Middle-eastern people have been using the shemagh as a head covering for centuries. Traditionally, it is used in arid, desert and semi-desert regions, but has application in colder climates too. It is sometimes known as a keffiyeh.
Military units have adopted it units for many reasons, one of which being to obscure identity. The British military has been using them for decades, since before World War 2. The military mechanised units and Special Forces often use this head covering.
If the military has adopted something and used it for years, you know it has to be for good reason.
What Is A Shemagh?
A shemagh is basically a square piece of pure cotton material. It is usually 42 inches by 42 inches, about 1 metre by 1 metre, in size. You can wear this versatile garment in many different ways, depending on the need or the environment.
From my point of view as an outdoorsman, it is a very light, versatile item that should be included in your backpack or survival gear due to its many uses. You will find it very useful for your outdoor activities and invaluable if you are lost outdoors!
Uses For A Shemagh in Hot Weather
The origins of the shemagh were in hot desert regions and has the following uses in those climates.
- Wrap it around your head to protect you from the sun
- You can wrap it around your head and face to protect you from the heat, wind and sand
- Use it as a scarf by wrapping it around your neck
- In any of the above applications, first wet the shemagh and as the water evaporates, it will cool you down. This is particularly true of wearing it around your neck. It will cool the blood running in the major blood vessels on either side of your neck.
Uses For A Shemagh in Cold Weather
You can use the shemagh in colder climates in a similar way, but this time to beat the cold!
- Wrap it around your head like a hat to keep your head warm.
- Use a full face wrap to protect your head and face from the cold wind and protect your nose from frostbite.
- On a chilly evening, drape it around your head and shoulders to keep the chill off.
General Uses For A Shemagh
In any weather, a shemagh has other uses that would be advantageous to an outdoors person.
- Due to it being a pure cotton material, in an emergency you can cut pieces off the shemagh to make char cloth.
- You can use it for first aid as a bandage, or as a sling to immobilise an injured arm, shoulder or collar bone.
- The shemagh can be tied to form a makeshift sling bag to carry items if needed.
I have included this versatile, simple cloth in my EDC and in my outdoor kit and you should too! You can easily fold it small enough to keep one in the glove box of your car!
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