Nine improvised survival items could save your life. Most news stories about lost or missing people give information on the gear or lack of equipment the person is carrying on them. It is interesting to read how the lost person is not taking some essential item like a compass. In the case of the missing hiker, John Donovan, everything he needed to survive was on him. However, he perished after becoming stranded in a box canyon in the San Jacinto Mountains outside of Palm Springs, California.
The topic of survival gear does bring up an essential aspect of wilderness survival, the skill of improvisation. In other words, the ability to create survival tools or methods from everyday items to enable survival is an essential part of wilderness survival.
There are many suggestions on the internet about creating survival hacks or improvised tools. This article will focus on those items that an average person carries when they go into a field location. Most people only go outdoors on a recreational basis. Thus, they are not thinking about bringing a complete survival loadout stuffed in a 50-75 liter backpack. They are only going outdoors for a short period and returning home. Therefore, a small day pack or waist pack is the most that they carry with them. Thus, these items can be employed in an emergency if necessary.
1. Smart Phone Signal Mirror
One of the essential communication devices that one usually carries on an outdoor adventure is their smartphone. The smartphone can be an improvised survival gear item by being functioning as a signal mirror. Most smartphones have a flat-screen that is large enough to reflect sunlight. The way to use the screen on a smartphone as a signal mirror is to turn it off, then employ it in the same manner as a survival signal mirror.
2. Camera Lens Fire Starter
A second improvised survival gear item often overlooked is the lens on a camera. Many people take cameras on their outdoor adventure. Small, pocket-sized digital cameras are popular with many people trekking outdoors for the day. However, the lens in the camera is an excellent fire-making source.
The camera lens is a magnifying glass. The lens is powerful enough to start a fire using the sun to focus light on a tinder source. Therefore, do not be afraid of breaking apart your camera to get to the lens in a survival ordeal, even if it is an expensive Canon or Nikon.
3. Bottle Cap Survival Whistle
Another great improvised survival gear item is that of making a survival whistle from a simple water bottle cap. One survival expert demonstrated this during a recent television program. I found a water bottle cap and tried the procedure myself. It works!
A water bottle cap from a Dasani or Aquafina bottle can be used as an emergency whistle. You hold the bottle cap by placing your thumbs over the opening. You create a small gap between you thumb knuckles and blow air through that gap. It will make a high pitch whistle sound that is very loud.
4. Sewing Needle Compass
Sewing needles are usually not considered an improvised survival gear item. However, in an emergency, they can be used as improvised compass needles to help determine magnetic north. A stainless steel sewing needle from your pocket travel sewing kit can be magnetized to become a compass needle.
You take the needle and rub it rigorously for a few minutes with 100% wool material. The static electricity created from the friction will magnetize the needle. Then you can tie the needle in the middle with a piece of shirt string. You dangle the needle on the thread with your hand, and it will adjust to point to magnetic north.
Another option would be to put the needle on top of a leaf and float the leaf in a container of water, and it will adjust to point to magnetic north.
5. Boot Lace Cordage
Survival experts will tell you that the most forgotten source of cordage is a person’s shoe or boot laces. Possessing and utilizing cordage is an essential survival skill. Laces for military-issued boots are made of a sturdy material similar to 550 parachute cord. Some companies are starting to produce survival boot laces. Nevertheless, in an emergency, remember that your hiking boots or shoes will give some quick cordage for a multitude of emergency needs.
6. Hand Sanitizer Tinder
One innovative way of your hand sanitizer is as tinder for starting a fire. Many people carry the small travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer in their backpack. Some people carry them in the pocket of their trousers or waist pack. Hand sanitizer is a flammable gel or liquid consisting of 60-95% alcohol. Thus, it will take a spark very effectively.
A more convenient way to carry hand sanitizer is in the form of a towelette. The towelettes are paper saturated with hand sanitizer. The combination of these two materials makes excellent fuel for making fires. I carry two of these in my wallet at all times to make an emergency fire when necessary.
It is important to note that the medical wipes containing rubbing alcohol or BZK are not flammable and will not catch on fire.
7. Car Key Saw
Your car keys can be a source for a cutting instrument. How many of us have used our keys to open packages received in the mail? In the field, your keys can offer a crude sawing device to make notches in branches for making traps or snares. Your keys do not provide the most efficient sawing edge; however, if that is all you have, do not hesitate to employ them.
8. Bandana Water Filter
A lost person in the wilderness needs a steady supply of water to maintain the functions necessary to ensure survival. The bandana gives a person many options in a survival situation. The bandana can be used as headgear, tinder source, carrying device, bandage, washcloth, or signaling device.
Moreover, another use of the bandana is that of a hasty water filter. The bandana, by itself, will not filter out waterborne pathogens. However, when it is used with an improvised filter using rocks, dirt, and charcoal, it is an effective means to gain drinkable water. If there is no other way to sanitize water, the bandana will filter out large particulates.
9. Duct Tape Bandages
There are many uses for duct tape. Some show that duct tape can be fashioned into a water carrier, waterproofing, and as fire tinder. However, one of the most common ways that duct tape functions is for first aid. A method of using duct tape is that of bandages. Bandages can be fashioned from duct tape if one does not have or has lost their first aid kit. Many hiker, hunters, and backpacker carry a small roll of duct tape for equipment repair. Duct tape is quite useful at bandaging flesh wounds in an emergency.
Improvising survival tools from those things you carry on your body is a great skill to cultivate. If you find yourself lost and separated from others, the stuff you have on you can help you to survive. These items in the discussion above are not an exhaustive list. People carry different things on them. However, in a general manner, the items above are the most common. Remember that emergency survival is about staying cool, calm, collected while simultaneously being innovative, flexible, and resourceful.