You may think a plastic bag is just something you stuff with trash. You’re totally right about that — for now. But if you find yourself fighting for survival, it quickly turns into treasure.

If you have a trash bag with you, it may be the only truly waterproof item you have. Your difficulty won’t be how to use it. It’ll be how to get the most uses out of the best piece of survival gear in your pack.

Transpiration Bag

Tie your bag around the branches of a tree. Wait. (You might want to do some other things while you’re waiting – don’t just sit there.)

Through the natural process of transpiration, the tree will fill your bag with clean drinking water. Using a clear bag, you can collect over a cup of water in several hours. It’s one of the best survival skills that requires no skill at all.

Raindrops on a Branch

Raindrops on a Branch

Water Transport Bag

If you’ve ever found a water source and lacked a bucket, you’ll know that the 50 feet from the water to your fire can feel like a light-year.

A plastic bag serves in a pinch for transporting water. Keep in mind, of course, that it can puncture – you might want to take the long way around that briar patch.

Rainwater Collection Funnel

There’s nothing sadder than huddling in your leaky shelter as rain pounds down all around you – all while knowing you’ll be as thirsty tomorrow as you were this morning. (It might be sadder having your loved ones die in your arms … but other than that, nothing.)

If you can collect rainwater, not only will you be far less depressed than you were upon reading that last sentence, you’ll be able to stay hydrated for days.

String up your bag to maximize its surface area, then funnel the rain into storage containers. If you’re very thirsty, it is also acceptable to skip the cup and funnel that shizz right into your gaping maw. Efficiency is a survival skill of its own.


We once had a friend with a dog named Poncho – that stupid little dog was way less useful than the poncho you can make from your trash bag.

Cut a hole for your head, pull it on, and you’re good to go. This is also an acceptable Halloween costume for lazy people – you can call yourself Mr. Super Survival Man.

Ground Mat/Mattress

When making your shelter, it is extremely important to place insulation between yourself and the ground. In a pinch, you can pile up leaves and hope for the best. But if you’ve got a plastic bag, stuff it with leaves and you’ve got a semi-legit mattress. You can also simply lay it on the ground as a mat.

The layer of plastic will keep you warmer as well as prevent seeping dampness. Assuming you don’t wet your pants that night.

Wilderness Cabin Shelter

A (Roof-less) Shelter in the Woods

Shelter Roof

A common mistake among the incredibly stupid is building a shelter with no roof. More common among normal folks is building a shelter with a crappy, leaky roof. Even for a master of survival skills, it’s hard not to when all you’ve got are sticks and leaves.

Use your plastic bag as a roof and you’ll have a shelter that goes up quicker and keeps you dry.

Long Underwear

If you’re really cold, you can wear your bag under your clothes for a layer of insulation that will keep your body heat in. It is extremely uncomfortable and will probably give you some rashes, but that’s the game of survival. We promise it’ll be much better than death from hypothermia.

Cover A Wound

If you’ve injured yourself in a survival situation, we can only hope you’re familiar with basic wilderness first aid.

Once you’ve properly treated the wound, you can cover it up with part of your plastic bag. This prevents dirt and infection from entering your newly cleaned boo-boo.

Unfortunately, unless you’ve gotten lost with your entire family, your mother will likely not be around to kiss it and make it better.

Protective Fly Screen

Once you’ve constructed your shelter, place your plastic bag over the opening. Cut slits for airflow.

Now you’ve got a screen that will help keep out flies and other biting insects. It’ll also keep it nice and dark for writhing in pain after you refused to listen to us and ate a handful of shiny red berries. Please, please don’t eat berries unless you know what the hell you’re doing.

Cordage for Light Tasks

Twisting your bag produces flexible cordage that’s useful for light tasks. Think securing a sleeping pad, not a shelter roof on a windy day. If you use it to tether your canoe to shore, you will no longer have a canoe.

Boiling water with a camp stove

Boiling Water

Boil Water

With the right survival skills, you can boil water in a plastic bag with hot rocks from a fire.

You’ll want to line the bag with cool rocks to protect it, and proceed with extreme caution. Touching a rock to the bag directly will melt it. But if you thought you were stuck with no options, rest assured that you’re now stuck with one.

Bear Bag

It’s generally considered important to not get eaten by a bear. We agree here at Summit°, and recommend putting any food you have in your bag and stringing it up in a tree.

Shoe Covers

If you’re out and about on a rainy day, we applaud your survival attitude. That said, you should try to keep your feet dry. Some survivalists prefer over the shoe, and some under the shoe, but a plastic bag on each foot will keep your dogs toasty and dry.

Tinder Storage

When the rain starts pouring, keeping your tinder dry can be more important than keeping yourself dry.

Wrap some dry tinder in plastic for the ultimate protection. You’ll get a post-storm fire started in no time.


If you seriously have no other use for your plastic bag, you can blow it up with air and use it as a pillow for your tender head. Please don’t do this in lieu of much-needed insulation or roofing, but if you’ve been an excellent prepper and brought 15 trash bags, power to you. Now have a good night’s sleep.