How to Use (& Tie) A Shemagh & Why You Need One for Prepping

If you want another bushcraft outfit in your survival bag, then you must look for a shemagh.

Shemagh is a functional piece of cloth and yes – the bandana’s big brother.

They have almost unlimited uses which is why you need one in your preparedness gear.

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Why You Need a Shemagh in your Preparedness Gear
How to Make A DIY Shemagh
How to Tie A Shemagh
Shemagh VS Bandana: Which Is Better?

Why You Need a Shemagh in your Preparedness Gear

What is a “Shemagh”?  Wikipedia basically states that it’s a traditional Middle Eastern headdress or scarf, made of cotton, and is worn by Arab men, Jews, and Kurds.

Despite British soldiers being issued keffiya for decades, they commonly call them shemaghs.

In fact, the British Empire has used them since before WWII by certain military units and police, and are commonly worn by special forces around the world.  They must be pretty useful!

men wearing shemaghs

The Shemagh is essentially a big bandana, usually a square measuring 42 or 44 inches on each side.

They come in many colors. I personally have them in green, khaki and white, which should cover all seasons (for some quick head camouflage).

What can you use a Shemagh, or a regular bandana for? Almost anything.

I keep one in each of my family vehicles, camping kits and even carry one daily in my backpack for work.

I’m bald, so this comes in very handy. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been caught, unexpectedly, outside in the sun, for long periods of time. This can be a lifesaver, even more so, for us fair-skinned folk.

Some Shemagh uses:

  1. Sun Protection for bald heads… or necks, for those of you with hair!
  2. Cooling (soak with water and drape or tie it to yourself)
  3. Sweat Band
  4. Dust Maskman wearing shemagh in desert
  5. Face covering (conceal your identity, like a ninja)
  6. Diffuse Light (put over flashlight or battery lantern)
  7. Water pre-filter (remove sediment that could clog your water filter)
  8. Water acquisition – Tie around ankles and walk through plants covered with dew. Wring into water container (or mouth)
  9. Signaling flag
  10. Trail marker
  11. Tie to luggage or bag to make it identifiable
  12. Hot pad or potholder (metal or other cookware gets hot when you use it with fire)
  13. Food cover (keep bugs off your food)
  14. Tourniquet
  15. Arm Sling
  16. Use to secure a splint in place
  17. Eye covering or eye patch
  18. Scarf or Neck Warmer
  19. Napkin
  20. Washcloth
  21. Towel
  22. Dishtowel
  23. Handkerchief (you may have a runny nose or sneezing)
  24. bag for food collection or to help carry items
  25. Tie around sticks or branches to make a bundle (easier to carry)
  26. Knife Wipe Cloth
  27. Gun Wipe cloth or tear it up to make gun cleaning patches
  28. windsock (check wind direction)
  29. Tie-down loose gear (on vehicles, belt or backpack)
  30. use it to replace a busted backpack shoulder strap
  31. belt
  32. Hobo pack (pouch on end of a stick)
  33. improvised diaper
  34. improvised toilet paper (yuck)
  35. Blindfold (I’m not even going to ask….)
  36. Bullfighting cape (joking…or am I?) “Olé!”

How to Make A DIY Shemagh

Making your own shemagh isn’t as hard as you think. The materials you’ll need to make one are pretty basic, too. You probably already have them at home.

For one, you’ll need a tape measure and a pair of scissors. You’ll also need fabric. In the summer, cotton is the most ideal type of fabric to go. If you’ll be using your shemagh in the winter, it’s probably a good idea to pick something synthetic.

Here are the steps:

  1. Unfold your cloth on a solid surface. You can use a table, a countertop, or the ground to really get the fabric to lay flat.shemagh_on_the_ground
  2. Take your measuring tool and a marker. Measure about 48 1/2 inch square onto the cloth and make the right marks. Cut the fabric along the lines you made using your scissors.diy_shemagh
  3. Next, fold about a 1/4 of an inch along all the edges of the fabric. You can use a few straight pins to secure them in place. After you are done with all the sides, you can go back around and tuck the edges under.                                                                   This step helps make sure that your shemagh won’t easily unravel.
  4. Get your sewing machine and sew the hem. As you go through the fabric, remove the straight pins.diy_shemagh_2

Now, if you feel that the size is too big for you, make a smaller shemagh. For that, you’ll need to cut your fabric into 2 feet 1.5 inch by 2 feet 1.5 inch. Do the same steps in making a big shemagh.

Take note that you can have fringe on your shemagh. If this is how you want it, then add an inch or two to the edges.

How to Tie A Shemagh

A shemagh is a tool that can be used in tons of ways. The most common, however, is to use it as a head wrap or face mask when you want an effective camo or you just simply want to protect yourself from dusty environments.

To learn how to tie a shemagh for that purpose, here are the steps.

  1. First, fully open your shemagh. You should have it open in a full square.
  2. Next, form a triangle by folding it in to tie a shemagh 2
  3. Take about 3/4 of the folded edge and place it over your forehead. At this point, you should think of tying a bandana over your to tie a shemagh 3
  4. Hold the shorter end and pull it under your chin. Pull it toward your head’s back.
  5. Get the longer side and place it across your face. Wrap it over your head until its end is on the opposite side.2019-10-28_1258
  6. With two overhand knots, tie both ends to tie a shemagh 5

Another way to use your shemagh is as a loose neck scarf.

  1. For this, you need to fold it into a triangle.
  2. Place it over your face’s lower half. Take note that the folded edge needs to be the part that covers your mouth and nose.shemagh_as_loose_scarf_1
  3. Take the ends and bring them around your neck. Make sure that it’s held tautly against your face.shemagh_as_loose_scarf_3
  4. Using a single knot, secure the shemagh in place. Remember, don’t tie it too tightly. Allow the ends to hang down your chest and tug the top part so that the shemagh now rests around your neck and below your chin.shemagh_as_loose_scarf_4

Shemagh VS Bandana: Which Is Better?

Now, the main difference between a shemagh and bandana is the size.

A bandana is typically 22 inches on the side. There are, however, larger versions which can go up to about 27 inches.

In most cases, bandanas are made with a cotton-synthetic blend or 100% cotton, making them ideal to use during really hot weather conditions. They are also available in a wide range of colors.

A shemagh, as you probably already know by now, is quite versatile. Most of them measure 42 inches square but some can go as big as 47 to 48 inches on a side.

Both of them can be used as impact weapons or to carry gear in a bindle. You can even use them as a tourniquet when you have no other options in the field.

cotton shemagh

Now, if you really need to pick just one, here are some factors to consider:

If you will be hiking or simply out on a sunny day, a shemagh will offer better protection for your skin. It also works better in protecting your eyes and mouth on a windy day.

If you will be going to a place with a nicer weather, a bandana would be better. It allows the skin to breathe better while still giving you protection.

A bandana is also a better pick if you are hunting because it’s lighter and less likely to compromise your view.

The list of uses for a bandana or a good bandana could go on and on and would only be limited by your imagination. This list is just a sampling of why you need a shemagh in your preparedness gear!

12 thoughts on “How to Use (& Tie) A Shemagh & Why You Need One for Prepping”

  1. If you get one, make sure it’s made of a synthetic material. Cotton sucks.
    Do a search, there are several available. Check eBay as well.

  2. It sounds like a handy item to have with you, But be careful where you wear it if and when a war between the muslums and American citizens breaks out. (If God forbid there is another major terror attack on U.S. soil.) You don’t want to be mistaken for the enemy.

    • The Kufiya is worn by SAS, Special forces etc. No one will think you are a enemy just because you wear one. Besides, you can buy a solid color if you are really concerned.

    • I agree with you Sam. That gear here would mark you as muslum or arab. The majority of citizens here would not know they are worn by British special forces.

  3. Almost useless information of the day: that bag on a stick stereotypically carried by hobos is called a bindle. I have nothing to contribute.

  4. There are many ways to wear a shemagh around your neck. Below, I show to you a one of the most common methods that is the classic approach.
    Hold your shemagh and make a triangle out of it.
    Position the folded edge over your forehead, covering it.
    Then, shift it left or rightwards to the center of your forehead and check that both ends are equal.
    Take the end of the right side of your shemagh towards the left and pull it over the left shoulder, placing it under the chin.
    Similarly, take the left side of your shemagh and pull it over your face to the right. Check that your nose and mouth are concealed.
    Know the two ends of the shemagh behind your head. Do this carefully and tightly so that when you move, it does not slip off. However, it should not be too tight that breathing is restricted.
    Make any final adjustments to ensure that it is comfortable.


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