Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shemagh Scarf

I used to use a big old lady scarf back when I used to go backpacking. Not kidding, it actually belonged to my grandmother. Summer time gets really hot in the different trails you have down in Patagonia, in the seven lakes area. I remember that I threw it into my backpack without putting much thought into it as I came across it while looking for something else, and it proved to be much more useful than I ever thought it would.  I used to cover my head with the wet scarf, and that would keep my head fresh. By the time it dried up in the afternoon, I could use it to cover my neck when the temperatures dropped at night. It was a well worn scarf, red and blue with flower designs, not at all tacticool looking, and I was glad that you couldn’t tell much of its design when it was wrapped around your neck or head since it wasn’t anything to brag about. :-)
The shemagh (also known as keffiyeh) is basically a square piece of cloth worn by Arab men in different styles around the head. Knowing a couple styles, you can basically use it for everything from protecting your head from hot or cold weather, cover your neck from cold or sunburns, protecting your mouth and nose from the wind and sand and shading your eyes from sunlight. Pretty handy piece of cloth and it has several other uses.
I first noticed this particular type of scarf being used in shooting classes. When you’re in a class where other people are shooting at your sides, its just a matter of time until a hot brass hits your face and neck or worse, gets stuck there between your shirt and skin, burning you, sometimes worse than others. You could say that its part of the training to keep focused in spite of that bit of pain, but at least I saw the point of it, just one more of the many uses the shemagh (or just big scarf as I’d prefer to refer to it :-)  ) has.
About a month ago I bought a olive drab/black Shemagh scarf. Its 100% cotton and I’ve been using it since I got it because of the cold weather. The shemagh has become something of a fashion item lately and you can find it in all sorts of colors, some more ridiculous than other . It even has some sort of hype/trendy/political statement to it for some people, and you sometimes see the one with the Palestine design being used around here in protests, often along with a Che Guevara shirt of some sort. I couldn’t care less for all that so I just got one that has dull, indifferent colors that doesn’t attract much attention.
This video shows how to use it,

I found this style to be pretty practical. Granted you DO look like a nutcase with both face and head covered, all you’re missing is the AK47 and Chinese bra full of mags, but if kept half way up, at least around here during winter, you’re just one of the millions of persons covering yourself from the chilly wind.

A few other uses a big scarf has are:
Emergency bandage
To grab hot pots form the camp fire
head wrap, keeping sun or snow, wind, sand and dust out of eyes, face and neck.
face veil, concealing the face
 scarf worn around the neck, retains heat in the cold and absorbs
 small sunshade cover whilst resting
 an arm sling, giving a wounded arm support
 a foot wrap, replacing a lost sock
 a carrying pouch for equipment
pre filtering water
A pillow, filled with clothes, grass, dried leaves.

It’s therefore no wonder that a lot of people keep one in their survival/emergency kits, and that you often find mention of how useful these are in camping and backpacking manuals.



Anonymous said...

bugs. it shields the head/neck from
mosquitoes, black flies, etc.
i've been using one in the
spring/summer months.

Anonymous said...

I've wanted to mention for some time, since reading several of your blogs about what gear you carry on you every day, that the one thing missing is a bandana or handerchief. I always carry a bandana because it is larger than a handerchief. It folds done to a slim size, weighs nothing and I carry it along with my knife, flashlight etc. It has dozens of uses in a survival (and everyday) situation.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that it would have to be Ice Age cold to wear one of these around here without being looked at pretty carefully. Maybe if they made it in the Stars-and-Stripes...even then...


Anonymous said...

I always carried two or three "do" rags on me when I was doing overnighters and annual training with my NG unit. Handy for wiping sweat and keeping bugs off the neck. Also if you wet it down and put it on your neck, it'll keep you cooler in the FL summer.

Anonymous said...

I noticed a crew of roofers in the U.S. wearing them, or something like them, it wasn't a do-rag.
It was a very hot Summer day, they seemed content and not so much out of the ordinary. I think they could have walked into a gasoline station and bought a sandwich and not raised an eyebrow,... the situation and timing are key I think. It wasn't "Mall" wear, but I'd wear one if stranded on the side of the road in Winter, of course it wouldn't match my shoes or my cheap plastic rain gear, but I would be dry.

Instead of using a toolbag or toolbox in my Everyday Drive Car, I might try rolling up my tools in one of those scarves.
If I was inclined to sew, some pockets to hold the tools would be helpful, velcro flaps for a deluxe model, or simple string to tie it up.

The scarf would then also serve as an emergency surface to lay on while making a car repair in wet conditions, or for kneeling on while changing a tire.
Or it could serve as a place to set things that tend to get lost in unexpected circumstances, important things such as lug nuts.

Jimmy P said...


I've spent my fair share of time in the sandbox, and it didn't take long for me to realize that those guys were on to something. The shemagh is about the best thing to have on hand in any weather, any where. In the mid-east they have two seasons, Fing HOT and Fing COLD, both come with sandstorms, free of charge.

I never did get the hang of figuring out when I needed to go "full ninja" with it, but I did figure out that when the locals wrapped up, it was time for me to do the same.

I have quite a few of these, both American ones, like the one in your pictures, and local ones with proper tribal colors given to me by people I worked with and around. I keep one in each car, one in my GHB, and a few around the house... it's nice to see someone else realize how great these things are.

Anonymous said...

Might be ok in the woods but in a lot of towns you would draw police attention. It's illegal to wear a facemask where I live, though they don't enforce the rule on Halloween.

Anonymous said...

Grey wool chadars from India are bigger, but so nice and versatile. They resemble the old Army blanket except the wool is so fine and soft that their is no itch to them. Very well made and don't get holes in them easily. You can get them for around $40. There are also cotton and silk ones in innumerable colors and designs.

Also Gamchas are great. They are used in India as a waist cloth or head wrap or scarf. (cotton)

You can google; Chadar gamcha.

Anonymous said...

If you don't have a boonie hat,then this would be very handy.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a great addition to a BOB. I like the fleece neck gaiter for winter, but its waaaaay to hot for warm weather. My problem here is south Texas is known for illegal alien traffic, and anyone seen wearing this could receive a bullet really quickly (Lookee here, I shot me a terrorist - is there a ree-ward?)

But for desert travel - nice. Google up Super Bandana, there is a nice instruction on converting a standard bandana to a more useful pattern.

Thanks Ferfal - good post.

Canis Lupus said...

In France, you can often see people in the street wearing cheches (white ones are prefered by royalists, heirs of soldiers and bourgeois :-D) or black and white shemaghs.

I bought a green/black shemagh, same as yours, a while ago. It's comfy !

Anonymous said...

Ferfal,Denzel Washington wore one in the " Book of Eli " and I think it will become more popular as time goes by.

Anonymous said...

Don't want to seem insensitive but if you wear one of these anywhere in the U.S. you will be looked at with suspicion. Use a bandana instead and no one will mistake you for a terrorist. Camo is fine but some simple earth tones would attract less attention. I simple stick a white hankerchief up under my baseball cap to keep the sun off my neck and ears. It may look a little "dorky" but it has the effect of disarming an observer simply because of it's "dorkiness". I guess you have to decide which you prefer, i.e. making someone suspicious or making them chuckle.

victoria said...

Excellent info!!! Im staying in a Buenos Aires apartment, since January. Im leaving next July, and I wanna travel around Argentina. I wanna go to the south, so I will usea your tips in order to be proctected of the weather!!!