Any survival or disaster situation is naturally going to require you to get a little creative.
This is because resources in any survival situation are going to be rather thin, and you’re going to have to learn how to make the best with what you have.
Fortunately, finding yourself in a survival situation doesn’t just mean that you are limited tosurvival tools that you may not even have on hand at the time.
This is because you can easily take everyday household items that you probably already have an abundance of and use those items to make surviving significantly easier.
Here are the top seven overlooked everyday items in your house that you can use for survival, presented in alphabetical order:
1. ALUMINUM FOIL
Aluminum foil already has agreat many uses around the house, and it likewise will for if and when you find yourself in a survival situation as well.
One of the best uses for aluminum foil will be to use it to help cook food in a survival situation. If all you have available is a fire rather than your stove or oven, you can wrap food in the aluminum foil and then place it next to the fire.
Another valuable use for aluminum foil will be to use it as a signal, since it can reflect the light of the sun. Additionally, you can also use aluminum foil will be to use pieces of it as a fishing lure, as fish are naturally attracted to bright objects.
2. BAKING SODA
If there’s only one personal hygiene item that you can have on hand in a disaster scenario, it should without questionbe baking soda.
This is simply because you can use baking soda to make virtually any other kind of personal hygiene item in existence, from soap to shampoo to deodorant to toothpaste to floor cleaner to dishwashing soap to laundry detergent.
All you really need to do is mix the baking soda with water in order to create a paste, and you can create any of those listed above.
3. COFFEE FILTERS
Another highly versatile but overlooked survival item is just an ordinary coffee filter. Besides the obvious use of using it to help make your morning cup of coffee, you can also use a coffee filter to filter through water, as fire tinder (mix with grease for the best effect), to wrap food, or as emergency toilet paper.
4. DENTAL FLOSS
Obviously dental floss can be used for oral hygiene in a survival situation, but you can use it for a great multitude of other purposes as well.
For example,you can use dental floss as fishing line, as a clothesline, to help build shelter, to make matches burn longer (simple wrap the floss around the matches), to set snares, for sewing, or as a tripwire.
NOTE: attach tin cans filled with a few pebbles to the tripwire, and you’ve created an emergency alert system. U.S. troops used this strategy to great effect to alert them to nearby Japanese troop movements in the Pacific campaign during World War II.
5. GARBAGE BAGS
It’s surprising that garbage bags don’t show up as often as they should in other lists of the best everyday items to use for survival, because they truly are among the most versatile items that you can possibly use for survival.
One of the best uses for a garbage bag will be to use it as a poncho, since you simply need to cut a few holes through it for your head and arms. You can also use a garbage bag as a makeshift tarp, as a mattress (simple stuff it full with leaves, grass, and pine needles), or as a wall or ceiling for an emergency shelter.
6. HAND SANITIZER
In addition to using hand sanitizer as a personal hygiene item in a survival situation, you can also use it to sanitize surfaces such as tables or knife blades, to help get fires going (sanitizer is very flammable), for treating mosquito bites (simply apply it directly to the site of the bite), or to remove stains from clothing.
7. PAPER CLIPS
In a survival situation, an ordinary paper clip will be one of the best alternatives to a normal fishing hook. Beyond that use, you can also use a paper clip to replace zipper tabs on a jacket, or as a toe or finger splint in the event of an injury.
BONUS: SODA CAN
Throwing a soda can away is the last thing you should do with it in a disaster situation. You can use the tab as a makeshift fishing hook (much as you could with an ordinary paper clip like we just mentioned), and you can also polish the bottom of the can with chocolate to help it reflect the sunlight for signaling. Alternatively, you can also clean out the inside of the can to use it for storage.
If there’s anything that you learn from this article, it’s that you shouldn’t neglect any ordinary items you have laying around the house. Chances are good that you can find at least one or two ways to use that item for survival in a disaster scenario.
Having seen the movie Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger when I was young landed me with a fascination for thermal optics. That fascination is not what led me to start considering their use today. Not only as an aid to hunting but as an option for a variety of tasks that we, as preppers, may deem important.
Recently in Search and Rescue training, we used a thermal optic to scan for lost hikers. It was amazingly powerful and successful. Even through rather dense foliage, we were able to clearly make out any presence with body heat.
This is a very powerful utility and one that is now within the grasp of most people. Back in the 90s, even an affordable thermal optic could quickly exceed $10,000.00. I recall reading the ads for these units in several of the gun catalogs that arrived at our house and knew it was out of reach.
That has changed. Now you can get a high-quality thermal sight that is quite cost-effective. The entire industry of thermal optics went through some growing pains early on. This combined with their high cost has seen them mostly employed for hog hunting.
I think it’s well past time we take a hard look at thermal optics as the potential tool they could be.
A Brief Primer on Thermal Optics
To correct any possible misunderstanding, I think it’s important we spend a few brief words on what exactly a thermal optic is. It is not night vision and has a number of benefits over a standard night vision scope. I do believe night vision is a useful technology but not the equal of thermal optics.
Night vision relies on some form of illumination from an external source. That can be ambient light for some types or an IR illuminator for others. In order for something to show on night vision it has to reflect that illumination. It can not work in complete darkness and has a very limited range.
Thermal optics detect the radiation, in the form of body heat, that is emitted from a target. They can be used day or night and even in complete darkness. The range of thermal is often much farther and can easily exceed 1000 meters on some units.
All night vision is monochrome. Usually, you can pick out your target with night vision with little difficulty. But if your target is near other reflective surfaces, it will just blend in. This is especially true of very small animals.
There is no blending in with thermal. The rainbow hues will stand out and be instantly recognizable. Even the quickest scan will show you if anything is near. From my home, I can clearly watch rats run around my barn over 200 yards from my window.
I believe the versatility and power of a thermal optic make it a far better technology than night vision for many uses.
Why a Thermal Scope?
So far, I have referred to this technology as thermal optics. So, why would I write this article about thermal scopes specifically instead of monoculars, goggles, or any of the other devices? That comes down to choosing a tool that is capable of multiple tasks.
Firstly, this is because a scope can serve as a hunting tool where other forms of thermal optics cannot. But that is just scratching the surface.
I am sure that most readers have a weapon mounted light. When there is something to investigate near our homes, many of us will reach for that weapon with its light rather than just picking up a flashlight.
The weapon mounted light serves the same purposes of a flashlight but with defensive capability. A weapon mounted thermal optic serves the same purpose.
Because of the way that thermal works, using goggles or a monocular in conjunction with a weapon would be impossible. You would never be able to see your sights. A scope will do everything any other type of thermal will but has a weapon attached should you need it.
If you are not comfortable with carrying a gun, a scope can be detached, often with just a throw lever, and used as a monocular. A thermal scope is just the most useful format for this technology.
Thermal Optics for Hunting
I am sure most of us are aware of the use of thermal optics in hunting. While it is worth covering briefly, it should not be the focus of this article.
Most game animals cannot be hunted after dark in many states. In my home state, only hog and coyote can be hunted after sundown. This will make hunting uses more limited for some than others.
Where and when it is permissible, hunting at night with a thermal scope is highly effective. Coyote are overpopulated in many areas, mine seems especially prone. I hunted coyote with a spotlight for several years but that method pales in comparison to the effectiveness of a thermal scope.
A bright light will scatter coyote immediately, often faster than you can get a bead on one. Thermal gives them no warning until your fire your first shot. Occasionally, that moment of panic from a loud noise can even give you time to get off a second shot.
My experience with hogs is much more limited but from my understanding, it works much the same.
Though I would hesitate to call it hunting, most of the use I get from my thermal scope is with the local vermin that like to raid my farm. I get coons, coyote, rats, and opossums regularly as they come searching for food. They are all easy prey with a thermal optic.
The one downside I have found is that the snakes they like to prey on my chickens are invisible.
Thermal Optics for Home Security
This is the one place that I feel thermal is most neglected. I have a rather large property with trees and a number of sheds and outbuildings. There are no street lights and on a new moon, it is pitch black. Thanks to the drug epidemic, home invasions and theft are prominent and a very frightening reality.
When I have an indication that something may be on my property, I want to be able to scan quickly. Sure, you can do that with a light but you give away your location. If you happen to start in the wrong spot, any troublemakers are given at least some warning to hide. This is an imperfect solution.
Night vision is a little better. You avoid giving any warning and don’t give away your location. But as we talked about with hunting, targets may not stand out, especially if they are hiding. Night vision also has a smaller field of view and limited range. I think it’s a solid tool but not one that can do everything I want.
Thermal optics give no warning, do not give you away, and make target location and identification easy. I can see to the far end of my property about 400 yards away and make out deer, dogs, and even small animals.
Even if someone were hiding with just a head poking out, it would light up in vibrant hues. Seeing through vegetation is a breeze so a person would have to be completely out of sight for them not to show up. This is by far the quickest way to scan your property with the least chance of missing anything out of place.
I could explain most of this all day but you can not experience how easy spotting through a thermal optic is until you try it for yourself. This video shows a couple of different modes available on Thermal optics. It does not show the typical rainbow color scheme that most people are familiar with. For scanning, I prefer the rainbow mode but the white heat mode does work very well.
You could do all of this with any thermal optic. I choose a rifle scope over a spotting scope for several reasons. As I mentioned, I like having the option to attach it to a weapon. Additionally, thermal scopes often have superior run times and a greater range of magnification. This is a huge benefit, especially when trying to spot at a distance or to identify a smaller target.
The optic I have attaches with a throw lever and holds zero pretty well. Probably most of my use is ridding the farm of varmints using a .22 rifle. The remainder of the time it gets mounted on an AR-15 for larger targets. I rarely ever use it without it mounted on a gun but it could be used as just a spotter.
I would not trust it to hold a zero well enough for a 100-yard shot but most of my shots are 20 yards or less and I am within an inch or so. This is acceptable for any use I normally have. When I take it out to hunt, I do an actual zero on the rifle before I go.
The peace of mind this has brought for scanning my property has been well worth the cost!
Other Uses for Thermal Optics
As I mentioned above, I use a thermal optic for search and rescue. This is not a weapon mounted scope but a dedicated unit. I do not take a rifle with me on search and rescue. This application works well in the woods, water, and most any other environment and is the most important use I have for thermal.
I also use my thermal to keep track of my dogs after dark when they go out. It works much better than a flashlight and is good practice. But outside of the use on living things, a Thermal scope has a variety of uses. The more innovative you are, the more uses you are likely to find.
I use a thermal to check for hotspots on my wood burning chimney. This can help avoid fires and tell you when you may have a potential blockage in your chimney. While you are at it, you can use a good thermal to check your home insulation by looking for cold spots. Heating is expensive, why waste it?
I do a similar check on my HVAC system. You can easily see leaks and blockages in your system and avoid costly checks that involve taking your ductwork down. You don’t need a sensitive, purpose made unit to do this. Any thermal optic should work well enough to detect these issues.
You can check electrical problems in the same way. Check your breaker box to make sure none of your fuses are running hot before it becomes a problem. You can even check your household outlets and surge protectors to make sure they aren’t running hotter than they should be.
Hot water pipes can also be scanned to look for places that may benefit from more insulation. Check your windows to make sure you aren’t losing heat. There are a variety of uses thermal can be applied to for measuring heat loss. You should probably take it off your rifle first though.
This may somewhat piggyback off other uses but I also take my smaller thermal optic with me when camping. I like to be able to spot wildlife and watch the activities of nocturnal critters that you usually never see. You could even use it to search for Bigfoot or the Yeti if you were so inclined.
Hopefully, this does an adequate job of addressing some of the many uses of thermal technology. For those who seek to be truly prepared, a thermal optic is an amazing tool with so many applications in our world. For prepper types, so many of these uses are important to the way we conduct our daily lives.
The longer I have had my thermal optics, the more I have found I use them. Of course, you should match your thermal to your intended uses. That said, when it comes down to it a mountable rifle scope provides the most utility for me.
I can use it for security, safety, providing food, and even some leisure activities. They may not be a perfect technology but they are a very useful one.
Eric grew up hunting, fishing, and roaming the hills of the Easter U.S. and has dedicated himself to becoming a well-rounded outdoorsman. Anytime there is an opportunity for a little fishing or a morning spent hunting, you will find him in the woods. In his off time, he teaches a variety of outdoor skills including land navigation and basic survival. Recently a Search and Rescue member, he has begun learning the ancient art of human tracking in a variety of terrains.
When becoming involved in survival and prepping, there are many different ways to get started. For instance, some people start by learning about specific survival skills, while others start by buying supplies. Some people buy a few survival tools and learn how to use them, while others just spend time becoming more self-sufficient.
There is no right or wrong way to get started. Just making an effort puts you miles ahead of the average person. However, there are some misconceptions about putting together packs and gear…
3 Types of Kits
Which one of these is right for you depends on your goals and your situation, read on…
Bug Out Bag (BOB)
One of the first types of kits that you will encounter is the Bug Out Bag (BOB). It seems like every survivalist has either put together a BOB, has purchased a pre-made one, or at least knows what it is.
This bag is designed to give you the supplies needed to survive if you packed up and left your home in a hurry, often being gone for days to weeks. However, the likelihood of needing to pack up and leave your home is relatively small. [Editor’s note: It totally depends on where you live and the situation you’re in… please be prepared to bug out if need be.]
Do not misunderstand me. Having a bug out bag is important and an excellent idea. It is just that the list of scenarios in which you must abandon your home is just small.
Get Home Bag (GHB)
The get home bag is designed to be kept at work or in your car with just enough supplies to get you home. Even if you end up on foot, most people would only be traveling for a couple of hours or a day or two at most. This makes a get home bag typically smaller.
It also makes the items more focused on urban survival. Most people spend their time walking the city streets, not trudging through the woods and is a more likely scenario as most people spend their days at work several miles from home. [Editor’s note: Yes! Most of us need to think about being able to get around city streets, not the woods.]
With the majority of your supplies at home, the end goal should typically be to make your way back home. Unfortunately, you could find yourself unable to get to a bag in your car or desk which brings us to…
The Everyday Carry (EDC) Kit
By far the most important and most undervalued kit you can put together is an Everyday Carry kit (EDC) which is an assembly of tools that you can carry with you at all times. That does not mean leaving it in the car or storing it in a locker at work. You have to keep these items with you.
This is the survival kit you are most likely to use, the least expensive to assemble, and has the most valuable tools. However, most new survivalists end up focusing on extreme bug-out scenarios instead of an emphasis on the everyday scenarios that are most common.
Most people work in an environment where they want to hide their survival background. Keep in mind that when SHTF, human nature is to take what is needed from the people who have it. That is, co-workers may be inclined to take your kit if they know it is on you.
As such, for the items in your EDC kit to be effective they either need to be hidden or be able to hide in plain view.
Bag or No Bag?
One of the easiest ways to conceal your EDC kit is in a small bag of some kind. Of course, this poses some problems as it must be a bag that you can take with you everywhere — to the bathroom, to meetings, to lunch, literally everywhere.
Aside from maybe a purse or laptop bag, this can be difficult. Another problem with keeping your whole kit in a bag means that someone can steal it or you can lose it and now you are completely vulnerable. Besides, keeping your whole kit inside a bag makes it more difficult to access the items you need quickly.
For example, you can keep a tactical pen in the bag for self-defense. But do you prefer to dig through the bag looking for it or just pull it out of a pocket? For most people, I feel that doing without the bag is a better option but the decision is up to you.
Main Items to Consider
To some degree, the items that you choose for your EDC should reflect where you spend most of your time. If you work in a large city, they should reflect urban survival. If you work in the country, they should reflect wilderness survival.
Regardless, you should always first consider the four pillars of survival: food, water, fire, and shelter. Then consider self-defense, first aid, navigation, and signaling for help.
You can carry as many items as you like as long as you are comfortable with their weight, size, and appearance.
For any survival scenario, many people consider this to be the most valuable tool to have because it is incredibly difficult to replicate its capability with natural materials.
Sure, you can sharpen a stone or hone a piece of glass but it can never be as strong or as capable as a steel blade. A good knife helps with self-defense, cleaning food, cutting cordage, building a shelter, starting a fire, hunting and dozens of other tasks.
Full Tang or Not?
The tang of a knife is how long the blade extends to the handle.
In a full tang knife, the blade extends all the way to the end of the handle, this makes it incredibly strong. However, the average full tang knife is quite long since it cannot be folded.
There are three primary ways to carry a full tang knife for your EDC kit. If you can carry a knife on your belt, that is my suggestion. It allows you to take a larger blade that is better for chopping and self-defense.
If that is not an option, you can carry a boot knife or a neck knife. A boot knife is hidden in a sheath inside the ankle of a boot, while a neck knife is carried on a chain around your neck. Both can stay completely hidden under your clothing.
A folding knife is commonly known as a pocket knife because that is where it is intended to stay. While the hinge makes the knife a bit weaker, you can still find quality options.
It is important for it to be a locking blade knife as this prevents the blade from folding in on your hand. You can buy folding knives with several other tools included.
My suggestion is that you stick with a single or double blade knife and save the other instruments for a multi-tool if needed.
Many people think that you only need to start a fire in wilderness survival situations. This is simply not the case. There are plenty of scenarios in which the heat could be cut off from an urban building or you could be forced to venture out into the cold winter streets.
You should always have one or two reliable ways to build a fire in your EDC kit as you can die from exposure in just a few hours.
[Editor’s Note: I prefer to keep a mini Bic lighter on my keychain for this very purpose.]
Normally, you are going to use your EDC kit for short term survival. This means that lighters are ideal for starting a fire. A Zippo lighter is reliable, durable, windproof, and can even be refilled with any flammable liquid. If you do not want to spend the money on a Zippo lighter, a couple of Bic lighters are a good alternative. They are still reliable and cost nearly nothing.
A ferro rod is small, windproof, waterproof, and requires no fuel. I like to keep a ferro rod with me along with a fire assistance product such as Wetfire cubes. In many cases, I can build a better fire with this combination of tools than I can with a lighter. [Editor’s note: lighters are pretty darn easy to use so I would encourage you to have one on your person if possible.]
You need a striker which can be any piece of high carbon steel including your knife. By striking the steel on the ferro rod, you create super-hot sparks that ignite many types of tinder.
Again, assuming that you can find clean water because you are in the city is not smart. Many buildings are supplied with water through pumps that can shut down without power. You should always have at least one method to purify water.
This is the method I prefer for my EDC kit. It is a commonplace to see people carrying a bottle of water with them everywhere they go.
The difference is that my bottle has a filter built into the lid that removes 99.999% of harmful contaminants. It even makes “safe” tap water taste better. Nobody knows the difference.
This filter accomplishes the same thing but is small enough to keep in your pocket. If you do not want to carry a bottle everywhere, this is a good option. The only downside is that you must get down on the ground to sip from the straw in most cases.
I also carry these little lifesavers everywhere I go. The vial is about the size of my car key and holds dozens of tablets. Each one can purify a bottle of water. I had situations where my filter clogs beyond repair and these tablets saved my life. The only downside is that they must dissolve for 30 minutes before you can drink the water.
This is another one of those items that are difficult to replicate with natural materials. Cordage is vital for anything from climbing to building a shelter. It can be used for cooking, self-defense, trapping, or fishing if you do not have a regular fishing rod. The key is finding an easy way to carry it with you.
Paracord is by far the most functional type of cordage. It is thin but has seven internal strands that can be pulled out and used separately. The most common option is 550 paracord which can hold a 550-pound load.
The easiest ways to carry a paracord are as boot laces, bracelets or lanyards. I always replace my shoe and boot laces with appropriately colored paracord. This way, I have about 50 feet of cordage available at all times.
I can also remove the inner strands and reuse the outer sheath for laces. You can weave paracord into lanyards and bracelets for additional options. I typically keep one of each on me at all times.
Recently, certain companies have started making survival style paracord that has additional functions, such as a flammable cord with a Ferro rod and striker for the tips of the laces.
Another has the typical seven interior strands along with a strand of copper wire, a strand of fishing line, and a strand of flammable material. These can add even more function to an already needed item.
Other Items to Consider
You can go on and on listing out potential items for your EDC kit. Here are some of the most popular we have not yet mentioned.
Weapons – I have seen survivalists carry handguns, tactical pens, ball bearings on a cord, or even brass knuckles. A tactical pen is ideal for an office setting because it just looks like a nice pen.
Before you choose a weapon, know what your local regulations are. These are especially important in urban areas.
Emergency blankets – These are small enough to fit in your pocket and reflect 90% of your body heat back to you. They are suitable for wrapping up or for building a shelter.
Multi-tools – You can often see people carry these handy tools on their belt in a leather pouch. I even have one small enough to fit on my keychain. They have dozens of functions and are perfect for projects in which you are away from your tool box.
Wallet tools – In my wallet, I carry a folding knife, a multi tool, a survival card, and a lock pick set. There are all kinds of gadgets that are designed to be shaped like a credit card.
Small fishing kit – This includes line, hooks, sinkers, floats, and sometimes lures. You can make these small enough to fit in a mint tin.
LED light – These bright flashlights are small enough to fit in your pocket, on your keychain, or in your wallet.