The Best Survival Bandana for Preppers and Survivalists

There are plenty of clutch survival tools, but one often is underappreciated: the humble bandana. A bandana is the most lightweight survival tool you can get for any survival kit. A survival bandana goes even further, adding more versatility so you can be better prepared for an emergency. They stand out by adding the ability to signal, inform, and even have updated designs for first aid use.

Most bandanas we all are familiar with are the cheap, thin cotton ones with bright colored paisley designs. These bandanas are popular accessories for everyone from cowboys to gang members, and all of the hipsters in between. They are dirt cheap and can get the job done in an emergency, but there are higher quality survival-oriented bandanas out there to pick from. This is where we come in. We’ve researched all of the survival bandanas, put them through their paces, and have selected the overall best, budget pick, and a high quality upgrade option. If you need a bandana for your survival kit, one of our selections will be the perfect fit.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


The Best Survival Bandana

Colter Co. Reflective Bandana

Hi-Vis or Gray Man, Durable, and Versatile

This informative bandana is available in digital camo or high vis orange with reflective printing, with either choice being the top pick for your survival kit.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

You can get Colter Co’s “Stayin’ Alive” bandana in reflective high-vis orange or the gray man-friendly urban camouflage depending on whether or not you need the bandana for signaling. The bandana is 22″ by 22″, is 100% cotton, and is made in the USA. The reflective ink stays put and did not wash off or deteriorate after several washes and our field testing.

Colter Co. makes a lot of bandanas, and their best seller is the two options of survival bandana they offer. You can also find these high quality informational bandanas, but they won’t have the survival advice and retroreflective printing:

  • Stargazer bandana: glow in the dark star chart- great for nighttime navigation
  • Know your Knots bandana: if knots give you a tough time, this handy knot guide cover 16 survival knots is a solid choice
  • Ten Cs of Survival bandana: another survival bandana option, but less informational and without reflective ink
  • Ouija Board bandana: great for novelty and entertainment, but don’t expect any ‘spirits’ to help you survive
  • Fly Fishing Knots bandana: 9 knots that are popular for fly fishing could help you out in a pinch
  • 1911 bandana: an exploded view of the popular handgun is perfect if it is your go-to handgun

Although we prefer the Stayin’ Alive printing, with the reflective ink and survival information, any of these bandanas could be a solid quality choice based on your situation and experience.


Budget Bandana

UST Survival Bandana

Good Value, Informational, with Hi-Visibility

A high-vis, functional survival bandana for half the price still gets the job done, making it a great option for bug out bags and survival kits.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST) are know for making budget-friendly survival gear for the masses. This bandana fits that description well, solidly getting the job done without any extra cost. The 100% cotton bandana is lightweight and made in China. The printing did wear off a little after some use in our field testing and after several machine washes. Still, the printed information is comprehensive and makes this bandana a solid choice if you are going to stow it in a bug out bag or survival kit. It may not withstand everyday use, but the UST Survival Bandana will get you through an emergency or two.


Upgrade Bandana

Head for Survival Bandana

Large, Versatile, and Informational

The large triangle shape makes this bandana stand above the rest: it can be used as a sling, splint wrap, and provides plenty of survival reading material.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

This bandana was a fun one to test. For starters, it is much larger than your typical 22″ by 22″ square bandana- and it is a modified triangular shape: 39″ x 39″ x 52″. The idea is that it easily covers your head when tied, no matter your head size and can also use it’s length to create a sling, splint tie, or any other application you can think of. Because the bandana is so large, it fits much more survival information on it. It also includes a few safety pins, and is available in high-vis orange or OD green.

Survival Metrics makes the Head for Survival bandana, and has put a ton of thought into it. It is an impressive upgrade for survival kits, and comfortable enough for EDC use. Out of all of the bandanas we tested, this one was the highest quality and is the most versatile because of it’s unique shape. If you are looking for an inexpensive upgrade: the Head for Survival bandana is a solid choice.


Everything We Recommend

Colter Co. Reflective Bandana

Colter Co. Reflective Bandana

This informative bandana is available in digital camo or high vis orange with reflective printing, with either choice being the top pick for your survival kit.

Where to Buy

$13* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

UST Survival Bandana

UST Survival Bandana

A high-vis, functional survival bandana for half the price still gets the job done, making it a great option for bug out bags and survival kits.

Where to Buy

$7* at Amazon

$7* at Walmart

*at time of reviewing

Head for Survival Bandana

Head for Survival Bandana

The large triangle shape makes this bandana stand above the rest: it can be used as a sling, splint wrap, and provides plenty of survival reading material.

Where to Buy

$14* at Amazon

$12* at eBay

*at time of reviewing


The Bandanas We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several contenders that we tested: UST, Colter Co, Battlbox, Head for Survival, Rothco, Levi’s, and more. This helped us eliminate bandanas that just weren’t a good value. Finding the best value and a solid budget pick ended up being much more straightforward than our upgrade pick. There were plenty of options at lower price points, but most of them match their low price with low quality. The few exceptions stood out quickly.

There were not very many quality survival bandanas to compare, which made our job easier. The Head for Survival, with it’s unique shape stood out immediately, and was a blast to test with it’s versatility. The reflective Colter Co bandana is an extremely effective signaling tool, with the retroreflective ink that withstood abrasion and washing tests. These two stood out as the highest quality options.


What to Look For

The best survival bandanas have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Material Quality
  3. Size and Shape
  4. Versatility

Below, we break down what each of these mean for a great bandana. When you get the right blend of these, you can find a solid bandana without breaking the bank.

Cheap paisley bandana face covering
A survival bandana goes way past a fashion statement or makeshift face covering.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

In a world full of cheap bandanas, you usually get what you pay for. The thin paisley print bandanas we all know from cowboys – both rural and urban – cost a few dollars at most.

A heavier-weight fabric, more useful printing than paisley (shouldn’t be hard), and unique shapes can all justify a higher cost of a bandana, especially if you need it to hold up in an emergency situation.

Fabric Material

Most bandanas use a thin, lightweight cotton or polyester fabric. There are pros and cons to each material type, but the main quality difference will be found in the weight of the fabric. Higher quality bandanas will be thicker, and will be soft after a few uses rather than stiff and papery.

All of the bandanas we’ve suggested are heavier weight than the dollar-store bandanas even though some are made of cotton and one is made of polyester. This gives them a better feel, more absorbency, and makes them more durable.

Size and Shape

Most bandanas come in a 2′ square shape. This has been the ‘default’ size for bandanas for quite a while. This is the perfect size to be tied around the head as a covering, as a face mask, to tie up in a bag shape to secure small items, use as a napkin, and many other traditional bandana uses.

Our upgrade pick is an exception to this rule with a modified triangle shape that measures 39″ x 39″ x 52″. It is a larger surface area, but more importantly, the longer length allows the bandana to be tied and used in more applications- like a sling.

Versatility

A bandana’s versatility is based on the material type, material weight, bandana size and shape, information printing, and visibility. Survival bandanas are designed with versatility in mind, so they usually include survival information and are high-vis- setting them apart from traditional bandanas. This expands the number of uses for them, as we will cover below.


The Many Uses of a Survival Bandana

There are hundreds of uses for bandanas, but we’ll list out a few that are important for survival. These uses for survival bandanas include:

  • Mask – After coronavirus most people know bandanas can be tied as a mask. It is less effective for viruses and is better for particles, like dust and pollen. You can wet a bandana to help it filter smoke slightly better.
  • Signal – Bright colored bandana (or bandanas with reflective printing) can be used to signal for rescue help.
  • Bag – Tie all four corners of a square bandana together to create a makeshift bag.
  • First Aid – A bandana can be used as a tourniquet, first aid dressing, cold compress, eye patch, and as a sling.
  • Hat – Use a bandana for sun protection on your neck, head covering, or just as a sweatband.
  • Gun Care – Bullet patches and barrel cleaning patches require you to cut the bandana up, but it can be effective.
  • Insulation – It won’t do much, but you can add a little warmth by stuffing clothing with bandanas.
  • Tissue – One of the more common uses.
  • Water Filter – A bandana can be a pre-filter for water, filtering out particulates quickly and easily.
  • Trail Marking – You can mark trails with bandanas, either with the whole bandana or cut into strips.
  • Fire – Cotton material bandanas can be used as tinder, or can be soaked in oil to create a torch.
  • Toilet Paper – As it’s final service to you, you can wipe your rear end with a bandana.

The list goes on, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. In an emergency situation, if you have a survival bandana and a need- you’ll find a new use for it.


Who Needs a Survival Bandana?

Bandanas are so lightweight and cheap, they make sense for any prepared person to keep in a kit or even on their person. Everyone can benefit from such a versatile piece of cloth.

A survival bandana is an integral and essential part of these kits:

A survival bandana is a suggested addition for these kits:

No matter what threats could come your way, a bandana is a good thing to have on hand.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

An objective look at the best survival bandana is useless without sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our practical military experience and prepping acumen.

Bishop, P. & Crew, K. & Wingo, J. & Nawaisah, A. (2014). Modeling heat stress and heat strain in protective clothing. Woodhead Publishing Series in Textiles. (Source).

Rykaczewski, K. (2019) Cool future fashion: Personal cooling as part of social adaptation to hotter climates. Temperature, 6:2, 97-100 (Source).

Poulos, M. (2018). El mundo es un pañuelo*: The Bandana as a Global Symbol of Resistance. Eleven: The Undergraduate Journal of Sociology, Berkeley. Vol 8. (Source).


The Final Word

A bandana may seem like a simple accessory, but they are surprisingly versatile. They are simple- just a square (or triangle) piece of cloth that can cover, tie, stuff, and absorb whatever you throw at it. We’ve all used one at some point in our lives, but they can be clutch in emergencies or in survival situations.

Besides bandanas, there are many other types of clothing that you should consider for survival:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that the Colter Co. Reflective Survival Bandana was the best option given the value, traditional square shape, fabric quality, and versatility. Be sure to know how to use your bandana- there are so many way you can use it, it would be a shame to just let it sit in your survival kit or bug out bag forever.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Survival Bandana for Preppers and Survivalists

Rusty

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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