Building a Minimalist Shemagh Pack with the Right Survival Gear

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(Editor’s note:  Today we have an interesting article from our guest contributor, James Walton.  The shemagh is similar to a large heavy duty scarf, measuring 42 by 42 inches.  It originated from the Middle East and used by military troops all over the world.  The shemagh (pronounced “schmog”), has multiple uses, one of which is described in the following article.)

Written by James Walton

The market is flooded with incredible backpacks. It seems like every day another great EDC pack or a assault pack is thrust into the mix. This demand and competition has made for some pretty impressive innovation. Still, do you always need a bag with 5 pockets and detachable organization to house our survival gear? Of course not.

There is great liberation in carrying a minimalist kit. For every skill you add to your deck you can often remove a piece of gear from your pack. If you feel good about creating shelter, filtering and purifying water and making fire, a very minimal kit can be produced. In fact, you could store nearly everything you need in a wrapped up shemagh. That shemagh can be tied around your waist or across your body like a sling. It can truly be all you need.

Survival Gear Inside the Shemagh

Still, what type of survival gear do you pack into a Shemagh pack? There are many things to consider but only a few things are rally needed. If you have the requisite skills to take advantage of the world around, you.

  • Ferro Rod
  • Tinder
  • Small Tarp
  • Stakes
  • Cordage
  • Survival Knife
  • Simple Survival Fishing Gear
  • Folding Saw
  • Maybe a second shemagh

The shemagh itself can be used to filter the water and your fire will be able to boil the water. From everything else wrapped in the shemagh you will be able to survive. Now, you won’t have many comforts unless you create them from the woods around you. So lets talk about the skills you should poses before taking on this shemagh pack.

Fire Craft

Your ability to make fire in all conditions is going to be critical here. Your use of things like quality tinder, feather sticks and the right fuel will make all the difference in creating fire. You see, with the shemagh pack, fire will be necessary for you to stay warm and sanitize water. Without it you are going to run the risk of dehydration.

Water Management

You will also need to know how to source, filter and sanitize water. Now the filtering of water can be done in the shemagh itself or the backup shemagh. I would highly recommend filtering any water source. You are going to get a much better finished product. Remember, eating is pretty much optional in a 2-3 day adventure. It wont be fun but it wont kill you not to eat. The opposite is true of water. You need to drink water so make it as clear as possible.

By adding grass, pebbles, sand and charcoal into a shemagh you will be able to use this biofilter as a means of filtering water. Filter multiple times to get better clarity. The finer your charcoal is pulverized the more absorbent and effective it will be.

As we mentioned sanitizing water is going to require that you boil water.

Tarp Shelter Skills

Carrying a tarp is going to add a layer of serious protection to your shelter making abilities. You can throw a shelter up with cordage, stakes and tarp in a matter of minutes. However, you should also have some basic shelter making skills as well. If you can put together a lean to or a debris shelter you are going to be able to carry the minimalist shemagh pack.

Still, worst case scenario, you are going to be able to throw up the tarp shelter in a hurry. It also wouldn’t be a stretch to carry a ultralight backpacking hammock along in that pack as well.

What Else

There is one piece of equipment that I would add to this shemagh survival pack. Its something that you cannot carry in a pack this small but can make everything you do in the woods a little easier. I am talking about carrying a short handled axe. It should be the same length as the crook of your elbow to your middle finger extended. This is a great size that carries easy and

While the minimalist pack will offer you some great options in the wild you might need just a little more to really dominate over a few nights. If the trip were to be more than two days I would like to have an axe so that firewood processing doesn’t become a massive chore.

With your axe and folding saw you can quickly find standing dead wood and break it down for high quality firewood in a hurry. This is a couple hours of work with an axe and much more without it.


The measurement of bushcrafting and self-reliance skills is not always very easy. You just practice these skills, but you rarely take tests and, so long as you survive, you feel successful on your adventures. There is one thing you can do to assure you are improving. It all comes down to your pack.

On your first trip you probably had a massive bag with a big tent on your back. That bag was probably full of all sorts of items that could be used to make your trip easier. What you find over time is that your bag starts to shrink.

I think a great method of measuring your progress in the world of survival and bushcrafting is to speak to the kit you need to survive. How few tools and items do you need to carry? If you can carry tools to help you with fire, water and shelter, you are in a good place. If you have the skills to take advantage of the natural world, you are going to do more with less.

The minimalist shemagh pack is not just about lightweight packing its also about testing your might and your skill level. I encourage you to see what you can pack into a shemagh and see you fair. Just make sure you come to bat with the requisite skills we discussed above, so you are not putting yourself or others at risk.


About the Author

James Walton is the host of I AM Liberty a podcast that airs on He is also the author of Come Unity, Community a book about neighbors and prepared communities. You can read more by James at

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  1. I would pick Shemagh that blended in to the surroundings and could be use for concealment as well.
    I would also add a Altdois tin of char-cloth in to my fire starting kit. And be sure that I have a steel striker in the fire kit as well. I would really suck to find out that your knife was stainless steel when you needed it to strike a spark. and add some large heavy freezer baggies. Very handy and multi-use.

    1. Hey Oldguy, Those are excellent ideas. Definitely would want a shemagh that blends with surroundings, or at least does not stand out. Those are excellent ideas. Thanks for the comment!!

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