*Coach Helder may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.
When I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, I was exposed to a lot of new gear that I had never seen before. Aside from the plethora of firearms that I was able to qualify with, there was always a new piece of hi-speed gear turning up at basecamp. At times, these new items were frowned upon because they seemed to just add excess weight to our kits. But every once in awhile, a multi purpose piece of gear would show up. Once it was adapted and added to our gear list, you would be hard-pressed to take it back.
Ever since I was a child I recall using a bandana to cover my face while riding my dirtbike on the trail. Our bike trails were extremely dry and dusty, without a barrier to cover our faces… We would be tasting dirt for well over a week. Luckily, bandanas or handkerchiefs were easy to come by in most households. They were inexpensive and our moms didn’t seem to mind when we borrowed these pieces of cloth; Indefinitely! 😉
Getting back to the Corps… One day we were hanging out in our barracks when a fellow grunt handed me a piece of cloth that resembled a huge bandana. I immediately thought about my days as a young child, jumping obstacles on the bike trail. A few of the guys also chimed in with their bandana wearing stories. But when we were done cackling, I was told that this was not a bandana nor a handkerchief… It was a shemagh!
Throughout the years we found countless uses for a shemagh. We even made jokes about how a shemagh is the middle eastern equivalent of our duct tape and paracord; There Is Always A New Use! For something that is so lightweight and inexpensive, it certainly has added comfort as well as options to my time in the field. Not only did the shemagh serve me well as an active duty Marine, but it continues to do so as I work on my preparedness lifestyle. Whether I am out in the field for recreational purposes or in a training capacity, a shemagh is always with me.
I would like to share with you a few of the reasons that I feel everyone should have a shemagh in their preparedness kit(s). This list is by no means, all inclusive… But I will present a few key ideas that will, hopefully, spark your interest in adding a shemagh to your preparedness kit.
Let’s Get Started!
Coffee may not be looked upon as a life saving potion. But if you have spent any extended time in the field, especially with Infantry units… You will quickly recognize the importance of the magic elixir that we call coffee. It won’t save your life but it will certainly add a bit of tranquility to the mission. When it comes to emergency preparedness, we are never quite sure what will be thrown at us. Having multiple means to make coffee, while out in the field, can greatly enhance the morale of your family and/ or group.
The shemagh makes a great filter or strainer when it comes to making a good cup of camp coffee. I realize that there are dyes and other harsh chemicals used in manufacturing a shemagh. But when I talk about this application, I do not recommend it for continual use. This is a great method in a pinch, when no other means of making coffee is available. Then again, with all the popularity of brewing coffee at home using chemical-laden pods; A shemagh certainly couldn’t be much worse for you.
Possessing first aid skills as well as first aid material is a must if you hope to ride out an emergency scenario. Having access to a trained medic of first responder may be an impossibility during a crisis. You will need to rely on your group as well as yourself to provide any medical treatment during an emergency situation. Being able to fashion cravats and slings, while in the field, may be your only choice when it comes to saving a loved one’s life.
By having a shemagh as part of your kit, you are adding a great first aid resource. A shemagh can be fashioned into cravats for splinting broken bones. It can also be used as a sling in order to immobilize fractures and dislocations. I have even seen shemaghs used as tourniquets when no other options were available.
Keep in mind that just like rope, we want to keep our shemagh intact for as long as possible. If you need to cut up your shemagh for first aid purposes, make sure that it is the only viable solution. Once your shemagh is cut up into pieces, it’s multi purpose ability greatly diminishes. But when it comes to first aid… Stabilizing the victim is always the priority.
Whether it’s seeking protection from the beating sun or just filtering out a sand storm, the shemagh is a formidable protector. It’s thin layering allows it to become breathable when placed over your nose and mouth. This allows it to perform as somewhat of a filter against weather elements. Due to the way that it is constructed, the shemagh allows air to flow through it so that you can maintain a level of comfort while using it as a filter. The shemagh makes a good protector against the weather in various scenarios including walking, on camel or horseback and even in open vehicles.
On a recent trip to Europe I was able to utilize my shemagh as a sweat barrier. Instead of soaking my shirt with sweat, I hung the shemagh around my neck like a scarf. Not only did the shemagh soak up my sweat like a sponge, leaving my torso feeling dry, but it also came in handy for wiping the sweat a dirt off of my brow while on the trail.
This use for the shemagh is practical for me but also happens to be my Pit Bull Bruno’s, favorite piece of gear. While out in the field during the warmer months, both me and Bruno tend to overheat. We usually find a swimming hole along the trail but when time is a factor, extended breaks are kept at a minimum. The mission always has to come first. Luckily, this is where the shemagh shines as a means to cool both Bruno and me down.
I will come upon a stream and soak two shemaghs in it. I ring them out but still keep the shemaghs relatively saturated. I fashion one of the shemaghs around Bruno’s torso and another around my neck. We can both feel our bodies cool down in mere seconds and the feeling usually lasts approximately 30 minutes. Not only did Bruno and I get some much needed rest and relaxation from our quick break but we also minimized out stoppage time which kept our mission at hand… On schedule!
As A Disguise:
During an emergency situation, you may want to keep your identity concealed. You will run into other groups… and at first, you will not know their true intentions. You may also have to perform certain tasks that you never would have imagined doing if it wasn’t a life saving scenario. Either way, keeping your appearance and even intentions concealed, may be an option that will arise when the SHTF.
The are many different ways to use the shemagh as a disguise. You may choose to wrap it around your head and face or you can just place it under your hat. When the sun sets, you can easily use it to break up your silhouette when you are in a spotter or sniper capacity. The shemagh has pores so you can usually affix shrubs, branches, leaves and other vegetation found in your immediate environment. Keep in mind that this may render your shemagh useless for future applications.
Once again, it all depends on your current scenario. The key here, like with most gear, is to know what you have and how to best utilize it when the need arises.
I spend as much time as I can in the field. There is always a new product to test, a new skill to hone, or just as importantly… My dogs stare at me until I give in. 😉
When I take rest breaks with my dogs, I am always concerned about the critters in the area. The issue may be red ants, poison ivy or the dreaded deer ticks that wreaked havoc with lyme disease this past summer. Having a shemagh that I can utilize as a ground cloth or barrier, goes along way in keeping these critters away from me and my dogs.
Even Poison Ivy and Poison Oak can cause unwanted aggravation while out there on the trail. Most of the time, I see these toxic plants but sometimes… I do not. Utilizing a barrier is always a good idea. Keep in mind that I do carry several shemaghs in my ruck. Once I use one as a barrier, I store it in a dry bag in case it has come in contact with toxins or critters.
Mask Or Filter:
As I touched upon earlier, I was just on a two week trip to Western Europe to teach the NTC Method. We spent a lot of time in Northern Portugal where the environment was incredibly dry. Every time that the wind would blow, dust was landing in every crevice of my body. To be honest, this was something that I didn’t expect to encounter in Europe. I’m limited in what I can bring in my Airport Go Bag but luckily, a shemagh was on my travel gear list!
As I trekked around the dry narrow trails, I was able to filter out the dust from my nose and mouth by utilizing a shemagh. Not only was this a viable application for the shemagh but it was also an effective one. In addition, we cannot overlook the convenience factor when it comes to the shemagh. It was already on my person because of it’s diverse applications. Being able to fashion it to work as a filter, while on the move, made others on this trip think twice before they go on their next outing without a shemagh.
There are many devices that could have been utilized for each shemagh application that I presented here today. However, you would be hard pressed to find another piece of gear that would provide the diversity that a shemagh does. When it comes to limited space and weight restrictions, a multi purpose piece of gear is always the first choice. Consider adding a couple of shemaghs to your kit or rucksack.
Weight and expense are non issues when it comes to the shemagh. Get out there and practice with your shemagh. Test out varied uses and even come up with your own that work well for you. You will soon find out why we refer to the shemagh as the duct tape of the Middle East.