Cotton bed sheets can be used for more than just sleeping on. A big sheet of cotton has survival material written all over it. A tightly folded sheet can fit in any pack, any vehicle or be rolled up and carried like a bedroll, attached to your pack or body.
You have heard the stories about inmates breaking out of jail using bed sheets to lower themselves to the ground. Usually, though, the escapees simply twisted the sheets and knotted three or four together so they could lower themselves out a window or off a roof. The sheets twisted together allowed the hands to grip the material.
You, however, can cut the cotton material into strips and then braid together to make stout cordage, which is organic cordage that has uses other than securing items or building shelters.
You can make candle wicks and oil lamp wicks, heavy ones that when soaked in a combustible like pine pitch, wax, or oil will burn for hours. The concept is that the combustibles burn and not the wick, but this requires one thick enough to absorb enough flammable liquid, so only the liquid burns.
Cut and braid long strips for cordage and then sew the ends together to keep the braid from unraveling. The uses for cordage are endless in a wilderness survival situation and you can control how heavy or light the cotton rope is.
2.) Foot Coverings
Cody Lundin, even though he loved going barefoot found that at certain times shoes really do come in handy. Cut several pieces of the sheet big enough so that when you place your foot on the cloth it can come up around your ankles and be tied off. Soldiers and others for centuries made shoes out of scrap cloth when nothing else was available. The material may not stop thorns and sharp rocks from injuring your feet, but any material between your feet and the ground is a plus in a survival situation.
3.) Makeshift Chaps
Cotton is not leather of course, but again any measure you take to help protect your body is moving in the right direction. The heavy brush can cause injuries to your legs as you move through it, but adding a layer of material to your legs and calf’s can help.
Cut the material so it wraps twice around your thigh and/or calf, but be careful you do not inhibit your knees, so you do not lose the ability to bend or squat. Once cut to size you can stitch up one side and simply slip on when needed and then attach some strips to the tops that can be tied off to a belt loop or around your waist to keep them from slipping off.
4.) Emergency Hammock
Cheap sheets may not work as well, because they will rip under strain unless the sheet is big enough to fold over several times to increase the strength. Fold the sheet until your body fits and then twist the ends and secure tightly and then fold the ends over and secure again. The ends obviously will be secured to trees and so they need to hold your weight. This is not an ideal hammock, but it will be good enough to get you off the wet or cold ground long enough to get some rest.
The material may be too heavy to make a traditional windsock, so what you can do, however, is cut the material into thin strips to create a series of streamers similar to ones you may find on a child’s bicycle handle. Attach to a stick high enough off the ground to catch the breeze.
Knowing wind direction and having some idea of wind speed is important when hunting game, so you can stay downrange, and to make shooting adjustments.
Making Your Own Oilskin Sheets: Are They More Trouble than They Are Worth?
Making an oilskin sheet is possible but is it practical. Sheets soaked in boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits will produce a somewhat water resistant or even waterproof cloth, but is it worth the effort.
Boiled Linseed oil is not boiled at all but chemically modified to dry faster, within days instead of several weeks. Linseed oil is traditionally used in woodworking. Mineral spirits are added to the oil when making oilskin to help with the drying process.
Once the cloth is saturated with the oil it will generate heat as it dries, or cures if you will, this can cause spontaneous combustion. The oil cures by a chemical reaction with the surrounding oxygen in the air. It does not cure or dry by evaporation, as would water based finishes. As with most chemical reactions, heat is generated and it can get to the point where the material can spontaneously combust.
Piled up oil-soaked rags used in vehicle maintenance shops, commercial garages and so forth have been known to create fires due to spontaneous combustion.
If you make oilskin from a sheet using Linseed oil it must cure outside, hung from the corners and not draped over a clothesline for 48 hours or longer depending on the humidity level and other factors.
If not dried properly a folded up oilskin sheet put in a backpack or stored in the garage can cause a fire in rare cases.
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