I really like a good shemagh — it’s something everyone should keep nearby wherever possible. If my bag will fit one, it will have one. And I often travel with 1-2 as well so that I always have an extra. They are stashed in my emergency bags and generally all over in my life.
I use them for towels, for blankets, scarves, face coverings during impromptu ATV adventures (as you do) and they are generally great. They keep the sun off you, or can help to lock in some extra heat. Anyways, I’ve tested a bunch and I wanted to relay my thoughts on them to you so you know what to buy (these things aren’t even that expensive, such a deal).
Triple Aught Design
They sell a bunch of different looking variations of this, and I have three of them — all different. They feel the same, so I think it is safe to say the primary difference is looks.
– Non-traditional designs
– Soft but not synthetic feeling
– Most designs are around skulls for some reason
– It’s Triple Aught Design so they are rarely in stock and slightly more expensive than they probably need to be, but generally a decent value all things considered.
The fabric itself has a great hand feel and is woven well. All around a solid product. The design of the pattern is the stand out feature here.
GORUCK / Combat Flip Flops
GORUCK sells these directly (sold out), but they are (as I have seen GORUCK state) rebranded Combat Flip Flops Shemaghs. Because of that, they are not easy to get right now, as they were made in Afghanistan and the recent government change there forced a shut down.
– Silky smooth
– Classic designs
– Slight GORUCK markup, excellent price from Combat Flip Flops
– Packs very small
– These are less absorbent than others, which can be good, but is mostly not ideal.
– Hard to source.
Of all listed, these are the softest/smoothest and that’s likely because they are not 100% cotton (75/25 cotton-poly blend). But they are durable and the biggest upside is that they pack down the smallest of the lot, without being less dense, while they are a little lighter weight — hard to explain. The weave is still tight, but the thickness of the material is lighter.
I first learned about these in a random article, and found out that they have been producing these in Palestine since 1961. There’s seemingly a lot of history with these, but the thing I kept hearing is that they are among the best out there. I’m a big fan of the best.
– Bordering on heavy weight
– Very dense weave
– Insanely smooth and well made
– Tons of patterns and colors
– they are the bulkiest of all to pack
I have two colors, pictured here is “Tactical Black” but I also have “Olive Drab” and it’s equally nice. These are just exceptional quality, and that’s all I can say about that. Are they the best? Probably.
There’s about nine million offerings on Amazon, I tried the Explore Land offering in the classic black and white as it had lots of good reviews.
– Open weave, more breathable
– Tons of colors
– Often found for under $15
– The weave on this is what I would describe as ‘loose’ and often gets snagged on, well, everything.
– The openness of the weave likely means less sun protection, but I have zero effective means of evaluating this.
My biggest complaint is just how loose the threads are all over this, but my biggest compliment is that it’s impressive for the price.
Out of all of these, I would rank them like this:
- Hirbawi: it feels like a luxury, and there’s so many great color offerings. They are quite bulky to pack, but why bother packing the others when you found the best ones?
- Triple Aught Design: these are actually really good, and were my preference before getting the Hirbawi. They are well made, and I like that they have something different to the pattern. The larger topo skulls pattern only looks like a skull when laid flat, otherwise it’s a cool pattern you can’t make out what it is.
- GORUCK / Combat Flip Flops: it is rare that I don’t have one of these nearby, mostly because I have a lot of them. But they are good, and were my gateway drug. They are not at all bad, I wear them working out all the time, and they are what I hand my kids because they feel indestructible. I just like something that soaks moisture better, and once I found those in the TAD/Hirbawi brands I find it a little bit of a downgrade moving to these.
- Explore Lands: look, don’t bother here. It’s better than nothing, but if you are thinking “I’ll start cheap” then you are doing yourself a disservice. Get a single Hirbawi and it’s worth three of these.
You might feel like you’ll never use one — I rarely do as a scarf — but when you need something, you’ll immediately get it if you have one on hand. There’s been so many times these have come in handy from being adhoc blankets for my family, a towel when a downpour caught me off guard, a towel when a bathroom had nothing for the family to dry their hands with, and so much more.
Impromptu Tomcar usage, I am not borrowing their communal bandannas.
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