The Bandana: My Most Valuable Travel Accessory

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Travel is my greatest passion, and more often than not it involves a fair amount of nature and adventure. Whether it’s exploring the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil or hiking the Mombacho Volcano in Nicaragua, there is one item I simply wouldn’t dream of leaving behind – my bandana. Bandanas can be purchased for about a buck, are lightweight, come in a variety of colors sure to suit even the most discriminating fashionista, and take up  virtually no space. But best of all is their endless number of uses, serving as everything from a luggage identifier at the airport to a potentially life-saving medical supply in the wild. Here are just a few travel uses for the common bandana.


A bandana has many uses, from a wash cloth to splint tie. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Sweat Mop

Let’s face it – when you hike, you sweat, especially when you are in the tropics, or areas with extreme humidity.  I have found nothing more accommodating for this nuisance than the bandana.  If purchasing them new before a trip however, be sure to launder them a few times without dryer sheets to ensure optimal absorbency.

Wash Cloth

In my experience, wash cloths are not a normal amenity in many parts of the world, so when I get back to the hotel, boat, camp, etc., I hit the shower with my bandana. (It probably needs to be washed anyway after a full day of being used as a sweat mop.)

Cooling Cloth

Nothing is more refreshing when you’ve been hiking a couple hours through a tropical rainforest than a cool cloth to the face and back of the neck. Bandanas are great for this purpose.  Just dampen them with a little water (which you should be carrying lots of) and you have a great way to cool down. If you’re lucky enough to be hiking by a stream or waterfall, it’s even better.

Bandage or Splint Ties

Adventure travel offers many opportunities for injury, and an ingenuously-purposed bandana can save the day. It can serve as anything from a bandage for minor cuts, to ties for securing a splint.

Luggage Identifier

To absolutely ensure I always have an extra bandana when I travel, I keep a brightly colored one triple-tied to my luggage handle. (I triple tie it, not only to make sure it is secured, but also so that the ends don’t get caught in the baggage handling machinery.) It’s a great way to easily spot your suitcase amid the sea of anonymous bags.

Mask or Scarf

Weather conditions can change suddenly when you’re out exploring, and a minor thing like a dust storm or sudden drop in temperature can turn into a serious challenge very quickly. Using your bandana as a mask or head scarf might be just the thing to get you back to safer ground.

So the next time you’re putting together your checklist for a trip, don’t forget to include a trusty bandana or two. By the time you get back, you’ll probably be able to add a few uses to this list.

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25 thoughts on “The Bandana: My Most Valuable Travel Accessory

  1. Carli

    Love these tips! The bandana is so versatile – in my Girl Scout troop we once had an EMT come talk to us about several ways it can be used for first aid.

  2. Greg Todd

    My greatest passions are my wife, my daughters, my dogs and then travel. As far as the most versatile item for travel – I choose cash and/or credit cards. You can generally get everything you need of you have enough money!

  3. Leann

    I must admit I was skeptical about the bandanna thing at first, but I have been converted and will not be leaving home with out mine the next time I travel.

  4. GiGi Eats

    I NEVER wear bandanas however…… I totally want to try one day. That being said, I have a feeling I might love the look just as much as I love my Adidas Sandals, LOL – which means, I will rock them DAY AND NIGHT!

  5. Issa Waters

    You are so right! I have bandannas in everything from solid colors to crazy patterns to bright hippie colors. I love bandannas for their versatility, and because they are so cheap I can own one that matches anything I have on. I like to wear them as jewelry, too, knotted up and worn around my wrist.

    1. Cherri M Post author

      April – Where did you go and what did you do in Ecuador? It’s coming up on our travel list so we’re beginning to look into things there.

  6. Robin (Masshole Mommy)

    I never would have thought of using a bandanna for so many other things. I should start carrying one, too 😉

  7. Risa

    Who would have thought you could use a bandana for so much? They are very useful tools indeed. I think they can come in quite handy when you are hiking or camping.

  8. Eliz Frank

    I’ve never stopped to think about it but you have a good point. Those simple strips of cloth can serve magical needs. 🙂

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