Survive With: Your Underwear

Going commando? Not so fast. You never know how your skivvies can come to the rescue.
undies for survival

Photo: Andrew Bydlon

Water Collection

Got a clean pair of cotton drawers? The absorbent material is perfect for collecting morning dew, a great source when water is scarce. Soak up dew drops until your briefs are water-logged and squeeze them out. If your drawers aren’t clean, use a T-shirt or bandana.


Cut a spiral in your shorts, leaving about a half-inch gap between cuts. The spiral cut allows a long length to be fashioned from a small area: a few feet long from a medium-size pair.


Fashion a David-and-Goliath-style sling using an oval strip of the boxers and 3 feet of string (see above) tied on both ends with a square knot. Put a rock in the sling, and spin it in a circle on your side to generate momentum. Let go of the string to launch it at your prey (practice required).

Snow Goggles

Cut a strip long enough to tie around your head and wide enough to cover your eyes, like a blindfold. Slice two 1-inch horizontal slots (one over each eye) to let the minimum amount of light in.


Improve the velocity of your spear throws by cutting the elastic out of your undies and tieing it into loops at both ends. Knot one side to the back (non-pointed) side of your spear. Slide your thumb into the unattached loop, stretch the elastic as far down the shaft as it’ll go, grip the spear, and hoist it above your shoulder. Throw sharply downward, letting your thumb slide out (this works best for spear fishing).

Tree Climbing

Need cell reception, a better view for scouting a path, or access to a nest to harvest eggs? Climb a tree. The secret: Twist the undies in a figure 8, put a toe into each hole, and hug the tree. Step up, pinching your toes together on the far side of the tree to clamp the boxers around the trunk. Use them as a platform to stand up and reach higher. Repeat. Works best with thin trees.


The elastic burns like gangbusters—even when wet—if you fuzz it up and put a flame to it. Use when natural tinder is scarce.