How to Use a [BUSTED] Cell Phone to Meet 5 Basic Survival Needs

by A Manly Guest Contributor on June 14, 2012 · 76 comments

in Manly Skills, Survival



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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Creek Stewart.

Last week we talked about the many survival uses of the tampon. But unless he specifically packed one in a bag or car, a man’s unlikely to have one on him in a pinch. So today we’re going to explore the survival uses of an everyday item you’re much more likely to have with you in an emergency: your cell phone.

Ever leave home without your cell phone? For most of us, the answer these days is no. I think I’d be more comfortable leaving home without my pants on.  I feel more naked with no cell phone.  The cell phone has become our portal to the world and we pretty much have one with us at all times.  They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Whether in a boat, on a plane, traveling through Africa, taking a road trip, or backpacking the Rockies, our cell phone has become a regular piece of Every Day Carry (EDC).  I think it’s pretty safe to say that we will probably have our cell phone with us if ever faced with a tragic survival situation.  It’s also not hard to imagine that it might not be working.  Regardless of the reason, a broken or busted cell phone is STILL an amazing collection of pieces and parts that, with a little insight and creativity, can be used to help meet a surprising number of basic survival needs.  How do I know this?  I busted open a handful of cell phones to find out.

Survival Signal Mirror

Each of the cell phones I cracked open had metallic, mirror-like layers of material behind the screens.  These can function as a perfect survival signal mirror.  The reflection from a mirror can be seen for miles by land, air, or water rescue crews.  This has saved the lives of many survivors in history.  You can even use the reflection from a bright moon to make a flash at night.  I made a more workable signal mirror by “gluing” the reflective pieces to a hunk of bark with some pine sap.

Aiming an improvised signal mirror requires a little finesse.  Simply hold up your peace sign and place your target (the rescue crew) in-between your fingers.  Then, flash the sun’s reflection across your fingers.  You can see the reflection on your fingers which ensures you are also flashing your target.

Navigation

Most speakers (if not all of them) contain a magnet.  All of the cell phones I opened contained a magnet with the speaker portion of the phone.  All of the phones also contained MANY little pieces of wire that I could magnetize; it must be a ferrous metal wire – copper will not work.  With these two items you can make a very accurate improvised compass.

Sweep the magnet across the metal wire in the SAME direction 10 or so times.  Make a mental note of the direction you are sweeping the magnet.  This is the end of the wire that will point NORTH.  You can then FLOAT this metal wire in a small pool of water on a small leaf or shaving of wood.  It must be a completely undisturbed pool of water with no current so as to not affect the results.  The wire will align itself with the NORTH-SOUTH line with the end you noted above pointing north (in the Northern Hemisphere).  Right of North is East and Left of North is West.  Now you know direction.

Spear Points & Cutting Tools

Each cell phone also had a circuit board.  I used the circuit board from a SmartPhone to make two very useful items to a survivor.  I noticed that when I abraded the edge of the circuit board against a smooth rock it actually ground down to a fairly decent cutting edge.  I used half of the circuit board to make a useful cutting tool which I used to gather and cut some natural bark cordage and also scrape a pile of very fine fire tinder shavings from a dried Mullein stalk.  Both of these items are incredibly useful to a survivor.  This crude cutting tool can be used for a variety of other survival chores as well.

I then shaped the other half of the circuit board into an “arrowhead” spear point which I lashed onto the end of a willow shaft using the natural cordage I gathered.  I abraded the edges of this point against the stone to sharpen it.  I’ve made many make-shift gigs and spears in my life, and I have no doubt that this point can do some serious damage – either in self-defense or in food procurement.

I was also able to make a back-up gig by folding and pounding (using two rocks) a small, thin piece of metal into another arrowhead-shaped point.  This is crazy sharp and is very similar to a make-shift broad head.

And Then He Made Fire

Probably the most valuable piece of a broken cell phone to a survivor is the battery.  Almost any battery can be short-circuited to generate either a spark or a hot enough wire to ignite flammable tinder.  Fire can be used in a survival situation to signal for help, boil water, regulate core body temperature, make tools, fend off predators, and cook food.

Everyone has seen the old steel wool trick.  Steel wool ignites very quickly when brushed across the positive and negative terminals on a cell phone battery.  But, when’s the last time you saw a wild steel wool tree?  I seriously doubt you are going to have some steel wool on-hand in a survival situation.

However, I used thin wire that I found inside a cell phone to connect (and short circuit) the cell phone battery.  It almost instantly turned red hot when I touch it simultaneously to the + and – terminals.  I had to peel off the battery’s outer coating to do this.  Make sure you have your fire tinder ready because it doesn’t last long and is almost certainly a one shot chance.  This red hot wire can be used to ignite natural found tinder such as the below seed pod or a spare SURVIVAL TAMPON.

I also tried to magnify the sun’s rays using the lens from a phone’s camera but was unable to get anything to smoke or ignite.  I was pretty stoked about this possibility but couldn’t get it to work:

Fishing Lures

As I looked at the pile of cell phone parts in front of me, some looked surprisingly similar to fish tackle lures, so I went to work and quickly created these four fishing lures.

The most basic lure is the one marked GORGE.  This is a classic survival fishing hook and rather than hooking a fish, it “gorges” itself in the fish’s throat.  It must be baited in parallel with the fish line as shown below.  Once the fish swallows the bait and the line is pulled taught, the gorge pivots on the line and “gorges” in the throat.  I counted as many as 20 gorge lures in one phone.  With enough cordage you could set out several fishing lines to work for you.

Survival Small Game Snare

Do you use wired headphones with your phone?

If so, this use might come in handy.  A small game survival snare can be made using the wire from a pair of headphones.  This wire can also be used for a variety of other projects that might require cordage.  Setting snares allows you to focus on other survival priorities while they hunt for you.  To see exactly how to make this snare, read this survival snare article.

Instead of the headphones silently playing your music, let them silently hunt for you.

Conclusion

It goes without saying that your cell phone should only be dismantled as an absolute last resort option in a survival scenario.  Even when there seems to be no signal, your phone might be able to register a ping from nearby cell phone towers which can be used by first responders to track your general location.  But, if it’s already busted, one of these tricks just might save your life.  What other survival uses can you think of for a busted cell phone?

____________________

Creek Stewart is a Senior Instructor at the Willow Haven Outdoor School for Survival, Preparedness & Bushcraft.  Creek’s passion is teaching, sharing, and preserving outdoor living and survival skills. Creek is also the author of the book Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit. For more information, visit Willowhaven Outdoor.

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris L. Robinson June 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Wow, Creek! Did you break it down to the smallest compound or what? I kept waiting for you to say something like, “Those molecules can then be broken up into atoms that you can use to…”!

Easily the most exhaustive set of ideas I’ve seen. And FINALLY someone addresses the issue of the lack of Steel Wool Trees in this hemispere! Bravo!

Good job.

2 Steve June 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

This post and last week’s tampon post are some of my favorite AoM articles of all time. So creative and interesting. While I doubt I’ll ever have to put these skills to use, it’s still a whole of fun to learn how to do it. Thanks Creek!

3 Gary House June 14, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Facsinating article! Such creativing is amazing! Love the ideas of fishing tackle and a snare. When the phone goes dead it still has a long life, amazing tips. Thank you!

4 Aaron June 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Great list, but I hope I never have to use any of these tips. I would have to be in really dire straights to do this to my iPhone. That said, since I’m on AT&T the phone becomes a paperweight as soon as I step off the pavement so maybe it would be better served as a spear and mirror anyway.

Thanks for something to think about!

5 Bruce West June 14, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Awesome! Never thought of any of this! I want to take all my old tech stuff and play around in the woods now.

6 Michael June 14, 2012 at 6:40 pm

You can also (CAREFULLY) separate the layers of glass on the screen, many of which have fresnel lenses which can be used as a magnifying glass (a worthy replacement for your camera lens trick)

7 Magnus H June 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm

pitty you didn’t get an LED light. manny smartphones would have one that doubbles as a flashlight..
with the copper wire and magnets you could produce some electricity, that should be enough to light up the LED, to help that mirror signal even during a moonless night. But I guess that would crave more parts.

8 oxxy gen June 14, 2012 at 7:01 pm

another use for the battery is save it to use in a working cell phone that has a dead battery. just check voltage on both batteries and connection pinouts and you MIGHT be able to wire the dead phone to the live battery. also remember if you can get even marginal cell signal a text might travel better and farther than a voice call (and is lighter on battery drain). a final angle (sad but true) is you COULD leave detailed instructions on your whereabouts (or even you last will and testament) as text inside the cell as a sort of notepad device for search parties, if the cell is usable.

9 Anna June 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Seriously awesome. I love practical people.

10 Tom June 14, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I think the best article on AOM I have seen in the past 3 years. This one goes right with the article that got me to start shaving with a straight razor.

11 Alpharius June 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Reading this made me think about the possibilities of common accessories. I use a Zagg invisible shield on my phone, which could be used for any number of things (bandage and shelter/clothing patches come to mind). Also the rubber protective cases most of us have could be used for a lot as well, bobbers for all those lures come to mind. Great article, it’s unfortunate so many people who read this miss the point that A. It’s only if your phone breaks/fails and B. If you’re in a survival situation it WILL break or fail.

12 Brad June 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Another great article!

Popular survival shows like Man vs Wild should cover these tips, if they haven’t done so already, since mobile phones have become like another body part, something most people have with them throughout the day.

Some people are so attached to their i-phones that i wonder whether they would sacrifice them in a survival situation :-)

13 Nicholas June 15, 2012 at 2:04 am

I was almost bummed out you were going to break a droid. but then i realized its a droid 2. so it was okay.

14 Gunnar Tveiten June 15, 2012 at 3:08 am

The compass-advice is seriously confused. First, whether the end you rub end up being the north end or the south end, depends on where the north-pole is on the magnet you rub against, you’ll thus have to guess (but it’s not hard since the sun gives you a rough idea what side is south)

Second, the north-end of a compass points north on *both* sides of the equator. What do you imagine happens ? Do compasses suddenly make a 180 degree flip once you step over the equator ?

15 Guy June 15, 2012 at 7:33 am

Did you watch a lot of MacGyver growing up?

16 Phil L. June 15, 2012 at 8:36 am

Another awesome article from Creek. Great stuff. And that circuit board arrowhead looks seriously wicked…

17 Kirk June 15, 2012 at 9:48 am

The circuit board spear point almost has some kind of deep meaning in a way. Using high tech as primitive tech.

18 prufock June 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

Somebody’s been watching Survivorman!

19 Jenn June 15, 2012 at 11:57 am

There won’t be robot sheep in this apocalyptic future that you boys are always scared of? Watch out! Big brother is watching you and he’s got you in his sights! hahaha

20 claude June 15, 2012 at 12:01 pm

If it’s an LG you can use it as toilet paper.

Great article. Hope I never need this info, but i love reading it.

21 Craig June 15, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Cool article. I recall Bear Grylls using the lithium battery to start fire by simply piercing it. Apparently the lithium reacts with oxygen and produces ALOT of heat. Thought that might be a nice addition.

22 larryl June 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Absolutely fascinating! Survival reverse engineering.

23 Erin Grace June 15, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Great article as always, Creek! Your inventiveness always blows me away.

24 Peters June 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Unless you really used that worm as bait you gave it a needless (and by the looks of it) painfull death.

Interesting article, shame you had to inflict needless cruelty at the end of it.

25 risa bear June 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Does the lens hold water? You can add water, or … ahem … available liquid to the concave surface of the lens from a pair of glasses to increase the effectiveness of the concentrating effect …

26 Richard Masoner June 15, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Craig is correct: lithium inside the battery can be highly flammable. Just exposing the battery innards to air or moisture can be enough to generate some hot sparks. Even short circuiting the battery can possibly make it hot enough to ignite something.

27 Brad June 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Did MacGyver come to mind to any other readers?

28 Frank June 15, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Hey creek,
this is some really great stuff. It may seem useless to some, but wait till they need it!! keep up the good work and the phenomenal posts.

29 Gortex June 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm

One of the best AoM posts in a while! Keep them coming!

30 Marc Montoni June 16, 2012 at 12:20 am

The real reason to take apart old cellphones is to get at the gold within. Basically everything that’s yellowish in the photos above is gold or gold plating. At current prices, it doesn’t take much scrappage like that to enable a worthwhile harvest.

Too, the magnets are always good to get even if just for your kids projects; and some of them are rare earth.

31 rajesh June 16, 2012 at 3:32 am

innovative

32 David June 16, 2012 at 5:00 am

This is brilliant! These are some great tips.

I think what I’ll do is store this info on my cell phone so that I can use it when this happens to me…..

uhhh…..never mind ;)

33 P.M.Lawrence June 16, 2012 at 5:43 am

This is all a bit academic for me since I’ve never owned a mobile phone in my life. But some of the advice is wrong, or at least so incomplete as to steer people wrong. As well as what Gunnar Tveiten spotted about making a compass, the advice about how to use signalling mirrors is wrong too, because of “error due to parallax” (see http://aphysicsteacher.blogspot.com.au/2009/12/what-is-parallax-error.html or google it).

If you followed that advice as is, you would be looking past the fingers you were shining at towards your target but the mirror would be to the side, as otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see your aiming fingers. That means the light would not be reflecting along the line from your eyes past your aiming fingers to the target but slightly off – it would be guaranteed to miss the target.

The full version of the advice that actually works – a little – is, bring the mirror in front of your eyes (in particular, your dominant eye) while keeping your aiming fingers in the reflected light and keeping your aiming fingers on the target. But this still has problems: your aim might wobble off at the crucial moment since you wouldn’t be able to see the target or your aiming fingers just then, and you can’t achieve a pattern of flashes reliably if you need that because you wouldn’t be able to bring the mirror on and off target with reliable timing.

In fact, those limitations are why no simple improvised mirror can ever be “a perfect survival signal mirror”. But luckily there is a design that really is a perfect survival signal mirror, it’s just that it needs to be made properly. You need a flat disc small enough to hold, with a small hole in it, that has parallel sides that are both reflective, e.g. made out of stainless steel (it’s the parallel part that you can’t improvise easily). To use it, hold it between you and the light and look at the target through the hole (if you can’t do both, the angle is wrong for signalling anyway), using one eye to aim. There will be a shadow on your face with a brighter spot in it, which is the shadow of the hole, so to speak; you will be able to see this reflected in the near side of the mirror, shadow, bright spot and all. Then just angle the mirror to bring the reflection of the bright spot over the hole that made it so that it vanishes as seen by the aiming eye – and the light reflected from the far side of the mirror will be hitting whatever you are aiming at through the hole. That same off-angling caused by error due to parallax will mean that your other eye can see the reflection of the bright spot on your face too, since that eye won’t be looking through the hole; try to ignore what you see with that eye, or cover it with your hand or something else (don’t shut it, as that will affect your aiming eye). You can do all this without any of the limitations of an ordinary mirror, so you can aim reliably and also control the pattern of flashes you make.

34 Alan June 16, 2012 at 6:13 am

Regarding the signalling mirror, the idea is to flash the light across your aiming fingers, which pretty much removes the aiming error issue.

The point is to be AWARE of parallax error, not discouraged by it.

35 P.M.Lawrence June 16, 2012 at 6:39 am

No, it doesn’t remove the aiming error issue. If you can actually see the light flashing on your fingers, and your fingers are in front of your target, then the mirror and its reflected light cannot be on the line between your eyes, your fingers and the target – as a geometrical necessity, the mirror would be blocking that line of sight.

What you might try to do by way of mentally adjusting is, hold your fingers just as much to the side of your gaze to the target as you are holding the mirror, maybe by using the offset between your eyes to your advantage to help you do that. But that’s not what the advice was, and if you are that good at making those spatial estimates and positioning things, you might as well just use those skills to aim the mirror without holding up your other hand and trying to do two things at once.

Either way, a simple mirror isn’t the right tool for the job. Even what I described isn’t as good as a purpose-built heliograph that can work at more angles by using multiple mirrors.

36 Mark June 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I have owned four out of five of the phones shown. Wondered where they went.

37 JeffC June 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Steve posted:
This post and last week’s tampon post are some of my favorite AoM articles of all time. So creative and interesting. While I doubt I’ll ever have to put these skills to use, it’s still a whole of fun to learn how to do it. Thanks Creek!

Creative and interesting they are, but any of the shaving, grooming and dating articles is of indescribably more importance to a gentleman’s everyday life than how to McGiver a cell phone in a way that “just might save your life”. It’s a jungle out there, too.

I have nothing negative to say about these survival posts, but as for applicability to our everyday lives, it’s much more useful to know how to get a bartender’s attention than a rescue plane’s.

That being said, I enjoy just about every article posted here, and enjoy the mixture of topics presented: last week, I actually wished I had a front yard so that I could use my very own push mower. Brett and Kate are doing a great job here, anc I tell all my mates about The Art of Manliness.

38 JeffC June 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm

The Art of Manliness: Everything your father should have taught you, but didn’t.

39 Jacob M June 16, 2012 at 10:12 pm

“I was pretty *stoked* about this possibility.”

Even if the fire pun wasn’t intentional, I appreciated it. Fantastic attention to detail on this one–way to show that survival is a mental game more than anything!

40 Bill June 17, 2012 at 7:34 am

Nice
Being in the middle of nowhere with a hand wounded with chemical burns, because you just tried to make fire and the Lipo of your phone exploded due to a short-circuit.

41 joseph June 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

lawrence, the very simple principle that alan eluded to, and that you are overlooking is the fact that you are not simply holding the mirror perfectly steady.

You are rotating it around, as if trying to draw a large circle in the sky with the reflected beam. This not only nearly ensures that at some point the beam with hit whatever plane you’re aiming at, but it will create a flashing effect from the viewer’s perspective, making it more likely to catch their attention.

42 jonathan tarr June 17, 2012 at 11:08 am

Excellent!
A note on using lenses to generate fire:

Thick plastic lenses absorb most of the high-energy UV+ part of sunlight and what is left, even tightly focused, is not enough to ignite typical natural substances. Glass lenses or thin plastic Fresnel lenses almost always produce enough focused energy to ignite materials.

43 Amazing June 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Wow! a great article with a bundle of new ideas.. Will try to use these tricks for sure

44 A-Backpacker June 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Interesting stuff, but– If you put yourself in a situation where you need this, why don’t you have the essentials already with you? Then you can call for help when you get a signal again.

45 Matthew Felsted June 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Turning the terminator into convenient survival ware… like a boss.

46 Giacomo June 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Very nice post! ^^

47 eric garnett June 17, 2012 at 10:13 pm

THANK you for all info you provide I’d like more if you can on any thing you have on servival ,,Great work ,,

48 Kriscerz June 18, 2012 at 12:41 am

Great article! I really, really wanna dissect a cell phone now for practice.

49 P.M.Lawrence June 18, 2012 at 5:26 am

No, Joseph, I am not overlooking the fact that the signaller would wobble, I am pointing out that the aiming technique does not in fact aim. If his wobble gets him on target, that’s nothing to do with aiming, it’s do with getting a lucky miss from what he is actually centring on, which happens to be off the target because the technique is flawed. As I pointed out, you might as well skip the whole fingers thing and just aim by eye without trying to do two things at once.

What is more, there is no guarantee of a lucky miss, and getting occasional flashes right is precisely the opposite of getting out a particular signal pattern anyway (one that wouldn’t be confused with reflections off random objects, say).

But where I came in was to describe a system that really is controllable and accurate. Even if you were 100% right about wobbles getting you a result (you’d have to be very lucky, so it’s not a certainty), the article was actually claiming something else, an accurate method – something that can’t be delivered by a simple mirror.

50 Andrew June 18, 2012 at 6:45 am

Haha. The MacGyver of the 21st century.

51 Bakeca Chieti June 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

Very interesting tutorial.Thank you!

52 Loda June 18, 2012 at 11:03 am

HOW did you OPEN the DEVICE ?

53 Doug June 19, 2012 at 3:01 am

P.M. Lawrence, you’re speaking as if the mirror reflects out a laser beam tight light- it doesn’t- it’s a slightly diffuse beam, and should have a significant enough portion of that beam cross the target to be seen if you are looking directly over the center of the mirror as shown in the photo- your beam may be slightly high of the target, but not enough to make the flash so dim as to be missed.

54 Captainkirk June 19, 2012 at 4:02 am

So the one thing that will end up saving your life when in network coverage, needs to be broken down to pieces…great idea!

55 Anil June 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Madness. I must say/ hehe :)

56 nate June 19, 2012 at 5:15 pm

i hope nobody decides to break their cellphone just to do this lol if you could just call someone

57 Aaron June 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm

If the cell phone happens to have a lithium polymer battery, you can start a MEAN fire with it. Li-po batteries react with moisture in the air when broken open and spontaneously combust. This is very dangerous, but the fire burns rediculously hot.

58 T-Rev June 20, 2012 at 12:49 am

This is the coolest article I’ve run across in a long time! Thank you for showing us the practical applications for a cellphone in a survival situation. I found the compass to be the most insightful. Keep up the great work!

59 Bill June 20, 2012 at 11:15 am

Don’t forget that even a dead ion battery will flare up in flames if the core is exposed and water is dropped on it. Kind of tricky to start fire with water but it can be done.

60 Jon Henbest June 20, 2012 at 11:28 am

Great article! I love survivalist ideas and this is one of the best I’ve ever read to date. One question- how would you dismantle the cell phone in the most effective way if you didn’t have a small screwdriver on hand. I’m sure you could make shift one from the metal pieces inside but that may be a bit difficult to get to without smashing the phone to bits. Thanks for the great info!

61 P.M.Lawrence June 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Doug, no, I’m not “speaking as if the mirror reflects out a laser beam tight light”; I know perfectly well that “it’s a slightly diffuse beam”. It’s just that that is not enough that it “should have a significant enough portion of that beam cross the target to be seen if you are looking directly over the center of the mirror as shown in the photo- your beam may be slightly high of the target, but not enough to make the flash so dim as to be missed”.

The thing is that the beam is near enough a single line that the problem does not go away until you can make the bias very small, say by the improved method I described in my first comment. The spread of the beam basically covers an angle that the sun itself does, from the apparent width of the sun (diffraction doesn’t really come into it, and we are working with flat mirrors). This is much, much smaller than the error angle from holding the mirror to the side of your direct gaze past your aiming fingers to your target. You can easily check this: just hold your aiming fingers so that they shadow the mirror, as well as the reflection hitting the fingers. When that happens the reflection is going back to the sun, but the only way your gaze past the aiming fingers also goes back to the sun is if their shadow is also falling on your eyes – and the angle is just too great for that until you bring the mirror very close to the aiming line from your eyes to the aiming fingers. But that is just precisely the improved method I described, using different words.

62 Paul P June 20, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Be very careful opening lithium batteries! Some types made for the military contain cyanide. When the battery burns it pumps out hydrogen cyanide.

63 Barry June 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm

This is proper Ray Mears stuff. Very good! Just wanna say that the only speakers that don’t use magnet coils to drive the cones are tweeters – They’re powered by condensers.

64 steve June 21, 2012 at 3:44 am

Its worth noting that not all cell phones are batteries lithium ion. NiCd is another fairly common type of rechargable battery which contains cadmium, a toxic heavy metal. As such you should try to avoid letting the battery get too hot when using the short circuit method as it may rupture.

65 Skip June 26, 2012 at 11:15 am

Please invite those weenies to go to some other site and argue back and forth about some inane junk that doesn’t pertain and no one cares about.

Good article. Keep ‘em coming.

66 Mary in LA June 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm

P.M. Lawrence said:
“…But luckily there is a design that really is a perfect survival signal mirror, it’s just that it needs to be made properly. You need a flat disc small enough to hold, with a small hole in it, that has parallel sides that are both reflective, e.g. made out of stainless steel (it’s the parallel part that you can’t improvise easily).”

Sounds like a scrounged platter from a disassembled hard drive would work perfectly — was that what you had in mind?

67 Prepper Website June 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Creek,

These are some great ideas! I’ve seen the battery trick on TV, but never up close and explained! I love your stuff!

Todd

68 P.M.Lawrence June 29, 2012 at 10:19 am

Mary in LA, that one didn’t occur to me, but yes, it would do. You’d just have to be careful not to grip it so tightly it curved too much. I came across the design and its use in an SF story that dated back a lot further than those, though.

69 quex July 8, 2012 at 10:10 am

Right now we possibly don’t need such radical inventions, humanity has produced so much crap that it will last for generations, even if there will be some hollywoodian apocapyptic collapse. But then all cell phones are probably rotten anyway. Then it will be time again for those old good stone axes and fishbone arrow heads.

70 lyn zhu October 18, 2012 at 5:10 am

from linkdelight, focus on battery grips

71 pat October 25, 2012 at 8:21 pm

To the fellas going at it over their survival mirrors…. If you two were too find yourselves in a situation whereby you were breaking open phones to make mirrors, how perfect your mirror was would be the least of your worries. You’d be shoeshining your arse and moonying to get some attention if you thought it would help. Good points besides.

72 logan M November 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I love this! It’s so random but useful. I have to admit, going through all these articles, you can become the manliness man if you read them all and practice half the things you guys are talking about. I would have never thought to do that with my cell. Good post!

73 SDY February 22, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Interesting re-purposing, too bad I do not carry a cell phone in the wild, since MY wild involve territories nowhere near a cell tower. I just carry at least 3 pocket knives, a hunting knife, rifle and ammo, 2 small flashlights and one miniature stroboscope, these devices using all the same type of battery, 2 compasses, most often a flyrod (or two, my personal weakness) and an associated fishing kit, enough matches and lighters to make the devil smile… Oh! And my wits about me, too. But a cellphone? To play Tetris under the stars maybe? Yeah, right. I’ll make sure to check the tampon things. Promise.

74 Sandy June 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

SDY – I think this was set for people who don’t expect to be stranded. Most people carry their cell phones, whether you do or not. You never know when you will be in a hot spot. Even cell phones that are not connected to a plan have gps in them and can call 911. So most carry them.

And the tampon thing…many survivalists use them and teach about them. Did you know you can plug a wound with one? After all, what are they used for? To soak up blood. Ding Ding Ding Ding.

I’m glad that you are quite the macho man, but this is great info. Don’t like it, don’t read it, and don’t bother to reply. Helpful for MOST people…except idiots.

75 Luke June 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm

If the cell phone is dead, you cannot start a fire with the battery.

76 Matt April 17, 2014 at 7:29 am

Dare I revive an old thread? Why not, people still read the posts. SDY doesn’t quite get it, does he? The info posted in these sorts of articles is obviously designed to get people thinking about what they can do, with what they have on them, should they find themselves in an unexpected and possibly dire situation. No-one gives a rat’s arse what you, personally, carry when you head off into the bush. There’s a big difference between walking into a known environment with gear you’ve prepared, and unexpectedly finding yourself in an emergency situation. You’ve been critical because you choose not to carry a phone, which makes you part of a small minority. Look at the info for what it’s worth in general, as opposed to your your own narrow view and circumstance at a particular time which will likely never be replicated by most others.

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