15 Survival Tips and Tricks Using Trash Bags

Since their introduction by an inventor in the 1950s trash bags have made their way into households all across the world. They provide a sanitary barrier between you and the waste generated in a household, by lining the inside of your garbage container. These low cost plastic bags are very convenient for our waste removal needs, but their survival applications go way beyond containers for trash.

They're lightweight, cost effective and take up very little space. Although the normal 13 gallon kitchen size that most households use will work for many of these scenarios. Grab a box of large contractor trash bags as well, they are much harder to tear, which is very important if you’re gathering water, patching leaks, building a raft, etc. Also be sure to have some paracord and duck tape, they will come in handy with your trash bag survival uses. 

Survival Uses for Trash Bags

Gathering Supplies - Lets get the obvious out of the way, bag is in the name after all. So use them to gather the essentials.

Keeping Your Things Dry - Made of thin plastic, trash bags void of holes do a good job of keeping your things dry. 

Ponchos - No rain coat, no worries. Make a hole for your head and arms and you'll stay dry while holding in body heat as well.

Shelter - Use trash bags in conjunction with your other shelter material to help  shield from the elements.

Collect Rain Water - Set up a collection reservoir when rain is headed your way.

Cold Compress - If you're in need of a compress, fill a trash bag with water or snow to help soothe your aches and pains. 

Haul and Store Water - You will definitely want a contractor bag if you will be transporting water, but hey it gets the job done. 

Stay Warm - Put plastic bags under or over your clothes to trap your body heat. 

Mattress or Pillow - Fill the bags with leaves and straw to add a little comfort to sleeping on the ground. 

Fix Leaks - Help temporarily fix leaks by patching with trash bags.

Stay Afloat - As a last resort in an emergency situation, a trash bag full of air that is tied off with a good seal can serve as a reservoir chamber to keep you buoyant in high water.

Solar Still - A Solar still is a method of distilling (cleaning) water, using the heat of the sun to evaporate water from soil. Functionally, you’re turning the water from the soil into vapor, and then you collect the condensation to drink. Solar stills can range solar ovens to using a simple tarp over a hole in the ground. The yield is low in dryer areas but could be very useful in a beach, swamp or marshy area.

Mark a Trail - Tie off pieces of your trash bag as you travel along a trail so that someone can find you if you get lost.

Signal for Help - White or colored trash bags can be used to signal for first response in an emergency situation. 

Cordage - If you don't have any type of cordage or need more, trash bags torn in strips can be braided to make pretty strong rope.


    These are only a few of the many possible ways that trash bags can be a useful tool in survival, so add them to your Go Bag, Your Bug Out Bag, and be sure to stock an extra couple boxes in the pantry. You'll be glad you did. 

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    • Bud on

      Great article. I will be carrying several contractor bags in my car in the future. They will come in handy to keep me and things dry.

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