Travel Tips: Don’t Forget Bandanas!

I never leave home without at least two cotton bandanas.  Most days I wear one around my neck, and stick another one in my small backpack.  Who knows when I’ll need to mop up a coffee spill, dry off a rain soaked ferry boat seat, or cover my eyes for a catnap? Bandanas are cheap, lightweight, come in traditional as well as artistic designs, and last for decades, if properly cared for.

When adventure traveling my bandana minimum daily number of two swells to five. Many uses are already widely touted and won’t surprise you: for instance, sun scarf if you forget or loose your hat or need extra neck nap protection, dust mask, sweat band, handkerchief for nose blowing, pee and poop “paper” (for those "leave no trace behind" purists), pant or skirt belt, tourniquet, ankle or wrist brace, or pillow cover (to keep a camp pillow cleaner or as a makeshift pillow case over a down jacket).

Here are a few of my favorite tried-and-true multi-purpose recommendations—uses
for which I’ve been grateful to have plenty of bandanas on treks: 

Presto! Geezer-kini

Presto! Geezer-kini

  • Bathing:  Wash cloth, towel in a pinch (best to have two or three available), seat cover for grimy bench or rock you sit on to get socks and shoes back on and off.
  • Bathing suit (bottom and/or halter top):  Speaking of bathing or soaking, hot springs can be found in unadvertised places not far from a trail, catching you unawares without your Speedo in areas where modesty is demanded (for instance, Nepal).  Chances are, four bandanas will be sufficient to improvise a Geezer-kini—two for the top, two for the bottom.  Good for Size 14 and below.
  • Dining and cooking:  Table cloth, napkin and/or bib, apron, sandwich or leftover wrapper, hot beverage cup insulator, “plate” for dry, solids, pot holder, dish and pot cleaner, coffee filter.
  • Navigating and communicating:  Keep an eye peeled in villages and tourist stalls for novelty bandanas decorated with maps or cultural information useful during and after a trek—during the trek a simplified map sketched on a bandana may be easier to access as a reference when asking for directions or updating a daily journal;  after the trek as a memento to trigger wonderful memories or spark a conversation from curious fellow travelers.
Handy, multi-purpose map of Kanchenjunga Area

Handy, multi-purpose map of Kanchenjunga Area

What follows are selected links for an expanded list of bandana uses, and my favorite retailers for buying them:

More Bandana Uses

·      Camping/Hiking Uses for a bandana:

·      Backpacker:

·      And for those of you with a survivialist bent:

To Purchase Bandanas

·      REI:

·      Kittery Trading Post:

·      Wholesaleforeveryone: