15 Camping Garbage Bag Hacks

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When camping, it is important to carry equipment that serves multiple purposes. One of the most essential items is camping trash bags.

The best camping trash bags are 6 MIL contractor bags.

A contractor bag is a very strong trash bag. That’s why these bags are so useful to us. They can be used to make a poncho, a sleeping pad, collect fish, or even store trash.

In this article, we are going to dive into all of these things in depth.

6 MIL contractor bags like these you can find on Amazon.


This is the simplest hack. And we have all seen this at a football game when the rain starts to pour down.

When packing for a camping or backpacking trip, you should always pack a complete rain suit and not just a poncho. A rain suit provides more coverage of your body. This allows you to stay dry.

It’s important to stay dry because it reduces the risk of becoming hypothermia. Hypothermia is a dangerous condition.

In addition, keeping dry will keep your morale up. And if you’re in a survival situation, keeping your mind in good spirits is the most important skill. Because when our mind is in good spirits, we will be smarter. We will make better decisions.

However, things happen. Perhaps you forgot to pack the rain gear. Or the rain gear rips. Or you went out on a hike with just your daypack and a storm rolls in.

A contractor bag with a hole in the top will make a quick poncho. And if you spend a few extra minutes, you can even make it so that the poncho covers your head as well.


Shelter is important to survival as well. Shelter is going to protect us from the elements. It will protect us from rain, snow, and even the sun when we are outside.

A shelter will also keep the insects, rodents, and snakes away from us. And provides a feeling of safety.

Even if this feeling of safety is an illusion. A few inches of plastic is not a true shelter.

After all, a tornado can level a brick house in the blink of an eye. A tent is no match from a hungry bear (learn how to keep safe in bear territory).

And an improvised tent made from what is really a heavy-duty trash bag is no different.

But if you can sit down and collect your thoughts in a shelter you built will give you more confidence that you will survive your situation.

While technically your poncho could be fashioned into your shelter, it will be the least comfortable shelter. Instead, if you split open the bag, you can hang this over a ridgeline as an a-frame tent.

You will need some rocks to hold down the corners but this tent can be fashioned in a few minutes.


Our poncho and shelter give us protection from the elements. They will keep us dry in the rain. Or provide us some shade in the sun.

But eventually, you are going to want to sleep. Without light and Netflix, you are going to want to sleep when the sun goes down.

Heck, even if it’s during the day, and you’re waiting on rescue, one of the best things you can do is to just rest. After all, what else is there to do but wait?

With your contractor bag, you can prepare your sleeping area. The first thing to do is to stuff a bag full of leaves, grass and even paper if necessary, to build a sleeping pad.

You want to keep yourself up off the ground. This will keep you warmer by preventing the ground from sucking the heat out of your body. And if you minimize the twigs and rocks in the bag, the sleeping pad will be more comfortable.

You can next use the contractor bag as a bivy. This is a type of sleeping bag. It will trap the air next to your body and keep you warm.

You can even wrap your sleeping bag with a contractor bag to improve its warmth. And you can improve the insulation power by putting leaves in the contractor bag after you have placed your sleeping bag in the contractor bag.

Finally, if you have two contractor bags, cordage, and the proper lashing skills, you could even build a cot in the field. This would definitely be a comfortable night’s sleep in the woods.

Ground Cloth

This is a simple use case. In particular when compared to making a cot out of some trash bags, rope and tree branches.

But it’s important to protect your tent’s floor from rocks, twigs, and moisture.

This is why many tents come with a footprint. You can also bring a tarp to use as well.

However, perhaps you show up at the campsite. And as you unpack your gear, you realize that you forgot your footprint at home.

You can use your contractor bag as an emergency footprint. Depending upon the size of the tent, you may need to cut the bag open.

Bear Bag

When we’re out camping, we have to remember to pack our food and toiletries.

While in many campsites, you have to lock up your food to protect it from mice, rats, squirrels, foxes, coyotes, and raccoons, in bear country you need to be even more vigilant.

This is because being woken up by a hungry bear is not fun. And can be downright dangerous.

While I think most people understand that food will attract bears, that’s not the only thing. Your deodorant, soap, and toothpaste can attract them too. These scents will smell sweet to bears.

Or they may have learned to associate these smells with food that people have left outside.

Thus you want to always keep your food in bear lockers or tied up in bear bags.

But if your bag rips or someone forgets a bear sack, you can use a contractor bag as a bear bag.


In the movie Into The Wild, we see the real life story of Christopher McCandless who wanders around the US. Eventually hiding out on a bus in Alaska wilderness.

One day he realizes that he doesn’t want to be alone. And wants to head back to society.

Which is only a few miles away.

All he had to do was cross the Teklanika river. Which is a glacier-fed river. And during colder weather, it’s easy to cross on foot. It’s just a mild spring.

But during spring melt, it becomes much deeper and flows swiftly.

Now, McCandless could have waited until evening to see if the water slowed down as the glacier froze back up. Or gone further down south to see an easier crossing.

You can read more about this on a website dedicated to visiting to the bus.

Based on reading that article, I learned that the river is shallow enough that most adults can reach the bottom. But it does have a strong current.

One way you could help cross this river or any stream is to use a contractor bag. You can fill it with air and leverage it as an emergency flotation aid.

Shade Or Rain Fly Or Wind Or Heat Reflector

I live in Dallas. While you can find forests to camp in, you have to drive a few hours to get there.

But if you are going to hike or camp around here such as the Ladonia Fossil Park there isn’t much shade.

While it would be better to use your tent or tarp as shade, in a pinch you can use your contractor bags.

In particular, if you would be able to combine it with some Refletrix or an emergency blanket with the shiny side up. This should make everything much cooler beneath it.

You can also use a contractor bag as an emergency rain fly for a tent. You can place the bag(s) over the tent with some cordage so that it will stretch out.

Next, you can use your contractor bags to help with your campfires or even your gas stoves.

A common problem is the wind. In particular, when we want to cook. This is another problem I’m very familiar living on the plains.

The wind constantly blows here.

And a strong wind makes it harder to light your fire and keep it lit.

If you tie your contractor bag between a couple of trees, logs, fence posts or even trekking poles, you can create a windbreak. This will make it easier to lite your fire or camp stove.

This windbreak can also be used as a heat reflector if you place your tent on the other side of the campfire from your break.

The heat from the campfire will bounce off the bag and come back towards your tent or shelter which will make it much warmer.

Cargo Carrier Or Pack

Besides using it for storing trash or your food to protect it from the bears, you can use your camping trash bags to carry cargo.

Perhaps you’re out and your pack rips to the point that it’s not usable.

Or you’re out foraging and you need something to carry the berries back to camp.

Your contractor bag will work well for this.

Just keep in mind that you will need to bear hug it unless you’re able to make a pack frame for it.

This isn’t complicated but it does require you to be able to find suitable wood and apply basic lashing skills.


As we talked about earlier, you can convert your camping trash bags into a sleeping pad or a cot.

This makes for warmer and more comfortable sleeping arrangement if you find yourself needing to make an unplanned camping trip.

But most of the time when you go camping, you’re going to be heading out with at least a tent and sleeping bag.

And you’re only going to be making a makeshift cot out of your container bags as something fun to do while camping.

However, what if you are backcountry camping with friends and someone breaks a leg? How will you get them back to safety?

What if you need to carry them?

Just as we used our container bag to make a cot, you can use the same basic principles to create a stretcher. Except that you will not need any fancy rope skills.

All you will need is a couple of pieces of wood or poles and some camping trash bags.

Just shove the poles through the trash bags and now you can transport them.


If you need to live off the land, traps are an effective way to capture food without needing to shoot the animal.

There are many ways to make traps and snares. But you could use your trash bag as well.

I think this would work more effectively in the water to catch fish. Because you can put the bag into the water, grab you some water and then see what you caught.

Ideally you would do this in an area where you know there are fish in the water, such as a running stream.

Water Collector

Perhaps a better use of your contractor bags around water is to use it for collecting water.

While, you shouldn’t use contractor bags for long-term potable water storage, because the chemicals in the plastic could leach into the water, in an emergency you can use a clean bag.

You will still need to purify the water by boiling it or filtering it.

Another way to gather water with your contractor bag is to capture rainwater. In particular if you have a roof to collect and funnel it into.

Finally, you can use a contractor bag to create a still to collect water from plant evaporation. This is helpful if you’re in an area where there is no running water like a stream or a pond nor is there any rain on the horizon.

Protect Firewood And Gear

Once you collect your firewood, you want to protect it from moisture.

Moisture as you know is the enemy of firewood. It makes it harder to light and will cause it to smoke more.

Furthermore, you need to keep your gear dry. In particular, your clothes and gadgets. Dry clothes can be the difference between life and death.

Thus if it starts to rain and your pack doesn’t have a raincover or you just want an extra layer of protection, you can cover your backpack with a container bag.

First Aid

You should always have a First Aid kit with you. And the more into the backcountry that you go, the better stocked your First Aid kit should be.

However, there is always a chance that you will find yourself in a situation where you’re going to need more than what is in your First Aid kit.

And that’s where your contractor bag comes in.

You can use it for a splint or a sling.

And then if necessary, carry them out on the stretcher made out of additional bags.

Dry Bag In A Pack

As we mentioned earlier you need to keep your gear dry.

Keeping your gear dry is important for several reasons.

First, there is the safety reason. Dry clothes are warm clothes. The clothes you wore while awake are going to be dirty and wet. Sleeping in wet clothes can lead to hypothermia or worse. Thus you want to sleep in dry clothes.

Second, your day clothes are likely to be dirty and gross. While one of the benefits of camping is not worrying about how you look, the older you get, the less you want to sleep dirty.

Third, your sleeping outfit will just be more comfortable. And the older you get, the more you want to sleep well while camping. How you sleep is how people often judge a camping trip.

This is why having your gear stored in a pack in a dry bag is important. It keeps the gear and clothes dry from any rain or having the pack fall in the water.

While you can buy dry bags, you might just want to use a contractor bag. They’re cheap. They’re lightweight. They’re durable and waterproof.


The most obvious use case is our last use case.

And that is to use a contractor bag as a trash bag.

You should be practicing Leave No Trace which means to leave the campsite at least as clean as you found it and ideally even cleaner.

If you have never used these types of trash bags, you will be surprised at how strong they are. I know I was when I used one of mine to clean up my home office.