Survival: Lost with Only a Trash Bag

Ounce for ounce, few items can improve your survival chances more than a humble trash bag.

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You’re probably packing several already, as liners for your stuffsacks and as cheap pack covers. But when trouble arises, they can do much more. Note: For these tasks, opt for brightly colored, heavy-duty lawn bags 30 to 55 gallons in size and 3 mils (1/1000 of an inch) thick.

Cross a River

Create two buoyancy chambers—and a place in-between to grab on to—by filling the bottom of the trash bag with air and cinching down the middle section with tape or cord. Then inflate the top of the bag with air and tie it closed. Trash bags can also be used to collect water.

Improvise a Rainshell

Cut slits for your head and arms, and slip the bag over your torso. Shivering from the wind? Tuck the end into your pants and stuff the interior with dry leaves.

Waterproof a Shelter

On your debris shelter’s roof (see page 73), layer one bag between the layers of branches and leaves. For a mattress, stuff a second bag with dry litter.

Survival Secret

Bright-yellow bags are more visible

in low light and at night than black

or red ones. Unfurl and wave them

to signal airborne rescuers.