Empty Your Pockets If You Want to Live

Kate Beaudoin's picture
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We can all agree that the most important element of safety is preparedness, but sometimes a short, worry-free three- or four-hour hike can turn into something more serious. The weather changes suddenly (as it’s apt to do in Montana), the sun goes down, or you’re lost—and the only things you brought along are the random crap you keep in your Camelbak. Fear not! With these surprising tips, you can learn how to turn your everyday amenities into life-saving tools. 

Disclaimer: these tips are not intended to save your life, to treat, diagnose, or cure any disease, or even to be taken very seriously.


Tampons: that’s right—tampons. Squirm all you want, but it’s not like you’re going to be handling a used one. Manufacturers seal tampons to be very clean (though not technically sterile), so they work great for makeshift bandages or rudimentary water filters. Use one to plug a bloody nose, or even as tinder to start a fire. (Trust me, those things go up fast—in a pinch, torch that baby and use it as fuel like we did in the photo. They should carry a “do not smoke while handling tampons” warning.)

And it’s not just the tampon itself that’s useful—the plastic tube and even the braided cord have their uses. Stuff the tube with some of the tampon and use it as a straw to filter water (this will only clean out dirt and sediment—not bacteria or metals), or blow through the empty tube to light your tinder. Use the braided cord on a snare to catch animals, tie several together to use as fishing line, or use it to tie branches together to make a shelter (you can also use headphones, dental floss, or shoelaces to accomplish these three things).


Cell phone: you’ll have to break your phone to use it for survival, so make sure the situation calls for it—imagine how pissed you’d be if a family of hikers happened upon you right after you busted the $800 thing to bits. And use it like this only as a last resort—even though you can’t make a phone call, the phone might still be sending out signals. Right behind the screen in every phone is a mirrored plate that you can use to signal rescuers, a tried-and-true idea used by survivalists for centuries. Short circuit the battery on the phone to ignite a fire (using your tampons as tinder), take out the magnet and make your own compass, use the sharp parts of the battery as cutting tools, and use any shiny, small, sharp parts as fishing hooks. (Another O/B staffer would like to point out that if you have an iPhone 3 it could be used as toilet paper.)


Condoms: thought you were gonna get lucky on the trail? Using a condom for survival might not be the luck you had in mind, but used right, it could help you stay alive. Use a condom as a container to carry fresh water around—just make sure you keep the lubricated/spermicidal side out (yuck). Use it to keep matches dry, to cover the barrel of your gun to keep debris out, blow it up to use as a fishing bobber, or fill it with water and use it like a magnifying glass to start a fire (the latter can also be achieved with eyeglasses or a glass bottle). Or, if you’re especially well endowed, use the condom as a tourniquet… wink, wink. 

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