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Backpacker Magazine

Saved by…Tampon

Don't cringe. Tampons were used by battlefield medics to plug bullet holes as early as World War I. Use them to...
  • Dress a wound. Unfold the sterilized cotton and tape it over an open wound or use it to clean a deep cut or stop a bloody nose.
  • Filter sediment. Cut the bottom off a plastic water bottle. Push the tampon cotton firmly into the narrow neck and poke a hole through the bottle’s plastic cap. Pour mucky water into the bottle and let it filter through the cotton and into a container below. This doesn’t remove microscopic cooties, but does make the water taste better.
  • Make tinder. Pull apart and fluff up the cotton and dab it with lip balm or other flammable hygiene products. Then hit it with a spark and you’ve got the beginnings of a good fire. One tampon has enough cotton to make several tinder bundles.
  • Craft a survival straw. Separate the two parts of the applicator and remove the cotton. Tear off a piece and stuff it into the larger section (with the rounded tip). Leave a bit of cotton exposed—it will help wedge the two pieces of housing back together again. Drink from shallow puddles without stirring up sediment.
  • Protect matches. Use the plastic wrapper to keep them dry.
  • Build a container. A rudimentary wooden bowl can be used to collect water. Find a suitable chunk of soft wood and build a hot coal fire on top, using the tampon tube to blow directly onto the coals to focus and intensify the heat, which will burn out a depression.

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