Over the last several years, I’ve discovered the practicality of wearing and using sarongs (I mentioned many of these uses in my Bible devotion, The Sarong). In fact, I now include one in nearly all of my outdoor activities, travels, and even around the house and property. It’s one of three items that I find the most use for outdoors: sarong, knife, and water bottle. I don’t leave home without them.
Here’s a reminder of how to make a sarong (also known as a lungi, dhoti, or mundu): Take a piece of material about 48″ x 84″ (any size close is fine), sew the ends together, and there you have it! But don’t use synthetics. Light cotton material is more traditional and much more practical (e.g., it won’t melt if a campfire ember drifts onto it). Also, it’s not necessary to sew the ends together – that’s a personal preference (I like it either way).
The following are ways I actually and regularly use sarongs (except as rarely noted). Some of the pictures were staged, some were in actual use. And, of course, they’re all hemmed with a little humor. A book is clearly in the works!
A sarong is a piece of clothing, as shown above. I’ve worn mine at home and around camp (both outdoor and church camps). They are very comfortable on hot summer days, especially when worn without a shirt, footwear, or any other clothing encumbrance. A sarong is regular, manly attire for millions of men worldwide.
A bath towel takes forever to dry. A sarong dries quickly. It’s not quite as absorbent but it does a decent job. Also, while most towels are bulky to pack, a sarong can be carried practically in your pocket (or worn!). And just think: you can dry off, then wear the sarong, letting it dry ON you, a very practical combination, especially outdoors.
3. Seat cover
I often use a sarong to cover a seat or bench. At home, I nearly always use one when the deck furniture or mower has been sitting in the hot sun. I’ve also covered rocks and logs to sit on when taking a break during hikes, and hot vehicle seats, rough or dirty upholstered furniture or benches, canoe and boat seat, and sauna benches.
4. Ground cloth
A sarong comes in handy for places that are dirty, sandy, or damp. And not just to rest my weary body. I often use one as a ground cloth for food, clothes, tools, guns, and other equipment. I’ve even used a sarong as a ground cloth on the shoulder of a road when I had to change a flat tire.
5. Tent rug
Inside or outside a tent, a sarong makes a decent rug. When I’ve used it outside, I eventually bring it in when I retire for the night. A quick shake outside will clean it from debris. Used on the inside, it holds shoes and other items that might be dirty. Since it’s a dirty use, I like to have more than one sarong with me for other purposes.
6. Tent broom
Cleaning the inside of a tent is much easier using a towel as a broom rather than using a broom, which does a poor job of sweeping all the fine particles (and crumbs). A sarong is an obvious choice since I usually don’t go to the trouble of packing a “regular” towel. The sarong used for a rug can be used for this purpose.
It might be small but makes a light cover in cool weather or wind, especially if your sarong is not sewn end to end. For that matter, it can also be used as a cover to shield yourself from the sun or a hot wind. I’ve used it a lot on warm summer nights when just a little cover is needed. It comes in handy when I have to sleep in the garage.
8. Head cover
I have used a sarong many times to protect my head, neck, and ears from the hot sun. Since I spend a lot of time outdoors without a shirt, I’ve also used it to cover both my head and shoulders (like a shawl). When tied with the corners allowed to hang loose and flop around, it serves to shoo away nearly all biting insects, except a few kamikaze horse flies!
9. Fanny pack
While hiking the Texas hill country a number of years ago, I wanted to use my hiking stick and camera, but I also wanted to take along a water filtration bottle and some food. The sarong quickly came out and in no time I devised a fanny pack and was on my way. Although I’m not a fan of fanny packs, I’ve since used it several times as such. On that hike, I happened to use my sarong as a ground cloth, seat cover, and… gee, I can’t remember.
It’s easy. Either use a folded sarong as a flat pillow for minimum support (if that’s what you like) or stuff it with some clothing, like tee shirts. The pillow stuffing can also be a set of clean clothes that you plan to wear the next day, making your morning a little more efficient and organized.
As of this writing, I recently had surgery on my hips and was doing daily physical therapy. A little lumbar support goes a long way. I’ve also rolled up a sarong to use as a cushion to support my neck during a “memorable” overnight bus ride, on which I thought about using it as a weapon (see weapon, below).
A few sticks, a decent view, and a well-used game trail… I have actually shot several deer from behind a blind made from an open-ended, camouflage sarong. In fact, it’s the same one pictured here but I’ve since had the ends sewn together. It’s lightweight and relatively easy to construct, except on a windy day.
Pots, pans, skillets, wire marshmallow sticks, coffee pots, hot rocks, you name it. If it’s hot, use a sarong as a potholder and leave your wife’s kitchen supplies at home.
14. Gun case
Wrap and go. For added security, tie up your gun inside a sarong. Still, you want to check your gun often if you’re traveling any length of time (long hours or days). It will rust if moisture is drawn by the material. On the other hand, I had a cheap shotgun rust inside a “regulation” gun case when I left it in a hot, humid trunk for less than a day. Go figure.
Pictures are worth a thousand words (or a least a few dozen). You get the idea.
16. Tailgate cover
After seeing me do it for my own meals, a teenager at Man Camp grabbed my sarong to cover the tailgate just to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. At least it was a clean PB&J.
17. First response (1st aid)
Thankfully, I’ve never had to use a sarong for first aid but I have practiced making an arm sling. You could also use a sarong to flag for help, stop bleeding, cover a wound, etc.
18. Lean-to for shade
It’s a little small if the ends of your sarong are sewn together. But if it’s open-ended, a decent lean-to sunshade can be erected with whatever is handy. Here, my hiking stick is supported by a sapling on one end and a stick stuck in the ground on the other. This was just after high noon.
19. Duffel, or duffle, bag – either spelling is okay
I have personally not used a sarong as a duffel bag but my son-in-the-faith, Jared, has. He brought his stuff to a Father/Son Retreat bagged up nicely in his sarong, but without a carry strap. Pictured is a sarong with the ends neatly gathered and tied up with a piece of rope, then slung for carry. I’ll have to try this some day!
20. Brew coffee (or tea)
Yes, I said brew coffee. In a clean area of your sarong, place a spoonful (to taste) of coffee grounds, gather the material to make a “tea bag,” and stick it in a cup of hot water.
I first did this on a hiking and camping trip with my son in the Grand Canyon. Don’t forget that a wild harvest of dried blackberry leaves or sassafras roots will make a good brew as well.
21. Strain water
Ditto the coffee trick. In this case, coarse-strain water to prep for fine filtration/purification, or to boil for consumption. No picture – it’s a no brainer.
22. Clothes line
This is one of the few that I’ve not tried but I read about it on the internet so it must be true. Use your sarong as a short clothes line tied on your backpack to hang wet clothes or shoes so they can dry while you’re hiking. No picture, but I suppose it’d work.
23. In the office
I keep a sarong in my office at church and have used it several times for various purposes But it is always “on duty” 24 hours a day as a pad between my guitar case and the shelf on which it leans to protect the wood from the metal trim of the case.
24. Berry picking
More than once I’ve been out on a trail and stumbled across a berry patch ready for the pickin’. Perhaps not blueberries (pictured) but wild raspberries and blackberries (I think even wild strawberries once). Once I’ve found them, I try to set up an ambush year after year. If I’m wearing just a sarong, then I have a choice to make. Berry picking always wins. Don’t look, Ethel!
25. Bug and spider web swatter
When hiking on bug and spider web infested trails, swat at the buggers with a sarong. You’re not aiming to kill (although that helps) but rather to shoo. If all you have on is a sarong, well then, you’ve got another decision to make! No demo picture, especially since I choose to swat.
I go light and simple outdoors, usually carrying a heavy duty drawstring pack with just a few essentials: sarong, knife, water bottle, cord, and fire-maker. This gives me plenty of room to carry other things as needed for specific occasions: binoculars, hunting or fillet knife, tackle, snacks, light jacket, camera, flashlight, and/or etc. Fold the sarong the exact width of your pack, creating pockets to store gear. Cased items offer more protection and don’t rattle when I have to take out the sarong.
27. Curtain in the truck
As I write this, I just returned from a Man Camp in which I spent three nights in the back of my truck. That’s not unusual, but I forgot to pack front and back window covers. Out came the sarong – well, it was already out and in use daily – and a curtain was quickly hung over the back window each night.
28. Curtain in the cabin
During a trip to Alaska, I used an unsewn sarong to cover a window to block light so I could get some sleep. This was during the summer with about three hours of night, which translates to 21 hours of daylight.
28. Flotation device
I learned this life-saving technique when I trained as a lifeguard years ago, using denim jeans instead. The sarong works better. First, get it soaking wet. Next, tie a knot in one open end and made a bag. Then, fill it with air either by letting the wind billow it or gathering the open end together and inflating it like a balloon (I did it both ways – blowing into it works surprisingly well). I was able to easily float around with it for a while by holding the knot in one hand and clenching the other end closed with the other hand. A young man nearby said that he, too, learned the technique in scouting. He was impressed that my sarong worked so well (so was I). I tried this with one of my camo sarongs but it did not work. The fabric was not tightly woven and might have been made of a polyester blend. This doesn’t work so well if you’re skinny dipping – by definition, you wouldn’t have either jeans or a sarong handy.
29. Crossing a fence
While mowing the back 40, I noticed that this year’s wild blackberry crop hesitated to cross the fence. Off came the sarong (from the tractor seat, see #3 above). I laid it across the barbed wire strand and crossed with ease to capture a sampling for the wife and me, she and I both thankful that my manhood remained safe and intact. Works equally well if you’re raiding the neighbor’s watermelon patch (just kidding… sort of).
30. Swaddling cloth
Yep, that’s right. A swaddling cloth. I tried it with my one month old grandson, Ari. As far as I know, he thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I took him for our first hike outdoors. We dared each other to eat worms and exchanged tall tales about our fishing adventures. I didn’t believe a word he said because I happen to know he’s never been fishing.
31. Guitar accessory
After cleaning up and tuning a vintage guitar that belonged to my father-in-law, I was pickin’ and strummin’ without the use of a strap. While it wasn’t needed right then, I quickly improvised one from the same sarong I used to make a flotation device. The lightweight material made it easy to tie on. Short lengths of cord on either or both ends of the “strap” would permit easier attachment and adjustment.
32. Prayer rug
You can pray anytime and anywhere. Don’t take that for granted. But you might want something between you and the dirty ground or floor. Yeah, call it a ground cloth but if someone sees you doing so, it might open up an opportunity to talk to them about faith in Jesus. Just be sure to talk about Him only – the sarong is just a soul net.
33. Privacy/discrete cover
A sarong is an ideal wrap or cover for those times when you need to discretely change or otherwise conceal yourself to avoid sightseers. Camp, driving (and passenger!), beach, park, wherever. Seems like one occasionally needs to exercise a little discretion on how much to show and where that might be. You make the call.
34. Chigger wipe
One of the best ways to get rid of chiggers is to simply rub your exposed skin with a rag or towel… or a sarong. The bugs are easy to kill that way if you get to them fast enough. Don’t wait too long. If you suspect that you’ve been exposed, or even think you have, just vigorously wipe yourself down. I’ve been doing this after I work outside where I know there are chiggers and I’ve not had a problem.
35. Baby burp rag
You know the drill: Throw it over your shoulder so the baby can throw up on your shoulder when you burp him. When my newest grandson is born (soon), I’ll give it a try and post a pic, hopefully without the puke.
36. Sunshade for paint can
We just treated our deck and I needed the very heavy bucket of coating to be up there with me. Warm and sunny, the sarong came out and made a very nice sunshade for the bucket to keep the contents from getting hot and drying out.
37. Drop Cloth
While working on one of the bathrooms, I needed to cover the drain to keep out grout and other debris. The work sarong worked and only require a good shaking out when done.
Not sure I’d want to use it for painting (a small area), but it would do if you don’t mind a few paint spots on the fabric.
38. And yes, a Weapon
Some forms of martial arts specialize in using a sarong as a flexible weapon. I have not done so, but then again, I’m no Chuck Norris. In the hands of a trained person, it can bind, choke, club, lock, press, trap, and whip.
For us regular, red-blooded, all-American guys, we know how to whip. We’ve had plenty of practice towel-snapping a buddy’s naked butt, right?
Imagine sarong-snapping a bad guy in the eyes. That might deter an attack or provide a distraction until reinforcement arrives.
A few wraps of the corner around the holding hand might provide some protection in the event of a knife wielding lunge.
I did try to use it as a sling (like David slaying Goliath) but was unsuccessful. It did occur to me, though, that I could wrap a heavy object in the end and use it as an effective club, like a rock in a sock.
more to come…