use our BDU pants as a floatation device. In a pinch, I feel that a contractor’s bag can perform the task more efficiently.
If you need to spearfish during an emergency, the trash bag can make a good temporary float. It can let others in your group know where you are while spearfishing. You can also attach gear to the float, that can assist you on your fishing mission, while you are in the water.
Dry Bag/ Pack Liner:
Dry bags are a standard part of my survival kit. But even my biggest dry bag left a good deal of my equipment exposed due to it’s smaller size. The contractor’s trash bag is huge and can accommodate all of my gear… And then some!
If I didn’t have access to a dry bag, the trash bag could protect my more critical gear. But if I need to move out during a downpour, I can line the interior of my pack with the trash bag. I can then place all of my gear inside the trash bag and seal it. This will keep all of the contents of my kit dry, ensuring its serviceability.
There are countless other applications for a contractor’s trash bag. Just like in most survival situations, we are only limited by our needs and imagination. As people focussed on emergency preparedness, we strive to find gear that can serve multiple purposes. When it comes to the trash bag, I certainly feel that it is right up there with duct tape when it comes to versatility in lifesaving situations.
I have since added a few contractor’s trash bags to all of my go bags. Hopefully by conveying some of its applications via this article, I have given you enough reasons for you to make them part of your survival kit.