Survivalist’s Guide: 10 Practical Reasons to Carry a Shemagh in the Wild

People throughout the Middle East have, for centuries, been using the Shemagh (pronounced “Schmog”) as a head covering or headscarf. Traditionally, it is used in hot, dry, desert and semi-desert regions, but can also be used in colder climates. The Shemagh is also called a Keffiyeh or a Ghutrah.

Military units throughout the world have adopted the Shemagh for many reasons, one being obscuring identity. The British military has been using the Shemagh for decades, since before World War 2, and is now a standard issue item to the British troops. Military mechanized units and Special Forces soldiers often use this head covering, so, if the military has used the Shemagh for years, you know it must be for good reason and has been thoroughly tested for Survival outdoor gear!

10 reasons to carry a shemagh include protection from sun, heat, wind, sand, bugs, cold, first aid, shelter, a tote bag, and a signal flag. There is also other survival uses such as fire-making and collecting water.

We have included 30 different uses for the Shemagh for hot weather, cold weather, and some bonus general purpose uses.

What Is A Shemagh?

10 Reasons To Carry A Shemagh

A Shemagh is made from a square piece of thick, soft woven cotton cloth, generally about 42 inches by 42 inches, or 1 meter by 1 meter, in size. The soft material will protect your head and neck from the sun, sand, wind, and dust. This versatile garment can be worn or used in many ways, depending on the need or the environment that you happen to be in!

The Shemagh, or Keffiyeh, is a very light, comfortable item. From my point of view as a dedicated Outdoorsman, it should always be included in your backpack or survival gear, not only because of how convenient it is to carry but also because of how convenient it is to carry because of its many uses.

I find it extremely useful for a variety of outdoor activities, and it could be invaluable if you are lost outdoors!

What Do the Colors of the Shemagh Mean?

The colors of the Shemagh have different meanings to different people but are often used to identify the area which they are from or to denote religion.

The people of Jordan in the Middle East traditionally wear a style of the white and red keffiyeh, while a different style of the red and white keffiyeh is worn by the people of the Arabian Peninsula. Iraq is typically associated with the black and white Shemagh, while a different style of the same Shemagh is associated with Palestine.

Pure white Shemaghs are associated with people who live along the Persian/Arabian Gulf. In certain cultures, the color of the Shemagh holds significance, but for survival purposes, any color will do!

10 Great Uses For A Shemagh in Hot Weather

10 Reasons To Carry A Shemagh

These are general uses, but I am sure there are many more ways to use the Shemagh than listed below!

As the Shemagh is originally from hot desert regions, in similar climates it can be used in the following ways:

  1. Wrapped around your head and face to protect you from the sun, heat, wind, and sand.
  2. Protection from the sun – an absolute must in warmer climates!
  3. Use it as a scarf by wrapping it around your neck – will keep the bugs away while looking stylish!
  4. For any of the previously stated ideas on wearing the Shemagh, first wet the cloth before you wrap it around your head and neck, and it will keep you cool and comfortable! This is particularly true when wearing it around your neck as it will cool the blood running through the major blood vessels on either side of your neck.
  5. Makes a great sweat rag when running, hiking, or for any activities that are sweat-inducing!
  6. Use like a Sarong and tie around your waist.
  7. Perfect as a towel after a quick dip in the river or after a shower – light enough so as not to take up too much space in your backpack, but thick enough to absorb excess water.
  8. To collect dew from plants in the morning, simply tie the Shemagh around your ankles and walk through the plants, wring the dew out into a water container!
  9. Keeps bugs off your food.
  10. Drape over a branch to use as a sun shield.

10 Great Uses For A Shemagh in Cold Weather

10 Reasons To Carry A Shemagh

You can use the shemagh in colder climates in a similar way, but this time to beat the cold!

  1. Wrapping it snuggly around your head will keep you warm.
  2. Use as a full-face wrap to protect your head and face from the cold wind and to protect your nose from frostbite.
  3. On a chilly evening, drape it around your head and shoulders to keep the chill off.
  4. Wrap it over your head under your hat as an extra layer of warmth.
  5. Use it on the ground to sit on – keeping your butt dry and warm!
  6. Makes a very warm, snug blanket when wrapped tightly around your body.
  7. Check the wind on a cold day by holding the Shemagh up like a windsock to see which way the wind blows.
  8. Wave the Shemagh in the air or lay flat on the ground as a signal flag if you are lost– the colors should make it stand out against any background.
  9. A portable shelter from the cold when tied between two trees.
  10. In dire circumstances, small pieces can be used as kindling to start a fire to keep you warm.

10 Great General Uses For A Shemagh

In any weather, a Shemagh has many other uses that would be advantageous to an outdoor adventurer!

  1. Due to it being made from pure cotton material, in an emergency, you can cut pieces off the Shemagh to make char cloth and build a fire.
  2. You can use it for first aid as an emergency bandage.
  3. Or as a sling to keep an injured arm or broken bone immobilized.
  4. Makes a great hobo bag – tie the ends together and put stuff in the middle!
  5. Soft and thick enough to be rolled up and used as a pillow – perfect for camping trips or long car rides!
  6. Need a rope? Twist the Shemagh into a long length and use it as needed.
  7. Perfect as a water filter to filter out sediment from your water before you drink it.
  8. Need to nap during the day but can’t because of the bright sun? A Shemagh wrapped around your eyes will keep the bright sun out of your eyes while you nap and is cool enough to keep you comfortable!
  9. How about as a pillow for your nap!
  10. Wrap your valuables up in the Shemagh, and no-one else will know what you are carrying.

How To Make A DIY Shemagh

10 Reasons To Carry A Shemagh

A Shemagh can be made from just about any piece of material which you happen to have lying around.

  1. Lay your piece of cloth/fabric down on a flat surface.
  2. Measure out a square, about 42 inches by 42 inches or 1 meter by 1 meter – cut out the fabric along the measured lines with scissors.
  3. Fold over the cloth to make a hem all around the edge – about ¼ inch or 1cm, then stitch in place by hand or with a sewing machine.

You can tailor-make the Shemagh to any size suitable for you, you can even add a fringe if you are feeling creative!

Top Ways To Tie A Shemagh Scarf

The traditional way to wear a Shemagh is wrapped around your face, but most people wear it as an oversized scarf, wrapped over the head and around the shoulders.

Try this method to protect yourself from the heat and the dust:

  • Open your Shemagh until it is a full square
  • Lift one corner and fold it to the diagonally opposite corner to form a triangle
  • Place about ¾ of the folded edge over your forehead (like a bandana)
  • Make sure that one side is shorter than the other, grab the shorter end and pull it under your chin, towards the back of your head
  • Grab the longer side with your other hand and pull it across your face and wrap it over your head – the end should be on the opposite side of your head.
  • Wrap the longer piece around your neck until it joins with the smaller piece – tie the two ends together in a knot.
  • Tuck the edges around your face inside the scarf

How to Use the Shemagh as a Neck Scarf

  • Open your Shemagh until it is a full square
  • Lift one corner and fold it to the diagonally opposite corner to form a triangle
  • Place the folded edge over the lower half of your face, just below your nose
  • Hold the ends tightly and bring them around your neck
  • Loosely tie the two ends together behind your neck
  • Pull the two ends down the front of your chest and pull the folded top part up under your chin

Using A Shemagh To Make A Face Mask

  • Open your Shemagh until it is a full square
  • Lift one corner and fold it to the diagonally opposite corner to form a triangle
  • Fold the top half of the folded edge about halfway down the side
  • Place the double side of the Shemagh over your face
  • Grab a corner in each hand and wrap around the back of your neck
  • Wrap around the front of your neck then round to the back again
  • Tie the two corners together in one knot


This versatile, simple cloth is a must in my EDC and in my outdoor kit. It even folds up small enough to keep one in the glove box of my car!

I would recommend the Shemagh as a necessity for any outdoorsman or Survivalist or simply to carry around with you wherever you go!

You may also like out reviews on the following items: Outdoorsman Lab Sleeping Bag, the Coleman CH7 Headlamp and the Eversaw Folding Hand Saw.

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