If you’re in a situation and you happen to have a tin can with you, then you’re in luck! That tin can might just be your ticket to survival.
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In this article:
- A Cup or Small Cooking Pot
- Signal for Help
- Cutting Tool
- Water Filter
- Fishing Lure
- Candle Lamp
- Fire Carrier
How to Survive Using a Tin Can
Don’t Throw Away Those Metal Food Cans Just Yet
Bushcraft and survival skills have a lot to do with the ability to improvise. Items we would not even give a second thought to under normal circumstances and would in all likelihood be discarded as rubbish can become valuable and even lifesaving commodities in a survival situation.
Take a tin can, for example. We usually just toss it once it’s empty, but all tin can sizes have umpteen uses in a survival situation and should never be thrown away! You can even use tin cans for crafts if you want to.
The most obvious use is what it was designed for – to be a container. You can carry virtually anything in a tin can – water, food, sand, small implements, and so on.
A wire is also found in most places, and by punching two small holes in the side of the can with a pocket knife, a piece of glass, sharp stone, a piece of metal, or a nail you can attach a wire handle to make a useful carrying container.
2. A Cup or Small Cooking Pot
You can also use tin food cans as a cup or as a small cooking pot. The ability to boil water is of cardinal survival importance, and a tin can makes it possible for you to boil water to purify it and make it safe to drink.
You can also use the tin can as a pot to cook food in, prepare medicinal potions, make hot drinks, or sterilize instruments. When heating contents in the tin can over an open fire, take care not to burn yourself when lifting it.
Use a piece of cloth or a small branch to lift the hot tin by the wire handle.
You can also use the can as a stove. This method is especially useful when you don’t have much firewood or combustible plant material handy.
Soldiers in the North African desert did this in the Second World War. They called it a Benghazi stove.
Fill the can about half full with sand and then add some petrol to the sand to wet it. Get the stove burning by lighting some tinder on the top.
It will burn for about five minutes – long enough to boil water or fry an egg (you will find eggs in birds nests if you take the trouble to look).
You will need food at some stage, and you can turn your tin can into a useful trap. Bury it in the ground so that the top of the can is at the same level as the ground.
Just like that, you’ve made a pit trap. Small crawling insects, frogs, and even small mammals such as mice can fall into the trap, which you can eat or use as bait to catch fish.
Add a little water at the bottom of the tin to drown whatever falls into it.
5. Signal for Help
Being able to signal for help can be life-saving, and this is where the lid comes in handy. Using some sharp object or tool, punch a small hole into the center of the lid – you now have a heliograph or signaling mirror.
What is a heliograph? This is a signaling device that uses a movable mirror. When the sunlight hits the mirror, it will create flashes of light due to the reflection.
Make sure one side of the lid is polished as smooth and bright as you can get it to have a good reflective surface. You can now signal to vehicles, search parties, or low flying aircraft by aiming the mirror towards the persons you wish to signal to and reflecting the bright rays of sunlight towards them.
You aim the mirror by looking through the center hole towards the person, vehicle, or aircraft you wish to signal.
6. Cutting Tool
Because the tin is metallic, you can make cutting tools from the material. You can sharpen the lid’s edges to fashion a sharp cutting tool.
You can partially bend it to create a blunt end to hold onto cutting yourself, or you can mount it on a piece of wood.
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Arrowheads can be fashioned from pieces of tin. If you don’t have anything that can cut the tin, bend it back and forth to break pieces off until you have the right shape.
8. Water Filter
By punching a few small holes in the bottom of the tin and adding layers of gravel and sand, you can make an effective water filter. This will remove particulate matter before boiling, making the water more palatable.
It can also serve as a shower by punching some holes in the bottom.
9. Fishing Lure
Soda Can Tab Fish Hook And Paracord Lure
Looking for a cheap and easy way to make your own fish hook? Learn how to make your own using a soda can tab and a paracord! 🎣 –> http://survivallife.com/make-fish-hook-using-soda-can-tab/
Posted by Survival Life on Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Turn small, reflective pieces of tin into fishing lures and spoons. You can attach these to fishhooks from your survival kit if you have one, or you can make hooks out of wire or even thorns.
10. Candle Lamp
In windy conditions, it might be difficult to keep a candle burning. You can solve this problem by making a small candle lamp as shown above.
11. Fire Carrier
A tin can makes a wonderful fire carrier. Make a few holes in the bottom and side of the can, then place glowing coals or smoldering dung (cow, buffalo, elephant, and rhino dung works well) in the can.
The coals or dung will continue burning slowly for many hours and then when you need to make fire you will already have glowing coals to start with. This is especially useful if you don’t have matches or a working lighter.
Grab candles that fit perfectly in a tin can here.
Let’s take a look at the humble tin can from a survival perspective of Healthy Prepper and see what we can do with it:
One wonders how often it must have occurred in the past where people have become lost on a hike in the mountains or in the bush while hunting and have had a tin can of food with them. And at some point have opened the can, eaten the contents, and then thrown the can away (or hopefully at least, buried it).
Perhaps they have been stranded or lost in the wild and walked past an empty can without seeing its potential. In the modern world, rubbish can be found in even the most remote places on earth and rubbish can become a treasure trove of useful implements when you have little or nothing, to begin with.
Can you think of more ways to use a tin can in a survival scenario? Let us know in the comments section.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 24, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
Quoting your article “…Wire is also found in most places…”.
Are you kidding? You obviously haven’t spent much time in the back-country. In most situations the only wire you’ll find is what you have with you.
Old fences are usually found everywhere. If not improvise. Does everyone have to hold your hand? Survivalist have to use instinct. Maybe you should stay in town!
In that situation cans would also be rare, so what’s the solution?
I saw where one fellow killed a snake, skinned it so it was in a tube shape, scraped off the meat, tied the end of the snake skin tube tight and used the hollow snake tube to boil and drink water.
I bet that was some MMM MMM good water.
В ситуации Апокалипсиса , банок. и другого мусора будет больше чем достаточно ! )))
У змеи надо отрезать голову . и надрезать у основании хвоста . Дальше….как снимаешь пластик с электрического провода….
Вот только дальше – проблема !))) Вода будет не водой .))) Торба не получится ))
Уважаемый , ты кушал змей? Я – ДА ! Я же – Русский , мы же – варвары .)))
Так вот что я тебе скажу ..змей надо уметь готовить.)
Их лучше ..тушить !
А еще ..лучше не убивать. и не делать из них глупые емкости для воды.)))
Вообще, меня удивил нож из банки!)))
Зачем при Апокалипсисе делать такую глупость . если кругом, в разрушенных домах будет море ножей!? )))
Например я . всегда ношу с собой нож …Мы же . русские бандиты же…)))
Как то все советы …какие то примитивные..Разве этому надо обучать?
Судя по ранениям на руке и на пальце …уважаемый выживальщик …. сам себя убьет на заре учений других ! ))) С уважением. без злобы !)))
You could use the cans to make a chimney for a temporary wood burning stove.
I’ve actually done this and it works great! No need for super expensive store purchased stuff!
Don’t forget the different alarm systems, make shift telephone and part of a windmill wheel for generating electricity.
A can makes a very good digging tool. I dug many holes when I was young using tin cans. It beats the heck out of ripping off finger nails. They also work well as a scoop around the house for dry dog food, bedding for small pets, and kitty litter, that would be pet survival.
Feeding & caring for pets in the Zombie Apocalypse is going to be really tricky if the emergency lasts very long. We have a dog rescue with about 36 dogs & routinely keep a few months of dog food on hand — which could be short-rationed to last an extra month or so.
We have a half-acre pond with bass & panfish, but I suspect that much reliance on this for feeding dogs would exhaust the fish and leave us with little or nothing for feeding ourselves. We have about ten deer that show up every day, but my age & crippled condition makes hauling & butchering a deer rather tricky. Basically, we have too many dogs & cannot practically support them in a long emergency, but others should be able to support a more normal number of pets as long as some wildlife or livestock is available.
Those of us old enough to remember how awful life was before they came up with Avantix & other modern flea & tick products will stock up on these for years of use. Once fleas get out of control in your house you will quickly consider burning it down & moving into any convenient cave …. except that the fleas will follow you there, too, and drive you freaking NUTS with the itching & scratching.
Life will begin to suck badly when there is no Petco or Petsmart around, so plan ahead.
Diatomaceous dirt, might be the solution you need for the dogs, I have four myself and fleas Bubba They get fleas!
You probably don’t want to hear this, but it is my understanding that one of the uses for the dogs that ever American Indian village had was emergency food during periods of severe food shortage. In a survival situation, one of the first things on my to-do list is hunting some of our neighbors’ Fido, along with the crows that infest our neighborhood. In a survival situation, if you stop by my house for food, I will trade you something for some crow. I’m saving the dog meat for myself.
Another thing one will not want to hear is that the Desert Storm (1991) Iraqi Republican Guard used dogs to signal a silent bio/chemical attack. The idea was that if a chemical bomb was released upwind from their location, then the wind would bring in chemical dusts to their camp and the dogs would begin to die all around them. This would alert the soldiers to put on their gas masks and enter their underground bunkers (built in gypsum-earth (Moh’s hardness 2, harder than chalk). They had gas masks. Immediately after the ground war, I entered a bunker that had boxes of new wrapped gas masks. The USA forces had tape wrapped around the arms of their Nuclear-Biological-Chemical suits that would change color if exposed to chemicals. Unfortunately, everyone’s tape changed color just from vehical exhaust, so the 1991 tape was useless.
You hunt dogs in MY ‘hood and you will be feeding the d ogs. Dogs are useful for more than food. Even frou frou dogs aren’t far removed from purpose. You however aren’t useful to me!
If you get hungry enough the dogs will be your food. You do not keep them alive, they keep you alive.
I just love your articles, but I can’t seem able to print them. I want to be able to refer back to them. Thank you
As for fleas, I think it is pennyroyal,which yoy can grow works well for fleas.
In an emergency situation you prepare for the worst. my mom always stoced up in the summer, her freezer foods in bulk, canned foods, TV dinners, and toilet Paper. now the neighbors always laughed at us for having bulk boxes of toilet paper, Ravioli, and a freezer full of bulk Meat, Baloney and Cheese.
In Nebraska you get blizzards and tornado. In a Tornado if the power goes out, the freezer items would need to be eaten first. with Blizzards, you could be buried under snow for a week or two.
So, my mom would tell them. you can laugh at me now, but when the blizzards hit and your ass is buried for a week or two, don’t be digging a hole to my house for toilet paper! you can wipe your ass with your hand for all i care, but i will have my toilet paper!
The point is – if you have pets and you prepare for what you know is coming, you dont have to worry if you have to or not. I have a large sum of diatomaceous Earth (food grade), which i use outside and inside my home. i also sue it to dust pet beds, in the litter box for odors, on the rugs for fleas or anything that laid eggs, and it got rid of ants and other pests we had! Plus dogs kind of eat whatever you eat, and you can eat them if food is that low.
i have dyslexia, and spell check doesnt work for that.
A can is useful as a digging device, to scoop out sand in an arroyo to get to water below the surface.
Thanks for sharing useful info .
I recycle most, if not all of my metal cans. I always noticed how I can nest 3 or 4 cans inside the larger one. I may now develop this into an method to carry multiple cans inside a larger one, while using the smallest one as some people us a tin for EDC objects. These can be tied externally to my backpack or inside if room permit,s withcloth or paper towels between each to keep them quiet. Stove, water container, strainer, makeshift “Altoid tin” w/necessary paper towels all in one compact package. thanks for stirring up some ideas.
Just a comment on using dung for a fire starter. The smoke and fumes from dung caused the blindness of many pioneers coming across the plains way back when. If using that in any way, for goodness sake keep the smoke away from yourself to prevent any unintended injury to yourself or those about you.
If someone is stupid enough to blind themselves with poop during an emergency situation, i dont think they are going to make it very long anyways. LOL!!
Forget the Benghazi stove — unless you have a lot of petrol to cook with, you’re far better off using a tin can for a Rocket Stove. There are lots of Youtube videos showing many ways of doing this and it can easily be fueled with small twigs & scraps of scrounged wood.
In a survival mode every tin can should be cleaned & saved, even if you have no immediate need for it. With the bottom removed — you did stock up on military P-38 can openers, didn’t you? — you have a clean metal cylinder that can be connected to others to engineer a pipe or a chimney. You can also split the side & flatten it into a nice square piece of metal that can be used for fabricating many things, or patching a leaky roof — or even shingling an entire roof, if you have enough of them.
I once made some temporary furniture out of Campbell soup cans, epoxied together (lightly sanded the ends first). Not good for chairs, too much sideways movement, but worked fine for footrests & small tables until the Army finally delivered my household goods. With a few scraps of plywood & some empty cans, you can cobble together some useful utilitarian items.
If I could figure out some practical outdoor storage for clean, empty cans, I’d start saving them now. Ditto with clean plastic food-grade bottles, like soft-drink bottles. All, of course, should be thoroughly cleaned & stored where it’s dry and (for the plastic containers) out of the sunlight that degrades it.
Things we throw away now we may well curse ourselves for later.
I’ve watched with some amusement the nekkid (blurred privates) and skeert TV survival shows, the one thing that gets them is drinking un sanitized water.
They come with a shoulder bag, a funky necklace, Fire making tools and skills, they come with knives, panga’s and axes/hatchets and tomahawks, One gal even showed u with a magnifying glass, but, they rarely come with a way to hold and boil water.
Give me a way to make fire and a canteen cup and I’ll make a cutting tool, while drinking boiled and safe water.
A tin can in my view is probably the most important thing you could find or have in a survival situation.
That and a way to make fire.
DH and I have had some good laughs at that show with the woman with the magnifying glass, as well as the man that showed up with goggles. One thing that continues to surprise me on the show is that NONE of them have used charcoal for purifying water or treating wounds, illness, etc. Making activated charcoal would be the first thing I’d do after getting a fire going. There are SO many uses and it just shocks me that, with all their knowledge, I haven’t seen one person on the show think of using it.
If you have a surplus of tin cans, you can use them for alarms, putting small stones in them and hanging them around your property. You can also make “catrops” out of them. I have practiced making foot traps out of them. Using tin snips, with tuna fish size cans, I just cut the tops into jagged points. With a baked bean size can I cut it in half with a hacksaw and cut the jagged points. While they won’t penetrate a shoe sole as a punji stick will, but they will keep someone from flopping on the ground when they come under fire. They are also a nuisance to walk through as some of the points will stick to the sole of the shoe and make walking a bother. They can direct someone into a field of fire. They can also deter animals from entering an area. I used them to deter a cat from using a particular area for its pooping. I punch a couple of holes in the bottom so that mosquitos don’t use them for breeding pools and to inhibit rusting, although a little rust makes them more effective in infecting any wound they might inflict. If you want to increase the infection chances, dipping the points in fecal matter will help. Just be careful after you do that not to cut yourself. I always use leather gloves when handling my “cantrops”. You can make that 13 uses for tin cans.
If you want to prepare them ahead of time there is a better way to do the same thing, only it will puncture through the soles of their shoes or boots. Take a 8 or 16 penny nail, and drive it through the center of a small square or rectangle shaped piece of plywood or other 1″ boards/lumber you might have. The wooden part needs to be large enough to hold the nail upright when set on the ground (unless using treated lumber, in which case you may bury the wooden portion). Weathered wood is a preference, but not a necessity. Now take your pieces with the nail in place and place a few of the natural leaves pressing them through the nail and covering the wooden part. When a snoop/intruder stumbles into a large area of these it is about like being in a mine field, without all the noise. They don’t know where to step, except back the exact path they came there by. Fecal matter can be applied to increase chances of disease or a toxic poison that takes a tiny does to be lethal is also a good choice for these pieces. Usually there will be native plants that are highly toxic or you might grow your own plants, say from the Euphorbia family (though these will require protection from harsh winter conditions and are not Native to North America. Foxglove is the source of the heart medication Digitalis, which can when at toxic levels cause: Nausea, Vomiting, Dizziness, Low Blood Pressure, Bradycardia, Cardiac Instability and possibly death (either way, they will not be fighting you) any time in the immediate future. Poinsettia’s are members of this family, but there are numerous native plants that are toxic to humans if you induce it into the bloodstream, tomato leaves can be pressed and the resulting liquid be concentrated by removing excess water from your crude mixture. If using a succulent/cacti euphorbia plant you will want to score (cut through the outer skin of the plant only)it and collect the white, milky sap (be extremely careful with this highly toxic sap, as it will burn the skin, cause temporary blindness or permanent blindness if not flushed out clean with plenty of fresh clean water immediately after contact, and will irritate nasal passages if the fumes of the fresh sap are indoors and builds up enough in the air. African Natives use this sap on their blowgun darts to bring down rhinos (despite the fact the Rhinos eat the plant) a single drop in their bloodstream is fatal within minutes or less, depending on the dose. I would recommend that if using euphorbia sap that you should keep it in a airtight glass bottle and applied to the nail traps after camouflaging them, so as there is no accidental contact with your own skin. Be warned: This is EXTREMELY LIKELY to cause DEATH in whomever steps on one of these traps, especially if using the most toxic euphorbia there is, which is triangular in shape. You could drill a slightly smaller hole than the nail you plan to use and carry the wooden parts in your larger tin can and put the nails (wrapped tightly in cloth to prevent any noise) they could make rattling around in a tin can. They are then easily built in the field and your only limit is how many you want to make (depends mostly upon how many nails your willing to carry) and use (remember, these are just as toxic to you as your enemy) so know exactly where you have placed these traps, so your not a victim of your own traps. Be your choice Euphorbia, Tomato, Foxglove or other native plant for your toxin of choice there are always other plants that can be used in this same manner. The Euphorbia sap is also a fine choice to fill the ends of a hollow-tip bullet, which will turn a minor through-and-through wound a life threatening injury, and odds are they won’t know what to do to help you before it is too late and the intruder is dead. If placing in bullets I would advise you cover the end of your bullet with bees wax, both to prevent your toxin from coming out and prevent you coming into contact with it as you load a magazine with this lethal ammunition (this is best when used in large caliber ammunition as the hollow area is larger and can contain enough toxin to be lethal) and I personally prefer to use this ammunition in a revolver, rather than a weapon that uses a magazine, which might scrape off your protective wax layer. Works great in my .38 & .357 Revolver rounds.
If I were making an arrowhead out of a tin can, I would put more of a barb on each side of the head. Make the angle on the arrowhead more acute so that it will penetrate deeper and stick in flesh. The tin is too thin to penetrate deeply enough to create a fatal wound, but with a barb on each side of the arrowhead, it will stick in the flesh and will hinder the animal’s escape or slow it down so that you can either put another arrow in it or catch and club it. If it is a human you are using the arrow against, it will make arrow removal a more difficult task and inflict a more serious wound than just a straight, not very deep cut. The arrowhead suggestion is a good one, but the actual design of the arrowhead needs some work.
Things we throw away now may very well save our lives in an emergency situation. The things you need to stock up on are the simple things that you don’t have much of, such as epoxy, wire, string, needles and sewing thread. Think about what you can use to transform things into something else. Simple tools, like a hammer, hatchet/axe, screwdrivers, pliers, clamps, etc. will go a long ways. Pick up some nails and screws to use. Think simple. A cardboard box not only can be used to carry or store things, if painted, it can repel water. Corrugated cardboard can be used to retain heat. Several large boxes taped together can make a very comfortable bed to sleep on and at the same time keep you insulated from the ground. People worldwide live in painted cardboard boxes and survive.
After a very short time of cleaning yourself with old paper, leaves, a small branch or just you hand, you will wish that you had learned to use less toilet paper to clean up with. Don’t think that you will just go down to the stream/pond and clean off as water will become very precious to your survival, especially clean/potable water, (by the way, I love all of the people who buy dehydrated food. Clean water will become very costly in either time or resources). Eating dehydrated foods without rehydrating them is not very palatable, with the possible exception of potatoes, (which tastes much like a huge potato chip without the salt), and should be avoided if possible as they will just dehydrate you and you are faced with the same eater problem again. Paper can be used for many other important things than wiping butts. Guess we had better get used to “roughing” it, (pun intended).
Where the rubber meets the road is where your normality stops and your new reality begins. If you think that you are prepared for most or all eventualities, pick a place 20 miles away from you, preferably a city, (a small city is just fine). Pack a backpack with everything that you know you will need to survive. Have access to $25.00 or less. Now walk to the city and live for a week. Simple right? When you get back, reevaluate your plans and then donate to a non-profit ministry who is working to help feed the homeless and get them back on their feet.
C-Ration Cans had a lot of uses during my 52 months as a U S Marine. The main use was putting several small stones in them and running comm. wire through them. By surrounding your staging area with them, they would warn you of any bad guys trying to sneak into your defensive positions, day or night. Also, if you were out on a listening post or outpost, running com. wire back to your Platoon or company with tin cans at each end, was a good signal to warn of incoming or out going personal. And in an emergency when it wasn’t safe to leave your fox hole, you could always piss in them. Just my two cents worth. OOH RAH and Semper FI.
You can cut corrugated waterboarding pieces the height of the can. Fill can completely. Pour melted paraffin over this. This will burn for a long time. Use it for light, to cook with
very good suggestions; but if you plan on using one for cooking or boiling water, remember that food-containing cans are lined with plastic that contains toxic components, like bha. i don’t know if that can be removed, but i know it can get into the food or water being heated. in an emergency, this might not be the first priority, but if you have a choice, you might want to use something else.
Very cool! Thanks for sharing! Really love this site!
Don’t know if this could be survival…I keep a tin can in my fridge to put animal fat in. Keeps it from clogging my sink. when it is full, the fat will be cold and hard and just throw it away in the trash.
I do something similar but here where I live I have to dump the fat into a compostable collection container at our transfer station for trash and recycleables. Also, if you keep the fat fairly clean it can be used in some recipes.
I ENJOY LL OF THE GOOD INFO !!!!!!!!!!!!
What about the cans that are lined with a thin coat of plastic. I know most if not all cans of food are lined. If there are any not lined please post those. I would suspect that new cans at a hardware store that can be used for helping with painting would not have a plastic coating, do they have anything else coating the inside??
Thank you for your attention..
Don’t overlook carrying a couple of cans of food in your BOB, GHB. Sometimes there aren’t any discarded cans where you are.
Some of the functions of steel cans may be done with aluminum, so there’s a reason to bring a can of frappucino or energy drink. Heck, if you can boil water in a styrofoam cup, a beer can should be even easier, yes?
here is another one,, you can use the pull tab as a fishing hook. you cut the looped part and bend it inward , then sharpen the tip against a rock. There is a Youtube video showing the guy actually catching fish with this homemade hook. Add it to your list 🙂 No charge LOL
The video really REALLY SUCKED !! The woman didn’t ‘SHOW’ us anything (except maybe how she likes to fondle a soup can ) She spoke wayyyyyyyy to fast and combined with that was her VERY POOR articulation, reduced her communication to about one word in five.
This is a great article. However, the video didn’t show a demonstration how to recycle tin cans just like the items mentioned in this article. I was really hoping that she could show us anything. Anyway, it’s great to know that there are simple ways to recycle tin cans instead of trashing them. Sometimes I use them for digging up soil and it does a really great job. I don’t prefer cooking food with it, because metal contains different chemicals which can affect the taste of the food. I always prepare “ready-to-eat” food at home, just have to pack them up.
Most of those soups and canned goods have added MSG in one form or another. If you can buy organic and read labels. MSG is a potent neuro-toxin and contributes to MS.