It might seem an unlikely idea but taking a tampon or two in your survival kit could be a lifesaver. We guys know that we’ve had an uneasy relationship with this object; but it’s time to turn that around. In fact I would say that any man out in the woods should never be without his tampon and here are 10 good reasons why:
1. Plugging a puncture wound. This one is fairly obvious as the tampon is perfectly designed to work in this way as well as its normal function. There is even some debate that the tampon was originally created for this purpose, whether that’s true or not, it has certainly been used on the battlefield since World War 1. In the backwoods a deep wound like this can often result from falling onto a sharp branch and the blood loss can be quite significant.
2. A burn or graze dressing. The cotton wool in a tampon is sterile as a result of its packing. When it is unpicked there is a surprising amount of dressing available. This can be attached to the injury using cordage, tape or clothing ripped into strips. It’s possible to make a backwoods antiseptic to apply to the wool from plants such as cattail. Burning the seed heads of this versatile plant will produce an antiseptic ash. You could also use wild onion, dock leaves, white oak bark or burdock root.
3. As a water filter. It is possible to fashion a crude filter from the teased cotton wool. You can do this by filling a plastic bottle with water and then filling the neck with the material. When this is inverted the water will drip through. What’s important to note here is that this will only act as a filter and not as a purifier, so any bacteria, viruses or parasites will remain in the water and the best way to deal with these is to boil it vigorously for at least one minute.
4. Starting a fire. A common source of natural kindling is seed heads, particularly the fluffy ones you can find on many thistles and grasses. Cotton wool is actually nothing more than this and is perfect for receiving a spark or an ember. As the tampon is already wrapped in its own waterproof covering—it will even be perfectly dry when you really need it.
5. Waterproof cover. As I just mentioned the packaging is waterproof. This can be used to keep your matches dry, just put them inside and roll over the top a few times and there you have it.
6. Candle wick. I’ve made these with the spongy insides of rushes and the cotton wool inside a tampon works even better. Find a hollow container like a stone with a bowl shaped depression in it, or a shell and fill this with some rendered animal fat. Then simply roll up the cotton into a tight wick, allow it to soak up the fat for 10 minutes or so and then you can light it. I have kept this sort of candle alight for around 45 minutes and they give off a surprising amount of light.
7. Create insulation. Ok for this you will need more than one tampon, but as I’ve said it’s surprising how much material just one of these contains. Survival is often about fine margins and doing something as simple as teasing the fibers apart to create a loft and then using that to line gloves or boots could make all the difference between staying warm or even preventing frostbite.
8. Straw for bowl making. Each tampon comes with a hollow applicator, which can be used as a straw. A really simply method for making a bowl without a knife is to find some soft wood and place some red hot embers on a flat side. Then simply blow onto these coals, which will quickly burn into the wood creating a shallow depression. Within 30 minutes you’ll have a decent sized bowl. This method certainly works better than the hollow plant stems that I am used to using.
9. Straw for drinking. If you can find flowing water in a remote spot you could gamble and fill the straw with the tampon cotton and suck up the water through this. I say it’s a gamble as once again this will only filter and not purify. But in a real survival situation it will make drinking water a little safer and a whole lot more pleasant.
10. Blister plaster. One of the most debilitating injuries on the trail is getting a blister—it’s not just inconvenient it can actually stop you walking all together and this can lead to other complications. So as soon as you start to feel a blister hotspot you can cover it with a layer of the cotton wool. Keep it in place with some tape or you may have to use the pressure between your boot and your sock. It really works and can prevent a nightmare walk occurring.
The was originally posted on The Good Men Project.
Author—Neil Hill is one of Europe’s top outdoor, wilderness and survival coaches. He believes that our modern disconnect from nature has led to many of our personal, physical and social problems. He has led courses into some of the worlds most hostile and wild environments. His passion is to reconnect people with their aboriginal roots in nature, enabling them to have adventures and experiences that unlock their massive potential, Neil is the co-founder of Earth Strength.