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Survive By Improvising

Updated on April 24, 2017
Lloyd Busch profile image

Lloyd Busch is the author of "Passive Resistance", a book on non-violent action, and has been published in the "Journal of Theoretics".

Cell Phones

The first and obvious use of cell phones is for making an emergency phone calls, or when a phone system is overloaded by too many calls a text message can be sent. Beyond these a cell phone still has many potential uses in a survival situation. Cell phones actively send ping signals to cell towers even when not being used, law enforcement and rescue personnel can and have used these signals to triangulate the position of lost people. But what if the cell phone is broken and doesn't work, it still has many uses.

There's An App For That

There are many apps that can be downloaded to your phone, such as a compass app, star-finders, and more. Spend some time browsing for an app that you can keep on your phone for emergencies.

Signal mirror

The LCD screens in cell phones are composed of several layers of reflective mirror-like material that makes an excellent signal mirror. To properly use a signal mirror hold out your arm and make a peace symbol. Keep the target, such as a rescue plane or boat, between the two fingers forming the peace sign. Reflect sunlight with the mirror so that it strikes both fingers, this way you are ensuring that the rescuers are able to see your signal.


Inside the cell phone will be a speaker, and speakers are made with magnets. This magnet can be used to magnetize a small piece of steel wire to make a compass. Start by removing the magnet, then find a piece of steel wire in the phone, if necessary straighten the wire. Next rub one end of the wire across the magnet about ten times, this will magnetize the wire. Remember which end of the wire you rubbed against the magnet, this end will point north. Place the wire on a small leaf in a puddle of still water. The magnetized end of the wire will turn to point north.

Cutting Tools

The circuit board and metal mounts inside a cell phone can be fashioned and ground into cutting tools using a rock to form a sharp edge.

Arrow heads and spear points

The circuit board and metal mounts can be fashioned into sharp and effective arrow heads and spear points. The metal brackets can be used for fishing lures, hooks, and a fishing gorge.

Start a fire

Using the battery and a thin piece of wire from your cell phone along with some tinder you can easily and quickly start a fire. Have your fire tinder ready and at hand as the wire will quickly heat up and burn through within a few seconds. Simply connect the positive and negative terminals of the battery with the thin wire, the wire will quickly heat up and turn red. Use this heat to start a fire with your tinder.

Headphone snares

Using headphones or earbuds you can create a snare to hunt small game.

Cell Phones


The Versatile Condom

Condoms are an excellent and versatile item that can be easily added to any survival kit. Look for ones that are non-lubricated and don't contain any spermicides.

To Carry Water

A condom can be used to carry water, a typical condom can easily hold 2 liters and up to 1 gallon of water. While they are extremely elastic they are easily torn or punctured when filled with water. To protect the condom from puncture start by stretching the latex out a little like you would a balloon, then place the condom inside a sock and proceed to fill the condom with water. The sock will help protect the condom but it must still be handled with care. Finally tie the mouth of the condom around a small stick or similar object, this will make it much easier to untie so that it can be reused. Simply tying a knot makes it very difficult to untie without tearing the condom.

To Keep Stuff Dry

The same ability that makes a condom watertight also makes it waterproof. A condom works well in keeping fire tinder and matches dry, simply fill with dry tinder and either tie the open end closed or fold over. When tied closed this will protect your tinder from getting wet in rain or even if submerged in the event that you have to swim or fall overboard for instance.

Start Fires

This works best in sunny locations, in areas and seasons with lower sunlight intensity or on cloudy days this technique will be difficult. Start by filling a condom with water and use to focus sunlight as you would a magnifying glass.

Fire Drill with Thumb Loops

When using the fire drill technique to start a fire it helps to have thumb loops to apply downward pressure on the spindle when spinning the spindle. Using a condom tie a loop on each end of the condom big enough for your thumbs to fit. Place your thumbs inside the loops and stretch the middle of the condom over the top of the spindle and pull downward. This will enable you to apply the downward pressure as you begin to spin the spindle as you normally would.

Condom Bow Drill

This technique can be used to replace the bow in a bow drill and works surprisingly well. Construct the spindle, fire board, and bearing block as you normally would, then tie a shoestring around a small tree or other stationary object. Using several condoms (3 or 4) tie one end to the secured string and tie the other end to another shoestring, wrap this shoestring around the spindle as you would with a bow drill. You can now pull on the end of this shoestring which will spin the spindle and stretch the condom, then you allow the condom to pull back which spins the spindle again. Continue to do this procedure rapidly until an ember forms.

Protect guns

A condom can be stretched over the muzzle of a gun barrel and secured to protect it from water, sand, and mud. When ready to shoot there is no need to remove it as the bullet will not be impeded or affected by the condom.



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Tampons To The Rescue

Besides their intended purpose tampons have a great utility of uses in survival situations.

Wound Dressing

Since the first world war tampons have been used to plug bullet holes and as emergency bandages. Tampons that are still wrapped in their original packaging are sterile and can be used in place of traditional dressing and compresses.


The cotton in a tampon can be torn apart and used as tender to help get a fire going, especially when all other materials are wet. Chap-stick or petroleum jelly can be added to the cotton to increase it's effectiveness. The plastic applicator can also be used to blow directly on coals to feed the fie oxygen.


The string, while not long is usable for cordage and several can be tied together using a square knot to make the cord longer. This is enough to make traps or for other uses.


The plastic applicator can be used as a straw and the cotton can be used to filter out particles. While this will not remove bacteria it can be used in an emergency. An even better idea would be to use the cotton as a filter and then boil the water before drinking.

A Light Source

The cotton can be dipped or soaked in wax, fats, or oils to be used as an improvised lamp.

As A Cork

To prevent evaporation of critical water as well as to prevent contamination.

As Bait

The cotton can be soaked in blood or other material to lure game into a trap.

The Wrapper

The plastic wrapper can be used to hold and protect small objects such as matches from getting wet.

© 2016 Lloyd Busch

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