There’s a bit of a tendency in the survival community to go gadget-crazy. I guess that’s not all that surprising, considering that it’s a male-dominated area and we guys are into gadgets. I actually get a double dose of that, as I used to be an engineer.
But gadgets aren’t always the answer. Sometimes, all we need is a little bit of good old horse sense. Those gadgets may not be available when we find ourselves suddenly thrust into a survival situation. If you’re dependent on them, you might find yourself in trouble. Better to know how to use common things to survive, rather than having to depend on something you might not have.
When I started out as a survivalist, over 40 years ago, we didn’t have all the survival gadgets that exist today. There really wasn’t that much of a market for those things, as there weren’t anywhere near as many survivalists back then. So we did what we could, mostly finding ways of using things that we already had, rather than hunting for things that didn’t really exist.
Pretty much any common item can be used for survival, in some way or another. All it takes is a little bit of imagination to figure out how. Fortunately for me, I’ve been endowed with a great imagination; so I’ve come up with a few ideas through the years.
So, without further ado, here are a few ideas for your consideration:
- Use stockings and an old tennis racket to make a fishing net.
- Sanitary napkins make a great substitute for bandages, they’re absorbent and sterilized.
- Elastic hair bands can be used to hold poles together for a shelter you build in the wilderness.
- A small gardening shovel or hori-hori works just as good for most wilderness survival tasks as a folding camping shovel.
- The best survival saw for a BOB is a folding pruning saw.
- Dental floss can be used for suturing. It also works well for tying off an umbilical cord, when a baby is born.
- Dental floss is also great for general repairs of backpacks, belts and other survival gear.
- Pillow cases are probably the best thing going, when you need emergency bags to carry food and other things in a bug out.
- Quart sized kitchen bags are great for an emergency canteen.
- Empty container from mints, medicines and other candies are great for organizing small items in your bug out bag.
- If you’ve got a Fresnel Lens for reading fine print, it will work much better for starting a fire than the wallet-sized ones, because it is bigger.
- Crayons can be used as candles; they’ll burn for about 30 minutes.
- You can waterproof normal canvas tennis shoes by rubbing them with a candle.
- Corks from wine bottles work for fishing floats.
- Connect a bunch of wine bottle corks to the edge of a piece of thin fabric, then anchor the other edge in the bottom of a stream, making a fish trap.
- A good kitchen knife, like a French Chef’s knife, works just as well as a survival knife as one designed for that purpose. The only thing to watch out for is that the blade isn’t as thick.
- A colander can be used to catch minnows for use as fishing bait.
- Steel acoustic guitar strings make some of the best snare wire you can find. There is already a loop for attaching them at the saddle, making it very easy to make a loop in the snare.
- Dryer lint is a good tinder for starting fires.
- A pistol magazine pouch can be used for carrying a multi-tool and a tactical flashlight together on your belt.
- Both 20 Mule Team Borax and “color-safe” bleach contain hydrogen peroxide, which can be used in place of alcohol as a disinfectant.
- Safety pins can be used as fish hooks. Likewise, pop tabs from canned drinks can be cut to make fish hooks.
- Cut the legs off of old pants, before throwing them away. The cut end can be sewn together and Velcro added to the cuff end, to make storage bags for things in your bug out bag.
- Legs cut off of pants can be filled with sand and tied at both ends for a very effective sandbag, which is just the right size for blocking doors from flooding.
- Extension cords, lamp cords and equipment connection cords with braided covering all make great cordage for tying things up.
- Doritos and potato chips can be used as fire starters.
- If you don’t have a vacuum packer, you can use the hose from a vacuum cleaner and a hair straighter to vacuum pack food in just about any sort of plastic bag, although aluminized Mylar bags are best.
- Be sure to pack some heavy-duty aluminum foil in any survival kit. It can be used to make emergency frying pans, pots and cups.
- It’s a good idea to keep some quarters in your survival kit or EDC bag for use with pay phones (assuming you can find one). Before putting them there, drill a small hole in each, so that you can use them as fishing weights.
- Never throw away old decorative candles, they can be melted down and put into spaghetti sauce jars to be used as survival candles.
- Old key rings are just as effective for hanging gear on your pack as carabineers.
- Razor blades can be taken apart for knife blades. They can also be used to make arrowheads and fishing spears.
- Arrow fletchings can be made of duct tape.
- An old shoulder bag, messenger bag or small duffel can be used for a survival kit, get home bag or EDC. You don’t have to buy a fancy bag for it.
- Put you favorite spices into TicTac containers, taping the lids shut so that you can have spices in your BOB.
- Any squirt bottle can be used for adding accelerant to a fire, water to control around the edges of a fire, or for putting out a fire. Just be sure to mark it, so you’ll know what’s in it.
- Your gas barbecue grille can be used as a fire pit, burning wood, in a survival situation.
- Broken glass, from broken windows, can be used for arrowheads or a knife.
- Superglue can be used for first-aid, holding wounds together. That’s what it was originally developed for.
- Water can be pre-filtered through stockings, tights or T-shirts, to eliminate items floating in the water, some solids and even mud.
- Any cordage and a stick can be used to make a makeshift tourniquet. Make a loop out of the tourniquet and then use the stick as a windlass to tighten it.
- Plain old table salt is one of the most important things you can stockpile, as it is a natural preservative, especially for meat.
- Any bright pieces of scrap fabric can be used to make fishing lures.
- Leather belts are useful as straps, either shoulder straps for packs or for tying things together.
- Wasp & hornet spray is useful for self-defense, replacing pepper spray. It shoots farther too.
- While it’s a shame to waste them in this way, pages torn from books can be used as tinder for starting a fire.
- Binder clips, attached to a fishing pole with broken guides, work as a replacement for those guides.
- Large nails, bent and welded together, make good caltrops for home defense.
- Clear plastic wrap can be used to wrap a wound, over the absorbent bandage material, to keep the bandage clean. This is especially important for an abdominal wound, as you are transporting the patient to the hospital.
- Large plastic bags make great makeshift ponchos.
So, this is my top 50 items from the home, which work for survival. What else do you have that you can add to this list?