Zip ties, for those who aren’t particularly handy, are those plastic things that are holding your house/car/life together. Even those who pride themselves on their survival skills know that zip ties are a great quick fix for just about everything. That doesn’t change in the wild.
We’ve gathered our top 15 uses for the humble zip tie … but don’t let that stop you. Only the sky, your dreams, or things with a circumference bigger than your zip tie are the limit! Feel free to leave your favorite suggestions in the comments.
#1: Emergency Shelter Building
If you’re popping up a quick shelter for your first night in the cold, zip ties can replace more tedious survival skills and save hours of labor. Secure the corners of a tarp, or even use them to hold two branches together.
Zip ties will work way better than your plan of replicating that awesome video you saw on making rawhide cordage … without any deer hide … on your first day.
#2: Fix Stuff!
Zip ties are ideal for fixing all the little broken things that are driving you crazy. Broken backpack clip? Ripped tent strap? Just slap a zip tie on and you’ll be good to go.
Keep in mind that in order to remove a zip tie, you’ll need to cut it. We’ve heard of people using them as a belt replacement, but if you’ve got a bad case of giardia you might want to hold off on that one.
#3: Protect Your Legs
If you’re hiking through a marshy or bug-infested area, gather your pant leg around your ankle and secure it with a zip tie. This will keep your pant legs dry and help protect your legs from bug bites and poison ivy.
If you brought zip ties but forgot pants, then there is no hope for you.
#4: Stay Organized
In a survival situation, having an organized pack is key. Quick access to necessary supplies saves time and energy, and can even save your life in an emergency.
Use zip ties to bundle cordage or keep small items together. Trust us, when everything you need is crammed into a pack, rummaging for a paperclip takes a long time.
#5: Bag/Basket Handle
If you have a bag or basket with no handle, loop your zip tie through the bag’s material and secure it for a much more useful container.
Just think of the wonders that lay ahead! Now, you can carry two bags in one hand, loop a bag over your arm … the choices are endless.
If you don’t have shoelaces because you prefer the convenience of flip-flops, please refrain from ever entering a national park or other large wilderness area until you’ve gotten used to walking in an actual shoe.
The rest of us know how important shoelaces are. If one breaks or is lost in a dire shoe-related accident, you can thread zip ties through the eyelets of your shoe and hold it together.
If you’re hiking in icy conditions or on slick rocks (this is why you can’t wear flip flops, by the way), zip ties can provide much-needed traction.
Attach 2 or 3 on each foot, perpendicular to the length of your shoe. The added traction might just keep you from falling to your death … or from a sore butt.
Either way, we think it’s worth it.
#8: Bandage a Wound
If you’ve neglected our awesome survival advice on traction and cut yourself in a fall, use your zip ties to patch yourself up.
A couple of zip ties will hold a bandage securely in place.
#9: Make a Splint
If that wound wasn’t enough to teach you a lesson and you’ve now broken a limb, zip ties will still come to your aid.
After you’ve braced the broken bone with a splint, use zip ties to secure it to your limb. This will work far better than any improvised cordage will. It will also make you wish you had access to an actual doctor.
#10: Make A Tourniquet
In a life or death situation, zip ties can be utilized as a tourniquet. They can be tightened enough to stem arterial bleeding from a limb and may prevent you from bleeding to death.
This survival skill should only be used when your immediate survival is threatened. The zip tie will need to be cut off, and both the removal process as well as the nature of tourniquets means that the surrounding tissue may be severely damaged.
Seriously: if you’re not willing to lose a limb, don’t try this.
#11: Trail Markers
A pack of brightly colored zip ties will allow you to easily mark off your path in a survival scenario.
Whether you’re leaving a trail for a search party to follow, or just hunting for water, having a bright orange reminder of your route will help.
If you’re colorblind, we recommend you learn how to make some trail blazes or something.
#12: Extend a Zipper
If you have a zipper that’s tiny or broken, you can extend it by looping a zip tie through the zipper’s hole.
This is more for convenience than a serious survival skill. But who said you shouldn’t strive for luxury in the wilderness?
#13: Hang Things
A single zip tie can bear a lot of weight, which makes them perfect for hanging bear bags, lanterns, or wet clothes from trees.
#14: Make a Snare
If you’re making a snare, a zip tie will hold up better under the trap’s mechanism and be tougher for an animal to escape from.
#15: Go Spear Hunting
By securing your pocketknife to a stick with a zip tie, you can make a reasonably effective spear. Use it to catch small game, frogs, or even fish.
Keep in mind that you risk losing your knife this way – so maybe don’t go charging after any elk.
These 120-pound zip ties are perfect for just about any survival situation.