18 Urban and Wilderness Survival Hacks That Would Make MacGyver Proud
Editor’s note: The following tips are excerpted from Survival Hacks: Over 200 Ways to Use Everyday Items for Wilderness Survival by Creek Stewart.
Having taught survival skills to thousands of individuals from all over the world for nearly two decades, I’ve come to one conclusion: the most important survival skill is innovation. Using what you have, to get what you need is what will ultimately make the difference between life and death in a sudden and unexpected survival scenario. I often call this “survival hacking.”
Over the years, I’ve learned (and sometimes invented) some very interesting survival hacks that I think everyone should know. Why? Well, it’s like I always say: “it’s not IF but WHEN.” Below are a few survival nuggets for the when.
Framework Collar Connector
If you need a long pole, you’ll often have to lash together two limbs or saplings to get the right length. This is the case when making a dome framework for wigwam-style shelters, for example. If cordage is in short supply, using an energy shot bottle (like a 5-Hour Energy or similar product) from your trash may be the solution. After slicing off the top and bottom of the bottle, a very strong cylindrical tube remains. You can use this tube as a collar for connecting the ends of two limbs. Taper the ends of the limbs so they slide into the tube opposite each other and form a snug fit when wedged together. This collar will hold them surprisingly well and will not stretch with moisture, as many lashings do. If the collar is a bit loose, heat it over coals or a flame and it will shrink and tighten the fit.
Finding a good place to sit in an improvised survival camp can be very frustrating — especially when the ground is wet or snow covered. This hack improvises a very comfortable seat in just a few minutes. The only parts you need are four sturdy poles and a blanket or scrap piece of durable fabric. Cut three poles that are 6′-8′ long by 1″-2″ thick, and then cut a fourth that is the same thickness and 4′ long.
Connect two of the long poles together at one end using a bipod lashing. Fold the blanket or fabric in half, bunch the end together, and suspend this end with rope from the cross at the bipod lashing. Insert the 4′ pole in the unsecured fold of the blanket so that it sticks out at both ends, and rest it against the longer poles. Finally, kick lash the last long pole in the center as a support and lean back to relax.
Many survivalists, including myself, suggest packing non-lubricated condoms in survival kits. They are small, compact, and inexpensive, and have a plethora of survival uses. One noteworthy function is a compact emergency water container. Here are a couple tips I’ve learned from experience for using a condom as a canteen:
- Fill the condom in a sock to protect it during travel.
- Use any rigid hollow tube such as an ink pen, elderberry branch, or bamboo section as a spout and secure the base of the condom around it using duct tape or paracord.
- Carve a spout stopper from any dry branch.
- Add a sling, and you’re ready to make tracks with more than a liter of drinking water.
2-Liter Rain Collector
The ability to collect rainwater, especially if stranded on an ocean island, is critical. Luckily, that task can be easily done with just a plastic bottle (be sure it has a cap; the mouth must be sealed). Start by cutting off the bottom of the bottle. Next, cut vertical slices 1″-2″ apart up the side of the bottle, starting at the bottom and going a little more than halfway. Fold the sections out, giving the bottle a flower-like appearance. (Using heat during this step makes the bottle more pliable and speeds up the process; it also helps keep the petals in place once finished.) Finally, plant the top of the bottle a couple inches into the ground and wait for rain.
This water collector is modeled after nature itself — the leaves on many plants and trees help funnel rainwater toward the main stem or trunk. These plastic “petals” help to funnel water into the central reservoir. The water can then be drunk with a straw or piece of hollow reed grass, or poured into a canteen.
Match Feather Stick
If you’ve studied survival or bushcraft very long, chances are you’ve heard of “feather sticks.” With a sharp knife, you shave long wood slivers down the side of a stick. Just before a sliver is completely shaved off, you stop and begin another sliver from the top. After several minutes’ work, you’ll have a stick covered in feather-like wood shavings. These shavings catch fire much quicker and easier than the larger solid stick. Consequently, feather sticks are an excellent and easy fire starter that’s found in nature.
Let’s take that concept a step further and apply it to wooden matches. In extremely difficult conditions, when you might need additional help starting a fire, use your knife to shave small wooden slivers just above the match head, creating a mini feather stick. When the match ignites it will very quickly catch these shavings on fire, which will create a stronger and bigger flame.