Fantastic Plastic: A Million Uses for a Grocery Bag

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Fantastic Plastic: A Million Uses for a Grocery bag

Any of you with diaper-age children already know the crucial importance of keeping plastic grocery bags on hand at all times. As a dedicated bag toter, I found myself vindicated this week by no less than Backpacker Magazine, whose online slideshow, “Survive With a Plastic Bag,” has got me thinking of other uses for this ubiquitous resource.

Backpacker’s six tips include some predictable, but still helpful waterproofing ideas, as well as some not-so-predictable ones, like using the plastic bag as a windsock or a whistle. I’m more than convinced I need a handful of these in my hiking pack and emergency kits. But just a little more digging unlocks the further utility of the plastic bag. Here’s just a sampling:

  • Survival Common Sense lists a bunch of different kinds of plastic bags—everything from Ziplocs to garbage can liners—and shows what you can do with them. I like the wallet-sized fire starter, in particular.
  • Outdoor Life’s Survivalist blog has a great little write-up on how to use a standard plastic grocery bag to collect water in the wild. Hint: it doesn’t even require digging a hole!
  • The Master Woodsman (we don’t know who he is, but we like his site) dedicates a whole article to the big, black garbage bag. His super impressive list of uses for the bag includes some shockers. On your own, you might have come up with the idea of making a shelter or lining a sleeping bag with a garbage bag. But would you have known that you can make a mattress, strong cord, or even glue out of one? Yeah, me neither.
  • In possibly the biggest mind-blower, this YouTube clip shows how to boil water in a plastic bag! I’m not going to pretend to understand why the bag doesn’t melt or ignite, but the guy in the video successfully hard-boils an egg in one over a bed of blazing coals. In a plastic bag!


If you’re still not convinced (Really? What does it take, people?), check back on these previous posts to see still more ingenious ways to put plastic bags to use for emergency preparedness.


Have we missed anything? What other emergency or survival uses do you have for these fantastic plastic bags?

Photo courtesy of Backpacker Magazine Ben Fullerton

4 Responses

  • I’m just going to remind everyone here to be wearing about cooking any food or water in a plastic bag. The risk is going to be different for each material, but it’s not i heard of for the plastics to leach chemicals when heated. In a real survival situation, I’d surely take the slight risk of cancer over dehydrating or getting sick from uncooked food, but I’m not going to practice it any time I can avoid it.

  • We had a horrific rainstorm that left my yard a gooey mess. When I went out to feed the chickens, my shoes were big glops of mud (even inside),and needed to be scraped before washing. My big dog (145 lbs.) was worse–he came in with giant mudballs instead of feet at the end of his legs. Next time out, I put grocery bags over my shoes, and on his feet. Mine worked great, his leaked, so the next time, I put socks on his feet before the plastic bags (to prevent his toenails from poking through), and it worked like a charm. Love those bags!!!

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