By May 23, 2012 Read More →

Old blue jeans have multiple uses in survival kits

Most preppers and survivalists have a waste-not, want-not philosophy, and tossing or throwing away a pair of jeans with some wear left in them just goes against the grain!  Here’s how to make the best use of these materials in your survival gear.

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by Leon Pantenburg

What can you use worn-out jeans for?  You know, the kind that are just used up because they were worn constantly.  We’re talking about plain, 100 percent cotton denim, probably dyed blue or black, jeans.  The idea, here, is to make the best use of this worn-out pair and not waste anything!

Here are some suggestions:

Hand them down: If the jeans are just outgrown, the best choice is to give them to somebody.  (Some expensive, new designer jeans look like beat-up, worm, ragged hand-me-downs anyway!)

Don’t forget your local thrift or charity shop – they can use the donations!

Quilting: The original idea of sewing quilts was to use up scrapes of cloth.  Cut up the useable denim in the legs and seat and give it to the local quilting club, senior center or crafters group.  Or, you can cut up larger pieces of denim and save them until you come up with a suitable project.

Save the pockets: The cargo pockets with buttons or snaps make great little bags for miscellaneous small items. I save such pockets and store strikers and rocks for flint-and-steel firemaking.  If you think about it, there are all sorts of things that can be stored in these cut-out pockets.

Recycle the zippers, snaps and buttons: Cut around the hardware, leaving about an inch of material around each one. These can be used in other projects, and/or donated to someone who sews.

Charcloth, made from old denim, will catch any spark and should be included in every survival kit! The finished product should be completely black, but flexible and not brittle.

Make charcloth: Charcloth is charred material that has been specially “cooked” to catch a spark, and it’s very easy to make.  Charcloth is a must-have article in your wilderness or urban survival kit.  If you can make a spark with something, it can be caught with charcloth, and it will create a hot ember.  Learn the skills to make a tinder bundle and blow this ember into a fire.

The local Boy Scout troop makes charcloth out of 100 percent cotton jeans, generally Levi or Wrangler brand.  Some of the designer jeans apparently have an additive that inhibits flammability, so you want to check that out first.

In a survival situation, if you can make a spark with something, it can be caught with charcloth.  The spark will grow on the charcloth, and create a hot ember.  You should have the skills to make a tinder bundle and blow this ember into a fire. (Click to learn how to make charcloth,)

Make waxed firestarter: Here’s where we use up the seams, waistband and any leftover, odd-sized thick pieces. This project also uses up those tacky old Christmas and decorative candles.  Melt the candles together until it is liquidized and very hot, then SHUT OFF THE HEAT, and dip the seams into it. Once the wax is infused into the material, pull out the seams and let dry.

Presto! You have created a waterproof, virtually fool-proof survival firestarter.  This firestarter lasts indefinitely and is so cheap (as in Free!) that it can be kept in all your survival kits.  (Before you rely on anything in a survival kit, make sure you have tested it. All wax is not created equal! Some of the dripless waxes may be hard to light. )

If you have a wood stove, you’ll use a lot of this firestarter, and it makes a great gift for camper friends, people who cook with charcoal or who have fireplaces or wood heat!

If you look at those worn-out jeans as a survival resource, you can think up new ways to use them.  Let me know what you come up with!

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6 Comments on "Old blue jeans have multiple uses in survival kits"

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  1. Mike Newstead says:

    Stropping a dull knife edge on denim will ‘polish’ the blade and slice that little bit better. This can extend the life of disposable razors or just to ensure that tomato slices cleanly.

  2. jayjay says:

    For those young girls growing spurts, hem them and make capris. Many girls go through an age of growing taller, yet thinner and this will work.
    This can work if the hems are frazzled too.

  3. Never thought to reuse old blue jeans in such a manner. That takes recycling to a whole new level! Thanks.

  4. Leon says:

    Waste not, want not, right? Once you start looking at survival gear, with the idea of making the best out of what you already have, whole new worlds open up!

    • Ally says:

      Denim jeans can be used to sew many things. I save all our old/outdated jeans and cut them into strips to sew projects later. Even the women’s jeans that have a little stretch in the denim can still be reused, but you should not mix the pure cotton with the stretch denim in the same project. The strips can be sewn together to make straps to hold sleeping bags or mats. If you have a skinny or thin camp mat, sometimes a cutt-off leg of denim jeans can be used to hold or pack a camp mat. You can also sew enough denim together to make a sturdy laundry bag for camp. Denim strips can be sewn to make pillow cases with a pocket placed strategicly to hold your mp3 player, or phone. If you shop at thrift stores, finding a great big fat person’s 5x jeans is a treasure, as they have more fabric. Denim can also be used to make pouches to hold each individuals cutlery and or cup and bowl. Because the denim is breathable, the dishes won’t get moldy if you had to pack up when they were not fully dry. A smart crafter can find many fabric-laden projects at camp that could be made stronger by using denim. These denim items can take a lot of abuse, washing, sun drying, and serve you for many years.

  5. mike saucer says:

    I use the to wick up water for container gardening.