A shemagh (AKA Keffiyeh, ghutrah, hattah, mashadah, yazdi, or cemedani) is a traditional Middle Eastern headdress that is usually made from cotton and comes in a square shape. It has been part of their heritage for thousands of years dating back to the Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia (current day Iraq, Syria, and Turkey). It has been adopted by civilians, survivalists, and militaries across the world due to its numerous survival uses, many of which I will show you now!
In my travels and even camping, the shemagh has been my number one survival item because it has so many applications. Even my favorite author, Douglas Adams, put the importance of them in his book “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”:
“A towel is just about the most massively useful thing any interstellar Hitchhiker can carry. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon;
use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course you can dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.” – Douglas Adams
Without further ado, here are the 70+ uses for a shemagh!
1. Hat – Protects against the sun and heat.
2. Scarf – Wrap around your neck to keep warm.
3. Dust Mask – Wear over your face to protect from dust and other particles in the air.
4. Smoke Mask – Wear wet and over your face to protect from smoke.
5. Face Veil – Cover your face in any number of ways!
6. Cooling Cloth – Wet the cloth and place over yourself to cool down.
7. Sweat Towel – Wipe off excess sweat.
8. Handkerchief – Can be used any way a handkerchief can and more.
9. Fashion Accessory – Wear it because it looks cool 🙂
10. Fashion Statement/Symbol – They have different meanings to different people and religion’s.
11. Belt – It will hold your pants up in a pinch.
12. Bandana – Anything a bandana can do, a shemagh can do better! You can even cut it up and have 4 bandanas if you want.
13. Hair Tie – Wrap or tie long hair.
14. Foot Wrap – Lose your sock or shoe somehow? I won’t ask, but a shemagh can replace it.
15. Improvised Gloves – Not the best alternative, but if you are in a pinch…
16. Mend Clothing – Cut a piece off and use it as a patch.
17. Backpack – Put your items in the center, cross opposite sides and tie together to create a backpack.
18. Ear Covering – Cover your ears to protect from sound or cold.
19. Knee Pad – Wrap around your knees to reduce the impact of the floor.
20. Strainer – Strain liquid out of food.
21. Water Filter – This won’t completely filter water, but will pre-wash and remove debris.
22. Net – To catch fish, or whatever you like!
23. Sponge – For soaking up water and cleaning things.
24. Coffee/Tea Filter – Forgot your filters? Throw a shemagh in instead.
25. Drink Koozie – Keep your hands warm and your drink cold.
26. Salad Spinner – Clean salad.
27. Grease Catch – No cans or other ways to dispose of hot grease? Use a shemagh.
28. Dew Collector – Leave it hanging overnight to collect dew.
29. Hot Pot Holder – Handle hot pots and pans without burning yourself.
30. Flail/Sling – Wrap a rock in one end and swing away! Can be used as projectile or to bash.
31. Staff sling – As always, just add a stick for more power!
32. Whip – Wet the shemagh and use to whip. Just like in the high school showers.
33. Camouflage – Many are camo/shark-tooth pattern. Use that to blend in with the environment.
34. Blindfold – Wrap around head to cover eyes and ears.
35. Shooting Rest – Wrap up and place as a base for your rifle.
36. Wick/Fuse – Cut small pieces to use as a wick or fuse.
37. Gag – Put in someone’s mouth to keep them from making noise.
38. Handcuffs – Tie around arms as handcuffs.
39. Gun Cloth – Clean your gun.
40. Pillow – Follow the same method as the backpack, but put leaves, moss, etc. in the middle.
41. Blanket – It’s small, but perfect when it is not too cold outside.
42. Towel – This is the main thing I have used mine for as I always have it and you never know when you will need a towel.
43. Wash Cloth – Always good as a hand towel.
44. Ground Cloth – Lay it out on the ground as a cushion or dry area.
45. Sun Shade – Hang it from a tree or over you to block the sun.
First Aid and Cosmetics
46. Bandage – Cut and tape or wrap over a wound.
47. Tourniquet – Tie around your arms, legs, etc. to slow/stop bleeding.
48. Splint – Wrap it around your arms or legs with a stick to keep the bones straight.
49. Sling – Wrap your arm in the shemagh and tie it around your neck.
50. Feminine Hygiene – Works as a pad if you cut it to the correct size and fold it.
51. Poultice – Moisten and add flour, plant material, etc. to relieve soreness and inflammation.
52. Toilet Paper – Sometimes s#!t happens. Shemagh to the rescue again!
53. Ice Pack – Just add ice.
54. Eye Patch – Wrap it around your head with the point hanging out over your eye.
55. Emergency baby changing pad – Sometimes a sacrifice has to be made!
56. Baby Swaddle – Keep your baby warm and comfortable in a baby swaddle.
57. Baby Carrier/Sling – Easily carry your baby using yourself as a harness.
58. Diaper – Need a diaper in a hurry? No stores around? A shemagh would save you here…
59. Baby Bib – Or even an adult bib 🙂
60. Muzzle – I wonder if this works on the children too?
61. Leash – Tie one end to the collar and make a handhold on the other end.
62. Collar – Wrap around your pets’ neck.
63. Mark/Identify your belongings – It is very easy to find your stuff when you have a shemagh on it!
64. Trail Marker – Mark where you have been before, where you are going.
65. Rope – Twist or cut in strips to create rope of your choice.
66. Lamp Wick – Cut a piece to use as a lamp wick.
67. Bear Bag – Wrap your food and tie it to a high tree branch to avoid bears.
68. Signal Flag – Wave down someone with a signal that they can easily see.
69. Fire Starter – Use all or just a piece to start a fire as it easily catches.
70. Bug Cover – Cover yourself as protection from insects.
71. Small ship sail – Tie to a pole on a kayak or other small vessel. Use to patch sail.
72. Padding for fragile items – Cover things like glasses so they don’t get scratched or break.
73. Noise reductive wrap – Wrap items in your bag so they don’t make noise.
74. Tethering – Connect items to yourself or your pack.
As you can see, the shemagh is an extremely versatile tool. If you don’t already own one, you should buy one immediately! If you do already own one, then I’m sure you already know how useful they are.
P.S. – I also happen to sell good quality shemaghs below and in my shop 🙂
Also, please check out my shop at https://www.cyclelegend.net