Survival Uses for a Trash Bag

With a little bit of imagination, a trash bag can be used in many different ways. This is relevant to those who are preparedness minded because an important concept for preppers is redundancy. This article will share 15 plus uses for a trash bag.

Before we get to the list, the type of trash bag that you choose to purchase is important. I personally like the 55 gallon contractor sized trash bags that are thicker than you might use to pick-up leaves. These 55 gallon sized trash bags are the kind that you can put inside a 55 gallon drum if you were using the drum as a trash can. The brand I purchase varies from time to time. I try to find the thickest bag (mil) I can find. You can choose whatever kind you want, but in some of the uses I’m going to share, you will want a thicker, heavier and bigger trash bag. Also, you will want fragrant-free bags. You might want to consider the ToughBag.

“Everyday” Uses for a Trash Bag

Rain Poncho

This one is first because it is the first thing many people think of. No one wants to go through the rain and get soaking wet, especially when you are out and about. A trash bag can easily be turned into a rain poncho to get you dry. The contractor bags are even big enough to go around a backpack. There are a few variations to using a trash bag as a rain poncho that you might want to be aware of.

The first is to cut a hole big enough for your head in the center bottom of the bag. Then, you would cut out holes on the side to let your arms go through. Of course, this doesn’t give you complete protection from getting wet.

The second variation is to cut a hole big enough for your face to see out of one of the corners. This would give you a little pointy-hat effect and cover your head from getting wet. You would then cut the holes in the side of the trash bag.

You might not want to cut holes in the side, but not doing so would mean you wouldn’t have your hands to help catch you if you fell in the rain.

Shoe Protection

Ok. This one might be stretching it for some. But I could see some people wanting to protect their new shoes from walking through a rainstorm. I finally learned my lesson when I worked on the campus because it never failed that we would get a storm when I would wear my new leather shoes. (Elvis’ Blue Suede Shoes is Playing in Your Head Now). I eventually took some old shoes to change into, but if you were in a situation where you didn’t have extra shoes, making some make shift shoe covers would work.

Blocker for Privacy

As you can imagine, there aren’t many “everyday” uses for a trash bag, so this next one is the last. But you might find yourself in a situation where you need to put up a blocker for privacy or even to protect you from elements.

A few years back, I was at a pastor’s meeting at a local restaurant. One of the pastors had their truck broken into. Thieves broke the window looking for a quick buck! He and his wife needed something to cover the window so the glass wouldn’t blow all around as they drove home. Yes, trash bag to the rescue!

And again, you could also use a black trash bag to cover up a window to keep prying eyes from seeing inside.

Survival Uses for a Trash Bag

If you were in an emergency situation, having a few of these 55 gallon sized trash bags would greatly help in your survival. They can handle anything from shelter, keeping warm, water catchment and more.


When you cut a contractor size bag on the side and bottom, you will have a nice big sheet of plastic to make a lean-to-shelter. The ToughBag 55-60 Gallon Heavy Duty Trash Bags are 3 mil thick and 38″ x 58″ in size. If you cut the bag along one of the sides and bottom, you would have in effect a 3 mil thick tarp that would basically be sized at 6’x5′ (4′.8″).

You could have an even bigger tarp if you had several of these trash bags in your kit.

uses for a trash bag
This trash bag cut open is as tall as me.

Ground Cover or Mattress

Staying with the emergency situation, another use for a trash bag is to use it as a ground cover or mattress. The important take-away here is that you don’t want to sleep directly on the cold ground. You want to insulate your body and keep it warm.

Using one of the 55 gallon trash bags, you could make a very comfortable (relative to sleeping on the hard cold ground) survival mattress. Stuff your trash bag with dry leaves. The more you stuff your bag, the more comfortable you will be.

Makeshift Bivvy

Because a 55 gallon trash bag is almost 5 feet long, you could get inside of it, feet first, and it would cover up a good portion of most adults. Yes, it’s not perfect, but it will help keep you warm! Remember, we are talking about survival in an emergency situation. I’ve seen people curl up in a big 55 gallon trash bag before. Then again, you could purchase a survival bivvy for your kit. See the pics below for the Survival Frog Tact Bivvy which comes with paratinder and a whistle.

This is a picture of a trash bag used as a bivvy.
Get in and sit down to make a trash bag a make-shift bivvy.
Tact Bivvy from Survival Frog
Yes. I got it back in the package.
Tact Bivvy for Survival
Tact Bivvy for Your Kit

Water Collection

With a little bit of creativity, a trash bag could be used for water collection in multiple ways.

The first is to use it to transport water from a river or pond to a camp site. If you have a 3 mil thick bag like the Tough Bag, you will be able to carry more water than your regular trash bag. But you could also use the trash bag to line a dirty bucket or other container, which would allow you to transport more water and keep the water from coming into contact with whatever was in the dirty container.

Next, you could use a trash bag to to help you collect water from trees and leaves by using transpiration. In this use, you would place the trash bag around a limb of a tree with a lot of green leaves and tie it securely. As the sun hits the bag, the water in the leaves will evaporate, hit the top of the bag and run down the sides. You will get a little pool of water at the lowest point of the bag. You won’t get a gallon of water, but this method doesn’t require any work on your part.

Other considerations are that the area where you are doing this should be humid and you should be careful not to do this with a tree that might be poisonous to humans. From Outdoor Life, “The following are toxic when alive or wilted: black locust, yew, cherry, buckeye, horse chestnut, rhododendron and laurel.”

Lastly, you could use your trash bag like a rain collection tarp. I wrote about that in my article, “The Rain Catchment Tarp.” With the dimensions of the trash bag above (6’x5′), you could potentially collect 16 gallons of water per inch of rain. See the article.


Preppers should always carry some sort of cordage in their kit. However, in a pinch, strips of a trash bag could be used to make cordage for a shelter or other uses. If you need a stronger cordage, you could twist the trash bag to increase the strength of the cordage. This video below shows you how to do this.

Medical Uses

You should have a first aid kit that you depend on in an emergency situation. But we are talking about a survival situation here. If you are caught without your first aid kit, you could use a trash bag to create a sling, tourniquet or bandage. Again, these first aid uses aren’t ideal, but in an emergency, knowing that you could do this increases your options.

Warming Up Water for Hygiene

If you find yourself in a place where the water is cold and want to warm up some water for hygiene purposes, you could put some water in a trash bag, tie it off and put it in the sun. Some have said that you could poke some holes in the bag and use it as a shower. I wouldn’t do that though. I would keep the integrity of the trash bag for others uses and use the warm water with a bandana or shemagh to wash up with.

Keep Contents Dry

You can use a trash bag inside your bugout bag or pack to keep things dry. This would mean that the trash bag would go in to your pack before anything else, then you would tie it off. This would keep your clothes, food and other items dry if it rained or you fell into some water.

Video: 10 Awesome Uses For Trash Bags


A 55 gallon trash bag is a very versatile item that can come in handy in an emergency situation. And I’m sure you could easily think of other uses for using a trash bag. Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below. But then purchase some bags so you can put them in your kits.


8 thoughts on “Survival Uses for a Trash Bag”

  1. Iโ€™ve used large trash bags in home health many times. Cut them open to make one large sheet and place over mattresses to protect them. Tuck in at the sides. You can cover the whole mattress or only one area. Place linens over them as usual and it will protect the mattress from the incontinent or the oozing of a wound or any number of mishaps. Diapers and plastic absorbent pads donโ€™t always do everything. Lots of folks cannot afford mattress protectors but trash bags do a good job.

    1. Thanks for the example Nancy. Two contractor bags split open would do this well.


  2. Illini Warrior

    sorry Todd but trash bags should never be used for water containment of any kind – chemicals are sprayed on the poly during the manufacture process >>> a pest retardant and a “perfume” chem for the trash odor are commonly used ….

    overall – the poly itself isn’t food grade and that’s a basic “no-go” …..

    1. The article was written from a survival perspective. In a perfect world, you would have plenty of containers to hold water.


  3. Michael

    Good Reply Todd, the rule of threes apply.

    3 seconds with our security (ya got shot) 3 minutes with out air, 3 hours with out shelter (given nasty weather) 3 DAYS with out Water, 3 weeks with out food.

    If I had to choose between perfumed or non-food grade OTHERWISE safe water or No Water….. The perfume will clear out soon enough. I’ve had water from a Non-Food Grade Garden Hose many times and the “Perfume” from a hot garden hose is not nice.

    Again a good article Todd.

    Do you need an article on a awe*hit survival gardening? Would be similar to my extended comment about Basic Cooking I posted a few articles ago.

  4. Michael

    My reply “Survival Gardening” article to Todd’s emailing me with interest has been a dud so far. In hindsight no loss as folks that failed to prepare in actually LEARNING how to garden are pretty much screwed anyway once their groceries run out.

    My article basis was a struggling effort to supplement their groceries but the REAL Thrust of the Parable-Message was DON”T be THAT GUY. Plan for trouble today by buying more storage foods, seeds, tools and STARTING that Gardening experience NOW.

    Even a few hills of potatoes in your flower garden beats “I gotta G U N and survival food pouches and a Survival Seeds Can”, while they go out for dinner and rush out daily to grocery shop for that bit of Lettice they need for dinner. ONE measly “eyed” store bought potato cut up and a little dirt time. Sigh.

    I wonder what was the die off percentage each time God’s chosen people went into slavery for their sins against God? Slaves and Refugees have poor life survival rates. It only take a few to hold on to God’s hands to rebuild a nation, a people if you look at it in God’s rather long time-viewpoint.

    Chuckling about Chickens being 3D TV, they are indeed if they are allowed to free range a bit. They get much duller when we do the dirt farmer keep them in the hen house version.

    Even as prices are rising in frozen pizza I notice the price of white rice and dried beans continue to hold nearly the same. BAD TIMES have not yet arrived, yet the grasshoppers continue to dance. A few dance with complaints about “De Man ‘O Orange WON” and “Vote Harder” with so much pride in their “survival stuff” most still in the box and receipts handy.

    For the dollars spent at one meal out they could have nearly a weeks worth of solid meals put away. For each time you buy a replacement for food-spices-medicines you NEED you BUY TWO, little by little you get a nice awe-*hit Real Life ™ stockpile for the troubles ahead. EVERY TIME you actually COOK UP a mess of dried beans and LEARN how to add that CHEAP Protein into your REAL LIFE ™ Diet you are following God’s messages like

    1 Timothy 5:8 (CEB) But if someone doesn’t provide for their own family, and especially for a member of their household, they have denied the faith. They are worse than those who have no faith. 1 Timothy 5:8 (CEBA) But if someone doesn’t provide for their own family, and especially for a member of their household, they have denied the faith.

    But as the grasshoppers say “there is always Tomorrow”

    Praying for wisdom.


    1. LOL. I’m getting it up. Life has been crazy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. Michael

        I Hear you Todd ๐Ÿ™‚

        Thanks for the hard work in a ever more busy day for you and I.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top