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Different Ways to Utilize Your Shemagh as a Pack

Different Ways to Utilize Your Shemagh as a Pack

Have you ever used a shemagh? 

A shemagh is a large piece of square cloth that resembles a scarf. Traditionally, shemaghs are worn as a headdress by people in Middle Eastern countries, like Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Malaysia, and Yemen. Designed for arid climates to protect the face from harsh sun exposure and blowing dust and sand, shemaghs are essential pieces of clothing in these regions.  

Because of its effective level of protection, many Western cultures like those in the United States have adopted the use of the shemagh in the same respect. Outdoor enthusiasts use these large scarves as a way to protect their bodies while outdoors or in the wilderness. 

Four Ways to Utilize Your Shemagh as a Pack

Shemaghs are one of the most important yet simple pieces of gear that you can add to your kit. They are a great way to protect yourself in harsh weather conditions—but you can also use them anytime during the year in various ways. 

In this demonstrative video, Self Reliance Outfitters and Pathfinder School founder Dave Canterbury shows you step-by-step the four different ways you can utilize your shemagh as a pack.

Shemagh Style #1: Buttpack

One of the most common ways to fold your shemagh is as a buttpack. Like a backpack, the buttpack carries your belongings on the back of your body. But instead of wrapping the straps around your chest or shoulders, you will take the loose ends of the shemagh and wrap them around your waist. 

With a large shemagh, you can easily fit plenty of items that you want to carry for the day, like a tarp, a water bottle, and essential gear. “We can take our gear that we want to carry for the day that we don’t want in our pockets,” Dave explains. 

You can fashion your shemagh into a buttpack by laying it flat on a surface and placing all of your belongings in the center. Then, you’ll take one corner and fold it over to the other side before bundling everything up by rolling it over and keeping it tight and secure. You’ll have two leftover pieces on opposite sides, which you’ll use to tie around your waist so that the load is on the back. 

Shemagh Style #2: Shoulder Carry

Turning your shemagh into a shoulder carry is ideal for those who want easier access to the bag while traveling. A shemagh shoulder carry can be used on the shoulder or as a crossbody bag for more effortless movement. 

“It’s a convenient way to carry smaller pieces of gear without having to carry a backpack,” says Dave. “It also gives you a way to carry things off into the woods from a camp if you base camp with a larger backpack and you just need a couple things to walk into the woods with. This is a very, very convenient way to do that.”

Making your shoulder carry begins in the same way as you would make a buttpack, but instead of tying the two loose tail ends around your waist, you’ll secure the very top of them with a knot so that it sits comfortably and securely on your shoulder. Doing so will provide an easier way to access the bag and carry things into the woods when you just need a couple things to bring. 

Shemagh Style #3: Bindle Bag

“The other way you can carry things in your shemagh is what the old hobos called a bindle bag,” says Dave. 

If you don’t know what a bindle bag is, then you might recognize the concept of a bindle bag from experience or perhaps Norman Rockwell’s The Runaway. Simply, a bindle bag is a piece of cloth (like a shemagh) folded and tied to wrap around the tail end of a long stick that sits on the shoulder. Carrying a bag this way puts less pressure on the body since the weight at the end transfers force to the shoulder, which allows for a more comfortable grip, especially with heavier loads.  

Building the bindle has a similar concept to both the buttpack and shoulder carry, where you start with a flat surface and put all of your items in the middle. After that, you’ll begin with two corners on the opposite side and tie a knot at the end of each of them. Take a large stick and put it underneath the knot. Then, tie up the other two corners over the stick to secure the bag. 

Shemagh Style #4: Collection Pouch

Lastly, your shemagh can be styled into a collection pouch. Collection pouches are helpful if you’re heading out for a short while and need something lightweight to carry collectibles in, like nuts, berries, or tinder sources. Plus, it can be fashioned so that you have an accessible opening to place your items in the bag. 

“I like to use this as a collection pouch for tinder sources or for a game pouch when I’m small game hunting,” says Dave. Ultimately, using a shemagh as a collection pouch makes it easier to focus on collecting without having to use your hands. 

To make a collection bag, start with laying the shemagh on a flat surface. Pull up three corners of the shemagh, and then slip those corners into one of your belt loops on the side of your hip. It’ll leave you with one open corner that hangs down, which acts as your access opening so that it’s easy to put collectibles in. When you’re finished collecting, you can close it up by tying that end separately into the next belt loop.


Shemaghs are excellent pieces of gear for when you know you’ll be experiencing extreme hot or cold conditions. This simple cotton scarf can protect your skin from the harsh sunlight, dust, sand, and heavy winds while you’re traveling through the woods.

But every outdoorsman knows that one of the most important aspects of being in the wilderness is to always be prepared. One of the best ways to do that is to invest in multifunctional gear, which is why it’s a good idea to pack a shemagh—and to know the several ways you can use one as a pack. 

“I feel that probably one of the most valuable and essential multipurpose pieces of kit that you can carry with you is some type of large piece of cotton material for whatever you choose to carry,” says Dave.  

If you’re in the market for a strong, reliable, and quality shemagh, then check out what’s available at Self Reliance Outfitters, where you can choose from 42x42 cotton shemaghs in a variety of colors.

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