24 Creative Uses For a Glacial Gear Trail Rag

Matthew Kok


I’ve been using my Glacial Gear merino wool Trail Rag for months now. What has been obvious since I first picked it up is that this is a piece of gear with tremendous utility. It’s simple, and because of that, it’s a blank slate with which you can do whatever you want. It fills a role that hikers and backpackers absolutely need, which would often be filled with bulky pack towels or paper-thin bandanas. The Glacial Gear Trail Rag has superior qualities and conveniently attaches to the outside of my pack. Plus, because it has the properties of merino wool, there’s an added dimension of usefulness and comfort.

Why is Merino Wool Awesome? 

If you’ve found this article and aren’t sure exactly why merino wool is so awesome, it’s worth brushing up on why this material is so loved by the outdoors community. First, it has longer, finer fibers than standard wool, and that makes it softer to the touch.

Second, merino wool has incredible sweat-wicking qualities. Rather than getting absolutely soaked and laden with sweat like cotton, merino wool will wick away sweat in vapor form. This means that you can sweat in your merino wool and it may still feel drier to the touch compared to other fibers. 

This trait also imbues merino wool with some natural odor resistance and antibacterial qualities. As a thru-hiker, I often had a bandana or two that I would try to use for some of the following purposes, and it was inevitably soaked and gross and unsatisfying.

1. Sweat Rag

All of us in the outdoors have a variable scale of personal cleanliness. I reached a point during one of mine where I was just so sick of being filthy. While you won’t be able to get truly clean in your tent by wiping yourself down with a wet Glacial Gear Trail Rag, it could be that extra touch of humanity that keeps you sane on a long trip.

2. Sleep Mask

Place your trail rag over your eyes for a nice mid-day nap! You could easily fashion a strap to hold it securely in place too.

3. Strainer

Maybe you’ve just reached a particularly foul cow pond on the CDT, and you have no choice but to drink. Maybe you’ve run into a particularly debris-heavy trickle, but you’re incredibly thirsty! Try layering your Glacial Gear Trail Rag in between your water filter and the container you’re using to collect dirty water. Screw the filter on over the Trail Rag. As you filter, the rag should help catch some of the larger debris and help preserve your filter’s flow.

4. Pillow Cover

Haven’t used your Glacial Gear Trail Rag as a sweat rag yet? As a matter of fact, even if you have, place it over your UL pillow (or the wad of clothes you lay your head on at night)! Since merino wool is so soft to the touch, it’s sure to improve your sleeping experience and help mitigate moisture.

5. Cookpot Cleaner

The single task I would most often use my bandana for on trail is wiping out my cookpot after I’ve finished my meal. Even after cleaning it as well as possible with my spork and a rinse, a quick wipe is sometimes necessary. The Glacial Gear Trail Rag has also been fantastic for this purpose!

6. Tablecloth

Got a birthday or a holiday to celebrate with your trail family? Take a bear can or a stump, lay your trail rag over it so that it drapes just so, and there you are. Behold, the beautiful centerpiece on which you can enjoy your feast!

7. Campsite Marker

A thru-hiking friend once told me about how his trail family would mark their campsites on the Appalachian Trail. They would use the multicolored Buddhist prayer flags, each family member with their own color, hanging them on trees or bushes by the trail so their family would know who’s camping where. It’d be easy to do the same with these trail rags and their beautiful color ways!

8. Measuring Tape

Trying to settle a debate on how tall a tree is? Or how long a hiking buddy’s spork is? Easy. Simply remember the measurements for whatever size trail rag you’ve purchased!

  • Large: 16 1/2” x 12 1/2”
  • Medium: 14.5” x 10.5”
  • Small: 10” x 10”

9. Pack Chafe Protector

Are you beginning to get some pack rash? Perhaps along your shoulder or waist straps? Or are you prone to chafing as you hike? You can use your trail rag to prevent chafe by using it as a sweat rag, but you could also rig it up as an extra layer between your pack or your clothing and your skin. Merino wool is, of course, a perfect material for this with its sweat-wicking properties.

10. Berry-Picking Basket

Walking along the trail and spotting a truckload of huckleberries? Simply form a small pouch with your trail rag and you’ve got the perfect makeshift basket with which to carry them. Bonus points if you have a darker color that the berries won’t stain.

11. Ice Pack

Sprain your ankle? When you get into town, simply stop by the nearest motel ice machine or pop into a cafe and ask to borrow some ice. Wrap it up in your merino wool trail rag, and you’re all set!

12. Splint Padding

This is an important aspect of making a splint. There needs to be padding between the splint itself and the body part to which you’re applying it. With the comfort of merino wool, and especially in the larger sizes, your trail rag could be a vital part of this essential first aid.

13. Bindle (Makeshift Pack)

What if your pack’s shoulder strap breaks and you don’t have a Sewing Kit by Gear Aid? What if somehow both of your shoulder straps break? Easy. Find a nice stick, stuff your bare necessities in there, and make a bindle! (Hopefully, you never have to do this, but you could if you needed to.)

14. Sling

Here’s another first aid scenario in which your trail rag could be extremely handy. If you or your trail partner were to fracture or dislocate an arm? Make them a sling with the Glacial Gear Trail Rag at its center!

15. Cabin Cleaner

When I’m not thru-hiking, often my outdoor excursions will center around a night’s stay in a backcountry cabin. Once I get there, “the sprawl” takes hold. My heavy pack immediately becomes a meandering sprawl across the entire cabin. My sleeping bag sprawls across whatever beds are there. Crumbs sprawl across the table. As I’m cleaning up, my Glacial Gear Trail Rag works like a dream.

16. Bookmark

Got a dry trail rag? Done reading for the night and don’t want to lose your spot? Slip that trail rag in between those pages, and voila! Bookmark.

17. Fashion Statement

Speaking of beautiful centerpieces, perhaps your trail outfits have been looking a little drab? The Glacial Gear Trail Rag could make for an incredible cravat, an accent piece on your backpack, or an exciting headpiece.

18. Dust-Storm Nose Cover

What about some functional headwear? Maybe you’re walking the Arizona Trail, or one of the many desert sections of our world’s trail system, and with every gust of wind you’re pelted with sand. Tighten the hood of your fleece around your trail rag, or secure it to your face in some other way, and suddenly you’ll be free of that debris.

19. Makeshift Gaiter

Gaiters are, of course, notoriously lost by thru-hikers. Every time I’ve set out onto a trail with two gaiters, I’ve ended up with only one. I think it would be more than possible to make yourself a gaiter using a nice merino wool trail rag. If you have a convenient way to clip it to your shoe, you might even just tape it to the top of your sock for a day.

20. Windsock

Want to know the approximate strength and direction of the wind? Hold your Glacial Gear Trail Rag to the sky! If it is ripped from your hand by gale-force winds, you should probably stop hiking and camp at low elevation.

21. Cookpot Holder

To save fuel when thru-hiking, I would often boil water in the embers of any fires my trail family and I managed to get going. The fire works like a charm to boil water for a meal, but the trick there lies in getting your cookpot back from the fire. With a trail rag as an oven mitt, your problems are solved!

22. Makeshift Kula Cloth

Last resort only! I do not recommend this. Merino wool is naturally antibacterial, but not that antibacterial.

23. Gift Wrapping

Have a small present or trinket to present to one of your friends in the great outdoors? You could go the easy route and drape your trail rag over the present in question before unveiling it with panache! Or, if you had some twine or some dental floss handy, you could tie a bow around your trail rag to make it a cute little parcel in earnest. Just be sure to ask for it back after the present is opened.

24. Tent Dryer

The amount of times that I’ve spilled a little bit of water in my tent are too many to count. Plus, condensation can be a hassle on any given trail morning. What better material with which to soak up this moisture than one that generates its own heat to dry quickly? Truly, merino wool is one of a kind.

Whatever Else You Can Dream

Again, the Glacial Gear Trail Rag is whatever you make of it! You might use it as a sweat rag or a cookpot cleaner more often than anything else, but don’t forget the plethora of options available to you. In all honesty, the merino wool is so satisfying to the touch that I enjoy just picking it up. Get creative and enjoy! 



Matthew Kok (they/them) is a writer based out of the unceded territories of the Áak’w Kwáan on Lingít Aaní, or Juneau, Alaska. They write poetry and nonfiction and can be found on Instagram @matt.kok.



Merino Wool Trail Rag by Glacial Gear on GGG Garage Grown Gear
Merino Trail Rag by Glacial Gear



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