7 Ways to Use Your Bandana in the Backcountry

June 07, 2018
Filed Under: clinic gear orientation

Get the most out of your bandana with this step-by-step folding guide.

Is it weird to consider a piece of cloth a trusted companion? We don’t think so.

Here at BioLite, we think the bandana is a clutch piece of outdoor gear. These versatile squares take up little space in your pack (especially if you wear it) and have a number of practical off grid uses. To celebrate the launch of our brand new BioLite bandanas, we wanted to make it easy for anyone to put their bandana to good use.

Without further ado, BioLite Teammate Talia is here to show you some of our favorite backcountry bandana applications – and all the folds it takes to get there.

1. Food Bundle

Folding instructions: Lay your bandana out on a flat surface, place food in the center, bring opposite corners of the bandana together to tie and make a bundle. Secure the bundle to your pack. 

With a few quick folds your bandana becomes a handy bag that attaches to the outside of your pack. This fold is good for grabbing food quickly and if you have any delicate early-trip treats like fruit that you don’t want to get bruised in your pack. But fair warning: don’t pack chocolate on your summer trips. That. Melts. Everywhere.

2. Tourniquet

Folding instructions: Fold your bandana into a triangle and roll it up like you would a thin headband. Wrap it above your wound and tie it once. Take a sturdy object that won't break like a stick, a Stick Snapper, or a pen and place in the center of the knot. Tie the bandana around the object. Twist the object until circulation stops. Hold the object in place and tie another bandana on as a reinforcement. 

We always hope that you stay safe during your adventures but, we also get that things happen. And when they do, a bandana can serve as your first aid sidekick. But keep in mind, this is a temporary solution, so seek medical attention when you need it.

3. Element Protection (Climate Control + Scalp & Neck Saver)

Climate control folding instructions: Fold the bandana into a triangle and then proceed to make a bunch of small folds almost like you are rolling it up into a headband. Finish it off by tying around your neck or head.

Bandana Headband
Bandana Neckband

Before you write this off as a fashion statement, a headband is actually great for two off grid uses. One is tie it around your head to keep hair out of your face or absorb sweat during strenuous activities. Secondly, tying it around your neck and wetting it with some water will cool you down during a hot day.

Commute Tip: Biking to work in the hot weather? Toss an ice cube into a slightly damp bandana mid fold and tie around your neck with the ice cube placed by your jugular; "it's like a built-in air conditioning system," says BioLiter Erica, "and even if it melts, then it's cool water that can evaporate - it's amazing how well this simple trick works."


Scalp & neck saver folding instructions: Fold the bandana into a triangle and then tie it around your neck (with the fabric side covering the back of your neck). You can also use this to cover the top of your head.

A scarf-like fold is the ultimate protection from the elements. Whether you need to block your mouth or nose from inhaling dust or cover your head to avoid getting sunburnt on a hot day, this is the fold for you. Use your bandana as a sun shade, extra layer of warmth, or to cover your nose & mouth.

Travel tip: If you're spending time outside in smoggy cities or finding yourself traveling by moped or e-bike, wearing a bandana over your face is an easy way to keep particulate matter out of your nose and mouth. 


4. Pot Holder

Folding instructions: Fold the bandana into a square and double it over once or twice. The key here is to fold fabric over several times to create insulation from the heat.

We’ve all been there. You’re cooking over a fire and the arm of the pan gets just a little too hot. Instead of bringing along a bulky pot holder or risking a burn by using your sleeve - pull out your bandana.

Safety Tip: If you're using pots made of cast-iron or other heavier materials, we recommend using at least two bandanas, one for each handle separately so you can get some additional folds in for insulation: don't want you burning your paws.

5. Night Light

Folding instructions: Fold your bandana into a headband-like wrap, tie it in a knot so you have a loop and clip on your PowerLight Mini. This can be hung from the top of your tent as a night light.

Looking to illuminate your tent? Attach a PowerLight Mini or headlamp to this fold and tie to the top of your tent. Another great use for this fold is to attach a light and tie it around a tree branch or trunk near a picnic table. And just like that your group campsite is lit up.

6. River Beer Cooler

Folding instructions: Place your bandana on a flat surface, lay a few beers in the middle, and wrap the bandana around them. Secure with a weighted or stationary object and place in the water.

Cooler rivers make the perfect temp for keeping beer chilled, but a runaway beer is a true tragedy. Keep’em close by bundling them up in a handkerchief and connecting them to a nearby tree or weighted item. Bonus, you’ve got a nice wet cloth for a dirtbag scrub down (see #7).

7. Dirtbag Washcloth (Seriously)

On some trips, taking a full blown shower with soap and water is either prohibited due to ecology restrictions or just not feasible due to your pack load. Giving yourself a good scrub with a washcloth (or in this case a bandana) can help exfoliate and get juuuust enough grime off you to make you feel clean (well, clean enough). Way more eco-friendly than bringing disposable wipes.


We challenge you to make the most of this small but mighty piece of fabric. Whether you’re tying it around your dog’s neck, using it as a napkin, or recreating one of the folds above, get creative with your bandana while you’re off grid or even just in daily life.

Do you have go-to off-grid uses for your bandana? Share your favorite fold with us on Instagram for the chance to be featured. #energyeverywhere @biolite.