Make Your Own Emergency Gear

I’ve never traveled to Outer Mongolia. One account I read of was a young man who backpacked through it. He expected no restaurants or hotels. So he packed a couple weeks of food along with him.

One thing he noticed was that it was impossible to litter in that benighted country. Every time he threw away a tin can, some woman would grab it before it hit the ground. For him it was garbage. For her it was a useful article in her household.

Let’s talk about making survival gear out of the things we throw away, instead of going out and buying it. What comes to mind first is a cup. I have half a dozen cups made from tin cans that originally contained food. I saved the cans. True, I filed the sharp edges down a bit, but an empty tin can makes a great cup.

I was given a Danish ham in a tin can. That oddly shaped tin can looked like it would make fine small frying pan. It needed a handle. An untwisted coat hanger, re-twisted around the can and bent to form a handle, made a serviceable, free frying pan.

Coat hangers can make cooking grates, too, but you must burn off all the paint to avoid tainting the food. Put some holes near the top of a large can, string coat hanger wire through to form a bail, and you have a pail.

The clear plastic water bottles you throw out can be refilled with water. They work well for water storage. Tie a piece of rope around the neck of a plastic bottle, and you have a plastic canteen. They look fragile, but they will take more abuse than you would believe!

When we buy pork chops at the grocery store, they come on pink Styrofoam slabs, covered with clear plastic. Those pieces of pink Styrofoam can be shaped and trimmed to fit my foot, put in boots as warm innersoles, and keep my feet warm on cold days. They can also be reused as large plates or cut in half to be small plates.

If you buy cereal in boxes, the cereal itself comes in a plastic bag inside the box. Remove the bag and wash it out. It is one of the strongest plastic bags you will find. I use it for storing everything from food to grains to some liquids. I have used it as a canteen while camping.

Then there’s the cereal box itself. The box is made of thin cardboard. I cut the boxes up and save the larger pieces. They come in handy whenever a piece of cardboard is needed. I can make scoops for food, funnels, envelopes, pads for hot pans to sit on, or even fancy cookie cutters.

You can heat and crimp the end of a plastic soda straw with a pair of pliers, fill it with salt, pepper, or sugar, and heat and crimp the other end. This gives you leakproof, single-serving containers. I’ve also snapped pills in half to make soda straw containers with one day’s worth of prescriptions.

The thin plastic bags you get at the grocery store are often used for garbage. Put two or three together, and you’d be amazed at their strength and durability.

Black plastic garbage bags are even stronger and can be used to carry your emergency gear, make a raincoat, make a waterproof sheet under your sleeping bag, or just fill with water and set out in the sun to get hot water for free.

Newspapers can be used for fire-starting, for the fuel that keeps a fire going, or for insulation inside your clothing. They are convenient wrappers for fish and game, free tablecloths, sun screens, wind screens, and rolled up, can splint a broken arm.

Plastic prescription bottles with snap tops are excellent small containers. Any jar or container with a screw top can be reused for storage purposes. The plastic silverware you get from fast-food restaurants can be washed and used again. The bottom of a ball-point pen makes a functional eye-dropper. The legs of an old pair of pants can be tied to the waist, and you have a backpack.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you think about it, you’ve been discarding many things that you could use in an emergency. So, before you throw something away, ask yourself, “What could I use that for?” The answers will astound you.