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Have you ever considered adding a shemagh to your family’s emergency preparedness kit?  The shemagh can be a lifesaver in a variety of situations, from providing sun protection during a power outage to creating a sling for an injured arm. This article will explore the many uses for a shemagh to help your family to stay safe and comfortable in unexpected situations.

If you’re looking for a simple yet effective multi-purpose tool for your family’s emergency kit, look no further than the shemagh. There are so many uses for a shemagh–sun protection, warmth, and even first-aid uses. It can be a valuable asset when facing a power outage and a handy piece of gear on a camping trip gone wrong.

Table of contents

What is a Shemagh?

The Shemagh (pronounced Shmog) has been used for years by people in the Middle East who wrap it around their head and neck as protection from both sun and sand. U.S. soldiers also use it extensively when in that region or in other hot, arid places. While it is extremely useful for those purposes, it can be used in numerous other ways as well.

The Many Uses of Shemaghs

Let’s explore some of the practical applications of this versatile scarf:

Head and Neck Protection

  • Sun shield: Wrap the shemagh around your head and neck (as a face cover, too!) to block harmful UV rays. You can also tie to whatever is handy to create a makeshift shelter from the sun, sort of like the sun shade sails sold for patios. The best sunburn is the one that never happens.
  • Dust and sand defense: The scarf can be used as a makeshift dust mask for protection from dust, pollen, or other airborne irritants. Even if you don’t live in a very sandy or dust storm prone region, it makes great protection from sawdust, grass clippings, or other flying particles.
  • Smoke defense: As part of your wildfire preps, it could be used to lessen smoke inhalation.

Temperature Regulation

Multipurpose Uses

  • Carrying bag: Tie the corners of the shemagh to create a makeshift bag for carrying small items.
  • Pillow: Wad it into a ball or stuff it with leaves, grass, or clothing for a comfortable substitute pillow on the go.
  • Sling: In an emergency, the scarf can be used as a temporary sling to support an injured arm. While it may not be best for long term use in this capacity, it’s useful for an injury acquired while camping or hiking.
  • Towel/Washcloth: It’s large enough to use as a towel or even a small blanket in a survival situation. It could also be used for washing, if needed.
  • Pot Holder: If the container you’re boiling water in is too hot to safely grasp, fold up the shemagh and use it to grasp the pot.
  • Signaling: Depending on the color you choose, it could be used to signal for help.

First Aid Applications

  • Bandage: The large size of the shemagh makes it suitable for simple first aid, such as applying pressure to wounds.
  • Water filtration (in a pinch): While not a substitute for proper water treatment, it can be used as a coarse filter to remove large debris from water.
  • Splint: Use it to improvise a way to immobilize an arm or leg.

Everyday Uses

  • Changing pad: The shemagh can be used as a clean surface for diaper changes on the go.
  • Stroller marker: Tie the shemagh to your stroller handle for easy identification in crowded parking areas.
  • Seating: Use it to cover park benches or other dirty seating areas.
  • Sarong: It won’t be as long as a typical one, but it would do in a pinch.
  • Travel: It can not only keep you warm on an airplane, but it can also work as an eye mask for blocking light to sleep while flying or while at the hotel.
  • Kneepad: The older you get, the more difficult it get to kneel…and to get back up!

Pro Tips for Using Your Shemagh

  • Look for scarves made from breathable fabrics like cotton or merino wool for maximum comfort.
  • Practice tying the shemagh in different ways before you need to use it in an emergency.
  • When using it for water filtration, understand that it only removes large particles and further purification is necessary.

How to Tie

This short video shows the traditional way to tie a shemagh. It’ really simple!

Alternatives to a Shemagh Scarf

While the shemagh offers undeniable functionality, its look might not be for everyone. For those who prefer a different aesthetic, there are alternatives.

Consider a sniper veil, a lightweight often camo-patterned scarf designed for concealment. These versatile scarves are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want to blend in with their surroundings while enjoying activities like birdwatching, photography, or hiking. They still offer many of the same benefits as a shemagh, like sun protection and dust defense.

Bandanas are another option, with a long history of practical use. Cowboys and vaqueros in the American West relied on bandanas for many of the same reasons we use the shemagh today: sun protection, dust defense, and even makeshift bandages. Bandanas made from breathable fabrics like cotton or merino wool for maximum comfort and versatility are your best best. Just remember that because of their smaller size, though they won’t be able to do all that a shemagh can do.

The Shemagh (pronounced Shmog) has been used for years by people in the Middle East who wrap it around their head and neck as protection from both sun and sand. Here are the many uses of shemaghs in family preparedness. Click To Tweet


How do I wash a shemagh?

Washing instructions will vary depending on the fabric. Always follow the care label. Generally, hand washing or a gentle machine wash cycle is recommended. Find options for washing clothing without electricity here.

Are there different sizes of shemaghs?

Shemaghs typically come in a standard size, but there may be slight variations depending on the brand.

Final Thoughts

The shemagh has many used and has proven itself to be a surprisingly versatile tool for any family. From sun protection and dust defense to creating a sling or even filtering water in a pinch, this simple scarf can be a valuable addition to your emergency preparedness kit. Beyond emergencies, the shemagh can be a handy companion for camping trips, sporting events, or even a stylish everyday accessory. So, next time you’re looking for a multifunctional and affordable addition to your gear, consider the humble shemagh!

Originally published February 4, 2015