In the not so distant past just about every man walking the street would have three things on him at all times: A watch, a wallet, and a handkerchief. These days most guys have replaced the watch with a phone and abandoned the noble handkerchief. We think that’s a shame, because the noble handkerchief, and especially its larger cousin, the bandana, is one of the lightest and most versatile pieces of gear you can carry. Today we’ll be reviewing lots of different products to help you find the best bandana for hiking.

Best Hiking Bandana

Best Hiking Bandanas and Alternative headgear

When you’re out on the trail you have to watch everything you bring with you. Ounces add up to pounds and pounds send you home early with sore feet. One of the best things you can add to your kit is the basic bandana.

There are tons of different ways you can use a bandana, including as a basic napkin. Read on to find out some more great ways you can use a bandana and find out recommendations for the best bandana for hiking.

Levi’s 100% Cotton Bandana Headband

Levi's Cotton Bandana Headband Set

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Levi’s has been making high-quality jeans and other clothing since 1873. Their standard bandana is 21.5 in square and made from soft and durable cotton.

It’s available in a wide variety of patterns and colors and is reasonably priced. You can get them singly or in several different multi packs. Given how light and foldable they are it’s not a bad idea to carry more than one with you out in the backcountry.

Their cotton construction makes them sturdy and easy to care for. If you’re looking for a basic bandana at a good price the Levi’s 100% Cotton Bandana is a great option.

Soophen Cowboy Bandanas

Soophen Cowboy Bandanas

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Soophen Cowboy Bandanas are designed to replicate the look and feel of old school cowboy bandanas. They’re made from 100% cotton and measure 22 inches to a side.

You can get these Cowboy Bandanas in a single pattern with a whole bunch of color choices. They come in a bundle of 12 and are very reasonably priced. We’ll be honest, you can definitely tell that they’re bargain priced.

The stitching isn’t super clean and they are a bit rougher than some other options. For less than a buck apiece though it’s hard to argue with their utility.

OHSAY USA Bandana Sold by Vets

OHSAY USA American Flag Bandana

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The OHSAY USA Bandana is an American flag print bandana made from a 50/50 blend of cotton and polyester. They’ve been proudly made in the USA for 70 years and measure 21 in on each side.

The blend of cotton and poly gives them good durability while still being comfortable and absorbent. They get softer every time you wash them, something you really start to notice after about the 5th or 6th wash.

If you want to rock an awesome and patriotic bandana that’s durable and comfortable the OHSAY USA Bandana is a great choice.

Survival Metrics Head for Survival Bandana

Survival Metrics Survival Bandana

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The Head for Survival Bandana is a wilderness focused bandana made by Survival Metrics. It’s a very large triangular bandana, coming in at 39 inches on each side with a hypotenuse of 52 in, and is made from soft touch polyester.

The biggest thing that sets this bandana apart from the competition is what’s on it. It’s blaze orange in color and has printed survival instructions on both sides. This includes things like how to purify water, tie a splint, start a fire, and perform other basic survival skills.

This provides a ton of value in a true survival situation. It’s definitely on the pricey side for a bandana but that’s still under $10.

The Survival Metrics Head for Survival Bandana is a large and highly functional triangular bandana. It’s a great tool to pack into your hiking pack, keep in your car or keep as part of your EDC.

Buff UV Headband

Buff UV Headband

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The Buff UV Headband is a microfiber polyester buff measuring 20.5 in high and 9.75 in wide. It offers more than a dozen different wear options and is designed to be as comfortable as possible.

It can be worn around the neck, used as a headband, a head covering, a facemask, and many other ways. The microfiber polyester construction is soft and very comfortable for long term wear.

One of the best features of this buff is how much UV protection it provides. It blocks 95% of UV radiation. This makes it great for use out on the water or in any situation where you’re in the sun.

The Buff UV Headband is a comfortable and versatile bandana that’s great for hiking, camping or spending time out on the lake. It’s reasonably priced and very durable.

Zephyr Tactical Shemagh Desert Scarves

Zephyr Tactical Shemagh Desert Scarves

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The Zephyr Tactical Shemagh is a desert style face covering based on the scarves used in the Middle East for centuries. It’s made from a lightweight and breathable material and measures 40 x 42 in.

A shemagh is different from a traditional bandana but fulfills many of the same roles. It’s larger and generally made from a lighter material designed to wrap around the head. Their original purpose was to protect the mouth and nose from a desert sandstorm.

Its large size makes it great to use as a head cover, makeshift cordage, and as a full face wrap. It’s definitely on the high end of the bandana price range but it’s still consistently available under $10.

The Zephyr Tactical Shemagh is great for use in windy or dusty conditions. It’s large, inexpensive and packed full of useful functions.

UST Survival Bandana

UST Heavy Duty Survival Bandana

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The UST Survival Bandana is a cotton bandana designed for outdoor and hiking use. It’s made from cotton and measures 22 in on each side.

The coolest feature of the UST Survival Bandana is the useful survival advice printed on the front of it. It provides you with lots of tips and tricks to use when preparing to go hiking and while out on the trail.

The cotton is lightweight, comfortable, and able to absorb sweat and water. It can stand up to long term use and is reasonably priced for the benefits it provides.

CoolNES Neck or Face Sun Mask

CoolNES Neck or Face Sun Mask

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The CoolNES Neck or Face Sun Mask is a specially designed headband/bandana designed for protecting you from the sun. It’s 8.5 inches long and made from UPF50 material.

Unlike most bandanas the CoolNES is connected together with a silicone headband designed to hold it securely in place. It can be worn forwards or backwards to protect your neck or face.

This gives you considerable flexibility in how you keep the sun off your body. It’s reasonably priced and fulfills its purpose well. It isn’t as large or able to perform as many tasks as other bandanas but it’s great at its intended purpose.

Ways to Use a Bandana

Bandanas and handkerchiefs have been a big part of EDC for centuries. In the past it was expected that a gentleman would carry his own handkerchief around with him.

Nowadays technical bandanas for hiking, camping, and EDC provide a ton of really useful features.

Headwear

One of the best ways to use a bandana is as a head cover or makeshift hat. You can tie your hair back with a bandana rolled up, wear it as a headband, or wrap it all around your head.

Here are several good ways to tie your bandana around your head. One of the most widely known styles is the classic biker wrap bandana.

Neck Scarf

Tying a bandana around your neck serves several different purposes. You can keep the sun off your neck, stop dust and other debris from going down your shirt, or help keep the rain off your back.

If it’s a hot day a great way to cool off is to soak your bandana in water and wear it around your neck. It keeps the sun off your neck and cools you down all at once.

Emergency Tourniquet

If you’ve got a serious cut or other traumatic wound on a limb an emergency tourniquet is a last ditch tool you can use to stop the bleeding. By wrapping the bandana into a ribbon about an inch around you can quickly tie it off above the wound.

Washcloth or Dishcloth

When you’re hiking in the backcountry every ounce counts. A handkerchief is a lightweight way to wipe down and/or dry off your cookpot and utensils. It lets you keep your gear clean without adding any extra weight to your kit.

Pre-filter/Strainer/Colander

If you’re trying to filter water from an unsure source a bandana is a great way to remove some of the larger particles. One of the easiest ways to do this is to wrap your bandana around the head of a water bottle and put it under the water.

This lets you fill up your water bottle without letting any dirt or other debris get in. If you’re using a pump style filter you can wrap the handkerchief around the tube to achieve the same result.

Handkerchief/Napkin

One of the oldest ways handkerchiefs have been used is as a pocket napkin. You can clean up a quick spill, wipe off your hands or do pretty much anything else you would use a napkin for.

Secure items to backpack

Forget your cordage? A bandana is one of the best ways to quickly tie gear to your pack in a pinch. Roll it up into a small strip of cloth and tie a basic knot into it.

Facemask

One of the most well known ways to use a hiking bandana is as a face mask. By folding it over into a triangle you can tie it behind your head and protect your mouth and nose from smoke, dust, and other unpleasant airborne hazards.

Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best Bandana

When you’re picking out the best bandana for hiking there are just a few major features you have to look at. Material, price, and shape are the biggest ones.

Price

Bandanas aren’t expensive at all. You can get basic handkerchiefs/bandanas for as little as a dollar a piece. If you want to get a specialized bandana or one made from premium materials you’ll spend a bit more, but still not a lot.

Material – Cotton vs Synthetic Bandana

You can find bandanas made from a variety of different materials. By far the most common materials are cotton and polyester. Cotton is more generally more comfortable and more absorbent. It’s available in a vast range of colors, patterns, and shapes.

Polyester holds up better under constant use and doesn’t fade as much in the sun. It’s stiffer and noticeably less absorbent.

You can find other materials, especially in specialized things like buffs and shemaghs.

Buffs vs Bandanas

One of the most noticeable types of hiking bandana is the buff. It’s basically an elastic tube that’s designed to wrap around your neck. They can protect you from the cold, water spray or things like snow and ice.

A regular bandana can be used as a buff, but a buff doesn’t provide the same flexibility. If you’re looking mainly for a neck cover and facemask a buff is definitely the way to go.

UPF Rating

UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, is a relatively new metric used to measure how well clothing protects against the sun. Some hiking bandanas provide this information but not all of them.

The higher the UPF the greater protection the clothing provides.

Final Thoughts

Picking out the best bandana for your needs really isn’t hard. There are tons of options on the market but there isn’t a ton of differences between most of them.

For hiking and camping you can choose between basic bandanas and specialized versions made from technical materials.