10 Reasons Why Men Should Carry A Tampon

survival, earth strength, bushcraft, tampon, men, fire, backwoods, neil hill, creative survival,


How a female sanitary product might just save your life…


It might seem an unlikely idea but taking a tampon or two in your survival kit could be a life saver. 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 fibres 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.

Photo: Scotto Flickr

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About Neil Hill

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.


  1. Also, some tampons come in cardboard applicators and paper wrappers, the idea being that they’re more biodegradable. The paper applicator would probably still work similarly to the plastic applicator, but not for as long, depending on what you’re using it for.

    Also, regarding the OB tampon conversation above, while they are smaller, some women prefer using tampons with an applicator for various reasons. I do think their packaging is better than other packaging, but any tampon with a plastic wrapper is fairly water resistant. I have also noticed that OB tampons seem to pull apart more easily than some of the other tampons, namely, Tampax brand, which might be more or less useful depending on what you’re using them for.

  2. wellokaythen says:

    One more function, intentional or not: It gives the same message as a wedding ring.

    When people see that a man has a tampon with him, it’s the equivalent of him wearing a gigantic wedding ring. Whether he’s married or not, a tampon in a man’s house or luggage is almost always interpreted as a sign that he’s in a long-term committed relationship with a woman. Cheaper than a wedding ring, doesn’t leave a tan line on your finger, it’s easily replaced, and will never be stolen.

  3. I think all of these uses are much better than what it is actually marketed for. I don’t even use tampons but this is a handy tool to use in these situations

  4. Thanks Neil. I will make a point of packing one or more of these on away trips…not only for survival purposes but also in case my wife gets caught out (highly unlikely but it’s the thought that counts).

  5. I can attest to the multi-purpose value of a tampon.

    Some number of years ago my son’s soccer team was in the last game of a big tournament and one of the players got whacked in the nose. Bleeding on the field is unacceptable, so once the bleeding slowed and we knew he was okay, I plugged his nose with a half of a tampon, taped the bottom of his nostril closed and off he went.

    Only he, my son and I knew what magic I had performed. 14 yr old boys don’t yet have the solid sense of self to handle everyone knowing they have a tampon up their nose.

    Great article!

  6. wheatstate says:

    They make a great emergency pipe.

  7. I don’t think I could love this article more!

  8. EthanGrey says:

    I feel as if the one thing that wasn’t mentioned here was to support the women in your life. Just like I carry a first aid kit in my car and have on in my medicine cabinet at home, I keep at least one tampon or pad in both of those places. On more than one occasion I have been out with, on a trip with, or was hosting over night a female bodied friend of mine who started menstruating and needed a tampon or pad. Luckily, I had one on hand so that she did not have to bleed all over until we could make our way to a pharmacy or grocer. I appreciate that we are normalizing tampons for men here, but how about we also list the one reason that actually is in support of the mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, and friends we have in our lives who experience a menstrual cycle.

    • Neil Hill says:

      Hi Ethan, part of the reasoning behind the article, was to break down the negative relationship between men and so called sanitary products. I think that if we shift our thinking then we can be more supportive in exactly the way that describe…

  9. First of all, tampons are not sterile. They are made in sterile environments, but that doesn’t mean they themselves are sterile. Also, they are often not in waterproof packaging. I’ve had water get into and ruin a few boxes of tampons over the years. OB tampons are the best for camping because they are actually in near waterproof packaging. If you leave them in water for a while, the water will eventually get in, but dropping them in water won’t destroy them. They’re also more compact than other brands.

    • Neil Hill says:

      Thank you Lauren – it sounds like OB tampons are the way to go for surviving out there…

    • ob are the only tampons I’ve ever used and concur they are much better as more compact, more water resistant and environment friendly AND they’re easy to fit in my S PortaPocket pocket 😉

  10. Girlthing says:

    For the record, not all tampons come with an applicator and loose plastic cover, so a number of these suggestions will only work with that one specific type of tampon. Many women prefer the tampons that come without an applicator, as it’s less wasteful and MUCH more compact. Applicator-free tampons take up only about 2″ x .5″ of room and are easy to conceal in a pocket or pretty much anywhere else. So for survival purposes, it’s a lot easier to take a bunch of the tampons because they take up so little room, and therefore you have a lot more material to work with.

  11. don'tevenhesitate says:

    Whoa now.
    Tampons are made from cotton wool?
    Not so sure about that.

    • Neil Hill says:

      Being completely accurate then, depending on the brand they are either, 100% cotton, a mixture of cotton and rayon or 100% rayon. The loft and fibre qualities of rayon is almost the same as cotton wool…

  12. Neil, I confess I have had some strange looks in airports, as I always carry a couple with my camera gear…..Excellent in an underwater camera housing. Remove the cellophane from one end, stick to a piece of Velcro inside the housing…if it comes out fluffy, there is moisture in the housing during the dive…..

    • Neil Hill says:

      Thank you Andrew, I too get strange looks in airports at the things I carry with me in hold luggage, knives, machetes, axes, fire lighters etc….. I need to carry a business card!

  13. Anonymous says:

    You sure this wasn’t written by MacGyver?

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