Survival Skills

16 Ways to Use Trash Bags in a Survival Situation

So many things make their way into our bug out bags. While others should be in there but are over looked because we may not be able to come up with enough uses for them.


Most things in my bug out bag have more than one use. That means more tools with less bulk. Trash bags are no different. Thick heavy black trash bags have so many uses, and and here are 16 of them.


Whether you’re raiding the wilds, a nearby farm, or grocery store, containers come in handy… and that’s just what a trash bag is, a container. No matter what you find or where you find it, you’ll need a way to carry your collected goods.


Water isn’t any good to you if it isn’t safe to drink, but a simple plastic bag can go a long way to making water potable. Learn other important tips and tricks for water filtration and purification here: H20 (Water).

Toiler Liner

When the power goes out line the toilet or a bucket with a garbage bag. Makes for easy removal of waste.

Compost bin

Heavy trash bags can be used as compost bins for the spring garden, and hidden away easily by just folding a flap. Dig a hole almost the size of the bag and begin filling with compost waste. When needed to hide, just close the bag and cover with native debris.

Ground cloth

For best results keep a breathable layer between you and the garbage bag (like a blanket or sleeping bag) to keep from sweating.

Forage Bag

When I travel I often tote along an empty bag just in case I end up bringing home more than I took with me. A garbage bag can fit this role for your bug out bag. If you see something you want to take along as you’re bugging out or heading home you can pull out your garbage bag and throw it in, cinch it up and toss it over your back or strap it to your bag.Critter Proofing

Even a heavy duty garbage bag isn’t going to stop anythingmouse size or larger…until you hang it in a tree using that 550 cord we’ve previously discussed. I discovered this little trick when I was camping in bear country and the locals told me that a bear had walked through our camp just an hour before we showed up. The only container I had available that was large enough, durable enough and hang-able enough was a heavy duty contractor grade garbage bag. After we ate dinner we cleaned up all the food scraps then hung our garbage twenty feet up in one tree and our food twenty feet up in another.

Emergency Rope

Cut a plastic bag into strips and braid that into a rope. You can attach items to your backpack, tie your extra food in a tree to keep away from predators, or hang your lantern from the tent poles for an impromptu game of blackjack.


Before vehicles people needed a way to transport their belongings or the injured. They developed a type of stretcher and pulled that along with man power or dogs. If you ever find yourself in a situation where a heavy load must be hauled over a distance, build a simple travois and cover it with trash bags to keep the loved ones or supplies inside dry.


While it might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a trash bag or yard debris bag; a clean, unused bag can be used for a wide variety of medical purposes.

Cold Compress

Fill with snow, ice, or cold water. Fold or tie off bag and apply as needed.

Solar Still

Fully enclose the leafy green area of a tree branch, securing the plastic bag tightly at the opening. Let it sit in the sun for a few hours as the condensation builds within the bag . Carefully remove the bag when ready, and repeat the process as needed. This method doesn’t typically result in large amounts of liquid, but every little bit counts… especially during a survival situation.


Collecting, capturing, and storing food can be difficult during a survival situation, but a trash bag can make the task a whole lot easier.


Set them as netting for bugs and fish, or use them as sacks to quickly and more easily bag a bird, squirrel, or other small animal that lends itself to capture.

Rain Poncho

The only downside to wearing a plastic bag as a rain poncho is that they don’t breathe. This means that while it will hold the rain and snow out, it will also hold your sweat in. Pay close attention to your body temperature and water-loss when wearing a non-permeable covering like this.

Flotation Device

Filled with air and twisted shut, heavy-duty trash bags are extremely lightweight and buoyant. They can be used to assist in crossing deep water by simply being held onto, or they can be applied to a raft or other flotation device.

Sleeping Bag / Mattress

Similar to being used as a Tube Tent, large plastic bags make great sleeping bags when stuff with materials like leaves, fabric, stuffing, packing peanuts, etc. Fill the bag as full as possible and crawl in, or use it as a sleeping surface for the night. Not only will this method protect you from the cold, it will help to keep away potential contaminates as well.




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