Shemaghs, A Survival “Must Have”

Other uses for a Shemagh

From time to time we get an update to an original article here at SurvivalCache that we want to share with our readers.  “30 Uses for a Bandanna” has been a very popular post and one of our readers has written a great update.

The Shemagh

When I deployed to the Middle East, I found that all the locals in country would wrap their headsShemagh Headdress in cloth, to cover their faces and/or heads.  Even on relatively nice days, these people would cover their faces while the rest of the American soldiers would not.  I thought to myself “Well, they must be onto something here.”  It was only during a power outage in our living area that I discovered why.  When the lights were out, I turned on my flashlight and discovered that there was a pretty significant amount of dust illuminated by the beam of light, and it didn’t strike me as a particularly windy or dusty evening.

This prompted me to order a “shemagh” which, as many of you may know, is a traditional Middle Uses for ShemaghEastern headdress used for ages to protect the wearer from blowing dust, keep the sun off the neck, head and face, and as a wrap for warmth on cold desert nights.  Once I learned how to tie it around my head properly, which is not a difficult task with a little research on the Internet, this became one of my regular pieces of equipment.  If the dust kicks up suddenly, I would put it on. This prevented the sand from finding its way into my nose, mouth, and ears.  While it will not eliminate it all, it certainly helps significantly.  In this type of environment, use should obviously be accompanied with goggles.

In browsing, I came across the article “30 Uses for a Bandana” and upon Shemagh Survival reading it, I immediately concluded that a shemagh would be better suited for all of these tasks. There is a lot of material to play with, but the shemagh does not take up a lot of room and is relatively cheap.  It is also 100% cotton.  I have used it as a makeshift air conditioner dust filter, a sweat rag, a sand/wind/dust wrap, a gear cover during sand storms, a cooling rag (when wet), and a number of other things.  I highly encourage anyone reading this to purchase one and give it a shot.

Everyday Uses

The every day uses, and uses during a stressful situation, such as a natural disaster, would be endless.  If any particulates remain in the air following an earthquake, building collapse, fire, etc. and you do not have a mask (I’d bet you won’t) you will have face and head protection.  If you find yourself without adequate shelter in the cold, one of these shemaghs could provide additional insulation. I would encourage you to read  ”30 Uses for a Bandana” as this is a very informative article and is completely relevant to this piece of equipment.  Shemaghs come in a number of colors too, so I have added an olive drab/black one for concealment, and a red/white one for visibility in my Bug Out Bag.  A word of caution: I would avoid traditional colors (black/white, red/white) when traveling to the Middle East for they have certain cultural connotations.  You can find them in non-traditional colors easily, such as tan/black, red/black, blue/black, etc to suit your taste and your environment.  They can be found on Amazon for a reasonable price.  Purchase one or two and you will be amazed how many uses it has, and you will add a few to your survival kit, guaranteed.

By Mike L, a reader of

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SKB Photography

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{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris April 8, 2011 at 6:26 am

Though I have never used one, I had come to the same conclusions about shemaghs. I then discussed it with a friend about adding to our get home bags.

Functionally, it may be superior, but our concern is the image it portrays. It immediately conveys the idea Middle Eastern/Muslim, right or wrong.danger. In the United states you will not blend into the sea of those trying to get away. If the cause of the disaster is unknown, or even worse suspected terrorism, this could make you a target of mob violence.


Josh April 8, 2011 at 6:31 am

You bring up a great point! Something to think about for sure.


Joe "Grunt Doc" April 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I, too, am of the mind that adopting modes of dress that draw attention to yourself can be a dangerous thing. For instance; if you wear your baggy pants around your knees, you're going to beg for a belt when the SHTF and you need to run. You dress yourself to blend in with the environment, not to make yourself an obvious target or hamper your ability to move about. I once heard a comedian ask why the Marines in Beirut were dressed like trees instead of looking like burned out cars and bombed buildings. Don't endanger yourself for the sake of convenience or looking cool. The costs can be pretty severe.


BamaMan April 12, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I would not recomend wearing one of those anytime in any situation unless you are in the middle east.


G Hunt July 6, 2013 at 1:09 am

Perhaps, yet the in the deep woods or out in islands in lakes who is to care? I trained with the Royal Saudis years ago. They did have some points to make. IT seems in a practical view the Shemagh is superior to the bandana. My own ancestors wore a kind of turban… The Cherokees and Chickasaw. I see the Seminole and Muskogee also count it as Native American wear.


Shiriki December 3, 2011 at 12:30 am

So use the solid colors. People will think "Oh, he's wearing a scarf. Okay." Tuck in the edges.


Better looking Chris July 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm

True. Kind of sad.


tpk November 28, 2013 at 3:09 am

I have two shemaghs, one in black watch plaid, the other in a purple plaid. They don't convey the image you're afraid of conveying. I go from hunting pigs in the hills to hanging out in bars in a dense urban environment with both. In the hills the shemagh keeps dust out of my mouth; in the bar it just looks cool. Shop for a non-traditional pattern. I've seen stars and bars shemaghs out there, so you're likely to find something that suits your taste.


Survival_T April 8, 2011 at 7:34 am

Another product to think about is Buff head wear. I purchased one for my fishing outings and it is fairly breathable. It is also UV resistant. It is a tad more expensive than the shemaghs, but for use in Louisiana, it is perfect for the climate. Just thought I would share my experience with the comparable product. Let me know if you found it useful. By the way, I'm loving this site.


Rescue7 April 8, 2011 at 7:41 am

We used to use the US Military Triangular Cravat Bandages 37x37x52. It comes in olive drab or sand color. You can find them on some surplus gear sites. Less stigma associated with the colors. You sometime see Special Ops guys wearing them on their heads. Works well in dust storms. So does a dust mask. Biggest drawback is restricted breathing when exerting yourself.


CaptBart April 8, 2011 at 8:53 am

I have a keffiyeh (I think it is basically the same thing as the shemagh) in black and white that my Brit friend brought back from the sandbox. Kuwait I think. It has the 'belt' to hold it on the head when not wrapped. Since I'm not in the desert anymore, I've thought about trying to find (or make) the equivalent in a camouflage pattern.

While it has not happened to me, I have read that some from the middle east get really upset when Westerners wear 'their' clothing. Especially since the PLO seems to have adopted the keffiyeh as their 'badge' of belonging. Anyone else run across this?

Good article and thanks for writing it. A very useful piece of clothing.


Dan Barry May 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Bart, you're absolutely right about the appropriation of clothing. There's actually a problematic thing happening right now (mid-2011) because hipsters have adopted the black-and-white keffiyeh as a fashion accessory, and meanwhile they're essentially clueless about its political connotations.

I second the sentiment some other users have posted: absolutely seek out shemaghs in colors/prints that blend well with Western society. It certainly can't hurt and it might help.


G Hunt July 6, 2013 at 1:15 am

It should be known that the Antiochian Orthodox are middle eastern and native Christians… The Shemagh is theirs too. I entered the Church via the Antiochians.. SO it is mine also. Really, technology belongs to the user.


Mike April 8, 2011 at 9:20 am

You can always cut a sleeve of a t-shirt off if your wearing one. It actually makes a perfect improv bandana that won’t need to be tied, as it is snug enough to stay on your face without moving or being too tight. That’s what pro snowboarder Shawn White used to do.


BOB122 April 8, 2011 at 11:46 am

This is what I came in to post actually. Awesome skill to have incase of a disaster. No extra gear and can be easily shown to others who might me inhaling dust. Quick an easy and you always have one with you!


Thomas August 24, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Tshirt mask is the best way to go. It's quick and easy.


Loahnuh June 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm

No need to cut up your t-shirts when there's a quick & easy way to tie a t-shirt around your head like a "ninja" mask.


Disco Dan April 8, 2011 at 9:58 am

Here's another good reason to wear a shemagh.…

Protection from knife hands!


T.Rapier April 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I agree with everything said about its uses and practicality but as some have mentioned above ………. I’ll pass , it would be the same thing to me as wearing a swastika armband . Now if we can just rid our troops of the Nazi helmets and go back to the true American design .


Sharpie January 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm

The NAZI armband has no practical use, whereas the shemagh does. And your troops are getting rid of the K-Pot, although it's replacement doesn't look MUCH different


bob April 8, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Can you spell TARGET? .. i see a raghead moving on my position and i'm not gonna think twice about locking and loading . it may be useful and practical to a raghead , but there is no cotton picking need for it here in the us of a, except to the desert south west , maybe. .. its one thing to use a bandana , but a raghead get up would get man shot here in my neck of the woods, respectfully
and happy hunting


Casey April 11, 2011 at 9:33 am

Exactly bob, “raghead” equals target. Because nobody but terrorists wear shemaghs, certainly not veterans who’ve been in either war and appreciate the functionality of a shemagh and carry one in their own bug out bag. So when an IED goes off in a city or a natural disaster hits and a vet pulls out a shemagh to deal with the dust and smoke while he un-asses the AO, some paranoid, self-righteous ID-ten-Tango will shoot him because he’s “moving on his position”. You need to get over yourself and brush up on some basic concepts like target ID, rules of engagement, and escalation of force, or when the shit gets cleaned off the fan you’ll find yourself judged by 12 and then carried by 6 after you run out of appeals. If someone is "moving on your position" but isn't wearing a shemagh, does that mean he's selling girl scout cookies?


Scott December 1, 2011 at 8:50 am

Wow Bob…way to perpetuate the stereotypical dumb redneck persona there…although Bob does make a point that others have eluded too…and maybe too afraid to say it in the pointed way that Bob has. In a SHTF scenerio and high stress most paranoid preppers will be making grave mistakes they justify to themselves to make the situation seem valid, but knowing when to kill and just killing are two different scenerio's post SHTF. Especially if we want to gain order back quickly and not be target for real threats like cammando crazy and his band of merry men trying to make it a Mad Max kinda world. Most of our gear comes from a military style background, so doesn't that make anyone who looks prepared a target.


Sharpie January 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm

What an asinine comment coming from a total ass. Like no one else wears them? Vets, Contractors, even so called "hipsters" wear them? If you shoot first then you will get shot by those who you've shot at. Maybe someone will be targeted by dumb rednecks like you, that doesn't take away from the fact that is in many cases better than a bandanna, if they're worried about dumbasses like you they should buy fabric and make it as big as a shemagh


7541west October 27, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Wow I thought this site was going to be spared the shame and pain of all of the other type of good prep site but Bob came through and we know there is a village out there missing its…we'll you know the rest. But seriously there will always be Bobs around (at least for the first couple of days before the natural order of things takes care of him and his types) to be examples of why you need to prepare for many different situations. Words fail to fully tell why life has so many Bobs at the crisis cross roads but they will take care to themselves just get out of their way as they float over the falls thinking how really smart they are. Sad very sad and most of the Bobs I have met are too far gone to be redeemed…by the way I would guess his neck of the woods is way way out there…like Mars or Saturn. Pay him no mind.


Justin August 3, 2014 at 9:56 am

Bob. I didn’t think there was such thing as being respectfully racist.

You are obviously ignorant if you use derogatory words such as “raghead”. I feel sorry for you.

Respectfully, Justin


Chefbear58 April 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm

II agree with possible problems resulting from general ignorance/intolerance, especially after a terrorist/perceived terrorist attack here in the US. I think avoiding the traditional colors/patterns would help. If it was me, I would probably stick to OD, khaki, black, Grey, camouflage or some other "subdued" option could help somewhat. You could make it a little less obvious by adjusting HOW you wear it, use it as a head wrap (tied similar to a "du-rag"), like a simple rolled/folded bandanna around the forehead (like Rambo), like a scarf, wear it like a "bandit" from the old western movies, or you can tie them so they resemble a balaclava; Honestly I think the average American (I know this is gonna sound bad, but it's true from my observation/experience) is

#1 to self absorbed to realize someone is wearing one, unless it is in an easily recognized pattern… i.e. the red/white -or black/white -or- I have seen blue/white associated with some cultural meaning beyond my understanding

#2 To ignorant to realize your chosen head wear is a staple of middle-eastern fashion… Again I think this would be the case unless it was an easily recognized/familiar pattern seen in the media

#3 Not observant enough of their surroundings to "pick out" someone wearing a shemagh, unless they are specifically looking for them

**This is where some folks might take offense, but here goes!**
#4 I think most folks that would be walking our streets after any disaster would likely be to "stupid" to know what a shemagh was!

Another problem that I didn't see mentioned- You may become the target of "profiling" by Law Enforcement. As long as you aren't causing problems and aren't doing anything illegal then you should have nothing to worry about… Just remember, one of your goals when evacuating/"buggin' out" should be to maintain as low of a profile as you possibly can. If you are trying not to attract attention, then this "fashion statement" may be the wrong choice… However, I think the shemagh, or at least something similar should be included in EVERYONE'S gear!a


MrAlpine April 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Well said Chefbear58. I tell my students; "Ignorance isn't stupidity." But, ignorance can be just as dangerous.


CaptBart April 16, 2011 at 6:08 am

Mr. Alpine,
True. Difference is you can fix ignorant but you can't fix stupid. The people in NO who thought the government would take care of them were ignorant. Those who are still waiting for the government of fix things there are stupid, in my not so humble opinion. A good definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.


BamaMan April 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I dont see it as ignorance when it is a safe assumption. If I had a shaved head and a certain type of boots with red laces, would you safely assume I was a skin head even though I was not waiving a nazi flag? probably….


Chefbear58 April 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I do agree, but I also think that we have to step back from this for a minute and look at the topic from a different, and objective perspective.

How many times have horrible events been caused by assumptions made by people?
A perfect example comes from the events which followed the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, (someone mentioned it further down in the comments, I am not attempting to "steal their thunder") Hundreds of Sikh's were detained, harassed or shunned because they wear turbans and might have a similar complexion/appearance to some Islamic peoples; Although their religious beliefs are incredibly different from those of the Islamic religion, one of the biggest differences is that unlike RADICAL Islamic followers the Sikh's believe in the equality of all peoples and do not support the destruction of other religions.
Other examples include the German people following the radical views of their leaders, some of which (not including those who shared the warped views)can be attributed to ignorance, lack of caring either way and of course the ASSUMPTION that their leaders knew what was best… Which as we all know lead to the extermination of millions of people (not just Jews, it also included mentally/physically disabled people, Russians, homosexuals and anyone deemed "undesirable")
We can also look at history here on our own doorstep…
African Americans were enslaved by the millions because it was ASSUMED that they were less than people.
Native Americans were killed and displaced from their homes because it was ASSUMED that they were nothing but savages.

When you say- "If I had a shaved head and a certain type of boots with red laces" yes most folks would probably assume that you were a skinhead/neo-Nazi type, however I think that the old saying still holds true… When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.

I know plenty of folks who have assumed that I was some "rough and tumble", "kick your ass for looking at me wrong" "billy bad-ass" kind of guy, but most of the folks who take the time to get to know me realize that *I can be like that* if provoked, but for the most part would give somebody the shirt off my back, and try to help anyone and everyone I come across with no expectation of anything in return, except a thank you. I can't tell you how many times, just today, I have heard "your just a big teddy bear!"; Most folks who think that find it hard to believe I used to be considered the most aggressive fighters in the ring (among the folks who I boxed with, mostly Navy guys and Yuppies trying to prove something). My girlfriend thought I was lying to her when I told her I have a pouch of teeth, which belong to folks I fought when I would street fight (it was a LONG time ago, and I have seriously matured since then) and a couple from people who have tried to rob/mug/"jump" me, and no I didn't yank a tooth out of a down guys head! I would just pick them up after the fight. She also had a hard time believing I broke a buddies jaw, on accident, when I tried to knock some sense into his thick, drunk head!


CaptBart April 15, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I'd like to argue with your statement #4 but seeing things like the stats on the number of people in California who don't know the name of the country to our south I fear you are spot on. That level of ignorance and the willingness to be that ignorant may well be what dooms the US to go through TSHTF on our way out of the mess we are in. Sheeple are sheeple because they are more comfortable not having to make decisions. They are also fair game for the wolves.


Chefbear58 April 15, 2011 at 10:24 pm

It amazes me how quickly folks forget their geography classes from school, or don't keep up on current events! In "Homeland Security & US Law" class the other day, the instructor asked the class where Afghanistan was on a map… Out of 30 students (80% over 20-25), I was the only one who could point it out.

Though I have to say that the inability to identify Mexico, especially with how much immigration/cartel trafficking or violence is on their TV's everyday (from what I understand, I have never been there so it might not be broadcast as much as I hear).


KC April 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm

The shemagh is not just a middle east fashion statement anymore, it has become popular in the states as well. Its not worn in a traditional way, more like a scarf, around the neck.

Also for those thinking of popping off arounds at someone wearing one of these, you might want to rethink that. The shemagh has become very popular with the military and contractor community and you just might bite off more than you can chew! As someone who has a shemagh as part of his kit and very well maybe working in your disaster area, I will tell you, YOU well not like what we bring to that party!


Doczee August 17, 2011 at 1:27 am

Amen, brother!


Regulator5 April 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm

The biggest concern is the thoughts that the average American will associate this as a middle eastern "target" and therefore become unsafe. I keep a shemagh myself, which I carried in the litterbox, and wear it when hunting when needed. As CPT Bart said, the idea is sound and all you have to do is change the pattern to a more suitable color(s). The Muslims use colors to identify where they come from and which tribe they belong. Shemaghs made in a hunting camo color wouldn't draw unnecessary scrutiny. Also, ALOT of troops are bringing them back and they are becoming more common place in society.
@KC, I see you bring up contractors patrolling armed in American cities. I have nothing against the contractors I worked with in Iraq and think on the whole, they were filling a void in our military from the cutbacks and gutting we took during the 1990's. I will say this tho, when you bring up contractors acting in LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) roles on American soil, the TV series "Jericho" comes to mind.
I think Blackwater was railroaded and followed the ROE (Rules Of Engagement).


T.Rapier April 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Perhaps when you have been away from your own country for soooooooooo long that you start to dress like the enemy …. and make no mistake , they are the enemy . Its not ignorance , we are at war . Intolerance , they are the most intolerant people on earth . Its not a fashion statement to anybody who has had problems with these people or many american families who has lost a son/father/mother/brother/sister in uniform over there either . It gets a little more personal so pardon those who are not PC .


Rachel October 5, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Shunning techniques used by the "enemy" simply because they are the "enemy" and not because the techniques lack merit IS ignorance, whether you like it or not.

I served in the Army, and although I only "deployed" to Korea, my husband spent time over in Iraq. My father was an officer in the Army as well, and while working as a contractor in Afghanistan was targeted specifically for being Jewish and killed. So, I think I've had a taste of the "problems" you attempted to address in your post, and I am still telling you that this article has a lot of merit and the item of discussion is definitely something we will be adding to our supplies. Dismissing an item just because small groups of people (not ALL the Muslims fall into your category) favor their usage is blatantly silly and puts you at a disadvantage.


T.Rapier April 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm

My apologies to the site for getting political , but really ……. what did you expect from this ? Emulating clothing items that originate in a part of the world that the majority of the world is at war with in one degree or another . It becomes sensitive for many reasons on many levels to so many … not just in the US . If a person was to wear a nazi arm band into a synagogue …. they too would deserve anything they get in reaction .


Regulator5 April 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I see your point and I have been over to the said litterbox. I still find the shemagh a useful item and not necessarily a brand that the person wearing it is a foe. Just because something originates in a land we are at war with, does that mean we should use it? Do you believe in the use of anesthesia? It also orginated in the Middle East by Muslims. We were at war with Germany, but I am sure bratwurst or other ethnic foods were eaten at this time. How much vodka did Americans drink during the cold war? There are many instances where you can still utilize an item, even if it was founded or mostly used in a foreign, hostile area of the world. If you want a strictly American example, how many soldiers and settlers wore moccasins during the Indian Wars?


CommoYojimbo May 18, 2011 at 6:34 am

Excellent point, Regulator5. There is honestly little that is more American than taking someone else's good idea an utilizing it to its fullest. Unfortunately, it also seems very American lately to have no idea where these good ideas come from. With the insane ideas people have pointed out I may replace the shemagh some Kurdish workers gave me when I was playing in the sandbox for something less "politically incorrect" in my kit, but it is a slippery slope. Perhaps we should give up having a driver's test? Too French, no?


Dunecoonkillr October 9, 2011 at 10:17 am

I see this as a must have in a survival situation but in a combat situation I would not wear one. And I do not find them offensive since I have read that the Jews have been wearing these things longer then the dune coons they are different colors and pattern then the Arabs bit pretty much same thing.


Lieutenant D. November 27, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I've worn a shemagh for the last 27 days that I have been outside the wire. I'm rather fond of it, and I think when US troops wear them it allows us to show some type of commonality with the local nationals. To make the claim that it's similar to wearing a Nazi arm band simply shows you are ignorant concerning the strategic and tactical goals of our counter insurgency operations. My sincere apologies to having spent a total of 3 years of my finite life being away from my country for so long that culturally ignorant, ethnocentric Americans who have never even heard a shot fired in anger think that United States troops have "gone native".


MrAlpine April 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I agree with the middle easten image the shemagh portrays ,but I was thinking, would it be profitable to take two american bandanas and sew them together edge to edge. It would give it the length to work with, add functionality, and not incriminate you as a "terrorist". If you know how to use a sewing machine they could be tripple stiched for strength. Just a thought.


T.Rapier April 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm

good idea , there are so many alternatives to this . Crap , fabric is cheap , why not just make your own devise . Survivalists are the most resourceful people on the planet , almost anything would do for this purpose .


X April 9, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Jews in Israel wear shemags, Muslims do too, and British, US armed forces too. It’s not like a swatztika armband. It’s more like leather boots. Everybody wears them because they serve the needs of a soldier, not because it’s a symbol.


KC April 10, 2011 at 1:40 am

You best give up that AK and SKS you love so much! Cause the bad guys love to use them not to mention that weapon has been use to oppress millions!


KC April 10, 2011 at 2:11 am

You best give up that AK and SKS you love so much! Cause the bad guys love to use them not to mention that weapon has been use to oppress millions!

As far as contractors working in the US, not all contractors work in an LE capacity in a disaster area. Many work for private companies or individuals just like in the middle east. Is the “Jericho” thing possible, sure anything is possible. But the majority of contractors are ex military or LE and are good honest people. Is there ass hat out there, that do bad thing? Yes! But as we all saw with Katrena the cops can go “Jericho” too. Just because some are bad or act out of desperation, that doesn’t make them all bad. I’ve work in New Orlins during the hurricanes and with NOPD they have some great officers and all thanked my teams for coming and helping.


Regulator5 April 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm

I worked with the contractors in Iraq and overall, the American contractors were up and up and professional, not a fan of the British companies who used TCNs for most of their teams. My biggest concern is their employers trying to make a power grab. I truthfully do not trust fema, nor any of the other alphabet soup.
Nice call out on the AKs and SKSs tho, does carrying a soviet bloc (our enemy) weapon make you a target?


T.Rapier April 10, 2011 at 9:45 am

I dont have an AK or AKS . If I was so inclined I would get an american designed AR or M-16 , so no worries my friend . I’m a rural guy also and like the song says ” ….better stay away from copperhead road …”

But anyway , thanks to Joel and the team for running a good site .


Guest July 12, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Good luck with that m16 in a year after SHTF.


7541west October 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm

The nazi armband analogy is false when compared to useful items such as headgear, weapons, knives, etc because the only use of the armband is to show ideology not function. When things become tough small items like these will fade into the woodwork…there will be much bigger issues to contend with.


CaptBart April 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Perhaps the biggest problem for the survivalist will be when trying to join or meet a group. I note that there was a strong reaction after 9/11 that even caused harm to Sheiks who are in no way associated with Islam. In a time of stress and fear, the appearance of being a threat may be enough to at best shut off any cooperation and at worse, start a fire fight. What is right or rational is not the issue. What I think or feel isn't particularly important either. The question is what will the group I'm meeting think and how will they react? It may not be right, but it is the way I suspect it will be if terrorism (real or suspected) is the cause of TSHTF. If the goal is to be 'the gray man', the traditional shemagh may bot be the best garb possible. That said, the benefit of the headgear may outweigh the concerns, especially if you have gone to an "Americanized" flavor of the shemagh.


MrAlpine April 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I have to be honest, I would be more leary of a black trenchcoated loose canon looking guy than someone in a shemagh.


T.Rapier April 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm

If you live in the Southwest , a mexican serape may be a much better choice . I do live in the desert southwest and honestly , all you need when your acclimated to the desert is a hat and a bandana for your neck . Why wear a head scarf ? I never see even roofers in 115 degrees wearing such a get up .


BOB122 April 10, 2011 at 9:48 pm

While its true hispanic culters tend to go with the bandana/wide brim hat, they still see the need for a large piece of cloth that can be used for many things. I think the whole point of the shemagh is the versitility that survivalists love. Its a much bigger bandana so there are way more things you can do with it. I like the post about sewing two good bandanas together and plan on doing this for my BOB. I do have to say I am slightly surprised by everyones outlook on this piece of equipment though.


BOB122 April 10, 2011 at 9:49 pm

First off, being in a city and college campus I see these around all of the time. Even in traditional colors no one gets any odd looks. I don't know if anyone has actually seen someone from the middle east, but they are much more tan than the average american. This can definately be seen even if the face is mostly covered. Secondly, I have found that most people of middle eastern decent in the US, muslim or otherwise, do not wear traditional garb nearly as much as people think they do. I've seem more hipsters in shemaghs than anyone else in america.

I can't imagine any serious prepper going with the "shoot first, ask questions later" approach to potential new members of a group. That helps no one and will surely give you a bad reputation very quickly in a time when you might need all the help you can get


CaptBart April 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm

you said "I can't imagine any serious prepper going with the "shoot first, ask questions later" approach" and you are right. The problem is, after TSHTF you are no longer prepping, you are surviving. Scared people do REALLY DUMB things sometimes and I would not play 'you bet your live' on the rock solid logic of people I meet along the way. Just my not so humble opinion.


MrAlpine April 11, 2011 at 8:16 am

Absolutly true about the hippsters. Unless you live in a highly concentrated Muslim community, like Dearborn, MI. you might not see any worn along with traditional dress. Muslims who read the Koran, traditional dress or not, want to infultrate the Western world, by violence or by changing our traditions from the inside, which has happened to some communities. But that is not what this article is about. A piece of good equipment is good epuipment no matter where it comes from, I just know that I can walk to the local stop -n- shop and buy bandanas in as many colors as I want, shemaghs are not so easly come by. That being said I would still be more cautious of an "American" looking guy with a vigilante appearnce rather then someone wearing a shemagh.


Regulator5 April 11, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Sewing bandanas together works for all intents and purposes or just buying fabric of your chosen pattern at the local fabric shop or department store and sewing the edges to resist fraying. Shemaghs can be found at just about every military surplus/tactical gear store online or at the brick and mortar stores. Most of the ones offered for sale here are not the traditional colors of the Middle East, except for the influx of traded items from the troops deployed. __The "Recon Wraps" made by SpecOps Brand were good for dust storms, but too hot for my liking. I keep 2 with my gear for emergency dust masks and they work well as neck gaiters or an improvised bacalava


wyzyrdap April 12, 2011 at 7:40 am

I have 2 comments:

1) A shemagh is basically a big square of loose-weave cotton. You can pick this up on a discount fabric aisle for less than you'll spend at a surplus store. You can do the same with whatever is at hand, when necessary. You might feel silly wearing something made out of a SpongeBob beach towel, but don't let that stop you if you need the sun/dust protection.

2) The keffiyeh/agal style of wear is unmatched protection in hot sun. As a precautionary prep for the situation, braid up an "extra-long survival bracelet" out of paracord instead of the traditional agal 'headband cords'. You now have something to hold your headgear in place, plus an extra 40 feet or so of 550 cord.


T.Rapier April 12, 2011 at 11:51 am

True about the paracord band , but every prepper should ALWAYS have a hat among their gear . in whatever form that is , but you need a hat . Paracord is a must have but its overrated . A roll of Bailing wire ( Tie wire ) kicks its ass in most situations , yes its heavy ….. but . Have both . A paracord belt may probably be a better item .


david April 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Back in the fifties & sixties, the bikers in Britain used to wear a silk scarf, over their nose & lower face, crossed over the back of their neck and looped back over the shoulders. The leather jacket and chinstrap from the helmet kept it in place. This was adopted from WW1 fighter pilots.
Considering that these scarves are actually two layers of fine weave, they surely kept dust and bugs out of the mouth and lungs.
I have a case of particulate masks here, (should get more)- but a scarf like that could be washed and re-used.
(Staying out of the rain would probably be a good idea, too.)


LesStroudfan April 14, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Question: Is there really a difference between a good size bandana and a shemagh? Basically, it seems as though the author is implying that while all shemaghs are bandanas, not all bandanas are shemaghs. Doesn't make a bit of sense.


wyzyrdap April 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm

the usual US bandanna is about 16 inches square (the walmart version, anyway). The " Issue" shemagh is about 40 inches square. The individual threads used in the weave of the shemagh is a bit thicker and the weave is a lot looser.

The shemagh is most likely a better insulating layer, the bandanna is most likely a better filter


bloodshot April 26, 2011 at 6:12 am

So it’s basically my grandmothers cotton shawl. I think if this atricle had used any other name than shamagh the discussion would not be so filled with fear of being mistaken for a terrorist.


ffemoeller April 21, 2011 at 8:41 am

If you want the benefit and features of a shemagh while remaining "gray" or under the radar, you can make one incredibly easily. I went to a fabric store and bought some "homespun" plaid or checked cotton cloth. It has a similar texture and approximate weight of the shemaghs, but doesn't scream military or militant, or terrorist etc. You can have the fabric store cut it to size, about 36×36". Then, if you wash it, the edges will fray out like a pair of cut off jeans. If you have access to a sewing machine, just run a simple stitch around the outside edge to keep it from from further fraying, though it's not necessary. So, there you have a civilian "gray man" shemagh that is just as useful, and just looks like a type of fashionable scarf. I wore mine all winter and it was surprisingly warm too.


CaptBart April 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm

She who must be obeyed saw the write up and bought 4 for the family in a forest green. Not camouflage but subdued. They work well and are not obviously 'sandbox' attire.


Emily April 23, 2011 at 6:26 am

Hello! These shemaghs seem to be very versatile, especially for basic survival needs. I'll have to look into that. Thanks for posting! I really enjoy reading all of the articles on your blog.


spence May 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I was camping and it was hecka cold. I burned the shemagh and it smouldered because it was a bit damp. Totally worth it.


Strike May 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm

The use of a plain t-shirt could get most the same results. If you are looking for a way to cover your neck, head, and face then a t-shit is all you need. Put it over you head like you would normally put it on but put the neck hole on your face and pull it tight with the sleaves, now tie the sleaves in a knot behind your head. you will have to make slight adjustments. This is how me and my friends would play ninjas when we were little kids. You can have it covering your whole head, or just your head and neck, or just your nose and mouth, or just your neck. Its a great, cheap way to stay covered.


steven June 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm

plus people haven't mentioned how cool it looks!


Grimm019 September 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm

It's simple. The smart survivalist would be wary of anyone and everyone. Doesn't matter what they're wearing, honestly your local "Good-Church-Going" individual is just as likely to shoot you in the face for the bottle of water in your B.O.B.


rmauri September 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Shemaghs are sold in every aafes (px, bx, whatever you wanna call it) across the country in od non-traditional colors… they are just big bandannas but much softer and more awesome… if tshtf and some hillbilly opens up on me for being a raghead good luck to him lol because I’ve gotten pretty good at reacting to contact


Devil Dog September 13, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Cpl. Hoff, Jonathan USMC . I wear a Shemagh every day in the red/white color. I served my country and will contuinue to do so, like one person stated you go poping off shots just because someone whears a Shemagh and it not in survival patterns you might get more then you asked for back. I have mutiple colors and that have thousands of uses. Owning one doesnt mean you have to wear it, but think when it hits the fan whos gonna care what you wearing around your face or neck.


Artair August 12, 2012 at 12:53 am

I totally agree. I served in the ARMY Infantry with 2 tours in the box under my belt, and I'm a trained Squad Designated Marksman. I have an OD shemagh in my pack that I use often. (It is a useful piece of kit) So taking pot shots at me because you don't like my head wear is not advisable. They always talk tough till they're on a two way range. And I can't believe that this has been such a hotly debated topic. I mean really?


A. Moyer November 8, 2011 at 9:28 pm

A few things…
Added uses for the list:
1. Good to keep hot brass from going down the back of your shirt – especially if you’re around AK’s that chuck brass 30 feet…
2. Good for straining water before purification by other means.
3. Can be used as a bandage for a dressing (Gauze + Shemagh)
On Culture…
Afghanistan doesn’t use Shemaghs to denote social status from what I’ve seen. It’s Emirates (UAE), Sa’udi and Jordanians. I haven’t spent time in those countries – just around their militaries, so fact check. Also, there is no specific way to wear the Afghan Shemagh… they’re generally draped over the head, or secured loosely about the neck. They are also very thin. More the consistency of gauze than cloth and Pakistan’s are identical. Again, other middle Eastern cultures do have formalized methods of wear, so watch what you pick up on line. You may telegraph yourself as something you’re not.
The Afghan/Pak shemaghs are smaller than the production shemaghs sold by U.S. retailers. If you’re worried about standing out, fold it in half, drape the shemagh around your neck, and pull the “free” ends through the looped ends and draw it about your neck. It’ll keep you warm and look just like a colored scarf.
Shemaghs and hipters: you see a lot of gals wearing them. In Afghanistan/Pakistan, women don’t wear them. They wear chadors, burqhas, or hajib.
The men wear very flambouyant colors. Purple, pink and gaudy are very common amongst the workers and civilians in the urban areas.
Finally, T. Rapier: if you’d shoot a person wearing a shemagh for wearing a shemagh, turn in your guns. Seriously. 90% of the people you’d see wearing shemaghs are normal people with the same hopes, fears and aspirations as you or your kids. At the very best, you’re letting your hate cloud your judgment.
Not only does this not piss me off to see someone write that, it disappoints me. What makes us better is we don’t shoot first. We use discretion.
Please hold yourself to a higher standard.


James January 1, 2012 at 8:53 am

Us Brits have been wearing shemaghs decades before it was used as a PLO symbol; it is simply a piece of practical gear adopted from another culture just as the Muslim did not create the computer but they now use it. You Americans should know something about freedom, if a Muslim can wear Levis and drive a Ford then you can wear a shemagh. Use your freedom or loose it, and insult your founding fathers in the process.


James January 1, 2012 at 8:58 am

Oh, and by wearing a shemagh and being seen by a Muslim, might just earn you a conversation and a friend as you actually get to know a Muslim through dialogue rather than making blanket statements about a whole culture of millions of individuals.


Warscent January 9, 2012 at 9:42 am

Ive used the shemagh for years in Afghanastan,Iraq,and parts of Africa and its been a manditory part of my kit since 2001 even stateside.If people are concerned about sticking out in a US crowd,just use solid earth tone colors and tuck it in your shirt. US army and Marine corps issued a solid brown one since the 90s that people always called a scarf.Back in basic training we used the brown one to help camo our necks when we wore facepaint or cover our faces if gunning on a convoy. I cant believe this is such a big deal. Chances are if doomsday happens youll see people trying to make them with t-shirts and bedsheets,so just do yourselves a favor and buy one premade.


Warscent January 9, 2012 at 9:57 am

Heres a good one,but they can be any color or pattern.…


Woodsranger March 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Why a shemagh? The lowly tee shirt will do. For medium to large heads you may need the next size up. First, place your head through the neck hole. Next pull the neck band up over your nose and mouth. For more coverage reach behind you and grab the bottom edge of the tee shirt and pull it up over your head like a hood. For hiding in the woods to further reduce the shine of your face, grab each side of the hood and pull out causing it to stretch accross the forehead and below the eyes. Next pull it behind your head and tie it one half hitch. You should look like a ninja. I find a cotton tee has more uses than a bandanna or a shemagh. A tee shirt in our culture doesnot convey terrorist. Putting on a dry tee shirt before sleep regulates my warmth better when it is cool out. So carry one, wear one.


mtnred April 9, 2012 at 8:54 pm

you could not pay me enough to walk around with a haji wrap and an ak47 after a collapse, its like asking to be shot


Adam May 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I have owned a tan/OD shemagh for over two years now. I am a Colorado native and avid hunter, and I can't count the times my shemagh has come in handy. As any Coloradan can attest to, in the summer it gets kinda hot. And if you're out working or hunting in the heat, it's nice to have something to keep the sun off you that is larger than a bandana. Even in the winter I have used it to keep my neck and face a little warmer, even if that isn't one of the intended uses of a shemagh. It has so many uses, and I think to discredit its use based upon "they're the things the enemy wears, you must be an enemy if you wear one" kind of thought is ridiculous. I'd rather think of a shemagh as a piece of gear, and for me it has been extremely useful. While I do think that in certain situations the employment of a shemagh isn't the best idea, in my setting where I'm alone in the woods or with people I know then I find it acceptable to use it. As with everything there are does and don'ts. Only focusing on one side of that issue can deprive you of useful equipment.


carbine74 July 11, 2012 at 11:19 am

Think ASCOT these things are about $10 to $30 dollars in dept. stores and won't be mistaken for a rag head.They are almost 4 ft long and 6 inches wide. The vaqueros and early cowboys wore a shash around the waist that served the same purpose.


d'Antae December 8, 2012 at 8:59 am

I'm gonna be really honest, and you may not like it, but reading all the comments, I'm so freaking happy, that all you guys are a pond away from Europe (and of course respect for the enlightened few).
BTW i love the site! It's very useful, however, i have to alter a lot of things written here, especially the self defense part, as in Europe you are generally not allowed to carry a gun, and it is really hard to have a rifle, even if you are a sportshunter.
Fortunately there are a lot of non-lethal versions of a gun, like a pepperball-filled paintball gun (and if i really need to, i am still able to cut the throat, or twist the neck while the badguy is choking on the pepper powder).

Be prepared, and stay alive!


LoveMonger December 19, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Wow. I was unaware the racist minority called this site home. So many slurs, so much hate. Or is that fear. Only cowards are so hateful. Warriors maintain their tactical advantage by controlling their fear. I have, wear, and love my shemagh. It's a square piece of cloth. Protesting the shemagh is like protesting t-shirts because you saw one with a slogan you didn't like. So long cowards. Enjoy your little hate fest with eyes and faces full of sand, snow, wind, and cold because a piece of square cloth might make you a terrorist.


Casus Belli January 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm

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Pete January 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Shemaghs are extremely common in urban environments and do not garner attention (especially if you happen to be caucasian, marginally less so for hispanics and middle easterners.) Additionally, I don't think that any active terrorists in the US are running around in traditional headgear, sandals and man-jams. I would wager that they'd probably be dressed in whatever the clothing style of the local populace is.


Will Wayland April 7, 2013 at 11:34 pm

That's one use for a bandana I never thought of. Then again, who knew a piece of cloth could double as an air conditioner?


Jessica May 1, 2013 at 7:21 am

I purchased one for my fishing outings and it is fairly breathable. It is also UV resistant.You best give up that AK and SKS you love so much! Cause the bad guys love to use them not to mention that weapon has been use to oppress millions!


John Smith May 6, 2013 at 4:37 am

I'm very glad to read your article an I am indeed a fan of your site bro, thanks a lot,


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