9 Ways to Use Shopping Bags for Survival Prepping

You know that pile of plastic or paper shopping bags you have stuffed away in a cabinet or the corner of your kitchen? Yeah, I have one too. Sometimes that stash tends to border on hoarder status but before you throw them away check out some of the following uses for them you may not have thought of. 

Plastic Shopping Bags for Survival

Ways to Use Shopping Bags


Plastic bags by themselves are a bit thin and flimsy but by twisting them and tying them together sufficiently durable cordage can be created. You may not be rocking climbing walls with this stuff but it is good enough to hold together an impromptu shelter and many other light-duty tasks.

Water Collection 

Stake the bag open while it is raining, and you have yourself an instant water collector. However, a less obvious method would be using a bag to collect water from tree leaves. Green vegetation loses water through a natural process called transpiration. To collect this water, wrap a bag around a bundle of tree leaves. Make sure to tie the handle end of the bag shut. This will take a day or night to see results but it may provide just enough water to get you by. 

Transport Water

In the absence of a water bottle, a plastic bag can be used to collect and transport upwards of a gallon of water. The downside is that these bags are thin and easily ripped. When using a bag in this manner use extreme care to protect your precious water supply. 

Improvised Gloves

Plastic bags won’t hold up against the rough and tough nature of work gloves. But if you need to put some distance between you and a potentially dangerous or gross item, these bags will work in a pinch. 

Waterproof Gear

From matches to keeping an extra pair of clothes dry, a plastic bag is a cheap alternative to a dry bag. 

A Bag

I know this is a very obvious use. But sometimes there are items that you may not want to put directly into your pockets, pack, or vehicle. Pull out a plastic bag, drop the items in and you are good to go. 


Disposing of waste, either human or pets is not something most people want to talk about. However, it is something that everyone needs to deal with. If the plumbing stops working or you are in a situation where waste cannot be left where it is, a plastic bag makes for easy containment and disposal of this particular item. 

Waterproofing Material

By laying out a bag, pieces can be cut out to lay over and adhere to damaged items. This will offer a level of waterproofing. Such as over a broken window or a hole in a tent. The bag could also be placed over your feet to keep them dry when walking through wet regions. 


When you see someone with a large outdoor pack or a backpack that is more tactical looking in nature, a pretty good assumption can be made as to what they have. Most people do not give a second thought to someone who is carrying a shopping bag. A shopping bag could be used to carry important items or tools without giving yourself away to others. 

Paper Shopping Bags for Survival


Use strips of this material as short term padding. Such as on the inside of worn-out shoes. 


Need to leave a note or a set of directions to someone? Pieces of paper bags work great for writing down all sorts of information. 


When it is time to make a fire, one of the hardest things to find is suitable tinder. Consider placing several precut strips of this material in your fire kit. By doing this you will always have an available source of ready to go tinder. 

Wrap It Up

There is usually more than meets the eye when you look at an object. Before tossing it aside take a look at it from a different perspective. You just might find a different use for it.

Written by Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021. Read more of Bryan's articles.