Yes, that’s a Tampon in my mouth : The Swiss Army Survival Tampon : 7 Survival Uses

Do me a favor for the next 5 minutes.  Try to forget everything you know about a TAMPON.  I know, it’s hard.  But pretend that this is the first time you have ever seen or heard of the item below and it is a new survival product on the market: the Tactical Adventure Medical Preparedness Outdoors Necessity (T.A.M.P.O.N.)

All kidding aside, a TAMPON really does have a ton of uses to a survivor.  One could even argue to include a couple in your survival kit.  Ultimately, I’ll let you be the judge.

Before I get into the details of this post, a brief history of the tampon might surprise you.


The tampon is actually regulated in the US by the Food & Drug Administration as a Class II Medical Device.  The word ‘tampon’ is a derivative of the French word tampion which means “a piece of cloth to stop a hole”.  My research indicates that tampons were used as early as the 19th century as battle dressings to plug bullet holes.  It wasn’t until later that they were used as a feminine product.  There are even accounts of tampons being used as wound plugs in modern warfare.   A friend of mine told me that it’s not uncommon for Army Medics to carry tampons in their med kits.  Tampons are sterile and come very well packaged in their own water proof container.  This only adds to their survival utility.

I’ve high-lighted a few survival uses below:

TAMPON Survival Use # 1: Medical Bandage

Not only are these little tactical bandages packaged in a waterproof sleeve, but they are designed to be ultra absorbent – making them the perfect first aid bandage.  They can be taped or tied over a wound as an improvised dressing.  And, as I’ve already mentioned, they can be used to plug a bullet hole until more detailed medical attention can be administered.  Accounts of this use date back to World War I.  Many items in modern society were first developed as a facet of military research – tampons being a prime example.  The internet being another.  The list goes on and on.

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TAMPON Survival Use # 2: Crude Water Filter

Another excellent tampon survival use is as a Crude Water Filter.  While it will not filter out biological, chemical or heavy metal threats, it can certainly be used to filter out sediments and floating particulates.  This would be considered a 1st Phase Filter and can drastically increase the life and efficacy of your main water filter.  You can also use a filter like this before boiling to filter out larger particulates.  In this example, I’ve pushed a tampon into the neck of an empty water bottle.  I poked a small hole in the cap and then poured in dirty water to filter through the tampon and into the container below.

The water dripped out nearly crystal clear.


TAMPON Survival Use # 3: Fire Tinder

Nearly everyone knows that cotton makes an excellent fire tinder.  When the dry cotton fibers of a tampon are pulled apart and hit with a spark or flame it will burst into a nice steady fire.  If you’ve done the right amount of fire prep-work you can easily split 1 tampon into 3 or 4 fire starting tinder bundles.  Add in some chap-stick or petroleum jelly and you’ve got an even better fire starting tinder.


TAMPON Survival Use # 4: Crude Survival Straw Filter

Yes, I have a tampon in my mouth – don’t laugh.  As a last ditch water filter, you can make an improvised Survival Straw from the plastic housing and cotton from a tampon.  As you can see in the photos below, just tear off a bit of the cotton and stuff it into the plastic housing.  I find it better to leave a little bit sticking out to make the housing pieces wedge tightly together.

Again, this filter will not PURIFY your water by removing biological, chemical or heavy metal threats but it will filter out sediments and particulates.  This would be a last ditch effort if no methods of water purification were available.


TAMPON Survival use # 5: Wick for Improvised Candle

In the photo above I used the string on a tampon as a wick in an improvised candle which I made from rendered animal fat and a fresh water mussel shell I found down by the creek at Willow Haven.  After the string soaked up some of the fat, this candle burned solid for 20 minutes while I took the photos and still had plenty of wick left.  Pine sap would have also worked as a fuel.


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TAMPON Survival Use # 6: Cordage

The string attached to a tampon is a cotton twisted cord typically made up of several 4-6″ pieces of twine.  Though it’s not much, it is usable cordage.  This amount of cordage could easily be used to make a Paiute Deadfall Trap.


I’m sure there are also numerous other uses for small amounts of quality cordage.  For example, I also use this cordage in the next Survival Use below…


TAMPON Survival Use # 7: Blow Dart Fletching

The Blow Gun certainly has it’s place in survival history.  From Native Americans to tribes in New Guinea, the Blow Gun and primitive darts have put food on the table for 1000s of years.  They are silent and deadly hunting tools – especially for small game.  Oftentimes, especially here in the US, natural cotton was used as Blow Dart Fletching.  Thus, the cotton from a Tampon is a perfect candidate to make cotton fletched blow darts.  I used the string on the tampon to lash it into place on this bamboo skewer.

Watch out BIRDS & LIZARDS – you may get shot by a tampon fletched blow dart!  For a great article about how to make natural cotton fletched blow darts check out this page:



So what did you decide?  In the kit or not in the kit?  The only part of the tampon that I didn’t mention was the wrapper/packaging.  What uses can you think of for it?  Or, are there more uses that I didn’t mention….?  Below are a couple shots of the wrapper.


If nothing else, this post is another lesson in the importance of looking at every day products through the eyes of a survivalist.  Creativity and innovation are critical.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



PS –  Was talking to another friend of mine yesterday, Bill Szabo, who happens to be a medic in the National Guard.  He also confirmed that it’s common practice to include tampons in military field medic bags and confirmed that he has 2 in his medic kit for emergency use.


  1. Wrapper Use: Maybe as an improvised waterproof fire tinder or match case. Just fold over and tie off the top like a little mini dry sack. Very entertaining post!

  2. Cache Valley Prepper says:

    What kind of firesteel is that in the photo there?

  3. This article offers a great example of the kind of creativity and adaptability one must possess in order to survive catastrophic events.

    I can imagine that in an emergency circumstance I could easily find a public restroom that would have an overlooked cache of tampons hanging on the wall. If I was real lucky, then there might even be a cache of condoms hanging next to them!


    • Never thought about the cache in public restrooms – great addition to this article. As always Dreamcatcher – thanks for your visit and comments. Creek

  4. Chris Williams says:

    Most definetly in the kit. I worked at Kroger for years on the stock crew. We used box cutters all the time so an injury was assured every now and then. I forgot about the tampon bandage until this post. Thanks, Creek for the reminder.

  5. I have not seen a wall mounted tampon vending machine that actually had any stock IN it so dont count on finding these they are pretty rare.
    Right now if you go to the Tampax website they have a 3 tampon free sample offer!
    Tampax also makes a product called “Tampax Compak” their web site says:Tampax Pearl Compak tampons give you a full-sized tampon in a small, extendable plastic applicator. The LeakGuard® Skirt provides powerful, full-size leak protection, but with a unique extendable plastic applicator Pearl Compak is also small enough to fit almost anywhere — even your pocket! It’s protection that you can keep secret & that fits in the palm of your hand.
    What you have is a tampon that will fit in an altoids case! and it wont bend,break,splinter if it gets folded up (in your pocket and you sit down).

  6. O and be sure to use the unscented products!

  7. Those are some amazing uses, in fact I may add a few to my camping gear, but if I have to resort to using it as a blow dart component, instead of picking up a rock, then I’m probably too far removed from lucid to actually use it properly.

  8. Its true, as an Army Combat Medic, I carried tampons (and maxipads) for my med bag to substitute issue items.

    They do work well enough for various improvised medical purposes, and other improvised survival applications as well.
    Ive even used them to plug holes in the bottom of a boat when a ding dong discharged his breaching shotgun into the boat.

    Used them to filter water in the manner discribed above, and to filter sand contaminated fuel.

  9. There are tampons on the market with paper wrappers, so those wouldn’t be very water proof, but the plastic wrapped one would be fine. I have a question, Creek. Which kind of tampon do you recommend, the one that opens like a flower, or the one that expands sideways like an accordion? Or would both serve different purposes? Thanks!

    • Now there’s a question I thought I’d never be asked! Too funny! Well… if I had to choose, I’d probably choose the accordion style – especially for improvised first aid bandages. Good point about the wrappers…

  10. I arrived in Hawaii to find a man in the airport who had a terrible spill on his race bicycle. He was covered in Sanitary Napkins, head to toe. These should also have a place of honor in every “ones” BOB and other emergency kits. Very absorbant( I would Imagine).

  11. richard says:

    another not mentioned use is for stopping holesin your engine, i’ve seen this done and it works!
    heat up the needed amount of oil to fill up your engine as hot as possible, so you still be able to handle it. dip the tampon in the hot oil and jam it in the hole. poor the rest of the oil in the engine and let cool down completely (patience is not only a virtue but in this case a nessasity) when cold you will find that the tampon soaked up some of the hot oil and when cooled bacomes rockhard. (like chewing gum). we used i tin africa to plug the hole in in the cooling oil system of an industrial rotating air compressor.

  12. And they make great scent wicks for hunting or mosquito deterrents when dipped in Citronella. Pull some of the cotton off and place under a bandaid, gauze or tape to pad a blister. OB tampons are tiny and come in a very small cellophane wrapper. Easy to stow. Great article.

    Nancy Jo

  13. This is a little off topic, but what is the knife you use in the article above? I have been looking for one with that blade profile for a while.

  14. GirlOnIsland says:

    i always keep a few in my first aid kit.. of course i keep a few other off the wall things in it as well, but none the less.. you never know when some one might need to plug a bullet hole or what not!! but better safe than sorry or better to have something and never need it than have an emergency and be unprepared!!

  15. ENIGMA6 says:

    I would not hesitate in the least to use a tampon or tampons to pack a deep wound if I was unable to control bleeding otherwise. The military uses a kaolin impregnated gauze for that very purpose today. It would work even better if saturated with Duration nasal spray [or the store brand equivalent]. It constricts the vascular tissues and reduces bleeding. Can be used for nose bleeds too.

    • Preparation reduces swellung & eases pain of injuries. Deep wounds packed with betadine & sugar paste causes high speed heeling.

  16. there are already a few in my emergency kit…. but for a different kind of emergency….

  17. Sasha Lemay says:

    That is interesting and good to know!

  18. Goodness. I better practice my tampon blow-dart skills.

    • Dickes B Bear says:

      Not given an an insertion method on the wrapper – for Yoga practitioners, of course…

  19. Not to mention they stuff perfectly into bullet holes.

    • Erin Revell says:

      Oh, please… PLEASE don't try this. Oh my gosh. I can't get the image of pulling a blood-damp tampon out of a dried up bullet wound to leave my imagination…

    • Jessie Bright says:

      Rin O'Dugan ~ I've been overseas a couple of times (Iraq and Afghanistan) Convoy Security, and in the Combat life saver course, This is highly suggested for Bullet wounds, Yes we actually do this.

    • Larry Bilyeu says:

      Actually, the use of a tampon in a bullet wound is to keep that person alive until more advanced medical care can be applied. If it is still in the wound when the blood dries, then things have gone terribly wrong. But, they haven't bled to death. Which is what would have happened with conventional dressing. Think about it…

  20. You can also use them for severe nose bleeds.

  21. That's an awesome idea 🙂

  22. how can you make cordage out of plants and other fibers i tried but i don’t get it

  23. This is great! I have to agree with Cynthia, though, those dispensers are rarely stocked, and yes, make sure you get the unscented ones. However, if you are raiding public bathrooms, there are probably some abandoned houses you could raid with better luck. The tampons that open like a flower would probably work just as well, they are just circles instead of rectangles, and many of them have two layers of cotton.
    Also, I have to say, for the ladies who have mentioned having these for “other” emergencies, I suggest just doubling up, or for extreme situations, using a folded cloth instead, and keeping the sterile tampon/pad for medical uses. You should have a bandana in your survival pack. It’s not as comfortable, but not having sterile packing for a wound would be far worse.
    All in all, great article!

  24. Soaked in a little solvent and tied to a short cord they would make excellent bore cleaners in a pinch, and then could be saved as rapid fire starters.

  25. A possibility for the wrapper would be an occlusive bandage for sucking chest wounds.kinda an advanced first aid skill but still a possibility.

  26. The wrappers(plastic) can be used to seal sucking chest wounds and to carry small bits of tinder or keep matches dry. Filled with a little sand and it’s a great trail marker. Also makes a great windsock. Could also work as a fishing lure.

  27. most ladies already know this… you can buy tampons that have a compact applicator, or you can go with the applicator-less brand O.B. little more space effective…

  28. Sherri None-ya says:

    You could use the wrapper to store matches and keep them dry.

  29. GryphonLady says:

    Best part is that you can usually get free samples from different freebie sites.

  30. roll a joint with the paper.

  31. Denice Holloway says:

    I went to my first nascar race and it was so so so loud. I tore one into pieces for ear plugs. Worked really well. Not everyone knew what it was they were using – due to the loud noise. Too funny telling them later/.

  32. Christopher Covahey says:

    great patch for a bullet wound as well…

  33. Joe Carrion says:

    I knew about the bandage. I would carry a couple for that purpose when I was homeless. That and women think its awesome when they need one and you're like, "Oddly enough, I got you on this one."

  34. Gregorio Fierro says:

    I can only seeing them being useful in a survival situation 2 or 3 days a month…

  35. If you have a severe nose bleed shove a tampon cotton up the nostril that won't stop bleeding. Wrestlers use this trick.

  36. Tampons contain dioxin,wouldn’t want to filter my water with that.

  37. I have several in my bob's for holes in bodies. I also have celox-a for the same reason, but heavier bleeding.

  38. what about that Toxic shock thing? of a woman can get it from having it inside her then drinking throw it could be a bad idea.

    • Ken Lowder says:

      Because of that issue and the deaths that happened these things are now super steril. The manufacture of tampons is very regulated for safety. Just use once and toss.

    • Judy Harville says:

      The bacteria that causes toxic shock – a strain of staph – is not present in the tampon when it is new and unused. Perfectly safe…

  39. Barney Britt says:

    They are perfect to plug bullet holes.

  40. I have used a tampon as wound packing in a dairy goat. She had a deep bite wound in her hip. I packed it with a tampon and shortened the tampon each day so the wound would heal from the inside out and not cause an abscess inside.

  41. received my first responder training in Iraq in 2004. we were instructed to keep tampons in our bags for bullet wounds and sucking chest wounds.

  42. Didn't see any mention of the fact that you really want to carry the non perfumed. Unless of course it's emergency use happens to be its actual use. Lol. Carried them in my first aid kits for many years now. Also for you hunters (sorry deer drag marketers) the non scented make excellent scent drags. Tie it to your boot lace, apply scent of choice and take of walking. Careful, the right scent and they will follow you to your stand leaving you unprepared.

  43. And little miss Erin. Don't worry about the part where you pull it out of the wound. The fact that its in there could save some ones life. Especially in the case of and artery wound were the patient will surly die if the bleeding is not stopped. A tampon or your thumb? You decide.

  44. FYI a drivers license will temporarily seal a sucking chest wound (punctured lung)

  45. Party. Nice pc of info. Not sure I'd have thought of that one. Hope I never have to use it

  46. You forgot the Beavis and Butthead method. When you have a nosebleed or a broken nose you can use a tampon to help stop the bleeding.

    I have used feminine napkins (pads) also for medical purposes. I keep them in my first aid bags. Amoung other uses, they make great padding for splints and great bandages and they are typically sticky on the back.

  47. So. My sun post? Sure wasn't supposed to say Party. Was actually thanking Patty for pc on info about using a drivers license to patch a sucking puncture wound to the lung. Probably means more to those of you who had followed comments on usefulness of tampoons in a first aid kit. Don't leave home with out 'em.

  48. Works great plugging wounds or bullet holes!

  49. Tyler O'Byrne says:

    Best blow dart fletching ever.

  50. Wayne Danewood says:

    I was taught in the Royal Air Force in Combat Frist Aid to use the smaller sized brand tampons such as 'lillets' in gunshot wounds and then split the wrapper and 'tape' it over the wound , we were also taught to use the wrapper for sucking lung wounds when a casualty has a lung puncture, remembering to leave the lower edge of the wrapping untaped to help the casualty breath.

  51. you are going to think this is crazy, but the other day i saw on tv that the “day pads” (thin ones) can be used as padding in your shoes to help sore feet.

    i have been told that “used” tampons worked better than store bought sents for deer hunting. they bring in the bucks 2 times as fast.

    (sorry ladies)

  52. That’s awsome. Never thought about using them that way.

  53. Awesome article, I keep a few in my bug out and get home bags!!

  54. The OB brand are small/compact and are great for bullet wounds (carried them in Iraq). Also, can make an improvised ‘Rhino rocket’ for nose bleeds (had a guy in Fallujah we used one on).

  55. Darrell Farley Jr. says:

    I was in the Marine Corps in the Early 1980's and our Corpsman always told us to keep some in our pockets on the range or out on field exercises, and deployments.

  56. If u use the ones made of paper u can roll cigarettes with it if u run out of papers

  57. We used to carry tampons in the army as they are ideal for plugging the bullet entry wound too.

  58. Seven unlisted says:

    You can use the plastic wrapper and a small amount of sugar to plug bullet holes in flesh, this was used in Vietnam nam by my father in law as a retrieval boat medic. When troops were brought inboard that just had a bandage over the wound he would use the plastic wrapper wetted with water and dipped in sugar and then inserted with the finger into wound. He says they worked best in lung shots as they would form a seal and let the lung inflate again. I wasn’t there but this is a man who served 4 tours and I have to believe him.

  59. Could be used for gun shot wounds a temp fix but it works its an old army trick I picked up

  60. In Iraq my unit was cut off from supplies and taking heavy tank fire from a single tank. It was obvious that if we could end the tank barrage we could fight our way out but we had only small arms and limited ammunition.

    My buddy Hank said: ” I got this” “Lay down suppressive fire so I can get to the tank” He busted it all the way to that tank while we kept the ground troops on the defense. As he approached the tank he ripped open his pack and shoved a super size tampon down her barrel and proceeded to whizz down the barrel to make it expand.

    Hank had barely dived behind a dune when the gunner fired the big gun and the back-pressure blew the whole turret off the tank. We all wear a tampon around our neck now as a reminder that one saved our lives.

  61. I hear they work on vaginas too.

  62. When I was a medic in Desert Storm I carried boxes of tampons. They are perfect for bullet holes.

  63. Would you (PLEASE) add a link to print these articles out? Thank You!

  64. Jen Violet Miller says:

    Judy Harville Not all of them!

  65. Christine Birchett Hanson says:

    You can use it for a nose bleed as well

  66. Joemurph Thesurf says:

    dude i repaired a pair of shoes one night wile out dancing with the girls. not only did I get kuddos & hi fives from everyone at our table i've been called murph-gyver ever since

  67. If you're going to use it as a straw, I suggest getting one with a plastic applicator. The cardboard applicators will likely fall apart.

  68. Dave Smith
    I'd go with heavy flow if I were trying to keep someone from bleeding to death…

  69. Actually, you get toxic shock because if you use a tampon that's too absorbent, it can dry your vagina out too much and it can stick to the walls of your vagina and cause ulcerations when you pull it out, thus creating the idea environment for bacterial vaginosis, and allowing the bacteria to spread into the blood stream. And while tampon use can make you vulnerable to toxic shock, men can get it too. Jim Henson's death from a staph infection was caused by toxic shock.

  70. Always something to think about

  71. thanks for this! although I already knew about most of these uses, your title intrigued me and i did actually learn something new! I have tampons (light, regular and heavy flow) in all of my survival gear stashes (in the car, in my bug-out-bag and in my bug-in stuff, which we call our “survival shelves”) but I only packed the small applicator-free ones. I never thought of the uses for the plastic applicators! Thanks! I will pack some away today!
    By the way, they are all packed for alternative uses. I also have cotton, washable, reusable maxi pads for feminine needs. That way I can save the tampons and disposable maxi pads for emergencies!

  72. Josh Reed says:

    Think you for you're professional advice Jeannette Wittstein

  73. RussandRene Hardison says:

    Make sure they are unscented.

  74. Tiffany Fink Prince says:

    Use the wrapper as part of the string for the death trap thing…

  75. Scott Timney says:

    Should be called the multi-use device.

  76. Can also be used for puncture wounds and gun shot wounds!

  77. im almost sure you could put dry tinder in the wrapper, use your animal fat candle to burn the end closed again. dry tinder pack. you could most likely quick dry your self or wet clothing by using it like a towel and pressing so it can absorb moisture. Speaking of absorbing moisture…use it to catch morning dew from tall grass or as a puffy rain catch(put it in a water bottle with the top chopped, the tampon will "expand" the amount of water the container can hold.)

  78. Shot Glass

  79. I was cross trained as a medic in the army. We carried tampons and maxipads in our kits. I've had to use a maxipad on a wound of my own. The ER doctor had only heard rumors of soldiers using these items.

  80. Lester says:

    Hunters in Maine while they hunt, they dip them in doe (deer) scent and tie them in trees to attract deer. They also use them to clean the inside of gun barrels. Different sizes for different calipers of guns.

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