The shemagh scarf is a traditional headwear in the Middle East. It is also known as a keffiyeh, ghutrah or by other names. It is worn on the head or around the shoulders. It is a piece of square fabric, usually either 42 by 42 inches (107 x 107 cm), or 49 by 49 inches. (125 by 125 cm).

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The Shemagh – a must have Survival Tool

Sowhat does a scarf have to do with survival? This garment is actually used by military forces in number of countries. Soldiers, particularly special forces, need survival training as well as survival gear. The British military has included a shemagh in their equipment since the Second World War. The shemagh can become a survival tool with lots of uses.

Ways of using the Shemagh Scarf for Survival

Sun Protection

A Shemagh will give you protection from the sun. 

  • as a turban or loosely over the shoulders and the back. 
  • as a neck-scarf it will protect your chest and shoulders from the sun,
  • or as a cover for your face for additional protection.
  • as a sun shade when tied to poles or branches.

Sand and Dust and Smoke Protection

  • In case of a sand storm a Shemagh can act as an air filter.
  • If there’s smoke in the air, a damp shemagh can reduce smoke inhalation and allow you to breathe better.

Staying Cool

If water is not an issue, a shemagh can help you stay cool on a hot day. Soak it in water and wrap it around your head and neck. It will last until the water evaporates. 

Towel or Washcloth

  • The shemagh is quite absorbent, so it can be used as a towel. It also dries pretty quickly.
  •  Likewise it can also be used as a wash cloth or for cleaning purposes.

Rope, Belt or Pouch

  • A shemagh is pretty tough and also long. Therefore, it can be used as an improvised rope or belt when you roll it together.
  • It can be used to carry things by wrapping it round your waist like a bum bag or pouch.

Pillow or Blanket

You can fold it together and use it as a small pillow or as a blanket for extra warmth.

First Aid Emergency use of a Shemagh

If you don’t have a first aid kit, a shemagh can be useful in an emergency

  • as a bandage to stop the bleeding and protect the wound,
  • as a tourniquet for constriction and compression in order to control venous and arterial circulation of an extremity.
  • as a sling for a broken arm or a sprained wrist,
  • A shemagh can be put to use by tying a splint which is also used for the immobilization of limbs.

Emergency Water Filter

It’s a piece of fabric, so it’s not really a good water filter. You can’t purify water but you can filter out sand, and dirt. You’ll still need to boil it to make it safe for drinking. Fold the shemagh a couple of times to filter out as much as possible.

Fire starter and Pot Holder

  • If you have no kindling and urgently need to start a fire, you can cut off a bit of fabric from your Shemagh to start a fire with it.
  • After you boil your water, the Shemag can act as a pot holder to take your pot of the fire. 


A Shemag in the shades of green, brown, and grey can be used as a camouflage outdoors if you wrap it around your head and face or pull it over you.

Signalling Device

The more colourful ones can be used for signalling other people in case you got lost on a hike in order to attract attention of a helicopter.

Watch the video below for tips of using the Shamag when hiking.

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