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.